“I hear that in your country, there are no houses, people live in the forest and sleep in trees, is that true?”
When I saw the video, I wasn’t very surprised. Racist acts are frequent here. I’ve been here two years and although I have never experienced assault, I have been (the) victim of intimidation and racism. We’re often insulted in Ukrainian or Russian and the word that comes up time and again is ‘monkey’.Sometimes, they even insult us in our own language! On Sunday [4th August], I was in a youth hostel in Kharkov and the receptionist greeted us with ‘kouna matata’ [which means ‘no worries’ in Swahili, an East African language]. This can have a negative meaning, she was saying that we were wasters – we didn’t do anything or know anything. She added that she didn’t want any blacks in the hostel and told us we had to leave.I came to Kharkov for two weeks to work on a building site. But when I went to get paid, my boss told me that he owed me nothing [a foreign student is not allowed to work in Ukraine without obtaining a work permit.] He told us “go and complain if you want to, but no police officer will take you seriously”. Nobody told me that before I left home.I was shocked to see that even the youngest children are prejudiced. A few months after I arrived, I was in the park and a child asked me, as if it were the most natural thing in the world “I hear that in your country, there are no houses, people live in the forest and sleep in trees, is that true?”Things are starting to change though. More and more Ukrainian girls are going out with black Africans; companies are starting to employ friends once they get their degree. Fewer nightclubs refuse entry to black people. I have lived in Dnipropetrovsk for two years and the situation is a little bit better overall.
"It is practically impossible to find work here when you are a black African"
These images clearly show what happens when there is a row between black Africans and Ukrainians: the police confront the Congolese but don’t even look at the Ukrainians who continue to be provocative behind their backs. He even takes off his T-shirt at one point to show his muscles and continues insulting us. Only the Congolese students are reprimanded, even though both parties are involved in the fight.Here in the Ukraine, I feel like someone crossing a river who has to wade though to the other side. In our group of thirty Congolese students in Ternopli, the majority can’t really make it. University costs an arm and a leg, about $18,000 for mechanical engineering and $3,200 for medicine. It is practically impossible to get a work permit. The luckiest ones are the African girls who know how to braid hair; they can make some money.I’m not asking for much, even working as a cleaner would be fine. I’ve being living here for five years. I have to finish my 5th year to get my degree. But I don’t even think that I will have the money to get through this year. I regret ever having come to this country.