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Refugee who fled Ukraine with nothing more than a bag becomes Coventry University graduate

Anuoluwapo Ojo / Coventry Uni


Refugee who fled Ukraine with nothing more than a bag becomes Coventry University graduate

Refugee who ‘ran for his life’ when the Ukraine war broke out celebrates graduating with a psychology masters from Coventry University…

A Coventry University graduate fled the war in Ukraine with nothing more than a single bag, but never gave up on his dream to study psychology. Anuoluwapo Ojo, known as Anu, received his offer letter from the university just two days before the war with Russia broke out which “shattered his whole world and meant he had to run for his life”.

He said: “I had only seen wars in movies. I had only seen missile shots in movies, but I saw it with my own eyes. However, I am grateful that I was able to escape.

“I lived in the calm neighbourhood of Irpen, near Kyiv, and on February 24, 2022, I woke up to the sound of bombs at around 6am. The airport and train stations were closed, so the only way out was by car, heading for the Ukraine-Polish border.

“The roads were jammed as everyone was trying to escape and what should have taken ten hours turned into more than 24. We then had to leave the car and walk, finding our way through the fields and after a long and tough trip, we crossed into Poland.

“It then took three to four months travelling from Poland to Germany to Belgium, just trying to get refugee status and to get some sort of stability with my life because my investments, businesses, life, everything was null and void.”

Anu, who is originally from Nigeria, moved to Ukraine in 2010 to study medicine and surgery, and went on to qualify as a doctor in Ukraine where he worked and built a life for himself. After finishing his first degree, Anu went for postgraduate specialist training in psychiatry working in a hospital for two years, training as a psychiatric doctor. It was during this time that he decided to explore the psychology part of the job and applied to Coventry University.

After settling as a war refugee in the Netherlands, Anu was able to defer his place at Coventry University and in the meantime took up part-time jobs to raise money to fulfil his dream.

“It took me a few months and I worked pretty hard, but I made sure that I didn’t give up hope,” he said.

“Having gone through the trauma of war, you just want some sort of respite. Imagine all the beauty of life upon the place that you have called home, all of your investments and businesses, everything gone? The house you lived in bombed. I literally left Ukraine with just a bag; no clothes, nothing.

“There were of course moments where I felt down, but I had a very good support system around me. I had my girlfriend who is now my fiancée and soon to be wife. And I had friends and family who would call and tell me not to worry and everything would be fine.”

At the same time as studying for his masters in psychology, Anu was also studying for his medical licence so he could practice medicine in the UK.

Anu didn’t disclose his refugee status to the course team until after he had completed his degree. However, he did share his plans to continue his medical career in the UK and that he was managing exams for both the psychology course and his UK medical licence. Based on this, Dr Katherine Hall lecturer in psychology and Anu’s course director at Coventry University, chose Anu as the winner of the course’s Endeavour award.

Dr Katherine Hall:

“Anu’s achievements over the past few years are remarkable in the face of extreme challenges. He was awarded the psychology prize for Endeavour based on his humble and optimistic outlook and dedication to academic success in the face of adversity. I hope that Anu’s story can inspire other students to persevere and achieve their goals. I also hope it encourages other students to share their stories and seek support where needed if they do experience challenges.”

Anu, who recently graduated, added: “There’s no mountain too high, there’s no obstacle that can’t be overcome and so with my willpower, with my determination and the strong support system I had around me, I am here today as a masters graduate.” He now plans to stay in the UK and use his degree to land a dream role. Find out more about the Applied Psychology course at Coventry University.

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