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Irish student Racheal Diyaolu reunited with family after journey across Ukraine

The 19-year-old from Carlow escaped Ukraine with the help of two Scottish landscapers.

IRISH MEDICAL STUDENT Racheal Diyaolu has arrived safely back in Ireland after fleeing Ukraine with the help of two Scottish landscapers.

After travelling across Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion, the 19-year-old was finally reunited with her family in an emotional encounter at Dublin Airport last night.

Moments after the tearful reunion Racheal told RTÉ News that she was “really overwhelmed but really happy”.

“It’s good to be home, I’m really happy to be home. I’ve been away for so long, in the circumstances, it’s been very scary. I didn’t know when I’d get to be home, so I’m really happy to be back and with everyone again,” she said.

The Carlow native left Sumy in northeastern Ukraine, 50 kilometres from the Russian border, on Monday after being picked up by volunteers Joe McCarthy and Gary Taylor, who travelled from Scotland to help people get out of the country.

She crossed the border into EU country Romania on Wednesday after a three day cross-country car journey.

“It was a very anxious journey. We had a lot of really bad roads, things went wrong along the way, but we stayed positive and knew that once we were out of Sumy it was home strait. We knew we just had to go a little bit further and we’d be back home soon,” she said.

Racheal said her family helped her keep her composure as she faced living through Russia’s attack on its neighbour.

“I wanted to get back to them and I didn’t want them to be worrying about me when I was away.

Calls home were important and it was really important for me to stay calm and let them know that I was okay and that I’d get home to them at some point. And here we are. 

Racheal said Gary and Joe made the perilous journey across Ukraine easier.

“They are average guys, you could have a conversation with them. They were always ready to have a laugh and take care of us if we needed anything. I don’t know what I would do without them. They were God sends,” she said.

Racheal was in her first year studying medicine in Sumy before the university was forced to close.

She said an announcement from Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris that returning students can continue their studies in Ireland is “such a relief”.

“Going out to another country again, I don’t know how that would go down with the family,” she said.

Racheal’s sister Christiana played a key role in orchestrating the escape from Sumy by using social media to raise awareness of the situation and to contact the Scottish rescuers.

“I’m her big sister. I had to do what big sisters do and look after my little sister so I did my best to try to advocate for her, and now she’s back home. I’m so grateful for everyone’s help to bring her here,” Christiana said.

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