Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private
Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Ghanaian student Dorcas Djabatey decided to wait it out. But as days turned to weeks, it became clear that she had to get out of the country, putting her dream of becoming a medical doctor in limbo. Here's her story of escape and hope.

➡️ This article is part of 'The Escape Diaries', a series about the personal experiences of African students who fled the war in Ukraine. Find out more about how the war changed their lives and what the future holds for them. Click here for an overview.

"I'm Dorcas Koryoo Djabatey. I'm a fourth year medical student at Sumy State university in Ukraine. At the moment, I'm still a student but I don’t know how long that’s going to last. I was born in Accra, Ghana 25 years ago. My life is the product of the grace of God expressed through the benevolence of one woman, who took me in and changed my story. Life was good when I was born but all that changed when I was five because my father died. He was the sole breadwinner of our family so my mother was saddled with the burden of raising my sister and I. My mother had to do all she could to put food on the table. At a certain point, she became a domestic helper. She would go to people’s homes to clean, cook and do their laundry. Because there was no one at home, she would take me along whenever she went to work. And that is how we met Harriet Bruce Annan, the founder of African Angel.

Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private
Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private

A new home in a shelter

African Angel is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that rescues destitute and street children, and gives them shelter, education and a better shot at life. Since the moment I met Harriet, my life changed. The NGO took me in, literally. I moved from my mother’s to live at the NGO’s shelter. I have been living with African Angel since I was seven. They’ve given me all-round support. They support me spiritually, they help me financially, they give me food, clothing and shelter. They’ve protected me against the hardships, and most importantly given me education. The NGO, with the help of donations, took me through Junior high school. I passed with good grades, so I attended one of the best schools in Ghana, Achimota School.

Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private
Dorcas Djabatey | Photo: Private

Ukraine was a dream come true

I think that seeing hardship at that early age gave me the desire to help others. So as a child, I would pretend to be a doctor when playing. As I grew older, I realized that becoming a doctor would help me to lift other people out of poverty and suffering. So, when I finished senior high school, I knew that I was going to do it. I was going to pursue medicine. After school, I was told I was going to travel to Ukraine to become a doctor. But that dream had to wait two more years so I could help around the ‘home.’ And I mean the African Angel home. There were other young people who had been brought in and being an older girl, I had to help with homework, chores and things like that. But I did not lose sight of my dream to become a doctor. My adopted mother, Harriet, had assured me that I would be going to Ukraine. At the time, I was elated. I had not travelled before and not only I was going to travel for the first time, I was also going to pursue my dream. Finally in March 2018, I landed in Kiev."

You want to find out more about Dorcas? Explore Dorcas' escape from Ukraine to Ghana: