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The War in Ukraine — Race, Racism, and Racial Identity in Eastern Bloc

A guide to better understanding the current crisis


At the onset of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, when Ukrainians began to seek refuge in neighboring cities and nations, Black and POC Ukrainians began to report acts of discrimination at bus stations, train depots, and border checkpoints. Some reported physically violent encounters, resulting from the prioritization of white Ukrainian citizens over Black and POC individuals, including pregnant women and young children. Major news outlets soon began reporting on the situation, leading the UN to acknowledge the differential treatment Black and POC Ukrainian and immigrant refugees were experiencing. 

Read news reporting on racism amidst the crisis in Ukraine: 

  • Abraham Achinga. African students say they faced guns, hostile guards as they fled Ukraine. Reuters. March 5, 2022. Read it online
  • Nyamekye Daniel. ‘It Does Not Justify It’: Peace Corps Guidance for Black Volunteers In Ukraine Causes a Stir After Being Exposed on Twitter. Atlanta Black Star. April 5, 2022. Read it online. 
  • Bate Felix. AU decries reports of ill treatment as Africans try to flee Ukraine. Reuters. March 1, 2022. Read it online
  • Goodman, Amy. Nonwhite Refugees Fleeing Ukraine War Held in Detention Centers in Poland, Estonia, Austria. Democracy Now! March 28, 2022. Read and watch online
  • Tanasia Kennedy. African and South Asian students fleeing Ukraine report racism, violence at the border. Miami Herald. March 1, 2022. Read it online.
  • Catherine Thorbecke. 'We come for our own': How Black volunteers rallied online to help African students in Ukraine. CNN Business. March 18, 2022. Read it online. 

Policymakers, scholars, social media influencers, and members of the media have also recognized and called attention to the discrepancies in the treatment of Ukrainian refugees and refugees and asylum seekers of other nations -- specifically nations in the Middle East and the Global South. In the media, numerous reporters on the Ukrainian conflict have made overtly racist and xenophobic on-air statements when reporting on open-door acceptance of white Ukrainian refugees into European nations. 

Learn more on policy and media biases pertaining to Ukrainian refugees: 

  • Sana Butler. Op-Ed: Racist War Reporting by White Journalists Undermines Trust in Western Media. Ebony. March 15, 2022. Read it online.

  • Laura Wamsley. Race, culture and politics underpin how -- or if -- refugees are welcomed in Europe. National Public Radio. March 3, 2022. Read it online

Black News Matters. 

Combat anti-Black bias by diversifying your media consumption with African and Black-centered news outlets: 

Africa  United States


Black Journalist in Ukraine

Terrell Jermaine Starr | Twitter: @terrelljstarr 

Starr in the News: 

  • Ruby Cramer. What Racism Taught an American Journalist About Covering the War. Politico. Mar. 19, 2022. Read the article. 
  • Terrell Starr. Human Toll of War in Ukraine. Black Diplomats podcast. Mar 16, 2022. Listen to the episode. 
  • Terrell Starr. Taking a Break from American Racism in Ukraine. Black Diplomats podcast. Sep 6, 2020. Listen to the episode. 
  • Terrell Starr. Why Black people should care about Ukraine, explained. TheGrio. Feb 5, 2022. Read the article.  

A series of images each showing a Black man on a crowded street taking photos of people

Image Caption: Starr uses a selfie stick to report from the streets of Lviv.
Credit: David Butow for POLITICO

Black Eastern European History

Black history is global, and the history of Black people living in and traveling throughout Eastern European lands is long. Numerous Black writers recorded their experiences, which have helped scholars to understand race, racism, and race-making Eastern Europe and global contexts. 

Black Writers on Their Experiences in Eastern Europe: 

Secondary Scholarship Black History and Race-Making in Eastern Europe 

Black Experience & Race Relations in Fiction


  • Jennifer Wilson and Jennifer Suchland. #BlackOctober Reading List: The Russian Revolution and the African Diaspora. Black Perspectives. African American Intellectual History Society. November 4, 2017. See the full reading list. 
  • Red-Black Thread Reading List. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2019. See the full reading list.