A U.S. basketball player playing in Ukraine had a harrowing journey to escape the now war-torn country and return to the States.
However, the Newark-born Lucky Jones made it back to his wife and four children with a riveting tale of tension in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“We didn’t see any bombs but by the time we were at the border (the Russian military) were already in the city we were living in,” Jones said to NJ.com.
From Baller To Refugee
The 28-year-old was one of the hundreds of refugees at the Ukraine-Romania border, trying to escape and narrowly finding refuge on the other side of war, especially as a Black man.
Jones was in the country after spending the last seven weeks playing for a professional organization within the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.
“People were going to the grocery store and getting all the food, going to the borders, going to the medical facility to get medicine, going to the bank and taking out their money,” Jones said to CNN.
Former Robert Morris basketball player Lucky Jones is on his way home to the U.S. Jones was playing in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague. After Russian missile attacks targeting locations in Ukraine, Jones fled the country & is expected to be back home later today
— Alby Oxenreiter (@albyox) February 26, 2022
Americans Fleeing The Ukraine
According to reports, Jones wasn’t the only American on the team. One of his teammates was former NBA player Toure’ Murry, who was also fleeing the western city of Ternipol, Ukraine, where he played for the professional basketball team BC Ternipol.
American player Joe Fustinger, Lithuanian teammate Dominykas Domarkas, and a Ukrainian woman also headed for Romania after first attempting to go through the Polish border.
According to reports, Jones and his teammates drove five hours in a normally 3.5-hour distance as casualties of standstill traffic. However, when Jones and his teammates walked the final few miles, they joined the more than 500 refugees already at the border.
Lucky Jones is out of Ukraine, for those wondering
— Chris Cappella (@C_Cappella) February 25, 2022
A Pivotal Moment
“We were on a long line — I’m talking about trucks on top of cars on top of trucks, people arguing, people fighting, police not trying to let us in; it was a mess,’’ Jones said to NJ.com.
According to reports, Marissa Jones, Lucky’s wife back in Maryland, got in touch with the U.S. Embassy to make them aware her husband was stuck in line at the border.
Unfortunately, Jones still had to wait ten hours before crossing the borderline.
“They didn’t care about none of that,’’ Jones continued to NJ.com. “They were letting about 5 to 10 people in every 30 minutes. It was 500 to 600 people at the border, and that’s not even including the people who were there before us.’
“It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
"He landed this morning & is back with his family. now we need to help him start a career maybe in coaching here." Bob Hurley yest. on former @RMU & St. Anthony's star Lucky Jones leaving #ukraine where he was playing & getting back to US safely. pic.twitter.com/H9rMnQYRKY
— Joe Favorito (@joefav) February 27, 2022
Jones and his convoy continued to Bucharest via a six-hour train ride to the capital, where they were able to fly three hours into Amsterdam. They had one more flight through Dublin, Ireland, and back into the United States.
There have been many reports and videos of Africans and Black people attempting to flee Ukraine being turned away from trains and borderlines.
African Ukrainian Exodus
With a reported 4,000 Nigerians studying abroad in Ukraine, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeted that one group of students couldn’t enter Poland and instead detoured to Hungary.
UPDATE: President @MBuhari has approved the sum of $8.5 million to evacuate at least 5,000 Nigerians who are stranded as a result of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada, announced this today, after the FEC meeting.
— Bashir Ahmad (@BashirAhmaad) March 2, 2022
Lucky Jones’ name may be a self-affirming testimony for his group of ball players turned warzone survivors.
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