When the war in Ukraine broke out, Tanzania’s Zanzibar archipelago was host to hundreds of stranded Ukrainian tourists.
Some of them later sought refuge in different countries around the world while a group chose to remain in Zanzibar.
Alona Rogova, a mother of one, says she opted to remain because the island is a good place to raise her child.
“In our situation, we were here before the war… but this is a great place for our child, that is why we stay here because of him, and after he started going to school and that is why, till now we are here.”
But there is still anxiety and fear – not knowing what is happening to their loved ones back in Ukraine.
“One month ago, my wife`s mother was under attack. You know like may be 30-40 metres near but all windows were destroyed. It`s winter, cold, you don`t know when you will die there, anywhere in Ukraine you are not safe, anywhere,” said Anton Kiryshko.
About 90% of Zanzibar`s economy depends on tourism. Traditionally, most visitors came from countries like Italy, the US, UK and France. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, new markets like Ukraine emerged.
The Zanzibar government says it has done all it could to make Ukrainians who stayed behind feel at home while away from home.
“The government has been supportive in helping and providing them with visa extension. You know after entering the country, you can only stay for three months, so after a while, they were given extensions because that is what the law requires,” said Simai Mohammed, Zanzibar’s tourism minister.
The spice Island of Zanzibar has long been popular with tourists, who stay for a few weeks and then go home. But for the Ukrainian families who have stayed on. the hospitality and support of the locals has proved a lifeline