Russia-Ukraine crisis: Fear dominates students stuck in bunkers with little food, water
“There is only bread and jam being provided by agents and they will last us for a week. We are cooped up at the metro subway as there is fear of airstrikes. The evacuation plan as of now seems to be for students only in the Western part of Ukraine and we are in the eastern part. We don’t have any update for the evacuation to be honest. There are 30-35 metro stations all the same in this stretch,” Nischhal Chauhan, a medical student from Kharkhiv, presently at 23 Serpnia metro station in Kharkiv told ET.
An estimated 15,000 Indian nationals are stuck in Ukraine as the war is unfolding. Most of them are students pursuing their higher studies, mainly in medicine and language courses. Meanwhile, 470 Indian students stranded in Ukraine, amidst the war, are expected to arrive in Mumbai as the Indian government has already started its evacuation process. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy that safety of Indians stranded in Ukraine was his top priority. Indian embassies in Ukraine and neighbouring countries have been trying to get students who have made it to a border out via Romania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia.
Akash Jain, in the fifth year of medicine at Bogomolets National Medical University in Kyiv, bought a ticket for India for February 26 soon after Russia invaded. But Ukraine closed its airspace for civilian flights on February 24. “They are asking us to reach the Hungary or Poland border which is hundreds of miles away from here…There is no transport available here. The shelling is going on continuously. Whatever plan they come up with needs to include students who are stuck in South and East Ukraine,” he told ET. Another student Vikas Gupta from Kharkiv Oleksivska metro station, said groceries have run out. “We students living in the Eastern part of Ukraine are the ones in the unsafe zone. There is only processed beef which we don’t eat.There is heavy bombardment here but there is no news of evacuation. We feel we are completely on our own.”
Shivam Ujjain, originally pursuing MBBS from Kharkiv National Medical college said it was the third day of war and there was limited supply of food and water across unheated metro subways and hostel basements where students are stuck. “Our studies had resumed offline since December as Covid-19 cases had declined. Students fear they may not even be alive when the embassy reaches them because there are war sirens going out constantly. There is not just firing but actual bombardment. People are no longer going to bunkers when they hear a siren. They are practically living there, having packed all their belongings in school bags.”