No food, water or supplies: Indian students in Ukraine hostels seek help

Students moving between hostel rooms and bunkers have been posting videos, asking for help to reach the borders and travel home safe.
People in a bunker in Ukraine
People in a bunker in Ukraine
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While fear is writ large on the faces of some, many others look worn out and numb. Stuck in hostel rooms and bunkers for days on end, Indian students in various parts of Ukraine have been posting videos, detailing the situation they are in, with pleas for immediate help. With bombs going off short distances away, the students move between corners of their hostels, finding the safest spot for a while. In videos, they ask for help to get out of there, to open the borders, to arrange for their safe travel home.

Devika Rajeesh, a first year medical student in the Mykolaiv region, in the south coast of Ukraine, is in tears when she speaks of hearing the shells right outside the hostel every so frequently. “We can hear explosions often and it is said we will be moved to bunkers now. We want to somehow get out and reach the borders soon. We are running out of food and water. We hope the Indian embassy will somehow help us get out of here safely,” she tells TNM.

There are more than 250 students from Kerala staying in two different hostels underground, she says. “This is the third day of attacks and the explosions are coming from only 200 to 500 metres away from where we stay. No food and medical shops are open nearby as military rule is applied here. We are not allowed to step out. The Indian government has asked students to reach the borders of Poland, Romania, Hungary etc., so they could take us home, but these are all 1,000 to 1,500 km away from our city. We don’t know how we can reach there — our city bridge is damaged, the railway station was also destroyed,” Devika says.

The only way out is to take buses, but for that they need help and that’s what they are asking for.

On the other side of the country — northeast Ukraine — students at the Kharkiv University spoke about a similar situation, holed up in hostel bunkers for three days. “There are 150 students from Kerala in this hostel in a small bunker. We are short of food and water and there is no heater down here, it is unbearably cold,” says Krishna, a fourth year medical student on Instagram.

They received circulars from the Indian Embassy asking them to reach the borders from where they can be picked up. “But it takes 10 to 12 hours to reach the border and right now it is not practical for us to travel this distance. Our nearest border is the Russian border. Last night we contacted the Embassy again and they asked us to stay where we are. It is really very difficult, we hope we can at least move to a safer place,” says another student with Krishna.

In the eastern side of Ukraine, students from the Sumy Medical Institute report that there has been no news of an evacuation so far and all the attention is on the western side of the country. The Sumy Medical Institute is located close to the Russian border. “We are all in hostel rooms now. Till yesterday, our coordinator would suddenly come and say that everyone should move to the bunker downstairs, that there are troops outside. Bunkers are safer, but there is no basic flooring, it is full of mud and dirt. So, students with breathing issues find it difficult to stay there, and we are sent back to the room whenever it is safe,” says Malavika, one of the students, to TNM.

There are about 500 to 600 students in the same compound across two buildings – one for men and the other for women. Most of the students are from Kerala. “In the night, we switch off the lights and take turns to stay awake and be alert. The situation has been the same for three days now. The day the attack began, we had gathered maximum raw materials from the supermarket but now it is depleting. We have enough materials for about three days more,” Malavika says.

They too received an Embassy circular that said they can use railways to reach the western side. “But we have only a single railway station at Sumy and that is said to be closed. There is no metro. There is a curfew and no intercity travel is possible. Buses and trains are not working. And it is not safe to get out of the hostel. Troops have increased in the city, and in the nights there are more firings and airstrikes happening. We want to request to have the Russian border opened. Only that way we can escape. Or else they should open the railways.”

Earlier on Sunday, a student called Angel told Mathrubhumi News about the situation faced by some students who tried to reach the border. She said that Ukrainian forces are trying to send them back, beating and pushing the students and riding vehicles into groups of students. “This is too bad, this is not the way that the Ukraine government or military should treat foreign citizens. This is not how we expect help," she said.

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