'Food Stock Only For Two Days, Future Uncertain': Indian Students From A Bunker In Kharkiv

Evacuation of Indian Students From Ukraine: The biggest challenge is to rescue the Indian students from Kharkiv through Romania, Poland or Hungry as they are 1200 to 1400 km away from Kharkiv.

A person shows a video on his mobile phone, sent by his relative studying in Kharkiv University in n

Ayush, an Indian student who belongs to Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, has been hiding in a bunker in Kharkiv in Ukraine with about 900 other students since February 24. The seven-room bunker is in the lower basement of one of the hostels of Kharkiv National Medical University (KNMU), from where these students are pursuing their 6-year MBBS course.

There are several such bunkers and underground metro stations at different locations where roughly over 4000 Indian students have taken shelter to save themselves from indiscriminate Russian air attacks.

Evacuation of Indian students is imperative as continuous bombings have posed a big threat to their safety. The biggest challenge is to rescue these students through the western border side such as Romania, Poland or Hungry as these are 1200 to 1400 km away from Kharkiv.

Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia. It shares its eastern and north-eastern border with Russia and northern border with Belarus which is a Russian ally in the ongoing war. So these sides are facing heavy airstrikes. Kharkiv is close to the Russian border in the eastern part of the country and at present, it is heavily under attack.  

The southern part of Ukraine has a long coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Poland, Slovakia, Hungry, Romania and Moldova are in eastern and south-eastern regions of Ukraine and these areas are safe for evacuation.

Students say that they have thought over all routes with their coordinators but nothing seems feasible because transportation from Kharkiv to Romanian or Moldovian border is a long road journey with threats all around. Since all the available trains pass through Kyiv which is already on Russian Army’s radar, these can not be feasible rescue routes.

Students suggest that since India shares a good rapport with the Russian government, a new evacuation route can be chalked out through the Russian side as well.

 Ayush suggested, “Russian border is just 50 km from here. There is an international airport right near the border. But forces from both sides – Russian and Ukraine - are attacking each other. Though it is the nearest evacuation point yet it is full of danger too.”  

Students say that if the Indian government requests for a ceasefire for a couple of hours, all 4000 students can be taken to the Russian border within an hour and evacuated from that side.

“Students who have been rescued through the borders of Romania, Hungry or Poland, they were residing in the western part of Ukraine which is another side of the country and far away from the Russian border,” another student, who has taken shelter in the same bunker, said.  

He added, “they were already very safe and unaffected from the war. It is easy to transport them to border areas. The real challenge is here in Kharkiv.”  

Students rue that the Indian embassy is not helping them out at all. “They are not even taking our calls. They don’t even bother whether we are getting food or not. We are taken care of by our local coordinators who are partners of Indian counsellors through which we have come to study here,” Ayush said.

Due to heavy shelling, the food supply has been severely affected and now, the stock in the bunker will not last for more than two days. Students say they have no idea what will happen after that.

They say that it is scary to feel the tremor inside the bunker when the Russian fighter planes drop bombs in the surrounding areas. Areas with a few hundred meters from their hostel have been targeted with air strikes.  

“We come out in small groups to upper floors for lunch or to use the washroom and then go down as soon as possible. Yesterday, during lunch, the bombing started suddenly in the neighbouring areas and we left our food midway to rush downstairs,” Ayush said.

"We didn't come out after that. We get food only twice a day and yesterday we got it only once. Partly due to bombing and also due to the limited stock of the foodstuff," he added. 

Students say that if they will not be evacuated in another two days, "things will go from bad to worse or many be worst."