'Prisoners of War': No escape yet from Ukraine's bunkers, metro stations

Food, water running out for Indian students in Kharkiv, Kyiv
Last Updated 27 February 2022, 11:32 IST

It's been more than 48 hours in a bunker in Kyiv, with bare necessities, for 21-year-old P P Afsal. There are more than 80 Indians in the bunker along with him. There is some food left, maybe for three days. He has been hearing explosions all night and uncertainty seem to be the only constant.

"Kyiv had a lot of explosions last night and we stayed inside the bunkers because it was not safe to stay in the rooms," said Afsal who is a medical student at Tara's Shevchenko National University.

They were asked not to switch on the lights inside the rooms. Evacuation seems to be nowhere in sight. "The embassy has asked us to find a bus for ourselves to the borders which is not a safe thing to do at the moment," he said.

"I know they are trying," he said but his request to the government is to evacuate them as soon as possible.

Night in a train to nowhere

In Kharkiv, Saanya, daughter of Shibin Raj from Kerala, has spent her last two nights on a metro train in Peremoha Metro Station along with other students. Saanya is a medical student at Kharkiv National Medical University.

They are running out of money and food and waiting for help to arrive.

The subway stations in Kharkiv, reports say, are filled with people trying to escape the bombardments.

"The immediate requirement is to supply provisions to the students because they are getting over. Supermarkets are closed and evacuation is going to take a long time," Shibin Raj said.

Evacuations are from Ukraine's western border. "During normal times, travelling to the western border from Kharkiv takes six to eight hours, which will now take one or two days, he said.

"Kharkiv has more universities than in Kyiv and there are a lot of Indian students studying there. It would be much better if evacuation can be done from Kharkiv airport instead of students from here travelling to the western border," Shibin Raj said,

Exit through Russia after ceasefire?

Saanya has told her father that she has been hearing sounds of shelling all night. Her cousin C S Sreehari, a fourth-year student at Kharkiv National Medical University has been staying in the bunker, along with 10 others, below his apartment.

Three days back, at around 5 am, they had woken up to the sound of a huge missile attack. It was like an alarm, says Sreehari. It's more than 48 hours now in the bunker. Yesterday he had stepped out to get supplies when a huge missile passed over his head.

"There is soon going to be food and water scarcity," he said. "We are going to face problems with the locals if that happens, and it will happen.

"Locals don't have money and they know we have money and food all the time. They have been asking us and we have been helping them. But things are going to be worse. There is not enough bread or canned food in the supermarkets."

The condition of the junior students is bad. They are staying in the metro stations, he said. "They came just a week back and don't know what to do. Provisions and medicines should reach them fast, Moreover, our university is also planning to conduct online exams during these difficult times," he said.

Escape to the homeland for these students is still a mirage. From where Sreehari stays, the Russian border is just one hour.

"Travelling to the western border is impossible, we cannot risk one day's travel from east to west. The only way to escape is through Russia, that too only when a ceasefire happens," he said.

'Please evacuate us ASAP'

In Kyiv, Keerthana, a student of O O Bogomolets National Medical University, is pleading for help. She and her friends are coming out of the bunker under their hostel in Chokoliv'skyi Blvd, only to use the washroom risking their lives.

"Please evacuate us ASAP," she pleads. "We have food and water only for two days."

(Published 26 February 2022, 09:06 IST)

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