Till Tuesday morning, Soumya Kanti Biswas, a third-year MBBS student in Ukraine’s Kharkiv, was planning to stay at his friend's apartment for a few more days as he was uncertain of what would happen if they moved towards the distant western border.
But in the afternoon, after hearing about the death of Indian student Naveen Shekharappa Gyanagoudar in shelling in Kharkiv, Soumya and his friends decided it was even more dangerous to stay on.
They are now trying to take the earliest train out of Kharkiv, which is under continuous attack from Russian forces.
“Around 1pm (local time), I saw fighter planes flying very low over our building. They were flying so low that the windows of our apartment were vibrating. We ran to the bomb shelter though there was no siren,” Soumya told The Telegraph over the phone from his second-floor apartment on Otakara Yarosha Street in Kharkiv.
His friends from India were suggesting that it would be risky to travel by road because of the shelling, but Soumya said he was “feeling desperate”.
“Till the morning we were not sure whether we should venture out to the station or wait for a few more days. But after the death of the Indian student, my friends and I have decided to go to the station on Wednesday,” said Soumya, a third-year medical student at the Kharkiv Institute of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He is from Thakurpukur beyond Behala on the southwestern fringes of Kolkata.
“Shells are exploding barely a kilometre from my place. I am seeing tanks moving past our building…. I am feeling unsafe and scared. Even if I don’t get hit by a shell outside, our building may be bombed,” said Soumya, who is staying with seven other medical students, all of them from Tamil Nadu, on the second floor of the six-storey building. “Many Indians have already reached the train station,” he said.
They are planning to take a train from Kharkiv to Uzhgorod, near the Slovakia border. From there they would walk to the border and cross over to Slovakia.
“The situation is going to worsen. If the train services stop, we will get stuck in Kharkiv and I am not sure what is going to happen to us. It's better to leave when trains are still running,” he said.
No app cab service was available and the group had to hire a vehicle to the station.
Like Naveen, Soumya and his friends, too, had been queueing up at the supermarket to buy supplies.
“I was staying at a government hostel but after the war broke out, the authorities asked us to leave because they said the government buildings were prime targets. So I came to stay with a friend,” said Soumya.
He initially bought supplies worth Rs 4,000 but that got exhausted as other friends came to the apartment and started staying together. On Monday, he went to the supermarket when curfew was lifted but could manage to buy only cornflakes and potato chips.
“Most of the stock is exhausted,” he said.
Since last Thursday, Soumya and his friends had to rush to the nearest bomb shelter five to six times a day.
“There is an eight-storey building which has a basement. It is a five-minute walk from our apartment. The government has designated the building’s basement as one of the bomb shelters. After each siren warning, we have to go to the shelter and can come out after an hour or so,” he said.