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Indian embassy aborts evacuation from Sumy, students taken back to hostels from bus

Students have spent days without showers and are melting snow to use the water in toilets

Monalisa Chaudhuri | Published 08.03.22, 05:54 AM
Students in Sumy, Ukraine, after they returned to their hostel on Monday.

Students in Sumy, Ukraine, after they returned to their hostel on Monday.

Telegraph picture

Hundreds of Indian students stranded in Ukraine’s Sumy, some of whom had even boarded buses sporting Indian flags to flee the city that is located close to the Russian border, were asked to stay put in their hostels on Monday.

Later, they were reportedly told by the Indian embassy that the evacuation bid was cancelled because of some “security issues”. 

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On Monday morning, hundreds of students of Sumy State University queued up outside their hostels to board buses, arranged by the embassy. 

They were excited that they would finally leave a city where food and water supply has been terribly hit as a fallout of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The girls were asked to board first and the boys were told to wait in hostels for their turn, students said. Around 15 minutes later, the girls were asked to get off the buses and return to their hostels.

“All 700 (Indian) students were there, hoping to leave Sumy by bus. But there were only three buses. The girls were asked to board and we were told to wait for our turn in hostels,” said Sheikh Mohammad Danish, who is from Telangana and is a fourth-year medical student.

The boys returned to their hostels hoping more buses would arrive soon to take them out of Sumy, Danish said.

Several students The Telegraph spoke to said they were told not to click photographs of the buses for “security reasons”.

“We only knew that the buses would take us to Poltava,” said a student who had boarded the bus but later got off and returned to her hostel.

Poltava is a city in central Ukraine from where it is comparatively easier to move to the western part of the country. Most of the Indians in Ukraine were evacuated through the western border.

Another student who had boarded the bus but had to return to the hostel said she was “too tired to speak” after the roller-coaster of a day.

The students this newspaper spoke to said this was the first time in the last 12 days, after Russia attacked Ukraine, that they saw a "ray of hope”.

The students at the hostel a few days ago

The students at the hostel a few days ago

This newspaper reported on Monday that the three hostels of Sumy State University where 700 Indian students have been staying have been without water. Students have spent days without showers and are melting snow to use the water in toilets.

“All the students were happy when we saw the buses in the morning. But soon university officials conveyed to us a message from the Indian embassy that it was not yet safe to travel. The embassy wanted us to stay put in hostels. So, we returned to our hostels. We are hoping that we will soon be evacuated,” said Mohammad Mahtab Raza, a fourth-year medical student.

Bishal Das, a third-year medical student, said even after the buses were gone, he waited in the snow for four hours hoping that they would return.

“I was determined to leave today. I stood in the snow for four hours hoping, in vain, that the buses would return and take us out of Sumy. Had the buses returned, I would have been the first to jump into one of them,” he said.

Back in their hotels, the students are facing a renewed crisis of food and water.

“I gave away all the food I had to the cleaning staff as I thought we were leaving today. All my friends did the same. Now we have nothing to eat tonight,” Bishal said.

Last updated on 08.03.22, 09:38 AM
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