Indian Students Stranded At Kharkiv Station, Govt Advises 'Start Walking'
Indian nationals were left stranded at the Kharkiv railway station after the Ukrainians prioritised boarding for locals.
As Russia intensified attacks in Ukraine, the Indian government's latest advisory asking Indians to evacuate Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, by 6 p.m has left everyone in a state of panic. Since 7 am, at least a thousand Indian students have been stranded at the city's railway station trying to flee the city.
The Indian students have alleged that Ukrainians have prioritized the locals to board the train leaving the city. However, few female Indian students were allowed to board the train while leaving the rest in a lurch.
A second advisory issued by the embassy, hours within the first, asked the stranded Indian nationals to start walking toward Pesochin (11km), Babaye (12km), and Bezlyudovka (16km) as soon as possible" for their "safety and security" if they were unable to find any transport.
"PROCEED IMMEDIATELY. UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES INDIANS MUST REACH THESE SETTLEMENTS BY 1800 HRS (UKRAINIAN TIME) TODAY," the advisory read.
19-year-old Sagarika Bhagatkar, a first-year MBBS student, was waiting at the Kharkiv station for hours before she and 400 others decided to start walking toward Pesochin. She reached the MEA safehouse at 9:22 (IST) after walking for two hours.
"Please help us. We are around 500 students group started walking towards #PISOECHIN. We don't know if anybody will be there to help or guide us," Raja Singh, another student, tweeted.
Since the onset of the war on February 24, the outskirts of Kharkiv, located in Northeaster Ukraine barely 30 km from the Russian border, has been under intense shelling and fire. However, early Tuesday morning a Russian military strike hit Kharkiv's central Freedom Square leaving nothing but dust and rubble.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack "frank, undisguised terror. Nobody will forgive. Nobody will forget. This attack on Kharkiv is a war crime," Zelenskyy said.
Also Read: From Bunkers, Indian Students In Sumy Plea For Evacuation Through Russia
Volunteers lifeline for stranded students
Various self-help groups and NGOs have sprung up in the past few days proving to be a lifeline for the stranded students. Groups on WhatsApp and Telegram comprising relatives, students, and volunteers have been trying to bring home the students.
The Telegram group created by Team SOS India, a voluntary organization, is flooded with information about advisories, google maps, flight information, telephone numbers of taxi/bus drivers willing to ferry students across the borders, relatives trying to locate their kith and kin. Team SOS India, even debunks misinformation, stressing on the need to follow official government advisories.
British national Sarah Jane* (name changed at request) is another such lifeline. Jane has helped more than 1200 students—of all nationalities—escape the Ukrainian borders.
"I was moved by the plight of the students stuck in Ukraine. Sitting in The Netherlands I am basically trying to be any support for them and helping out in any way they need. By providing them with emotional support, arranging for food or transport, or even routes they need to take to make their way to the nearest border," Jane told BOOM.
Currently, there are hundreds of students walking 12km in the dark from Kharkiv as they were not allowed to board the trains, Jane added.
Aditya Goel, an Indian student at Kharkiv appealed to the government to come save them as they were stranded due to a breakdown in the public transport system.
Meanwhile, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the Indian government was exploring options to reach eastern Ukraine to assist the evacuation of citizens who are stuck there. "We are seeing if our teams can reach there, it's not easy because the route is not open all the time," Bagchi said in a media briefing held earlier today.
Also Read: At Ukraine Borders, Indian Students Await Govt Help In Sub-Zero Temp
After a harrowing journey, stuck at the border
The journey for Indian nationals did not end at the Ukrainian borders. After a harrowing journey, many were stuck at the borders for hours before being allowed to get into neighbouring countries like Poland, Romania, and Hungary.
Sarah Jane said many students are not only stuck at the railway station, but many others who made it to the border are facing troubles in crossing over. Several students have alleged that border guards are demanded bribes amounting to US$250-500 from the students who wanted to cross over. "I had to pay," a student who crossed a border said.
"More than 500 Indian students were waiting at Budomierz, the Polish border for at least two-three hours," Tejas messaged on the Team SOS India telegram group appealing for help. "The gates have not opened yet," he said in a personal message to this reporter.
Meanwhile, Facebook user Srinivasan Vishwanathan said a large group of students from Kharkiv are stuck at the Vokzal railway station. "They were not allowed to board any of the trains since today morning. They are waiting with some hopes left. Request Embassy officials or anyone to intervene now to help them in anyway/talk to railway officials and allow them to board the train to Lviv. Please, immediate action is required to save them all," the post on the Indians in Ukraine Facebook group read.
Also Read: How An Indian Turned His Restaurant In Ukraine Into A Shelter Home
Editor's Note: Due to safety and security concerns, we have changed the name of one of the volunteers we quoted at her request.
Do you always want to share the authentic news with your friends?