International students went to Ukraine to study. Now many worry they can't escape
An Indian medical student in Sumy says she and classmates had to use snow for drinking water while they await hopeful evacuation to flee the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:
International students all over Ukraine are also trying to flee the country. Some have had luck in the western region, evacuating through the Polish border. But others living in Ukraine's eastern territories say it's been hard to get help. One of these students is Jakaria Hussain. He's 23 - a medical student from India. He spent the last few days seeking shelter in his university's dormitories with friends and sharing his story on social media. He joins us from the city of Sumy. Jakaria, welcome.
JAKARIA HUSSAIN: Yeah, thank you.
FLORIDO: How are you doing right now?
HUSSAIN: Well, I can't say good because we are not doing good, obviously. It's been hard these past few days.
FLORIDO: Tell me a little bit about that. I saw on your Twitter account that you have been pleading for help to get you and your classmates out of the region.
HUSSAIN: Yeah. So since the war broke out, we tried to stay on the safe side. We are collecting essentials, like food items and other necessary items. And after a day or two, we started connecting with the Embassy - Indian Embassy. They started evacuating the students of the western regions first. Most of the Indians - they have moved either to home or are right now in transit in the border areas of the western part of the country. But I think we are around 700 Indians here in Sumy. There has been no update from, like, the government or the Indian Embassy. So it's a feeling like we're stuck here.
FLORIDO: Why has it been so hard for you to get from eastern Ukraine to western Ukraine, where evacuating the country, getting out of the country, might be a little easier?
HUSSAIN: So on the first day, we're just checking how to get out. Because on the western part, it started fast. And, like, on Day 3, we heard that the exits from our city are mostly destroyed - like, bridges are destroyed, roads are being destroyed.
FLORIDO: And what are you hearing from the government, from other officials, as you've tried to get help?
HUSSAIN: Yeah, they are telling us to stay safe, stay inside the dormitory and not to move, because some students tried to go out on their own by hiring taxis and bus. Half hour later, like, the police came with the students and dropped them back at the dormitory. So that's what's happening. And we're out of water since the last two days, so that's a issue, too.
FLORIDO: Can you tell me what your day-to-day life is like right now as you are taking shelter in the dorms?
HUSSAIN: I woke up to multiple blast. It's been happening every day. We spend our days in fear and night in the shelters. And it's really, really hard. It's - there's a scarcity of food, too.
FLORIDO: And, Jakaria, is there violence, shelling, bombing, explosions in the area where you are?
HUSSAIN: Yes. Yes. We're seeing shelling, fighting. We can hear almost - after evening, after it gets dark, the shelling becomes - there are more shellings, more gunfights in the streets.
FLORIDO: Have you been in touch with your family in India?
HUSSAIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. They are calling me every two hours, indeed. I'm telling them that I'm doing my best to stay safe. And, of course, they are very worried. They are crying. My mom is crying every time I call her. But I can't do anything, right?
FLORIDO: What are you hoping for right now?
HUSSAIN: Of course, our only hope is to return home safely to India. That's our only hope. And, honestly, hope is what is helping us moving forward.
FLORIDO: Well, Jakaria, I appreciate you taking the time to join us and talk about your experience. Jakaria Hussain is a medical student in Sumy, Ukraine, and he has been trying to evacuate the country since the war broke out. Now, Jakaria, thanks again, and stay safe.
HUSSAIN: Yeah. Thank you, Adrian. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.