‘Tomorrow’ never comes for 700 Indian students stuck in Sumy, Ukraine

Around 700 Indian students are still stuck in a university hostel basement at Sumy city in Ukraine where Russian troops are carrying out air strikes, leaving the students in so much fear that they don’t even venture out to get food or water.

As food and water run out, their only hope is the Indian government and the embassy, which keep promising them that they will be evacuated “tomorrow”, but that tomorrow has not come yet.

“It has been nine days since the war began. We have been spending most of our days in the hostel basement listening to the sounds of explosions and gunshots. A day ago, shelling had taken place just a few miles away from our hostel. The situation is really scary,” says Shivangi Shibu, a medical student hailing from Patna, Bihar.

The Indians are part of a larger group of 1,300 students from various countries. When the war began, Shivangi and her friends had purchased food for a week, hoping to get evacuated by that time, but then soon they started running out of both food and water, despite conservative use.


“We are mostly dependent on what locals, non-governmental organisations and volunteers provide us. Depending upon the situation, sometimes they give us potatoes, carrots and a few packets of rice and flour. We, students, hardly eat one time a day and that too depending upon the food availability,” she says, adding that more than 30 students are in her block and they share whatever they get.

“Following the death of Naveen who was killed when he was standing to purchase rations at Kharkiv, we are really scared to step out even to get groceries. Also, most of the supermarkets in our locality are closed,” she adds.

Recalling the distress, she says they had no option but to melt snow and drink it. “Luckily, there was a heavy snowfall on Thursday night and we managed to get some fresh snow. We have collected water from roof channels. On Friday morning, locals gave us three 20 litre bottles of water. We are using it judiciously,” she said.

“We don’t know how long we will be able to survive here. It looks like we will die out of starvation and thirst if not by gunshot or missile,” she says, requesting the Indian government to take immediate steps to evacuate them from Sumy which is just 60 km from the Russian border.

Also read: Fear, anxiety for parents as some Indian students go missing in Ukraine

Shivangi says she used to call up her mom every morning and would talk about her life in the country. She does that even now. But she tells her that she and her friends are doing fine and the situation is normal.

“My mother is a heart patient. She is already paranoid because I am stuck in a war-torn country. I don’t want to scare her more by telling her the truth,” says the fifth year medical student.

Reiterating their desperation, she says the Indian embassy’s promises of evacuating them “tomorrow” are giving them false hope.

“All we are asking for is a clear advisory from the embassy because we don’t know what to do. We even tried to leave the city on our own by renting a bus. Even though we are willing to pay upto $400 per person, nobody is willing to take us to the border. It is impossible to walk to the border. We are in a distress situation and we need help,” she adds, saying they are mentally exhausted.

Another student, Mahek Shaikh tweeted saying they had woken up to sirens, loud sounds of air jets and bombing and they are losing hope of evacuation.

“Evacuating us from Sumy through Russia is the only possible thing because we are very close to Russia and over 1,000 kilometres from the western border. Why is the Indian embassy not talking about the evacuation process in Sumy?” asked another student Mehtab.

Several hundreds of students stuck in Sumy have been lamenting about the situation through social media.

The Indian embassy in Ukraine has tweeted saying that they are exploring all possible mechanisms to safely evacuate Indian citizens in Sumy and identification of exit routes were discussed with all interlocutors, including the Red Cross.