Srinagar, Mar 11: Asif Tariq Lone had lost all hopes of reaching home alive. A medical student from Baramulla, he was trapped inside a hostel for days in the war-torn Sumy city of Ukraine.
Constant sirens, scarcity of drinking water, and spending nights in the basement took a heavy toll on him.
With Russian troopers patrolling every part of the city, the frequent attempts of their evacuation from Sumy city were repeatedly hitting a dead end.“It was a close encounter with death. We had no drinking water. We would worry about food and other essentials. The only thing which kept us in fighting was moral support from our families and assurances from the Indian Embassy,” he told The Kashmir Monitor after landing in Delhi.
Asif is among 700 students from India who were stranded in Sumy city. He along with seven other students are staying in New Delhi’s Kashmir house. They are scheduled to reach Srinagar on Saturday morning.
On March 8, all the 700 students were ferried in buses from Sumy to Poltava. From Poltava, they boarded a train to Lviv. Later they took another train to Poland.
The stranded students were flown to New Delhi in special Air India planes. “We are dead tired but relieved that we have survived a war. It was a rescue operation of 96 hours and we didn’t sleep even for an hour. Indian embassy played a crucial role to evacuate us to a safer place amid war,” he said.
Asif said they spent nights in the basement without any hope of waking up in the morning. “We had to switch off our lights at 6 pm. Then an alarm would ring that all students should shift to the basement as there were chances of bombardment by Russian forces,” he said.
Another student Yawar Hamid, who hails from Handwara, said he will never forget the experience of surviving a war.“A ceasefire was announced during our evacuation. We heard that there have been many casualties in four days. It was a horrible experience to live in Sumy,” he said.
Yawar said their evacuation was challenging given their location. “The government carried out a challenging evacuation exercise to help stranded Indians leave Ukraine,” he said.