From left: Ninin Chattarji, Shreyasi Gopakumar and Rohan Ranjith are among many Indian students who are stuck in Ukraine. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Some UAE-based Indian expats, whose children are struggling to flee war-hit Ukraine, have said they are anxiously waiting for their safe return.

Al Ain resident Gopakumar Gopalan said his daughter Shreyasi Gopakumar is among at least 12 students from the UAE who were stuck in their hostel in Kharkiv.

“She had just joined the MBBS course at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University in December 2021,” said Gopalan, who runs an automobile business.

He said there are around 120 girls in the hostel and 300 boys in another accommodation, adding that at least 12 girls are from the UAE.

“They are really terrified, tired and sleep deprived. They have been taking shelter in bunkers in the hostel.”

Their nearest border is with Russia. The Indian government is making arrangements to evacuate Indians from other border areas. But it will take 10 to 20 hours for these kids to go to Poland or Hungary. It is not safe now. They can be exposed to shelling.”

Gopalan said the agency that had helped with the admission of the students was supplying food to the stranded students. “But how long can they stay like this? That is worrying us. They are already tired and can fall sick too.”

Urging for help, he said his family had been praying hard for his daughter’s safe return.

Stuck at the borders

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi residents Dr Ranjith Kumar and Santhosh Chattarji were worried about their sons who have been stuck on Ukraine’s border with Poland for three days.

Dr Kumar’s son Rohan Ranjith and Chattarji’s son Ninin Chattarji are third and first year students of veterinary science at Lviv National University of Veterinary Medicine. They are among a group of 12 students who travelled together to the border.

“They walked some 40 to 50km to get there,” said Dr Kumar, a dentist, adding that they could not cross the border.

The students were stuck in freezing temperatures with limited food and water, he said.

“It has been snowing heavily and the temperature was -7 °C when they were out on the street. Thankfully, they got a shelter yesterday.”

The two fathers said by Tuesday morning, the boys had boarded a private vehicle to go to the Hungarian border.”they are now with a group of 24 students travelling in three vehicles,” said Dr Kumar.

He appreciated the efforts of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and the Kerala government’s Department of Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (Norka-Roots) to evacuate Indians students.

Chattarji, a quantity surveyor, said the families have been praying for the safe return of the children. “We are spending sleepless nights. My younger son has exams, but he is not able to study. Everybody is praying.”

As on Monday, the Indian government had evacuated around 1,400 of its citizens, most of whom are students in Ukraine under Operation Ganga through Ukraine’s neighbouring countries such as Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovak Republic.

Meanwhile, US-based Indian social worker Annie Libu, who has been coordinating with the stranded students and Indian authorities, said thousands of students were stuck at railway stations and border points.

“We have made WhatsApp groups to coordinate the rescue operations. I am assisting students to connect with authorities and helping to arrange support for them,” she said over phone to Gulf News.