“In the initial days when transportation was available, we were advised not to leave as it was safer to remain. I wish college authorities had instead sent us to the border in time,” says Arun Pokhrel, another Nepali. “Now, Kharkiv has been attacked. Will we be safe in our bunkers? What about food supplies? There are no trains, and taxis or locals with cars willing to drive us out no matter how much money we offer.”
The Nepalis have sought help from the Nepal Embassy in Berlin, and the Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA) but they are so deep inside Ukraine that there is little that anyone can do.
“They want us to make our way to the border, but there is no way to get there, we are trapped,” says Kamal.
The students are also hurt by the lack of empathy shown towards them by officials and volunteers, which makes them feel further isolated. Says Kamal, “Many phone calls go unanswered. Others ask us insensitive questions like what we have been upto till now and why we did not get out earlier. It was not our choice to be trapped like this.”
There was a small ray of hope when they came across a social media post by Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, who shared on social media that an emergency hotline for African, Asian and other students wishing to leave Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion had been setup.
But when they called the helpline number, they were told that Luhansk is too far and they should try to move westwards towards Kyiv.
With the Ukrainians themselves fleeing eastern Ukraine, the Nepalis have not got any help from their college either. Even the recruitment agents based in Ukraine have stopped answering calls. Says Kamal, “You know things are bad when even agents who are being offered money cannot help.”