How might we evacuate.
As explosions creep closer and closer, young foreign medical students locked underground in Sumy, Ukraine turn to TwitterSpaces as their last hope.
How do you evacuate when you can’t move?
Can’t use the roads; they’ll put a gun in your face and send you back where you came from.
Can’t use the bridges; they’ve been destroyed to prevent the Russians from quickening their advance.
Definitely can’t fly out; the airspace is perhaps the most dangerous option at this point. There are even reports of The Red Cross being tossed aside during the heat of the battle over Sumy, Ukraine, a once-picturesque town right on the border of Russia.
Just a couple months ago, foreign medical students from Ghana, Nigeria, India and Pakistan were focused on their final exams. Today, some of them don’t even know where their next meal is going to come from.
On Tuesday, SpookyTheManiac, a vocalist from Takoradi, Ghana, was awakened by his friend who was studying medicine in Sumy, Ukraine. Overnight, things went from bad to worse to critical, and his friend was desperate for a way out. But with the roads, bridges, and airspace locked down, they didn’t have any options. Furthermore, with supplies being progressively locked off from the Western town of Sumy which lies close to vacuum-bombed Kharkiv, even water was becoming a precious resource.
Spooky did the only thing he could do - he opened up a TwitterSpace - an open mic on Twitter where anyone can join in a conversation - and called it #SaveSumyStudents. Soon after, the med students from Sumy started pouring into the TwitterSpace open mic, sharing their stories one after another. As footage rolled in, videos were quickly edited and subtitled because heck - it’s not like anyone reads anymore.
When listening to the recording above, check out these key stories using the following timestamps:
6:00 Sanaullah gets a gun pointed at him at a checkpoint.
12:30 “If they see you outside, they will consider you an enemy.”
39:00 "Does anyone trust the University to help?" (39:36 sound byte)
40:00 “I don't trust them to help us leave.”
1:01:40 - “I don't think they'll be enough food left.”
1:02:20 - "There's not even water."
1:03:00 - Bridge destroyed; only route leads to Kharkiv. They want to go south to Potlava but it's not about whether you get to the border but rather if the people on the border let you through.
The result? The top major news outlets in North America joined the TwitterSpace open mic. Soon after, the audience members were being interviewed by the New York Times over Zoom. Major Canadian news outlets have reached out are in the process of verifying the footage before creating stories. Given that Canada accepted more Syrian refugees than any other country, Canada is a highly sough-after refuge and there’s a hotline for Ukrainian refugees available right now.
Have the students been evacuated? No, far from it. They’re still exactly where they were yesterday; in a bunker, hoping the next blast isn’t as close as the last one.
However, given that they’re crossing the river while feeling the stones (we can thank Xiaopeng for that quote), they figure it’s best to prepare for the time when they can have a safe passage out.
If luck is when opportunity meets preparedness, you can’t get lucky if you’re not prepared.
More as this story develops. Updates below.
March 7, 2022
What started on TwitterSpaces ended up in the NYT and CNN.
Update (March 9th) Happy to report that Michael, the individual featured in the NYT story, has made it to safety.
ONGOING STORY (March 9, 2022)
I was chatting with one of my professors about this story, and I told him how wonderfully and awfully the flat the world was.
Gabriel aka SpookyTheManiac gets a call, opens up an open mic where students can tell their stories with their voices, and within hours North America’s largest news outlets are picking up the story.
The World is Flat was a popular book 20 years ago which prophesized a world with seamless, frictionless interpersonal communications. That time has come to pass.
Back in the day, to be a major comedian you had to go on Letterman or Leno. Now, given the seamless nature of communication, niche creators are leveraging a distribution network that Letterman and Leno never dreamt of. I guess in a lot of ways, it puts their business to sleep.
During the TwitterSpace with the med students from Sumy, there were more than a few people who thought was Spooky was doing was a complete waste of time.