The 23-year-old landed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv last August to pursue a master’s degree in music at the Kharkiv National Kotlyarevsky University of Arts. Xu enrolled because of the school’s reputation — it had more than 170 Chinese students before the war started — but little did he know then that he would have to return home in such unforeseen circumstances. When the war started in late February, Xu hunkered down in his dorm, but by March 1, shells were falling next door. He decided to embark on a nearly 1,300-kilometer journey to the Romanian capital Bucharest with three fellow Chinese students, and is now waiting to board a rescue flight to China.
In an interview with Sixth Tone’s Wu Peiyue, Xu shares a firsthand account of his anguish and agony following the assault on Ukraine. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.