Bengal students narrate their ordeal of returning home from Ukraine

Students praised the locals for the free food, juice and water given on their way to the border checkpoints
Image for representational purpose only | Pic: PTI
Image for representational purpose only | Pic: PTI

While holed up in bunkers, students from West Bengal, enrolled in medical colleges in Ukraine, had to fend for themselves. They ran out of food and water, made arrangements on their own to reach the border checkpoints and walked in sub-zero temperatures. They recounted their struggles to return to their homeland from the war-torn eastern European country of Ukraine.

Nur Hassan, a student from Kaliachak in Malda, recalled how he, along with 50 other students from India, had to hire a bus on March 1 from their institute in Kyiv to reach the Romanian border after undergoing numerous checks by the Ukrainian army. "For three days, we spent hours in a bunker at our medical college literally going without food and water and hearing the sounds of constant bombardment. As time was running out, we requisitioned buses on our own and left for the Ukraine-Romanian border. We were stranded there for hours by the Ukrainian army," he said.

After crossing the border, the Indian embassy, with help from the Romanian government, facilitated their return journey to New Delhi. Another student from Alipurduar in north Bengal, Gaurav Banik, said, "I feel so relieved after coming back to my native place on Thursday (March 3) but feel worried about the safety of others who are stranded there." Banik, a fifth-year student of Kharkiv National Medical University, said he, along with others, had to wait for an entire day before getting onto a bus.

Despite having all the travel documents, the journey was delayed by several hours at the Ukraine-Poland border before they were finally allowed by the forces to cross over to the other side. "It was a terrible sight — thousands of Ukrainian families, including elderly and women, scrambling to cross over along with the foreign nationals. The Ukrainian security forces were at times firing in the air to bring discipline among the people in the queue. We heaved a sigh of relief after boarding the aircraft," he added.

Student of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Tiyasha Biswas, said that she and five of her friends had set off from the institute but were forced to get down from the vehicle, 16 km from the Romanian border. After covering the distance in 11 hours in sub-zero temperature, they had to wait for hours before crossing over to the other side. "Happy to be back at my Barasat home but feeling exhausted. Don't know what lies in the future," Tiyasha said. 

Hamza Kabir, a third-semester student of Uzhhorod National University, said that he went without food and toilet facilities while waiting to cross over to Hungary. "I had such an amazing experience after being admitted to this institute located in a picturesque place three years back. The people were also good. Everything changed to fear, destruction, and disbelief as the war with Russia started," Kabir recalled, thankfully relaxing back home in Kolkata.

However, all the students had a word of praise for the locals, saying that they were given food, juice and water free of cost on their way to the border checkpoints. Ukraine had closed its airspace for civilian flights on February 24 and India has been evacuating its citizens stranded in the war-hit nation from its neighbouring countries such as Romania, Hungary and Poland.

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