“WHILE SHELLING and bombing haunted us throughout our journey from Kharkiv to the Romanian border, we comforted our parents by lying to them about our situation,” said Shwetha Thirumalai Kumaraswamy, a first-year medical student in Ukraine who returned to India Tuesday morning.
The death of Naveen S G on March 1 caused panic among the students in Ukraine as well as their parents in India. While the students started to march towards the border, putting their lives at stake, many said they lied to their parents that they were safe although the ground situation was different.
“There was a lot of uncertainty and it was a nightmare. I will remember that 12-km walk from Kharkiv railway station to Pisochyn carrying the Indian national flag when we were exposed to all kinds of threats. It started around 3 pm on March 1 and we reached by 7.30 pm. Our life was at total risk,” said Shwetha, who traveled to Kharkiv from Bengaluru in December last year to pursue education in medicine.
“When we were at Kharkiv railway station we could hear sound of shelling. But all through this journey, not just me, most of us lied to our parents to ensure they do not panic.”
Akash P Patil, a second-year medical student in Kharkiv, said, “On March 1, when Naveen died outside a supermarket, we all were in a state of panic. It was the trigger for us to decide to leave Kharkiv at all cost.”
“Most of the Indians started traveling towards the railway station and so did I. It was chaos at the railway station. But Ukraine had decided to give priority to their nationals and we had no choice but to walk to Pisochyn, which is about 12 km from the railway station,” he said.
“We took a bus the next day to the Romanian border and it was a two-day journey. It was only after we crossed the border that we felt safe. We were taken to a hostel where we stayed till Tuesday and took the flight to India,” said Akash, who is from Gadag district. Akash said he never told his family back home about the shelling that took place during their journey.
Shwetha and Akash were among the 57 students from Karnataka, who left Kharkiv on March 1. They reached India on Tuesday.
Yukthesh V, also a first-year student who was stranded, said he used to receive frequent calls from his parents asking about his safety. “I realized that my parents were glued to the television, watching the news. I insisted that they stop watching television and told them that shelling and bombing were happening somewhere far from where I lived. I don’t know how much they believed me but I continued to lie to them.”
“While walking from Kharkiv railway station to Pisochyn, we were told that it was a no-war zone but suddenly there was a shelling attack about 30 metres away. We had to run to save ourselves, which I never told my parents,” said the Bengaluru resident.
Till now, 560 students from Karnataka have been evacuated from Ukraine. Manoj Rajan, Commissioner, Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority, who is also the Nodal Officer to facilitate safe movement of stranded people/students from Karnataka in Ukraine, told The Indian Express that there were six students from the state stranded in Sumy.