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688 return on Day 2: Journey to a Kyiv nightmare, back home through border

Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said approximately 13,000 Indians are stranded in Ukraine as of now.

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: February 28, 2022 6:59:54 am
India, India latest news, Russia, Ukraine, Russia Ukraine crisis, Russian invasion, Indians stranded in Ukraine, Indian students in Ukraine, indian express explained, indian expressFamily members receive a student, who returned from Ukraine, in Ahmedabad on Sunday. (Nirmal Harindran)

At around 3 am Sunday, a flight from Bucharest landed at Delhi’s IGI Airport. Around 250 passengers who got off breathed a sigh of relief. These were the first of the students from war-torn Ukraine to land on Sunday, the second day of the evacuation.

On Sunday, 688 Indian nationals returned in three Air India evacuation flights from Bucharest, Romania, and Budapest, Hungary.

After the early-morning flight, another evacuation flight with 240 Indian nationals on board landed at IGI around 9.20 am Sunday, followed by the day’s third flight, with 198 Indians on board, at 5.35 pm.

The first flight, carrying 219 people, landed in Mumbai on Saturday.

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Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said approximately 13,000 Indians are stranded in Ukraine as of now.

Most students who returned in Sunday’s early flight came from Chernivtsi, about 40 km from Ukraine’s border with Romania, said Shivam Soni, a student at Bukovinian State Medical University (BSMU). A majority of passengers on the flight were from BSMU, the Delhi resident added.

Ayna Mansoori, a first-year student at the same institute, said Chernivtsi was mostly safe. She said: “We went to Kyiv to take the flight on February 24. However, on the way, we got an email that the flight would be cancelled. We waited at Kyiv railway station for long, trying to get through to the Indian Embassy for help. But we had to head back to Chernivtsi, and the journey that usually takes around eight hours took us a day. There were traffic jams… tanks, guns, and the military everywhere in Kyiv. Residents of the city were on the roads, carrying their luggage, trying to leave.”

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An Air India flight was scheduled to depart from Kyiv to Delhi on February 24, but was cancelled when Ukrainian airspace was closed for civilian flights. Students who tried to reach the airport either returned to their hostels, or were stuck in bunkers in Kyiv, said Falak Ansari, a first-year student. “The university then divided us into batches, and we were sent home. Buses were arranged from the hostel to the border. At the hostel, all our luggage was put into a single room, and the other rooms are being vacated for Ukrainians who might want to stay.”

“We are receiving messages from the university group saying that people are not able to cross over to Romania. There are long traffic jams all the way to the border. We had to walk 4-5 km to the border after the bus dropped us off,” Falak added.

Both Ayna and Falak are from Ahmedabad. A bus has been arranged from the Delhi airport to take them home, Falak said.

Similarly, Telangana government had arranged a bus to take 17 students from the airport to Telangana Bhavan in Delhi. From there, transport will be arranged for students returning to the state, an official said. At the Arrival terminal of IGI, Haryana and UP governments had also displayed banners welcoming the students, offering them help and support.

Gurkeerat Singh, a fourth-year student of Uzhhord National University in Ukraine was evacuated early Saturday morning. A resident of Muktsar’s Udyakaran village, Gurkeerat said, “As we were close to Hungary border, things were normal in that part — there was no bombings, nor firing. But as war broke out, we were living in emergency conditions.”

“There were 1,800 students in the university who were stuck, and 1,500 of them were from India,” she said.

Anjali Vasaniya, 19, a native of Amreli, Gujarat, and a second-year student at BSMU, said, “Earlier, I had booked a return ticket on March 7 but it got cancelled after the war broke out. Then we were taken to the Romania border, from where our evacuation process started…”

Mahima Chawla, second-year BSMU student and a Haryana resident, said: “It was safer in Chernivtsi. There weren’t too many problems. On the way to the border, there was a lot of traffic, since many people were trying to cross over to Romania.”

(With inputs from Rakhi Jagga in Ludhiana; Vaibhav Jha in Ahmedabad)

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