Ahmedabad, Feb 27 (PTI) Tears of joy, happy faces and smiles marked the arrival of the first batch of 56 students to their home state Gujarat from Ukraine on Sunday, as anxious parents welcomed them upon arrival from Mumbai after an overnight journey.
The students also thanked the Indian authorities for helping them return home safely from war-hit Ukraine.
Two special buses arranged by the Gujarat government brought these students from Mumbai, where they had arrived on Saturday evening after being evacuated by a special flight from Bucharest in Romania.
These students had gone to Ukraine to pursue highest studies, but got stranded after Russia launched a military offensive there.
They were bought back from Bucharest in a special flight of Air India.
As they alighted from the buses in Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad on Sunday, local politicians and government officials greeted them with flowers.
Some students wept as they hugged their parents, while others flashed a smile of relief. Some also shared the story of their journey stretching over three days – walking for several kilometres to cross the border into Romania before boarding the special planes, and then an overnight bus journey to reach their native places in Gujarat.
One of the evacuees, Puja Patel, who reached Surat on Sunday, said she had gone to Chernivtsi in Ukraine to pursue a medical course in December last year. But, she had to rush back home after just two months.
“We were trying to come back to India after the talks of war between Russia and Ukraine started. Our parents were quite worried. We were provided support from the Indian Embassy, but a lot of our friends are still living there in an environment of fear. I will truly be happy when all of them are brought back safely,” she said.
Another Surat native Araswi Shah, who was studying in Ukraine’s Bukovinian city, said many students were hopeful that there would be no war, until it actually broke out.
“On February 15, the Indian Embassy directed us to leave Ukraine at the earliest. Many students believed that the war would not happen due to the intervention of other countries, but as soon as it broke out, the cost of tickets skyrocketed and were not even available after some time,” she said.
But, she managed to get out of Ukraine with the help of the Indian embassy, she said.
A student after arriving in Vadodara said, “It took us three days to finally reach our home state. We reached safely, and we are thankful to the government for making all the arrangements. We pray for the safe journey of the other students who are trying to come back.” Another evacuee in Vadodara said several students trying to leave Ukraine have to drag their heavy bags and luggage for 5-6 kilometres, or even more, to make it to the Romanian border, before they can board a special flight.
“At the border, they have to wait for hours without food and water,” said another student of the ordeal her friends who are left behind are undergoing.
Another student said they feel lucky to come back home safely, with the help of the Indian embassy.
“People are rushing to the Romanian border, but we managed to move out early as we were living in a city not very far from the border. Many of our friends are still there. With the cold weather and crowds at the border, which is being sealed, they are facing difficulties, but will be able to return home,” said another student.
The Vadodara-based father of a student, whose daughter managed to come back, said the family had forgotten to smile ever since they got the news of the war in Ukraine.
“We can smile now that our daughter is back,” he said.
Vadodara MP Ranjan Bhatt said 16 students from Vadodara have reached their destinations, and many more are on the way.
“We are making all efforts to bring all of them back home. The Indian embassy and the Ministry of External Affairs are making all efforts to bring them home safely,” the BJP Lok Sabha member told reporters.
As these students reach home, the parents of those who left behind are still worried.
The father of a student from Vadodara said his son left for Poland border last night.
“He and his friends were dropped 15 kilometres ahead of the border. They had to walk all the way to the border, only to be denied a safe passage by the authorities there. My son called me to say there is no arrangement, and it is difficult for them to cross over into Poland from Ukraine,” he said. PTI KA PD GK GK
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Source: The Print