Ukraine Tales: The Evacuation and Journey of an Assam Girl amidst Ukraine Crisis
Guwahati: In a February 23 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that a “special military operation” would begin in Ukraine, following the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Explosions and outbreaks of fighting have since been reported across the country.
However, this was not taken as seriously by the Indians out there. “I and my friends never thought that there will be a war between the two countries. This was more of like fake news to us,” said Assam girl Rajashree Boro, a student from Ternopil National Medical University to TIME8 during an exclusive interview.
Rajashree originally hails from oil town Digboi under Tinsukia District.
Speaking further about the crisis, Boro told us that the Ternopil National Medical University didn’t inform them about the operation.
She claimed citizens in Ukraine were so very cool and calm there was not a single chaotic incident as people carried on with their daily usual works until the first attack on the capital city of Ukraine Kyiv on February 24, 2022.
“I was informed about the missile attack by my friend from Tamil Nadu. She was afraid still we hoped that everything will fine. When consulted with our agent, he rather told us to concentrate on our studies and asked not to worry,” asserted Rajashree.
The Digboi based girl informed that she tried to contact the embassy, sent them emails as phone lines were found to be busy.
“We didn’t have the help we expected from the embassy amidst the crisis. Our agents asked us to remain calm and have patience. We were updated about the situation only when we personally tried to contact our agents,” said Rajashree.
With the sounds of sirens, aircraft moving around, people were in rush and had to look for bunkers.
“The situation was really horrible. We had to look for bunkers as there was a feeling that the Russians will drop missiles and we will die (laughs). We heard sounds of fighter planes, however, I am not sure whether it was fighter planes or not. But yes, air raid sirens were sounded in Ternopil following which there was a rush. We had to look for bunkers for around 2 hours; a few Ukrainians helped us in locating the bunkers,” said Rajashree.
About stockpiling foods and other essential items
Amidst the crisis, packet chips, biscuits, cookies turned out to be the most essential food items.
“We have stockpiled all the essential items on February 24 and wrapped them with packing tape to keep items properly protected. I could withdraw only 3000 UAH” said Rajashree.
Despite this, Rajashree and her friends spent around three days at the Romanian border without eating. “Our only intention was to cross the border and come back to India,” added Rajashree.
Travelling to Border
Amidst the crisis, the Rajashree along with her friends thought of travelling to the border and crossing it easily. But this didn’t happen as expected.
“We thought it would be easy to cross the border, but didn’t work like that. There was a chaotic situation at the border. People were evacuated priority-wise; first priority was given to the students from the crisis-hit cities, especially where Russia started its invasion, then comes the Ukrainians and then the foreigners including the Indians. Only 15-20 students in numbers especially the Indians were allowed to cross the border, whereas, there were around a thousand students standing at the border. We were under pressure, unable to cope with the situation. But I and my four friends tried backing up each other.
Travelling back to India
With the cancellation of the examinations under Ternopil National Medical University, the girl along with her friends had a word with their parents and accordingly their tickets were booked.
After having a word with our parents our tickets were booked. But, we had to travel towards the Romanian border which took us around 7 to 8 hours,” said Rajashree.
The girl claimed that there was massive traffic at the border; they were on the bus, which got stuck in between, thus, they had no other option left but to walk. They covered around 17 kilometres by walking.
Since there was no systematic approach at the Romanian border, the girl along with her friends thought of moving back and heading towards the Hungary border. “After spending around three days, we gave up as there was too much chaos at the Romanian border. We didn’t have any second thought left thus, decided to move towards the Hungarian border,” shared Rajashree.
After facing the chaos at the Romanian border, the girl along with friends travelled towards Chernivtsi, a city in western Ukraine.
“We walked for some hours from the border and then hired a taxi for another 30 minutes. The driver dropped us at the bus station in Chernivtsi. After spending one night at a hostel in Chernivtsi, we travelled towards Uzar the next day which took us another 7 hours, a senior in Uzar volunteered us to reach Budapest and then we boarded the flight directly to Mumbai,” shared Rajashree.
“We are thankful to the people of the Indian Embassy in Budapest, they volunteered us so gracefully amidst the crisis situation,” said Rajashree further.