Emotions ran high at the Delhi airport as the anxious wait of several parents to reunite with their children arriving from Ukraine ended in joy with the landing of the third evacuation flight on Sunday morning. On the other hand, scores of parents, whose children are still stuck in the violence-hit country, are having sleepless nights as their children find themselves hiding in bunkers when sirens buzz. The Indira Gandhi International Airport became a witness to a plethora of emotions as parents gave their children a grand welcome with flowers, cards and warm hugs upon their arrival here from the Hungarian capital Budapest.
Air India's third evacuation flight, AI1940, which was scheduled to land here at around 7 am, reached a couple of hours late at 9.20 am. At around 2.45 am, Air India's second evacuation flight from Romanian capital Bucharest, brought back 250 Indian nationals to Delhi. The first evacuation flight, AI1944, had brought 229 people from Bucharest to Mumbai on Saturday evening. As the returnees belong to different states, several states have established help desks and provided transport services from the Delhi airport to their homes.
Shashank Sharashwat, a first-year medical student, thanked the Indian government and the embassy for facilitating his return along with the others. “Now, we are safe. The situation in Ukraine is quite tense,” he said. A majority of the 240 students that landed in the third evacuation flight were studying in the western city of the Uzhhorod, which is one of the cities least affected due to the Russian military operation. Several of the students whom PTI spoke to said that the situation in the western cities of Ukraine was “much better” than the rest of the country.
Elated to be back in the country, another medical student Abhijeet Kumar, too, thanked the Indian government for ensuring their return. “There is no violence in the west but we faced a lot of problems. People started panicking. Prices of groceries shot up and there was panic-buying,” he said. Meanwhile, Rajasthan's Women and Child Development Minister Mamta Bhupesh received eight woman students from the state who arrived in Jaipur via Romania.
“We are happy that due to the efforts of the Rajasthan government, our girls have been able to come back to their homes despite being in difficult circumstances,” Bhupesh told reporters here. She said she will receive some more students coming to Delhi from Ukraine, on behalf of the state government. One of the students that reached Jaipur said they lived in the “safest” part of Ukraine, but she feared for the well-being of her friends who were still stranded there.
Sameer Khan, a student who landed in Delhi, too, echoed similar sentiments towards the other Indian students in Ukraine. Several students in Ukraine, hailing from Haryana and Punjab, narrated their ordeal to their parents back home, who have been making desperate appeals to the Indian government to speed up evacuation. Most of these students are in the eastern part of the war-hit country. Senior Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa shared a video on his Twitter handle showing a group of Indian students stranded in Kyiv and are desperately seeking help. “@narendramodi ji I have received desperate calls for help from Indian students stranded in Kyiv, Ukraine. They are in need of food & to be evacuated from the city immediately. There are 174 students who have taken shelter in School No. 169, Kyiv, right next to Embassy of India,” Bajwa tweeted.
Meena Sharma from Sonipat, whose daughter is a fourth-year student in Kharkiv, told the media that her daughter and many of her friends had neither eaten nor slept well for three days. “They are not getting any help there. We are having sleepless nights here. Our government should take them to a safer place and bring them back to India safely,” she said. Chandigarh-based Dinesh Dogra, whose daughter Simran, too, is stuck in Kharkiv, said she and her friends take shelter in bunkers when sirens buzz outside.
“We pray when there are air raid sirens and shelling,” Simran told the media over a video call. “We are worried about her safety and the well-being of other children with her. These days, we are not able to even sleep,” Dogra said. A video of two medical students, originally from Haryana who are now stranded in Ukraine, appealed to the Indian government to evacuate them. Their video has gone viral on social media. They said they were students of Ternopil National Medical University, Ukraine. In the video, one of the students who identified herself as Mansi Mangla, said they reached the Ukraine-Poland border after a lot of difficulties, including walking for over 40 km.
“When we reached the Polish border, we saw that the Russians and Polish were being allowed, but we were told to go back to the place where we study and nobody was ready to help,” Mansi said. Meghna Rathore, who accompanied Mansi, claimed that they spent the night in -5 degrees Celsius. “Now, neither can we go back nor are we allowed to go to Poland. What are we supposed to do,” she asked. The Indian Embassy in Ukraine had on Saturday tweeted asking the Indian citizens not to move to any of the border posts without prior coordination with the Indian government officials.
With PTI Inputs