Russia , Russia-Ukraine Tension , Ukraine ,Mumbai , student
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Pal, who reached Mumbai along with 182 students on Tuesday morning, told the Indian Express, “I went through hell in those five days. I heard blasts, firing and saw people bleeding and running. I will not wish anything like this to even an enemy.”

Yash Pal made a 600 kilometres journey, which included walking alone from the Kyiv airport to the Indian embassy in the city, to get out of war-hit Ukraine. The 20-year-old medical student from Thane was to leave Kyiv for India on February 24 but was stuck at the airport as Russia invaded Ukraine the next day.

Pal, who reached Mumbai along with 182 students on Tuesday morning, told the Indian Express, “I went through hell in those five days. I heard blasts, firing and saw people bleeding and running. I will not wish anything like this to even an enemy.”

Blasts, gunshots

The student at the Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University, in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, left on the night of February 23 from his university to catch an early morning flight from Kyiv to come home. But the Russians bombed the airport and Pal along with many others were asked to leave by Ukrainian authorities.

“At the airport, I heard blasts, gunshots, flashing lights and lights going out. It was terrifying. I walked alone for hours navigating the route using a map on my phone to reach the Indian embassy. It was very risky but I had no option,” he told the Indian Express.

“On my way, I heard gunshots, explosions and people bleeding and running away. I was feeling scared but luckily I was unhurt. Our embassy provided me and some 300 Indian students shelter in a school there,” he added.

They were not allowed to move out of the school and could hear the fighting getting intense. “The third day the sound of blasts was very loud as if they were nearing us. I could not sleep due to fear. The food was less and served twice a day. We had to starve. I survived on two fruits, some rice and boiled vegetables. As the water was less it was difficult to digest food,” he said.

Pal said on the third day—on February 26—his hands started trembling because of hunger, cold and stress. He also found four more friends from his university at the school.

Crowded train

“The number of students went over 400 on the third day. Around 2 pm that day I reached the railway station in Kyiv. I did not eat that day. We were scared to even go to the station as sometime back there was a missile attack near it. Luckily, minutes after we reached there, we got a train back to Ivano-Frankivsk.”

However, the train was jam-packed and people were pushing each other to get in. “My friends and I stood holding the luggage for 12 hours. It was like hell. After reaching Ivano-Frankivsk at 3 am, we had to wait on the chilly marble floor of the station in the harsh cold due to the curfew. I was wearing five layers of clothes and it was still cold and I could not sleep.”

Journey to the border

At 8 am, he and a few others managed to stop a van that dropped them near the Romanian border as there was a jam. “We walked for nine kilometres with heavy luggage in the cold to reach the border. My legs were giving up. I lost one of my bags that had essential items including food. The 20 hours spent at the border were chaotic too. I lost my friends in the chaos,” he added.

There were thousands of people at the border and the Ukrainian soldiers sprayed water on the people gathered there to control them. “Imagine it was -5 to -7 degrees Celsius and they were spraying water. They also fired 15 rounds in the air to deter us as it was getting chaotic. Due to this, a stampede took place and we stepped on each other which was hurting,” said Pal.

Pal said once they crossed the border from Hlybot’skyi in Ukraine to Suceava city in Romania they were helped by Romanians, who gave them food, water and shelter.

“We were then taken to the Bucharest Airport where I heard an announcement that two seats on a flight to Mumbai are vacant and I went running to the help desk and requested them to put me on the flight as I am from Mumbai. They put me on the flight and I returned home. I want to thank the Indian government,” added Pal.


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