‘University didn't allow us to leave Ukraine soon’

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 3/4/2022 4:00:55 PM

NEW DELHI, Mar 03: After spending nearly a week in transit while trying to move out of Vinnytsia in war-hit Ukraine and a snow storm on the Romanian border, medical student Shoaib Salim Attar is finally relieved to be back home.
But, he is still worried about scores of other students waiting to return to India from Ukraine.
"It's God's grace that I could make it," Attar (21), who left Vinnytsia on the night of February 24, after Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine, told PTI.
He landed in Mumbai on Thursday in a special flight from Bucharest.
A third-year student of the Vinnytsia National Medical University, Attar had on February 22 booked a ticket for February 27 to fly back home to India.
On February 22, Russia had announced the recognition of Luhansk and Donestk as independent states, the rebel-held territories of Ukraine
As per Attar, who hails from Bengaluru in neighbouring Karnataka, the university's dean then asked the students not to leave, saying 'look, there is peace outside.'
"Although the Indian embassy in Ukraine issued advisories, they were of little help," the student said.
The Indian embassy asked the Indians to leave only if it was absolutely necessary, he said.
"In Ukraine, the universities require 100 per cent attendance. The university also did not allow us to leave. When we expressed our apprehensions that there may be an attack on Ukraine, the university administration thought we wanted virtual classes," he claimed.
By then, Attar had decided to leave the country.
"We took special care to book a ticket from Laviv, a city near the Poland border, so that even if a Russian attack takes place, we would be safe. But, then we got the message from the airlines that the flight has been cancelled," he said.
Later, the Ukranian government shut down its air space, crashing hopes of taking a flight from the country. That's when the battle started for Attar and many like him.
After the attack on Ukraine began on February 24, Russian aircraft started hovering the skies around Vinnytsia.
"There would be sirens to alert us about any aerial attack. We would then rush to seek refuge in a shelter. That would happen seven-eight times a day. We would rush to the shelter, spend three hours there, again return only to hear another siren. We had to then again seek refuge. We really got tired of doing this exercise all the time," he said.
It was then that Attar and many other students from India, the Middle East and Africa decided to leave. But, leaving Vinnytisa was not easy either.
Attar claimed that the Indian embassy staff in Kyiv was virtually unavailable for help.
"There was no instruction from the Indian embassy on how to leave the country. We left Vinnytisa on our own by hiring a bus to the nearest Romanian border post. The Indian embassy was barely there to help us. They would not even answer our calls," the student complained.
The ordeal aggravated at the border check post as thousands of students wanted to cross over to Romania and the guards would only allow 20 people every hour. But, more students would keep coming every hour, he said.
"We waited there for nearly 60 hours. There was a snowstorm. Many students got hypothermia standing in the cold. It was the local Ukranians that gave us some food -- apples, bread. There was no water. There could have been a stampede," Attar said, but could not recollect the exact dates due to the arduous journey.
On February 27, he finally managed to cross over to Romania.
"I had to drop my luggage back in Ukraine," he rued.
On reaching Suceava in Romania, the Indian embassy arranged for their travel to Bucharest.
"It was there we found the Indian embassy for the first time helping us," he said.
On March 2, Attar finally boarded a special flight from Bucharest to Mumbai which landed on March 3, finally making it home.
"At the Mumbai airport, the Karnataka government representative had made an arrangement for our travel to Bengaluru," he said, adding that he managed to reach his home by late Thursday afternoon.



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