As thousands of evacuees, mostly students, from war-torn Ukraine land in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities, it does not spell the end of the long ordeal for many.
Some have many more hurdles to cross and hundreds or thousands of kms to travel – before they reach the warmth of their homes to hug their near and dear ones – as was evident in their brief interactions with the media.
One such student is Siya Das, 19, coming from the war-ravaged Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, who landed at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) here by a flight from Bucharest, Romania.
“I feel greatly relieved coming to Mumbai. But I still have another 2,700 km to travel before I reach my hometown Guwahati in Assam,” Das said.
During the flight, she was worried about her onward journey plans, how to book a hotel till her flight from Mumbai to Guwahati takes off etc.
“But a pleasant surprise awaited me as the CSMIA had made all the arrangements and even put me on a flight to Guwahati, all complimentary. I saw the real heroes working silently behind-the-scenes, and despite the long journey, the pride of being an Indian was at its peak,” Das said.
Among the youngest evacuees till date from the Ukraine war-zone is a 25-day-old infant boy, who somehow managed to board a flight with his young parents from Ahmedabad.
However, his return home was far from smooth as the infant did not have the most essential international travel document – a passport – which his parents could not manage, what with deadly bombs, bullets or missiles zipping all around, as his father Kuntart Makwana recalled.
Here again, CSMIA took charge and took all care, ensuring that the little boy’s first trip home was a smooth affair, and arranged the necessary formalities with the immigration department and finally, the child and his parents reached home safely.
A medical student, Supriya Kumar (23) from Delhi, was all smiles as she arrived here accompanied by her best friend — Coco — her one-year-old pet dog.
“I am indebted to the CSMIA authorities who ensured Coco could return with me, extended all support for immigration, Covid tests, baggage collection and even an overnight hotel stay as I flew to New Delhi the next morning,” said Kumar.
A medical student, Anushka Choudhary, who arrived from Bucharest, recounted her harrowing experience, the sheer uncertainty on crossing the Ukraine-Romania border, rushing to the airport and remaining in a state of panic till the flight actually took off.
Landing on home turf, they were welcomed by Union ministers, and Maharashtra government and airport officials who ensured that after their nightmarish exodus from Ukraine via neighbouring countries, their arrival in India was as smooth and hassle-free as possible, said a CSMIA spokesperson.
A total of five flights have landed in Mumbai in the past one week as part of ‘Operation Ganga’, and some more are expected to land over the next few days, bringing back Indians stranded in different parts of Ukraine.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)