From Kyiv to India: A tale of courage, strength & empathy

The software professional, Baroon Varma

The software professional, Baroon Varma | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

War is a test of courage not only of soldiers but of ordinary citizens too. While the foreigners try to leave Ukraine for a safer land away from the ongoing war, an Indian computer techie and his family showed exemplary valour to rescue a couple and their two-month-old child from Kyiv by helping them in a gruelling cold weather and a tiring three-day journey back to motherland.  

The software professional, Baroon Varma and his wife Smita Sinha, comforted, provided food and ensured the safety of the Bankda family from Mumbai in a journey which neither of these families had ever dreamt of. Interestingly, these families were strangers till the evening of February 28 when Mr. Varma saw a Twitter message with a phone number seeking help.  

“When I called that number, I realised the couple were with their two-month-old child. They were stuck on the outskirts of Kyiv with no knowledge of local language,” he told The Hindu over a phone call. Mr. Varma called them to his home as he along with his wife and two daughters were planning to leave for Lviv in western Ukraine the next day. It is presently a peaceful area on the border of Poland.

“With night curfew to start, we frantically looked for taxis on apps. After seven-eight refusals, finally a driver agreed to travel around 14 kilometres,” he said. He has been living in Ukraine since 2015. By the time the Bankdas arrived, the shelling had started, curfew was imposed and the driver had to reroute the journey twice as they were checked repeatedly by the Ukrainian soldiers.  

“When they came and we offered them Indian vegetarian food, they were almost exhausted. We spent the night in my society’s bunker 30-feet deep in –2 degrees temperature with no heater,” he recalled. On March 1, at 7.45 a.m. when they reached the railway station, they were greeted by a sea of people trying to leave Kyiv.

“Ukranian men were not allowed to leave. Women, children and senior citizens were being sent to safer places. Even for foreigners, only those men with children were allowed,” he said.

The two families couldn’t get in to the first train but a special train was announced and Mr. Varma took his younger five-year-old daughter on his shoulder and asked Rahul Bankda to hold his child so both men too are let in the train along with women. It took nine hours compared to the usual five-hour journey and all four adults had to stand and could eat only biscuits as there was no space to even move.  

“At Lviv, an acquaintance Volodimir took us home, gave food and comforted us,” he said. Next morning, the two families were dropped at 1.4 kilometres from the Poland border which too was packed with people. It took nine hours to cross three barricades in (-)5 degrees with two young girls and one new–born to look after.

“The baby couldn’t be given food for six hours due to freezing cold. My younger one was about to collapse. I made some SOS calls to friends in Delhi as we were stuck in no man’s land,” he recalled the horror. Their passports were stamped with five-day transit visa and upon entering Poland, the embassy officials took them to a hotel which too was overflowing.  

The Bankdas cannot stop thanking Mr. Varma. “It was him, who saved our child. He ensured that my brother and his family remained safe. It was so kind of him to help them without even knowing them. We will always remain thankful to him and his family,” said Ankur Bankda. 

For Mr. Varma, helping someone in need is no big deed. “I am a jovial person. I love to help and I did. I wish none of us face such journey ever again,” he said.  

When asked about the war, Mr. Varma said Ukrainians are tough fighters and even his female techie colleagues have stayed back to fight against the Russians. “I wish to go back to Ukraine. My daughters too. We love that country and I hope everything will come to normal soon,” he said.  

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2022 4:48:59 pm |