Some of the students who could cross the Ukraine-Romania border after waiting for more than a day on the road got shelter in a refugee camp devoid of a proper washroom and crammed with hundreds of people.
The young men The Telegraph spoke to on Monday afternoon (Romania time) said they entered Romania on Sunday evening and did not go to the toilet at least till Monday afternoon because there were no proper washrooms on that side of the border.
On the Ukrainian side, they were using the toilet of a cafeteria till the owner closed it down, the students said.
“Hundreds of students were staying in one camp. There was no proper washroom. There was a tent that others were using as a toilet. It was open to all and very dirty. We kept away from it till we could,” said Mikhail Alam, a third-year student of Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University, who had to stay in the camp for 10 hours.
They used it once during their stay. “We cleaned it ourselves, then used it and cleaned it again so others could use it,” he said.
The boys said they looked for a hotel where they could find a proper washroom but there was none.
The students inside the refugee camp in Romania
“My friends and I decided to shift to the airport as soon as possible where at least we could use the washroom. If not the airport, there are hotels there where we can check in. We just wanted to move out of this place,” said Rahul Mandal, another student of the same university.
The students after crossing the Ukrainian border were taken for immigration check and then transported to the refugee shelter – a tent made of tarpaulin where hundreds of students — from India and other countries — had been staying.
“My friend Mikhail was the first to cross over in our group on Sunday evening. I got a chance to go half an hour later. By the time we reached the camp, it was very crowded,” Mandal said.
Students settled on blankets on the floor, one beside another. The floor that had a tarpaulin sheet was apparently not enough to protect the refugees from the cold from the ground, one of them said.
The students spent the night walking, talking and sometimes jogging outside the camp to beat the cold. They were given bananas, bread and chocolates for dinner and there was no shortage of water, Alam said.
However, they suffered because of the cold and poor condition of the washroom.
Mandal and his friends were told that there was no flight for India on Monday, yet they decided to move out of the refugee camp soon after daybreak.
“Apart from the washroom problem, it was extremely cold there. And we were equally exhausted from standing for the last two days,” said Mandal.
As the sun shone, the tent made of orange tarpaulin emitted an orange light inside
As the sun shone, giving some relief from the biting cold, the tent made of orange tarpaulin started emitting an orange light inside, making it difficult to see properly, a student said.
Many students rushed out and queued up to board buses leaving for the airport.
It took Mandal and his friends two failed attempts and almost 10 hours since reaching the camp to be able to board a bus for the Bucharest airport.
The students who crossed the border were given a 15-day refugee visa that would allow their stay in Romania for the next fortnight. “The sad part is we came to Ukraine on a student’s visa and are leaving for home on a refugee visa,” Alam said.