Many students from Bengal are among those stranded at Ukrainian-Romania checkpost the entire Saturday night, when the temperature dropped below the freezing point, waiting for their turn to escape the war-torn country.
The gates opened once every 10 to 12 hours and the students crowding there tried to pass through all at once. But only a few could manage, said some of the students.
Mikhail Alam, a third-year student of Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University, said he had been standing outside gate number five at the checkpost since noon (Ukraine time) on Saturday and had failed twice to get through the iron gate till Sunday afternoon (Ukraine time).
The Indian students who are managing to cross the checkpost are being bussed to the Bucharest airport, from where they are being flown to India.
“It has been more than a day since I have been here at the checkpost, unable to pass through the gate. My friends and I failed to cross on both occasions when the gate opened. The priority was given to women and children,” Alam, from Amta in Howrah, told The Telegraph on Sunday while still standing in front of gate No. 5 at the checkpoint.
“Some of the girls from our university fell sick. Sreejani Guha, from Tollygunge, had a high fever and vomited. Anupama Singh, from Bihar, vomited, too. Both were allowed to pass through the gate,” Alam said.
With no shelter at the checkpoint, the stranded students, totalling several hundreds, took turns to sit inside a small cafeteria to escape the freezing cold on Saturday night.
Many rested their heads on tables and took a short nap before leaving and making room for another group.
Some settled on the floor of the cafeteria.
Rahul Mandal from Nadia district of Bengal, a student of Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University, said that of the five gates at the checkpost, the ones numbered 4 and 5 were earmarked for Indian students.
The remaining three were for Ukrainians.
“Initially, when we reached here, we stood in queues and maintained the line. The queue disintegrated as soon as the gate opened at 2.30am (Ukraine time) and people at the back started to push forward. There was complete chaos,” Mandal said.
The second time when the gate reopened, the same thing happened. On both occasions, Mandal and Alam failed to make it, as priority was given to women students.
The queue at the Ukraine-Romania border in the afternoon.Mikhail Alam
As this newspaper spoke with them on WhatsApp, the boys stood very close to the gate, hoping to pass through the next time it opened.
Later, on Sunday evening (Ukraine time), Alam said the cafeteria had stopped entertaining students and now they did not have any place to even sit for five minutes.
“The cafeteria is open but they are not allowing students to enter any more. Yesterday, we got biscuits and fruit juice there. Maybe they are running out of stocks,” Alam said.
Neither Alam nor Mandal or anyone in their group could cross the gate till late on Sunday evening.
Alam said they were joined by around 200-300 students of other universities on Sunday who also wished to return home through this checkpost.
“We are standing right in front of the gate now. But I would not be shocked if this takes more time. I have met students who are here for the last two days and yet to get a chance. We are mentally preparing ourselves to spend another night under the stars, out in the cold,” Alam said.