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Kyiv medics reunite at Kolkata book fair after escape from Ukraine

The trio bonded over books, not ones on Russia or Ukraine, and gorged on lip-smacking food from the stalls

Monalisa Chaudhuri | Published 12.03.22, 07:57 AM
(From left) Sambit Das, Brijesh Ghosh and Sayanta Das at Calcutta Book Fair on Thursday

(From left) Sambit Das, Brijesh Ghosh and Sayanta Das at Calcutta Book Fair on Thursday

Three students from Kyiv Medical University who had started to flee Ukraine separately but became a team before crossing the country’s border with Romania, reunited at the 45th International Kolkata Book Fair on Thursday to share their common interest in books.

Brijesh Ghosh, Sambit Das and Sayanta Das had stood by each other as they marched in snow for hours, sharing food and helping each other carry their bags.

“This (the visit to the fair) was such a welcome change. Life looked normal again. There was so much positive energy around,” said Sambit, from Jirat in Hooghly district, around 75km northwest of Kolkata.

“The long queues outside bookstores reminded me of the queue at the information desk at the railway station in Kyiv (capital of Ukraine). We had to stand for more than 40 minutes just to figure out which train to board. There was so much chaos. There was a lot of chaos at the book fair, too, but so different…. I enjoyed it.”

Sambit, Sayanta and Brijesh were part of a team of 15 students that crossed the Romania border on March 2.

Brijesh and Sambit are in the fourth year, while Sayanta is a year junior to them at the Kyiv university. Brijesh and Sayanta stayed in a hostel but on different floors and Sambit in an apartment in Kyiv. They knew each other but were not friends.

The day they decided to flee the country, all three had left for the Kyiv station separately. The students got together at the station when they had to queue up at the information desk to know about the next train to Lviv.

“We took the train for Lviv and after reaching there, we had to walk around 8km in snow till the Romanian border,” Brijesh said.

Sambit, an experienced hiker who has done several hiking expeditions at Holosiivskyi National Natural Park and Lysa Hora in Ukraine, was the fastest and would lead the others.

“Sayanta (from Kestopur), too, can walk fast. But there were others in the group who were finding it difficult to catch up. We stopped every 10-15 minutes and waited for the rest,” said Sambit.

Back in Kolkata, the group split.

“We visited many stalls, bought books and gorged on food. I was tired of eating home-cooked food in Ukraine. Ukrainian food was too light and had no spice. The Indian restaurants there were too expensive,” said Brijesh, from Barasat, around 25km north of Kolkata.

The boys returned home with books from their favourite authors, but stayed away from the ones on Russia or Ukraine.

Last updated on 12.03.22, 07:57 AM
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