A medical student from Kolkata who was stranded in Ukraine and had no idea even four days ago whether he would be able to make it safely to India celebrated his birthday at his Bansdroni home on the southern fringes of Kolkata on Sunday.
Souhardhya Roy, a fourth-year student at Ternopil National Medical University, reached Kolkata on March 3. He turned 23 on Sunday.
He said birthday was the last thing on his mind when he was walking for kilometres at a stretch in the freezing cold.
“Even four days ago, I could not imagine that I would have my favourite payesh cooked by my mother on my birthday. We were struggling to survive just four days ago,” the youth told this newspaper on Sunday.
The only son of Partha Pratim and Anita Roy, Souhardhya spent the birthday celebrating with his grandparents, cousins and other relatives.
“We had a reunion today. All our close relatives were here,” said his father, who runs a diagnostic centre in Kolkata.
He said he and his wife spent a sleepless week since the war broke out and kept in touch with their son “every 30 minutes” to know about his status.
“We could not sleep, we could not cook. Food came from my brother’s home. They forced us to eat something,” said Partha Pratim. Souhardhya and his friends had started from Ternopil on February 25 and could cross the border and enter Poland only on March 1.
“I started from the university on February 25 and reached the border on March 1 after spending three nights on the road amid snowfall. We walked 47km,” Souhardhya said.
Souhardhya and his friends had boarded a bus at Ternopil to reach the Shehyni Medyka border. However, the bus dropped them around 47km from the border.
The next three days were harrowing as there was no food or help on the road, he said.
Souhardhya said that after waiting at the Shehyni Medyka border for a few days, they were told that they would not be allowed to cross over to Poland. A bus was arranged for them that took them to another border checkpost.
“My 90-year-old father would call me every now and then and enquire about Souhardhya. It was only after my son returned that he could sleep properly. He started weeping on seeing my son,” said Partha Pratim.
“This is like his second birth. Souhardhya’s 23rd birthday is indeed very special.”