A Ukranian cat has travelled all the way to Bengal’s Suri in Birbhum district, around 200km northwest of Kolkata, with a medical student in whose apartment it used to spend most of its time before Russian bombs and missiles drove them out of that place.
Shahrukh Sultan Ahmed, a sixth-year student of Kyiv Medical University, travelled 450km extra so he could take a flight out of Bucharest because that particular flight allowed him to take his beloved Simi along.
Shahrukh and Simi, who started from Kyiv on February 28, reached Kolkata on Monday (March 7) night.
Shahrukh said he was determined to take her along, even when he saw some of his friends abandon their pets in Ukraine.
“Many of my friends locked their pets in the hostel rooms and left. I could not let go of Simi. Even though I did not have a proper carrier when we left, I tucked her inside a cloth bag and we started the journey together,” Shahrukh told this newspaper on Tuesday morning after reaching his home in Suri, Birbhum district.
Simi had been with Shahrukh since she was two weeks old. “She was a gift from a friend,” Shahrukh recalled.
Shahrukh and his friends from the university had started from their apartment in the morning of February 28 and fled Ukraine through the Romanian border.
Just like the students who had to travel through crowded trains, walk through snowfall and go without food for days, Simi too had her share of troubles.
As the boys had boarded a crowded train from Kyiv for Lviv, Simi was almost crushed in the crowd, Shahrukh said.
“When I managed to sit in a corner and take her out, she was unconscious. We fed her water and gradually she regained her senses. But she was very feeble. A student from Maharashtra who was also carrying a pet offered space for Simi inside the carrier where she had her pet. The two cats travelled in the same box till the Romanian border,” he said.
As the group crossed the Romanian border and were put up at a shelter set inside a sports complex in Milisauti, Shahrukh said, he met eight more Indians who were carrying their pets.
According to an advisory issued by the Indian government on February 28, a few relaxations were announced in carrying pets out of Ukraine.
“Only the vaccination certificate was needed and we had to prove that the pet was with us for more than a month,” Shahrukh said.
At Milisauti — a town in Romania — the Indian embassy had arranged for a flight from Suceava airport that was closest to the sports complex. However, at the airport Shahrukh and others carrying pets were told that their pets would not be allowed in the flight.
“We were told that pets would be allowed only in an Air India flight and the Air India flights were available only from Bucharest airport which was 450km away,” he added.
The nine stayed back and travelled to Bucharest the next day to board an Indian flight. Shahrukh reached Delhi on Sunday and boarded his next flight for Kolkata on Monday afternoon.
Back in Kolkata, Shahrukh’s prime concern is Simi’s health.
“We both are extremely tired. In Ukraine, I had trained her to eat almost everything that I have. So, she is not having any problems here. It is just that she is tired and sleepy,” he said.
If all goes well, Simi could well start liking Bengal’s heat and humidity.
“Cats adapt well,” said Souradip Rupam Das, who is in charge of the eastern zone of the Feline Club of India.