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September 27, 2023

The Emotional Homecoming of Several Indians from War-torn Ukraine

CSMIA created a dedicated waiting area for young students arriving from Ukraine at the airport to ensure a smooth transit

From new parents to students who were evacuated from Ukraine heaved a sigh of relief as the flight carrying them landed at the Mumbai International Airport

It was a perilous journey for Siya Das, 19, from strife-torn Chernivtsi in western Ukraine through Bucharest in Romania and onto Mumbai in India. But even after landing safely at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA), her journey was far from over. She still had another 2,700 kilometres to cover to reach her hometown in Guwahati.

Recalling her experience, Siya shared, “My landing in Mumbai from the war-ravaged country was a great relief. During my flight, I was preparing myself in my head for the next course of action once I landed–to book my ticket to my hometown and where to stay put till my next flight. But to my happy surprise, Mumbai International Airport put me on a flight back home, free of cost. I saw real heroes working silently and helping fellow Indians with all their means with no strings attached. Mine was a long tiring journey but the pride of being an Indian is at its peak.”

Siya is one of the over 500 Indians who have arrived at CSMIA on different flights. There were also a few who came to India with their furry friends after the compassionate decision to include companion animals in the evacuation was announced. Supriya Kumar, 23, a medical student who came to India with her one-year-old pet dog Coco, shared, “I will always be indebted to the airport authorities who ensured that Coco accompanied me. With relaxed measures, the airport authorities extended their thorough support allowing me to come back home with my pet. At Mumbai International Airport, the immigration, covid tests, and baggage collection processes were managed efficiently and quickly. They even arranged for our hotel stay as we were travelling to New Delhi the next day.”

Narrating another ordeal, Anushka Choudhary, 21, a medical student, said, “From crossing the Ukranian-Romania border, reaching the airport in Bucharest, to catching our flight, everything felt very uncertain and scary, till the aircraft took off. We were pleasantly surprised when we landed in Mumbai as the arrangements at the airport were awesome. It felt homecoming. The airport authorities also arranged onward flights for me and many others.”

From Union ministers going to Ukraine’s neighbours to energize and oversee the evacuation of Indians through its border crossings to the pilots flying them back home, the airports had to be prepped up for smooth exit out to the homeland. Airports had to ready themselves to make it easy for fellow citizens after all that they had to face. A special corridor was blocked at the terminal of CSMIA for Indian students who had been flown home from Ukraine. Besides, CSMIA also undertook various steps to smoothen the process for the young students arriving at the airport. It fenced in a special area at the airport for the arriving passengers to sit and have provided them with free WiFi codes, food, and water bottles, along with providing them with any guidance, lodging or medical assistance, if required at the time of arrival.

The youngest returnee from the war zone so far was a baby boy all of 25-days-old. However, his entry wasn’t that smooth for he lacked an essential thing—a passport. “How do we go about getting a passport where things are so volatile, when you have bullets and missiles flying all over the place. We managed to get on board the flight but when we arrived, we found that this was a problem,” shared Kuntart Makwana, 28, upon his arrival to India.

However, Mumbai Airport officials stepped in to ensure that the little one didn’t face further hassles on his first homecoming. A CSMIA spokesperson said, “Only when we thought we were fully prepared for the smooth arrival of every Indian who was coming back, came a little baby without the necessary documentation. Our hearts went out to the little boy, and we did everything in our capacity to make it easy for the parents and the new-born while they were in discussion with the Immigration team. From priority RTPCR to documentation to porter services—we were happy to help. We also arranged for their stay, and we are delighted to inform that the baby has safely reached his hometown, Ahmedabad.”

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