There was no help whatsoever from Indian authorities, say sisters studying in Ukraine, now back home

Zenab and Kulsoom, residents of Old Delhi, say they felt completely helpless while returning from Ukraine as they were neither able to speak Ukrainian language nor got any help from Indian authorities

Zenab and Kusoom
Zenab and Kusoom
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S Khurram Raza

“We could see three shells falling when we were walking towards the railway station. It was for the first time that we saw death so near,” recollects Zenab, who recently returned from Ukraine’s Kharkiv along with her sister Kulsoom. These young girls, who saw death from up and close, say they felt completely helpless while returning from Ukraine as they were neither able to speak the Ukrainian language nor got any help from Indian authorities.

The two sisters, residents of Old Delhi, completed their primary education in Dubai before going to pursue further studies in Ukraine. The two young girls stayed together at same hostel and for that they had to fight with the university authorities, but their struggle turned out to be a blessing in disguise as during war they stayed together which was a big relief for both of them.

“I was so tense that they should remain together; even while returning I asked them to hold their hands tightly,” says their mother, Ghazala Salim.

Zenab and Kusoom, who were pursuing MBBS and MBA courses and never witnessed even a street fight during their life, had a horrifying experience of witnessing a full-fledged war. They, along with their friends, stayed in the bunker of a metro station and had to live on one meal a day as there was shortage of both food and money.

“We were allowed to use the washroom only once in 24 hours and we were not allowed to send videos or talk with our parents on mobile as per instructions, as Ukrainian authorities feared that the videos could be used for propaganda by the enemy,” recalls Kulsoom.

They witnessed tanks standing facing their hostel and even saw that certain signs were put on buildings which were to be targeted. The Russian army also hoisted their national flag atop the university.

“Our group finally decided to move out and one of our friends asked everyone to carry only water and food with very few clothes,” says Zenab.

They walked for two hours before reaching the railway station to catch a train for Lviv. Once they reached there, the group faced several problems. “Train authorities were only allowing local people first and after that girls were given permission whereas non locals boys were not allowed to board the train and were even roughed up. Traveling in the train was very suffocating too as it was very crowded,” they recalled.


On way to Lviv, they passed through Ukrainian capital Kyiv where heavy shelling was taking place. When the group reached Lviv, their parents advised them to move towards Romania instead of Poland and Hungary.

“The Romanian people were very nice and cooperative,” recalls Zenab.

Both the sisters said that from Kharkiew to Romania they did not receive any help from Indian authorities except they came to tell us that we have to check in from this point.

These sisters, who went to Kharkiv in December last year, miss studying in the university and want to return as soon as the situation returns to normal.

They said that there was huge a language problem, but otherwise also local people didn’t communicate with foreigners. They used Google Translate for their daily needs but in three months, they grew fond of their institution. “The girls feel terrible watching the news of bombardment in Ukraine, and miss their university a lot,” says Ghazal, the mother of the two girls.

Mohd. Salim, the father of the two sisters, is an engineer and was working in Dubai before he returned to Delhi just after Covid two years back. He is now running an eatery in Delhi and also has a distributorship of cosmetics. “The education is not cheap in these universities, but the education is very good,” he says.

The parents underwent an extremely stressful time for ten days but feel relieved now that their daughters have returned home safely.

“A WhatsApp group of parents was our only source of information from Ukraine as our daughters were so terrified that they just followed the instructions and only messaged that they are safe and not to worry,” says Ghazala.

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Published: 08 Mar 2022, 3:15 PM
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