Ukraine crisis and miseries of being refugees

The refugee crisis is expanding. In fact, ever since the Russian military invaded Ukraine, hundreds have died and the lakhs are fleeing and running towards the borders, into the neighbouring countries

Ukraine crisis and miseries of being refugees

Humra Quraishi

Distress spreading out!

For the last several minutes I have been staring at the photograph of the 11-year-old Ukrainian boy, Hassan, who travelled alone, 1000 km to Slovakia. All that he carried with him were two plastic bags, his passport and a telephone number scribbled on his hand!

Sounds more like a nightmare with a definite backgrounder to it. Amid Russia’s continued military assault on Ukraine, this boy travelled all the way to Slovakia from the city of Zaporizhzhia, where Russian forces captured a nuclear power facility last week. His mother, Yulia Pisetskaya, who put him on that train journey, has been quoted saying, ''I am a widow and I have more children. Next to my town is a nuclear power plant that the Russians are shooting at… I couldn’t leave back my mother – she can’t move on her own.” She also thanked the Slovaks, “I want to thank the Slovak customs and volunteers who took care of my son and helped him cross the border. I am grateful you have saved my child’s life.”

In fact, Yulia comes across as one of those extraordinary human beings. After all, she could have easily left her ailing mother with family or friends and then accompanied her son and also taken along her other children too. But she opted to say back, to look after her ailing mother. And she is indeed fortunate that her young son reached his destination safely and was handed over to a relative’s family whose telephone number he was carrying.

Just pause here. Close your eyes. Imagine if this 11-year-old boy would have any remote chance travelled towards the borders of our country, what fate would have awaited him? He would have been grilled for hours, with questions thrown at him along his caste and creed and purpose of his visit or intrusion! He could have also been dubbed as some foreign little spy or agent! His mother’s pleas or requests for his safety or safekeeping could have gone unheard or simply bypassed. He could have been treated as an outcast, ruined and devastated.

Our track record vis– a –vis refugees is pathetic. I have seen the treatment meted out to the Rohingya refugees who’d travelled to our cities, seeking that basic level of refuge They are till date treated as outcastes … inhuman treatment is meted out to them. Their shanties can be burnt overnight in those “suspicious” fires, their belongings can be reduced to ashes, their children can be arrested and thrashed by the mafia together with the local cops, on any of the going alibis!

Though refugees from other countries aren’t subjected to that level of third class treatment that the Rohingyas face here, there's always that refugee tag dangling along with their names and surnames and with that comes along not just severe insecurity but deprivations of all sorts. In fact, in the autumn of 2019, I had met several Afghan refugee families at a get together hosted by a well-known literary personality in New Delhi and it was depressing to hear them talk of the daily round of struggles and insecurities they face here. Overnight reduced from the erstwhile well-to-do status to the refugee status, it is not just poverty but also uncertainty hovering around, on their children’s education, health and safety.

The refugee crisis is expanding. In fact, ever since the Russian military invaded Ukraine, hundreds have died and the lakhs are fleeing and running towards the borders, into the neighbouring countries. This ongoing war is creating thousands of refugees. What lies ahead? What is their future? How will they survive and in what condition? Will these fleeing Ukrainian families and their children meet the same fate as the hundreds of the Syrian families and their children did; dying or if alive then in what pathetic conditions!

Till date, I haven’t been able to erase those images of entire families fleeing the worn-torn countries in the Middle East. I couldn’t get over that image of the Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, lying dead by the seashore. Politicians and political lobbies coming in the way, sealing the fate of hundreds of the hapless children - Aylan Kurdis, Omran Daqneesh, Ali Daqneesh… Yes, entire families were rendered grievously injured and homeless in Syria and around. Many of them belonged to well-to-do families, till the civil war and intrusions reduced them to pathetic lows. Many perished fleeing their native land and trying to enter the severely cold Europe! And those who survived were treated shabbily with all possible taunts thrown at them!

Perverse are the times we are destined to be living in, where hundreds are getting reduced to the refugee status because of the political wars and civil strife triggered off by the expansionist plans of the superpowers--- mighty, or should we label them as monstrous nations, equipped with dangerous military weapons and with that the brute power to intrude and destroy and displace hundreds.

You must have seen those un-nerving shots of the violent brutal happening in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen …very, very painful shots of the dying Syrian children and also of the hapless Palestinian teenagers and the starving Yemeni kids.

Now more of those disturbing shots spreading out, with hundreds fleeing from the war-ravaged Ukraine.

Can’t this war be stopped, before thousands cry out in severe pain, with severe bruises inflicted on their very forms and souls!

How can the leaders of this world sleep when entire families are getting ruined and perished in those ongoing bombardments in Ukraine!

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