Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian residents have been suffering and trying to flee to neighbouring countries, Poland and Hungary for refuge. Russian missiles and bombs have killed hundreds of civilians. The main TV tower in Ukraine has been destroyed. Electricity has been cut off in parts of the country. People are shivering in the cold and facing shortages of food, medicines and other essential supplies.
There is a huge Indian and African student population in Ukraine. These students have reported disturbing and condemnable news of racist and discriminatory behavior towards them. Weather is a big factor as one needs adequate warm clothing and shelter from the extreme cold conditions in and around Ukraine.
Private organisations from India have extended their support to Ukraine. Art of Living Foundation, a world-wide volunteer based, humanitarian and educational non-governmental organisation led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is at the forefront of helping people in these trying times. Sri Sri Ravishankar, a spiritual leader, global humanitarian and peace ambassador has spearheaded a rescue initiative to provide aid to dismayed refugees.
Art of Living volunteers have been providing Indian and Ukrainian refugees with food, water, shelter and other essentials. They have been trying to alleviate the suffering of people amidst the war. Art of Living provided beds for 500 Indian refugees in Hungary and 500 more for people in Poland. Earlier in February, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave a statement to the Republic Media Network. He said, “Our volunteering team who are in western as well as eastern Europe are being mobilised, and that is what our Prime Minister had requested me to do, to connect our volunteers with the Embassies, and we have done that in Romania, Poland, and Hungary. In Hungary, a place for 500 Indian students was made immediately in just half an hour. Today, we are ready to welcome any number of youths coming from Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. On top of this, we have a large group of volunteers in Ukraine itself, and they will help the students with a shoulder to shoulder and keep them in safer places, so we need not have to worry about it. This is a trying time and we will come out of this.”
In a recent interview he said, “Last night around 12:30 our Prime Minister had called and he said, ‘gurudev we have to inform and we have to see that all our ashrams and places, we have to house people there’. The PM had so much concern, I could feel in his voice and his sincerity and his caring for our students of Indian origin,” He added, “On the Polish border, Zasaf is a town where refugees are pouring in. All our volunteers are there. We have a world which we have always considered as one vasudhaiva kutumbakam, today it is coming into action”
Shaftar Ali, a refugee who was stuck in Kharkiv is now under the shelter of the Poland centre of Art of Living. He released a video on Twitter saying, “They are treating me like their own child.”
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha volunteers have set up a mobile field kitchen in the Polish city of Rzeszów, so that Ukrainian refugees, many of whom have been walking in the cold for days, are able to get hot, nutritious meals once they enter the country. BAPS is providing them with meals, shelter and warm clothing.
Gurudwaras, churches, temples and mosques have opened up their halls and residences to refugees. A now viral video shows volunteers in Kharkiv preparing and offering free food and shelter. Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, in Warsaw, has been supporting and assisting Indian students who have managed to flee Ukraine. The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee has announced that it will be sending a 20-member delegation to help refugees. One half of the delegation will go to Ukraine and the other to Slovakia. They will organise special camps and langars (community kitchens).
An Indian restaurant in Kyiv, aptly named ‘Saathiya’ has been providing food and shelter to Indian students and Ukrainian people. Manish Dave’s restaurant is located in a basement, it provides relatively good shelter from the horrifying bombs and missiles that often shake the city.
Warsaw-based Keralite Binochan K have formed a group called Help Ukraine Mallus to aid Indians as they cross the border into Poland. FICCI director general Arun Chawla has stated, “Over 30 organisations and Indian companies operating out of Poland, Slovak Republic, Hungary and Romania have mobilised over 400-plus volunteers to provide shelter, local transport and food across different cities in these countries to Indians before they are able to fly out to India.”
We hope that all our Indian citizens make their way safely back home, very soon.