Partho Pratim Majumdar, a Bangladeshi expatriate engineer, assisted the Warsaw Embassy as a volunteer in the rescue mission. He told Prothom Alo that Bangladeshis had to stand in long lines on the Ukrainian side of the border. At that time, to help the Bangladeshis, Anirban Niyogi, the counsellor of the Bangladesh Embassy, entered Ukraine with one of his colleagues. After much deliberation, he finally succeeded in entering Ukraine. But for that, he also had to stand in line for a long time like the other common citizens.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a humanitarian crisis on the Poland-Ukraine border. Citizens of different countries living in Ukraine were trying to enter Poland. As a result, thousands of people thronged at different borders of the country and it was very cold there.
In such a situation, the Bangladesh Embassy in Poland launched a special mission to rescue the Bangladeshi nationals. But it was very difficult to decide what to do next at the time. Everyone was stunned by the severity of the situation.
Poland and Ukraine share eight borders within a radius of 800 kilometres. However, in the end, arrangements were made for Bangladeshi nationals to pass through Medyka and Bodumezh. A three-member team has been formed for the rescue mission led by counsellor Anirban Niyogi. Those who came to Poland from Ukraine also praised the Bangladesh Mission in Poland.
Bidyut Sarker, an expatriate, wrote on social media, “After a long time, I have met a decent Bengali (Anirban Niyogi) who loves work more than words. At the same time I want to thank everyone at the Bangladesh Mission for standing by the expatriates in the time of need, breaking the traditions.”
There was preparation in advance
The Bangladesh Embassy in Warsaw had planned to evacuate the Bangladeshis when the Russian troops started taking position on the Ukraine border before the war started. However, there was no response from the expatriates that time. After the war broke out, they all started calling the hotline number given by the embassy. But it was impossible for the officials to attend all the calls as all the expatriates were trying to contact them. Despite that, they tried their best. There was no internet connection in border areas at the beginning of the war. They had to move 20 kilometres to get the internet. There was no volunteer either as no Bangladeshi expatriate lives within 300 kilometres of Medyka.
The Bangladeshis entered Poland mainly through the Medyka border. However, the people who crossed through this border had to walk a few kilometres to get on the bus after passing the check post which is quite painstaking in winter. Therefore, arrangements have been made for Bangladeshis, who do not want to endure that pain, to leave the country through the Bodumezh border. People crossing through this border can get on the bus right after passing the check post.
It has been learned that the Polish Border Guard detained some Bangladeshis without passports. However, they were released after concerned officials identified the detainees as Bangladeshi at the border guard office.
As of Saturday, around 600 Bangleshis have entered Poland from Ukraine. They resorted to the shelter of the Bangladesh Embassy in Warsaw. Partho Pratim Majumdar said that most of those Bangladeshis do not want to return home. Europe has opened the borders. Therefore, they are trying to go to other countries in Europe in search of fortune. Some, on the other hand, are trying to settle in Poland. However, the students want to come back to Bangladesh.
However, the number of Bangladeshis stranded in Ukraine is not that much now, he added. The Bangladesh Embassy in Warsaw is hopeful of getting the remaining Bangladeshis to safety soon.
*This report appeared on the online version of Prothom and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu