Indian chess player Anwesh Upadhyaya stuck amid Russian invasion of Ukraine says situation scary


Former Indian rapid champion Anwesh Upadhyaya is alone in his apartment and terrified. One of several of his compatriots stuck in Ukraine amid a Russian invasion is desperate to be evacuated from the country that has been his home since 2012.

The 30-year-old, who is training to be a gastroenterologist at a Kiev hospital, had planned to return to India in March. But with Russia launching military operations on Thursday, flights have been suspended and he is unsure what to expect.

“I didn’t expect this intensification. It’s a full-scale military invasion. I never could have imagined it,” the 2017 national rapid champion told PTI from Kyiv.

At a news conference on Thursday, India’s Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured all Indian citizens in Ukraine that the government would take all steps to bring them back safely.

He said there were about 20,000 Indians in Ukraine and of them nearly 4,000 had returned to India in recent days.

“My parents are worried”

Upadhyaya said he saw turmoil in the country, recalling student protests in 2013 against then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an agreement that would have brought Ukraine closer to the European Union.

But he conceded that was nothing compared to the chaos that had unfolded in recent days.

“I was present during the Maidan revolution, which was bad but not that scary,” Upadhyaya described the current situation.

“My parents are worried over in India and that’s why I had planned to leave in the first week of March,” he added of his family, who live in Bhubaneswar.

“They kept calling me, as did some of my school teachers. I’m here alone in my apartment. And I don’t know what’s in store for me. The attack happened suddenly. So I couldn’t have done anything.”

Upadhyaya said he tried to leave Ukraine earlier but was denied plane tickets, adding he was given permission by his bosses to leave once tensions escalated and it became clear a confrontation was imminent.

He said he is now awaiting instructions from the Indian Embassy in Ukraine.

“Yes, I hope this madness ends and am awaiting instructions from our embassy.

“From now on, they (the embassy) are taking appropriate steps to ensure a safe evacuation, but we should not ignore that this situation is difficult and surprising for them too. So wait patiently,” Upadhyaya said.

“The Embassy of India has asked people to stay inside and not go outside. In the meantime, they have provided the location of the bomb shelters if necessary and have asked us to keep in touch through the official site.”

Upadhyaya had managed to buy some essentials when tensions began to rise and he said all he needed to support himself for the time being.

“I actually managed to buy essentials as local news suggested a week ago. I’m good with that. I worry more when the war comes to residential areas. There’s always collateral damage,” he said.

Regarding the electricity and water supply, Upadhyaya, who moved to Ukraine in 2012 to study medicine at the suggestion of his coach (Georgy Tymoshenko), said: “So far everything (electricity and water supply) is working well by God’s grace.”

He had last performed at an over-the-board event in the western Ukraine city of Vinnytsia about two months ago and had taken first place.

But the doctor, who has an ELO rating of 2352 (ranking points in chess), is not thinking about the game now and just wants to go back to India.

“I hear distant explosions,” he said goodbye while sitting in distant Kyiv and hoping for better times.

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