How the 28 sailors of Banglar Samriddhi finally made it out of Ukraine

The 28 crew members of ship Banglar Samriddhi in Romania. Photo: Taken from verified Facebook page of State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam

Leaving behind horrors of war, the 28 Bangladeshi crewmembers safely reached the Romanian capital, Bucharest, yesterday after they were rescued from a ship attacked at a Ukrainian port on March 2.

The attack on Banglar Samriddhi, owned by Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, left Third Engineer Hadisur Rahman dead. 

The ship had been stranded at the Port of Olvia since February 23, a day before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

After the "missile" attack on the ship, some of the 28 crewmembers pleaded for help on social media, which prompted the Bangladeshi authorities to step in. On March 3, the crewmembers were evacuated from the ship and taken to a bunker in Nikolayev, a southern city of Ukraine.

In Nikolayev, the Bangladesh embassy in Poland, with help from a Bangladesh-origin Ukrainian businessman and Mahbub Alam, adviser to Bangladesh's honorary consul in Ukraine, provided the crew with food and other support.

But their journey to Romania was arduous, risky and uncomfortable. There were heavy traffic congestions all the way to the border with Moldova as thousands were trying to flee the war. 

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, one of the crewmembers said they were taken to the Moldova border from the bunker in a bus. They heard gunshots while boarding it.

The bus left around 8:15am (Ukrainian time) on Saturday and reached the border on the Ukrainian side at 7:30pm. The Bangladeshis entered Moldova around 12:20am yesterday and arrived at the Moldova-Romania border around 5:30am. They crossed the Romanian border around an hour later and reached their hotel in Bucharest around 1:00pm.

"We crossed a total of 17 military checkpoints on way to the Moldova border," said the crewmember, adding that they were escorted by the Ukrainian soldiers in the risky areas.

"All the checkpoints were being manned by Ukrainian military personnel. They helped us a lot," said the man, who wished to remain unnamed, as he was not authorised to speak on the matter.

It took the crewmembers almost 12 hours to reach the Moldova border where two microbuses, arranged by the Bangladeshi authorities, were waiting for them. The microbuses carried them to the Romanian border where they were welcomed by the Romanian officials.

The officials expressed sorrow at their plight and helped them cross the border quickly.

"Everything was arranged by the Bangladeshi authorities. We thank them for this," said the crew member, over the phone.

"All of us are now in safety, far from the battlefield. We will return to the country in good health soon, insha' Allah," Rukunuzzaman Razib, one of the Bangladeshis, wrote on Facebook.

Contacted, Daud Ali, Bangladesh ambassador to Romania, said it took a long time for the crewmembers to reach Romania due to heavy traffic as a huge number of people were fleeing Ukraine.

The Bangladesh embassy in Romania arranged accommodation for the crewmembers and was working to arrange their air tickets so that they can fly back home at the earliest, said embassy officials.

Till last night, it could not be known when they might arrive home.

The body of Hadisur Rahman was being kept in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday said the government was collecting information on the five Bangladeshis, who recently posted a video on social media, saying they were used by Ukrainian soldiers as human shield.

So far, the government knows that they went to Russia and were planning to go somewhere else through Ukraine. Since they were undocumented, they were detained by Ukrainian soldiers and kept at a detention centre.

"We're trying to get more information. We'll try to bring them back once we get more information," the minister told a press conference at the State Guesthouse Padma.

Asked why Bangladesh abstained from voting at the UN General Assembly resolution that reprimanded Russia for invading Ukraine and demanded the war's end, Momen said the resolution was not meant to stop the war.

"If you read the wording of the resolution, [we'll see], it is not to stop the war but to blame someone."

"We are for peace. We want peace. We don't want war. So, we said we are concerned about the war. We expect the UN charter to be followed," he said. 

He also said Bangladesh is in favour of dialogues and peaceful solutions to any problems.


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