The 28 crew members of the ill-fated Bangladeshi ship are finally on their way home, having escaped death when the ship came under attack in Ukraine on March 2.
After a weeklong ordeal, they are expected to reach Dhaka around noon today.
The "missile" attack on "Banglar Samriddhi" claimed the life of one of their crewmates, Third Engineer Hadisur Rahman. They were rescued from the ship after around 21 long hours and took shelter in a bunker in the war-ravaged European country.
After two days, they reached Romania via Moldova and left for Bangladesh from Bucharest by a special flight last night.
Md Daud Ali, Bangladesh ambassador to Romania, told The Daily Star that all 28 crew members would fly from Romania by a special flight of Turkish Airlines.
"The crewmen will have a stopover at Istanbul and from there they will fly for Dhaka. Hopefully they will reach Dhaka by noon tomorrow [today]," he said.
Hadisur's body is still in Ukraine, and efforts are underway to bring the body home, he added.
Although relieved to be safe, the sailors are haunted by the shelling incident and the death of one of their fellow sailors.
This newspaper talked to one of the crew members who described the entire journey over phone yesterday from Romania.
On February 22, the ship had started from the Port of Karadeniz Eregli of Turkey for Olvia port to carry clay for transporting to Italy.
The ship reached the Ukraine port the very next day.
"Everything was normal when we had reached the port. Then on February 24, Russia started invading Ukraine," the crew member said on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorised to talk to media.
The ship had been stranded at the port since then.
But on March 2, frustration at being stranded turned into terror and trauma.
"It was around 5:05pm when a missile hit the ship, sparking fire. Our Third Engineer Hadisur Rahman was talking on the phone on the navigational bridge at that time," the crew member said.
At that time, the assistant chief engineer, second officer, and deck cadet were also on the navigational bridge.
Soon after the attack, fire broke out in the ship and all three, except Hadisur, ran away from the area.
"I was just 10 feet away from Hadisur. I was also talking on the phone. I thought I lost my limbs. It took around 30 seconds for me to regain some composure and realise that I was not hurt. The whole ship jolted with heavy vibration. We had no idea then that Hadisur was killed," he said.
All the crewmen started to douse the fire. It took around three hours to bring the fire under control.
Then they went to the engine control room, the lowest level of the ship and considered the safest place.
"As per our rules, head counting started and that is when we realised Hadisur was missing," the crew member said in a shaky voice.
All crew members went to the navigation bridge area to find Hadisur, only to find his body.
"I thought he jumped in the water and he was saved but I was wrong. We recovered the body and kept it in the fridge of the ship."
Soon after the attack, the electricity of the ship went off as the generator had been damaged.
"We stayed in the control room the whole night. It was a horrific time as we were literally out of all kinds of contact."
The following day at 2:30pm, they were rescued from the ship and taken by a tugboat to a safe bunker.
"We stayed there for two days. We had internet connectivity there, but we could not bring any of our clothes from the ship with us."
The sailors were rescued with the help of Bangladeshis in Ukraine and the authorities of Olvia port, according to a press note of the Bangladesh embassy in Poland issued the day after the attack.
Leading up to the rescue, the Bangladesh government sent a letter to the Ukrainian authorities mentioning the abandonment of the ship, which eased the process.
The crew members stayed in the bunker till March 5. They were supposed to go to the Moldova border a day before, but they could not do so due to safety issues.
On March 5, all of them started for the Moldova border around 8:15am on two microbuses. However, it took four hours to get clearance from the Ukrainian authority.
The crewmen had to cross a total of 17 military checkpoints on way to the Moldova border and were escorted by Ukrainian soldiers in areas considered to be risky.
"All the checkpoints were being manned by Ukrainian military personnel. They helped us a lot," the crew member said.
"We entered Palanca in Moldova around 12:20am on March 6 and arrived at the Moldova-Romania border around 5:30am. We crossed the Romanian border around an hour later and reached the hotel in Bucharest around 1:00pm," he said.
He said during their journey from Ukraine to Romania, immigration officials in both Moldova and Romania expressed sorrow when they heard about the sailors' plight and helped them cross the border quickly.
"When we reached a hotel in Bucharest, we were extremely tired but relieved that we had come to a safer place. We have no words to express our gratitude to everyone who worked for our safe return," the crew member said.
On the night of March 7, they went to the house of the Bangladesh ambassador in Romania for dinner.
Since the "missile" attack till they reached the hotel in Buchares, none of them were able to eat a proper meal.
"We carried some dry food with us when we left the ship. We lived four days on some cookies, puffed rice, high-protein biscuits, potatoes and wheat that we brought with us."
"All of us have seen death very closely. It's a new lease of life. I can't express in words. Please pray for us so that we can arrive home safely."