It’s not a movie’s plot, it’s Uzzal’s story
An ordinary person's trip to the Middle East for work, then returning home and going back again in the Middle East. Crossing two countries with the help of an intermediary, reaching Ukraine. Invasion of Ukraine, 22 days of living in continuous fear of death, and finally escaping Ukraine to reach France.
No, this isn't a plot from a movie. It's based on true events that happened in the life of Uzzal Miah, a Bangladeshi from the Munshiganj district.
He got released from a detention camp in Zhuravychi on March 16 after being forced to stay there for almost six months.
Thanks to the efforts taken by the Bangladesh embassy in Poland, he and three other Bangladeshis got released from the camp in Zhuravychi.
Uzzal reached France through Poland on March 18. He described the details of his journey to The Daily Star.
"We could not find any vehicle after getting released from the camp. We had to walk almost 20 to 25 miles to reach a small town. I cannot recall the name of the town. After taking such a long hike, the condition of my feet got worse. I lost a few toenails, too," Uzzal said.
"I got a taxi there. The taxi driver agreed to take us to the Polish border. After two hours, we reached our destination, a border point close to Belarus. However, when we attempted to cross the border, the immigration authority informed us that we cannot enter Poland through that particular border. Thus, we had to move towards another border point."
Throughout the ordeal, Uzzal was being forced to defeat unfavorable odds. He merely came to a foreign land in order to find a livelihood for himself and his family. He never thought he would have to make such a perilous journey with ailing feet and a tiring body; just to stay alive.
Soon after getting refused for the entry, while finding a different border point, he was confronted by a group of Ukrainian soldiers.
"A senior officer came down from his car. He asked me why I didn't cross the border. Then I told him about the incident with the immigration authority."
"That officer helped a lot. He took me back to the immigration authority and convinced them to let us pass through. Then immigration did all the necessary paperwork and allowed us to enter Poland."
"We reached the border in the evening. Finally, we could enter Poland at around 1 or 1:30am," added Uzzal.
After entering Poland, Uzzal felt alive and safe. The fear of suddenly getting killed by a stray bullet or an explosion escaped him. He spent the night in a refuge center adjacent to the border.
The next morning, he went to the Bangladesh embassy in Warsaw. There, he received food, accommodation, and other facilities. Then, as per his wish, the embassy arranged for his trip to France.
Reaching France, Uzzal informed The Daily Star through WhatsApp that, previously he worked in Oman for 8 years. After that, he returned home, and then, after a while, he went to the United Arab Emirates. But he could not do well in UAE. Later on, he met an intermediary.
He signed a contract with the intermediary to reach Ukraine in exchange for Taka 7 lac. He was sent to Ukraine via Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. He received a Ukrainian student visa for this purpose.
"There were four more Bangladeshis with me. We each were given two thousand dollars against Tk 7 lakh we already gave. After reaching Ukraine, we did not face any issues as we had the student VISA and the required dollar amount."
Uzzal continued, "After reaching Ukraine, a Pakistani national came to receive us. He took us to a hostel. There, he claimed US$ 10,000 for food and accommodation. We were forced to give him the amount."
He travelled across seas and oceans just for the sake of finding happiness, but that luxury stayed elusive. Even after reaching Ukraine, he could not find an opportunity to work. Instead of sending money back home, he had to borrow just to meet ends.
Eventually, he decided to venture elsewhere in Europe. Ukraine is not a member of the European Union. But once he can cross the border, he will be able to reach the EU. He went to the Ukraine-Romania border in order to reach the heart of Europe. He attempted to cross the border, but the Ukrainian border guard became suspicious and they apprehended us. It was like a shattered dream back then. The guards arrested him and soon, he found himself confined in the Zhuravychi detention camp, along with many others who had a similarly ill fate.
Usually, movies end in happiness, which almost happened with Uzzal also. Uzzal, the same person who was apprehended while trying to enter Europe has now managed to reach Europe.
"Despite it all, I reached Paris with hope, despair, fear, and trepidation. I don't know anything about this place, and I don't know anyone here, too. There's not a single Euro in my pocket. With uncontrollable hunger, I started looking for fellow Bangladeshi citizens. After an hour's search, I finally came across a few Bangladeshis. After hearing that I have been starving, one kind person gave me 10 euros and asked me to have some food. After that, the next thought that crossed my mind was, where to stay in the night? Another Bangladeshi person took me to the place where they all stayed and arranged for my accommodation. Somehow, I spent the night there. Now my thoughts are set upon the coming days. I hope I will get some work, and the nightmare will finally come to an end", uttered Uzzal in a single breath.
The 3 trillion dollars GDP boasting nation France will probably change his life. May be, he will be able to manage to splurge away his remaining days as it happens in the movies. But the movie may not end here.
Translated by Mohammed Ishtiaque Khan