As a devastating humanitarian crisis unfolds in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands are fleeing the warzone seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. This has included thousands of Indian nationals, mainly students, who have been left stranded amid the conflict.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally called Brahmaviharidas Swami at midnight on Sunday 27 February, asking for assistance from BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in ensuring the safe passage of Indian nationals on the Polish, Romanian and Hungarian borders with Ukraine.
Brahmaviharidas Swami, with years of experience in disaster relief work, joined an emergency meeting in Delhi by video conference from Dubai. After expressing his anguish at the plight of the refugees, Brahmaviharidas Swami reassured the Prime Minister that help was already on its way. “We have already been instructed by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj to mobilise BAPS volunteers from all over Europe.”
Volunteers from the UK, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and Poland swiftly sprang into action to support the emergency relief effort on the ground. This has included setting up a mobile field kitchen in the south-eastern Polish city of Rzeszów, which has begun feeding around 1,000 hot vegetarian meals daily to refugees of all faiths and nationalities.
BAPS is also arranging accommodation facilities and coordinating medical assistance, and is working closely with the Indian government as well as local partners to further expand the humanitarian efforts as the situation escalates.
Vijay Kumar Singh, former Army Chief of Staff and current Minister of State for Transport and Civil Aviation, observed the tireless efforts of the volunteers first-hand in Rzeszów. He commented: “BAPS has always been at the forefront of community service, being the first to arrive and the last to leave. The people of India are indebted to your swift, selfless and organised action.”
Shailesh Bhavsar, a lead BAPS volunteer from Paris, added, “The situation in Ukraine is desperate and tragic. The priority is to support those seeking refuge by providing them with food and shelter. We are working closely with transport networks and logistical agencies to ensure the safe and timely delivery of essential services to those in need.
“Our volunteers are inspired by the ethos of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who personified the motto “In the joy of others lies our own”, and there has perhaps never been a more opportune moment to embody this selfless spirit of public service by providing the basic needs for those severely impacted by the conflict.”