Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally praised and thanked volunteer groups, including BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, who had supported the critical evacuation efforts of Indian nationals from Ukraine and neighbouring countries, in a special video conference held with key stakeholders on Tuesday 15 March 2022.
Dubbed ‘Operation Ganga’, the initiative successfully evacuated around 23,000 Indians from Ukraine, of which 3,700 were evacuated from Poland in 17 flights. The flights out of Poland also carried, notably, over 600 students from Sumy who had fled the Ukrainian war zone in a long, perilous journey to Przemyśl in south-eastern Poland.
The video conference convened the ambassadors of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, who were joined by representatives of NGOs and companies who had helped in the operation.
Bimal Patel, a lead BAPS volunteer from Warsaw, Poland, had been invited to join the video conference by Her Excellency Nagma M. Mallick, Ambassador of India to Poland & Lithuania.
Bimal thanked the Prime Minister for his continued personal support and also the officers of the Indian Embassy in Poland in providing vital infrastructure that allowed volunteer organisations like BAPS to help the refugees.
Over 60 BAPS volunteers from the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland and the USA had swiftly arrived at the Polish city of Rzeszów where they daily provided around 1,000 hot vegetarian meals to evacuees of all faiths and nationalities.
In addition to emergency relief and administrative support for local government agencies, BAPS volunteers further provided vital emotional care and comfort to the refugees, both at the relief camp set up by the Indian Embassy in Rzeszów as well as on the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Prime Minister Modi had 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 who had been left stranded amid the conflict.
Brahmaviharidas Swami, coordinating the international relief efforts of BAPS in Poland
, shared, “His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj had personally stressed that BAPS must join hands on the ground in this time of need. He has been deeply concerned about the welfare of all those who have suffered and are still suffering in this tragic situation, and had instructed us to mobilise BAPS volunteers to ensure that we could help as many people as much as possible.”