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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mozam Khan: A Pakistani who helped Indian students in Ukraine

Moazam says he had arranged safe passage for 2,500 Indian students stuck in different places in Ukraine. According to sources, he was very helpful and many times did not charge even a single dollar for the Indian students who had no money to pay.

Nitesh Singh, the founder of Team SOS India, had no idea how to return stranded Indian students to India when he began rescuing them from Ukraine. He only knew that he’d need a lot of buses and cars to get the Indian students to Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, or Romania’s borders.

He tried his hardest to recruit tour operators for buses but was unsuccessful until he met Moazam Khan, a Pakistani citizen who had settled in Ukraine.

“For our crew, Moazam was a godsend. He was really kind and, on numerous occasions, did not charge even a single dollar to Indian students who were unable to pay “Syed Firdaus Ashraf of Rediff.com asks Nitesh about it.

Read more: Pentagon rejects Poland’s offer to transfer MiG-29 jets for Ukraine

How Mozam helped Indian students during the crises?

At last count, Moazam says he had arranged safe passage for 2,500 Indian students stuck in different places in Ukraine.

Speaking to Rediff.com from Ternopil in Ukraine, Moazam says, “When I saved the first batch of Indian students, I had no idea the crisis was so huge. However, soon I found that my mobile number had gone viral on many Indian WhatsApp groups. After that, I started getting non-stop phone calls in the middle of the night for rescue operations. And till date, I have evacuated 2,500 Indian students.”

Because his elder brother is married to a Ukrainian citizen, Moazam moved to Ukraine 11 years ago. Moazam, a native of the Tarbela cantonment area in Islamabad, studied civil engineering in Ukraine before quitting his job to start a bus tour operator business in Ukraine.

“Even before the Russia-Ukraine war began, I had many Indian friends,” he says. “At Ternopil National Medical University, I’ve met a lot of friends over the last 11 years. Many of them have died and returned to India. They’ve kept in touch with me, and we’re still excellent friends.”

According to Moazam, Indians feel comfortable with him because of the common language link and therefore a connection forms between them immediately.

Read more: PIA special flight returns home 230 Pakistanis stuck in Ukraine

“In Ukraine communicating is the most difficult part for any foreigner. People here only speak Ukrainian or some speak Russian. English is spoken very little. In this scenario, I speak Urdu and most of the Indian students speak Hindi, so this connects us instantly. Hindi and Urdu are almost the same and therefore we gel well,” Moazam says.

From Ternopil, Hungary and Slovakia are a 5-hour drive while Romania is a 3-hour drive and Poland a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Moazam says he has lost count as to how many times he drove Indian students in his buses to the border of these countries.

“I had no time to count. The only thing top-most in my mind was evacuation. If buses were not available, I used to arrange for private cars or taxis,” he says.

“Safety of life was the utmost priority in my mind. Luckily, Russians never bombed the areas in which I drove,” he adds.

Seeing the crisis and demand for buses going up, many Ukrainian bus drivers raised the price of bus tickets to $250 per student to drive them to the Ukraine border but Moazam did not do that.

Read more: Russia snubs UN court hearing in case brought by Ukraine

“I charged them only $20 to $25. I knew these Indian students had no money. In many cases, I didn’t take money because they had run out of cash before coming from Kyiv to Ternopil. The biggest high was the blessings that these Indian students’ parents used to give me on the phone or send messages thanking me on WhatsApp,” he says.