Since the attack on Ukraine brought stories of thousands of Indian students stuck in the war-ravaged country, past RI director Kamal Sanghvi started working quietly behind the scene to help Indian students get out of Ukraine to the nearest possible neighbouring country. This was even as Operation Ganga was being launched by our government.
Speaking to Rotary News, he said, “I am really grateful to the Counsellor, Economy and Trade, Embassy of Hungary in India, Patrik Maruzs, for helping so many trapped Indian students in Ukraine who managed to cross over the border to Hungary.”
As providence would have it, on the very day the attacks began, Sanghvi was hosted a dinner in Delhi by the ambassador of Paraguay, along with the ambassadors of Cuba and Hungary. “On that day, I put the Rotary pin on Maruzs, and inducted him as a Rotarian in the Rotary E-club of Progressive Thinkers in Delhi. The charter president of that club is Jjulia Gangwani, and being in trade and business herself, she is well connected with these embassies and diplomats.”
As he started getting calls from anxious Rotarians about their children trapped in Ukraine with requests to help them get back home safe, Sanghvi sought help from Maruzs and Jjulia.
“And they were helped greatly by the Embassy of Hungary in India, thanks to the personal interest and intervention of my kind Rotarian friend Maruzs. There must have been 15 to 20 such students who managed to reach the Hungary border, and I shared all their numbers with Maruzs. Can you imagine he personally called up each of the students, assured them that they would be safe in Hungary, and the Hungarian government made arrangements for their immediate accommodation, and gave them food, till they left for the airport to take the flights back home.”
Maruzs himself is self-effacing about the role he played. Talking to Rotary News, he said, “I didn’t have to do too much as the Indian government’s Operation Ganga went off smoothly.” Having said that, he quietly discloses that he did offer financial assistance and his own flat in Budapest to a few Indian students who had no place once they crossed over the Hungary border. But the accommodation was not needed as they were able to return home soon.” Incidentally, Budapest is about 300–400km from these borders.
But Maruzs played a crucial role in being a bridge between the Indian students who had managed to cross over to Hungary from Kyiv and Kharkiv and had problems in contacting the Indian embassy there. “The Indian embassy in Hungary was flooded with requests for help; I know some of the Indian and Hungarian staff working in the Indian embassy and connected the students who approached Rotary in India for help to these staff members. The rest was done by the Indian embassy.”
But he also got in touch with a Rotary club in the area to provide food and shelter to the students who were trapped.
Another critical role he played was as a translator! “At the Hungarian border there were a couple of people who did not speak English, so a few Indian students faced a problem. As they had my mobile number, they called me and I could help in talking to those guards.” He also got a request from some parents from Kerala to organise a bus for the desperate students and helped.
Added Sanghvi, “Just imagine the kind of comfort and solace the youngsters would have got to be able to communicate on their mobile phones to a representative of the Hungarian government, assuring them that they will be taken care of in that country.” His grateful club president Jjulia says, “we are proud to have him in our club.” Incidentally, Sanghvi also motivated the Cuban ambassador to become a Rotarian and join the same club.
All’s well that ends well. “Many grateful parents called and thanked me, and described how wonderful it was for them to get a call from the Embassy of Hungary in Delhi, to tell them that their child was safe in Hungary, and would return home soon,” Sanghvi added.