TIRUVANNAMALAI: Even as their motherlands are caught in a deadly war, six Ukrainians and 16 Russians have found a common abode of peace in Tiruvannamalai. A resident of the temple town in Tamil Nadu, with help from his friends, has been providing the stranded tourists – 18 of them women – free food and shelter for the past eight days.
“We decided to help them as they are stuck here due to the war and financial constraints. It doesn’t cost us much. I provide the place and take care of the electricity bill. My friends are providing dry rations and other supplies,” said V S Sathyan Gopalan, who is housing the tourists at his guest house. Gopalan said he decided to help after seeing two Ukrainian tourists crying near the Arunachaleshwarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai.
‘Russians translate for Ukrainian tourists’
Four tourists, three from Hrishikesh and one from Bengaluru, came to Gopalan’s place after his FB post. Currently, 11 out of 14 rooms in his guest house are occupied and Gopalan said he could accommodate more. My friends are also ready to welcome more tourists into their homes, he said.
“We are also trying to help Russian and Ukrainian tourists all over the country by finding food and accommodation near their respective locations. We have asked the tourists here to open a WhatsApp group and reach out to fellow tourists staying across India,” he said. The love and bonding between the Ukrainians and Russians tourists have surprised the locals.
Two Russian psychologists are also offering counselling to Ukrainians staying there. They also share their food, said R Vetrivelan, who helps the tourists with their needs. “Some Ukrainians don’t know English so the Russians translate their speech for us. It’s good to see that friendship when their countries are at war with each other,” he said.
The tourists are given Indian foods like idly and dosa and also western food. Sometimes, they cook their own meal. The group also provides clothes to the tourists. Unsure of their future, the tourists want India to extend their visas. A Ukrainian tourist from Odesa, on condition of anonymity, told TNIE that his visa is ending on the 28th of this month.
“This war is waged for political reasons. People here are friendly and help us a lot. I’m facing trouble in extending my visa and I’m in touch with Indian authorities. It’s tough now since I don’t have any money as access to banks has been restricted,” he said.
Russians tourists are also unable to return due to cancellations of flights and financial sanctions imposed on their banks by western countries. They too want government’s help to extend their visa. Gopalan has been receiving calls from more volunteers offering help and support.
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