'I am here in my apartment alone. And I don't know what is in store. The attack happened all of a sudden. So, couldn't have done anything.'
Alone in his apartment and every bit scared, former Indian national rapid chess champion Anwesh Upadhyaya is one among the several of his compatriots stuck in Ukraine amid a Russian invasion and is desperately hoping to be evacuated from the country which has been his home since 2012.
The 30-year-old, who is completing an apprenticeship in gastroenterology at a hospital in Kyiv, had planned to return to India in March. But with Russia launching military operations on Thursday, flights have been suspended and he is unsure of what is in store.
"Did not expect this intensification. It is a full-scale military invasion. Never imagined this," the 2017 national rapid chess champion told PTI from Kyiv.
At a media briefing on Thursday, India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured all Indian citizens in Ukraine that the government will take all steps to bring them back safely.
He said there were around 20,000 Indians in Ukraine and of them, nearly 4,000 have returned to India in the last few days.
Upadhyaya said he has seen turmoil in the country, recalling the student protests in 2013 against the then President Viktor Yanukovych's decision of not signing an agreement that would have brought Ukraine closer to the European Union.
But he acknowledged that nothing compared to the chaos that has unfolded in the last few days.
"I was present during the Maidan Revolution which was bad but not this scary," Upadhyaya said, describing the current situation.
"My parents over in India are a worried lot and that's why I had planned to leave in the first week of March," he added about his family which is based in Bhubaneswar.
"They have been calling me constantly, as have some of my school teachers. I am here in my apartment alone. And I don't know what is in store. The attack happened all of a sudden. So, couldn't have done anything."
Upadhyaya said he had tried to leave Ukraine earlier but could not get flight tickets, adding that he obtained permission from his bosses to leave once the tensions escalated and it became clear that a confrontation was on the cards.
He said he was now awaiting instructions from the Indian Embassy in Ukraine.
"Yes, I am hoping for this madness to end and awaiting instructions from our embassy.
"As of now they (embassy) are taking appropriate steps to ensure a safe evacuation but we should not ignore that this situation is difficult and surprising for them as well. So patiently waiting," Upadhyaya said.
"The Indian Embassy has asked people to stay indoors and not go out. In the meantime, they gave the bomb shelters' location if necessary and asked us to stay in touch through the official page."
Upadhyaya had managed to buy some essentials once the tensions began to rise and he said all that he needs to sustain himself for now.
" I actually did manage to buy the essentials as the local news suggested a week ago. So with that I am good. I am more worried if the war comes into residential areas. There are always collateral damages," he said.
With regard to power and water supply, Upadhyaya, who moved to Ukraine in 2012 to pursue medicine following a suggestion from his coach (Georgy Timoschenko), said, "so far everything (power and water supply) is working fine by God's grace."
He had last featured in an over-the-board event some two months ago in the city of Vinnytsia in the west-central part of Ukraine and finished on top.
But the doctor, who has an ELO rating of 2352 (the ranking points in chess), does not have his mind on the game now and only wants to get back to India.
"I am hearing distant explosions," he signed off, sitting in faraway Kyiv, hoping for better times.