Russia’s promise to free youths elates kin, but job worries stay : The Tribune India

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Russia’s promise to free youths elates kin, but job worries stay



Aakanksha N Bhardwaj, Mohit Khanna and Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar/Patiala/Amritsar, July 9

“Bad thoughts keep crossing my mind. Though the news of Russia deciding to release Indian nationals fighting for its army has come as a ray of hope, we will heave a sigh of relief only when he actually returns home,” says Jagdeep Kumar, brother of Goraya-based Mandeep Kumar (31), who is stuck in the Russia-Ukraine war zone.

Baljinder Kaur of Patiala shows a photo of her son Gurpreet Singh, who is in Russia. Tribune photo

It’s been four months since Mandeep last spoke to his family. “No news of his well-being or whereabouts has kept our family on tenterhooks. We are desperate to hear from him. Each time I come home, my parents are hopeful I will bring some good news, but that hasn’t happened yet,” says Jagdeep.

Mandeep had left for Armenia in search of greener pastures. He then came in contact with a Kapurthala-based travel agent and was tricked into joining the Russian army, asserts Jagdeep.

Similar is the situation at the house of 21-year-old Gurpreet Singh at Dakala near Patiala. “Now that the PM has announced he will get back our children, we cannot wait to see our son,” say Gurpreet’s parents and Naib Singh and Baljinder Kaur, elated at the prospect of being reunited with their son after over a year.

Living in a cramped one-room house, Naib recounts how his son had left for Spain, but ended up in Russia. “Gurpreet was taken to Russia under the pretext of a security guard’s job. To our horror, he was forcibly inducted into the Russian army and sent to the frontline to fight the Ukrainians,” says a distraught Baljinder, struggling to hold back her tears.

Gurpreet’s younger brother Gurdarshan (20) too had plans to visit Spain, but now all he does is praying for his sibling’s safe return.

The death of an Amritsar man in the war had the families of the other war-stuck youths in panic. “Had we been in touch with Mandeep, we would have been relieved. But he last called on March 3. We are scared,” says Jagdeep.

The family of Narain Singh, a youth from Nawanshahr who had left on a tourist visa, shares almost similar sentiments. “‘Pehla aa jaaye, fer asli khushi hoyegi (celebrations only when he is with us),” avers Narain’s sister Gurvinder Kaur.

In Amritsar, the relatives of two local youths—Tejpal Singh, who died in the war, and Harpreet Singh, deployed in Donetsk—expressed happiness at the information that all Indians would be pulled out from the war zone. Tejpal’s widow Parminder Kaur called it a welcome step. Harpreet’s father Narinder Singh, who pulls a cart to eke out a living, demands that the youths repatriated from the Russian war zone, including his son, must be provided jobs. “I ply a ‘rehra’ and my income is dwindling with rising age. If my son doesn’t earn, how will we survive,” remarks a visibly upset Narinder.

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