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Indian chess IM in Ukraine is safe in Kyiv but faces tough call on trek to border

Anwesh Upadhyaya is a 30-year-old International Master from India who served as a resident doctor at a hospital in Kyiv. Anwesh Upadhyaya

Anwesh Upadhyaya, the Indian chess IM who is stranded in war-torn Kyiv, has to decide whether to risk traveling to the Polish border through the siege or stay home and await the consequences. His coach, Grandmaster Georgy Timoschenko, has joined the swelling number of Ukraine civilian fighters who've volunteered to take up arms against the invading Russians. For now, he says he is on his own.

The situation on-ground is complicated. There have been several reports of Indians facing a torrid time at the hands of Ukrainian border guards while trying to cross over to neighbouring European Union countries. "It's a bit tricky and emotional for them I believe," Anwesh told ESPN. "When their brothers and sisters are dying, here we are asking them to help us leave. A few people I know have left for smaller cities nearby and some others who were trying to make it to Poland are stranded midway."

The 30-year-old is a resident doctor at city hospital No 8, apprenticing in gastroenterology and has been living in the Ukrainian capital city. He had moving to have better tournament opportunities. Now, he is unsure of his next step.

In an advisory on Sunday, the Indian Embassy informed its citizens that they would be arranging 10 buses on the Ukraine side of the Polish border from Monday. For Anwesh, the dilemma of how he'd make it to the pick-up points, several blocks away by road through a city that's under siege, remains. "The Indian embassy has asked us to manage our own transportation to the nearest EU borders or to stay home, if we feel unsafe. I have to decide whether to risk it outside trying to cross the border or stay home risk being collateral damage. Right now, it appears that we are on our own."

In an interview to the Associated Press, when asked if there are plans to evacuate citizens if Russian troops manage to take Kyiv, the once heavyweight boxing world champion and current Kyiv mayor, Vitali Klitschko replied - "We can't do that because all ways are blocked. Right now we are encircled."

Back in Bhubaneshwar, Anwesh's father Netaji is an understandably anxious man. A retired Zoology professor, he speaks haltingly, worried when he will be able see his only child. "I'm in constant touch with Anwesh. The Indian embassy's directions haven't been clear, I think," he said.

Before leaving for the battlefront, his coach Timoschenko had a request for his Indian student. "He asked me to take care of myself and check on his wife and kid in the bomb shelter and his daughter who lives in a flat." Not just Anwesh's trainer, national team coach GM Oleksandr Sulypa too has taken up arms and shared a picture of himself from the west Ukrainian city of Lviv, about 70 kms from Polish border, on social media.

For now, part of staying alive involves staying alert. Anwesh sleeps light and keeps his ears pricked to sounds of alarm as Russian air raids pummel Kyiv. He can't get himself to play any chess and re-watching Netflix shows serves as an occasional distraction. He is grateful that the power and heating systems at home are still functional and he spends a large part of his day refreshing news feeds on social media, searching for a sliver of hope. Some of it is pinned on the peace talks that are scheduled to take place on Monday between both sides on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.