Vassilis Simos from Larissa is a teacher, who for the past two years has been sent by the Greek Ministry of Education to Kiev to teach Greek to high school students and students at the university in the Ukrainian capital.
In recent days, the uproar over the circulating scenarios of a “Russian invasion” – which has been refuted by Moscow – has led to Greek authorities to advise Greeks living in Ukraine to leave the country.
In this regard, the Ministry of Education decided to recall the teacher from Kiev.
The “bell” for the Greek teachers rang, as Simos described events on February 11: “The education coordinator (of the Greek Ministry of Education living in Ukraine) called us and told us to prepare our things and be ready.”
The next day, “specific instructions were sent as the coordination office of the Ministry of Education and our embassy in Kiev decided that on Sunday, February 13, we must return to Greece.”
“They decided to leave for our safety and they decided at the right time because we returned to our homes and we now feel safe,” the teacher said.
Simos packed his personal belongings, loaded them in the car and together with a pair of Greek teachers began their return to Greece.
It took him 23 hours to drive from Kiev to his home and family in Larissa in Central Greece.
“The return of the teachers was done on my own because it was not possible to coordinate the return of so many people from Kiev, Mariupol and Odessa to be done in groups in a swift manner,” he continued.
“I personally prefer to travel by car,” the teacher said, adding: “A couple of colleagues who used a plane for their travels between Greece and Kiev, now came with me by car because when you have to leave within 24 hours you cannot find a flight right away.”
Life in the Ukrainian capital, as described by Simos, was normal, but the atmosphere was warlike.
“We did not see anything, that is, the army or anything like that, and life in Kiev had its daily rhythm, but everyone was ready, everyone knew, since the Ukrainian media said everything,” the teacher explained.
“I knew the shelters in the schools I was in, in the house I lived in.
“I do not hide from you that I had filled my apartment with food and water.
“We were told that in the event of a war, electricity and communications would be cut off.
“That was the climate.”
The teachers, as well as all the residents of Kiev, as he told us, knew what it meant if the sirens sounded and what each of the three sounds meant.
“In the first we prepare, in the second we hide and in the third we leave the shelter,” he said.
Speaking about the decision of the Ministry of Education to return to Greece, he congratulated the “coordinator of the education office, Mr. Ioannakis, who did everything, to the Minister, Kerameos, who made the right decision and sent us to Greece with a special purpose emergency permit, but also to our ambassador in Kiev who always has his phone open and serves us.”
Return to Ukraine is currently unknown.
“We were told that as soon as the situation ended, they would return us and at the moment we are making distance lessons with the university and the school,” he explained.
The Secretary General of the Ministry of Education, Alexandros Koptsis, stated that 20 teachers had returned from Ukraine.
“From last Friday to Sunday night we were on an open line of communication with teachers in Ukraine and informed them that they had to return” said Koptsis.
“Teachers will also receive the bonus and leave will not be charged,” he said. “Above all is the safety of teachers and we did everything to return immediately safely to Greece.”
It is recalled that recently, Western countries have accused Russia of deploying troops to the Ukrainian border, talking about an alleged planned invasion.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying it does not pose a threat to any country and has also expressed concern about NATO military activity near the Russian border, noting that it poses a threat to its national security.
As for the Russian troops, the Kremlin reiterated on Tuesday that “it’s right” for Russia to conduct exercises on its territory.
A spokesman for Russia’s Defence Ministry said Russia’s southern and western military units had begun returning troops to their permanent bases after the exercise.
At the same time, information about the so-called “Russian invasion” has been widely circulated in the Western media.
“Politico”, citing anonymous sources, had come to refer to it as “invasion day” … February 16, stressing that US President Joe Biden has shared this information with world leaders.
For his part, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, while continuing the rhetoric that an invasion is possible any day, publicly admitted on February 13 that Washington had no way of knowing the exact date and time of its alleged invasion.
Moscow has repeatedly denounced the allegations, calling them “hysterical” and dismissing them as lies in an “information terrorism” campaign against Russia.
President Vladimir Putin even joked about the reports, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed: “Sometimes he jokes, asking us to check if they say the exact time when the war will start.”
In remarks on Wednesday afternoon, President Putin stressed that Russia does not want any war and has therefore proposed negotiations that should, as he characteristically put it, “reach an agreement that guarantees equal security for all, including of our country.”
At the same time, he criticised Kiev’s repeated refusal to implement the Minsk agreements or to follow the resolutions reached in the framework of the Normandy scheme with Germany and France.