Kin of Nepalis in Russian Army seek astrologers

Family members worried about the fate of recruit on the Ukraine front visit fortune tellers

Nepalis in the Russian Army.


Nepalis in Russia-Ukraine war
Home of Raghu Nath Adhikari in Kapurthan in Jhapa. Inset: Ganga Ram Adhikari who was fighting in the Russian Army. Photo: SUJATA DHUNGANA

As the afternoon sun blazed down one afternoon last week, neighbours gathered at the house of Raghu Nath Adhikari in Kapurthan village of Jhapa district in Nepal’s southeastern plains.  

Raghu Nath got off his bicycle, and joined the crowd at his house. Breathing heavily, he told his neighbours, “The astrologer said that nothing has happened and that we will receive news by next Saturday, but the person himself will not come back to us.” 

The well-wishers were crestfallen, not knowing what words they could offer the elderly man. Adhikari then quietly entered his house.

The day before, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry had published the names of seven more Nepalis who had died fighting in the Russian Army on the Ukraine front. The fourth name on the list was: Ganga Ram Adhikari, Jhapa (pictured, below). 

Nepalis in Russia-Ukraine war

The name of Raghu Nath Adhikari’s son in family circles is Gopal so family and neighbours of 33-year-old Ganga Ram are still hopeful that it is mistaken identity and he is still alive. Which is why his father went to see the astrologer with his son’s horoscope.  

This was not the first time the family has visited the astrologer. Ever since Ganga Ram left for Russia in October last year, they have taken his horoscope to the fortune teller and his answer had always been the same: “Don’t worry, nothing has happened to your son.”

Villagers had received word from fellow Nepalis in Russia on 26 January that Ganga Ram had been killed in action. But while Ganga Ram’s wife Anuradha and mother Manmaya had collapsed in tears, Raghu Nath refused to believe the news, because two days earlier he had heard that his son had been injured.  

Anuradha has been listless since the news, and well-wishers come by regularly to offer solace. 

Anuradha and Ganga Ram were high school sweethearts and had got married in Grade 9. Anuradha dropped out after she got pregnant, but Ganga Ram completed his school and went to Qatar as a migrant worker which was where he was recruited by middlemen for the Russian Army

Nepalis in Russia-Ukraine war
Ganga Ram's wife, Anuradha.

Ganga Ram and Anuradha had spoken on the phone daily since he reached Russia, much like they did in the ten years he was in Qatar. But that stopped two months ago.

“I don’t remember him ever missing our daily check-ins,” says Anuradha now, eyes red-rimmed from crying constantly. “What kind of news is this from the government? How can I believe that he is dead?”

Ganga Ram formally joined the Russian Army in November and underwent combat training for the next two months. He spoke on the phone with his wife and family after completing training on 18 January, telling them that he would be in the battlefront and may not be in touch for months. "Don’t worry about me,”  he told them, "I will call you when I get back."

Nepalis in Russia-Ukraine war
Ganga Ram (far left) joined the Russian Army in November 2023.

Sleep was hard to come by for Ganga Ram’s family that night, and they prayed to the gods for his safety. Anuradha has not let her cell phone out of her sight after that last conversation with him, hoping that her husband will call once again. 

She tells neighbours, “I have heard that Ganga Ram is wounded in his arms and legs and is in hospital. But even so, he should remember me.”

Family and neighbours have begun to come to terms with the fact that the Ganga Ram Adhikari on the government’s list and their Gopal are one and the same. Raghu Nath is still trying to gather evidence about whether or not it is his son’s name on the list. 

“Maybe the old man had been trying to be strong and convince himself that his son was fine all this time,” says Raghu Nath’s neighbour Tika Maya Tawa. “The radio is always on at my house, but I have turned it off now because I cannot bear to hear news.” 

Nepalis in Russia-Ukraine war

Ganga Ram’s relatives know that his remains cannot be brought back, as has been the case with other Nepalis who died fighting for the Russians. They are hoping that the government officially releases his photo or the names of his parents, so that they can begin to perform his last rites. 

“We have no hopes of the government bringing back his body, we just want confirmation that Gopal is the Ganga Ram Adhikari mentioned in the list,” says a neighbour.

Raghu Nath has not been to the astrologer again since last week. Heartbroken, he seems finally to have accepted that his son is not coming home.

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