Evacuated from war-hit Ukraine in 2021, hundreds of Indian MBBS students, who thought their academic journey was over, have resumed their studies and started new lives in a leading medical university in Uzbekistan.
The Samarkand State Medical University in Uzbekistan has accommodated over 1,000 Indian medical students from Ukraine after the Indian Embassy in Ukraine reached out to them enquiring if the affected students can seek a transfer.
Amit from Bihar’s Begusarai, spent one night in a basement in Ukraine when Russia attacked. He was among the students evacuated by the Indian government under the ‘Operation Ganga’ initiative.
‘Operation Ganga’ was the initiative launched by the government of India to bring back Indians stranded in Ukraine. A total of 18,282 Indian nationals were evacuated under the initiative.
“I thought I wouldn’t make it and would either die or will be stranded in Ukraine. Once I was back home in India, me and my family were relieved but then began the never-ending cycle of uncertainty about what was next. I had finished three years of my MBBS in Ukraine and to start all over again or pursue something else was not an option I wanted to consider. I later decided to move to Uzbekistan,” Amit told PTI.
Tales of Indian students stranded in Ukraine | In Photos
The first batch of Indian students left Chernivtsi in a bus for the Ukraine-Romania border. The Embassy of India in Kyiv announced that the evacuation was being organised with the joint effort of the Indian embassies in Romania, Hungary and Poland
The First batch of Indian students leave Chernivtsi for Ukraine-Romania border. The Indian Embassy is co-ordinating to bring back Indians by road
On February 26 afternoon more than 470 students will exit the Ukraine and enter Romania through the Porubne-Siret Border. “We are moving Indians located at the border to neighbouring countries for onward evacuation. Efforts are underway to relocate Indians coming from the hinterland,” said Indian Embassy in Ukraine
Medical students from Ivano Frankvisk National Medical University in Ukraine, waiting to be evacuated by the Indian Embassy
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 doing an apprenticeship in gastroenterology at a Kyiv hospital, 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.
Nikitha, a student hailing from Chittoor district.
A video message of the third-year medicine student of Bogomolets National Medical College in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, spread like wildfire in Chittoor.
In the message, Nikitha, who hails from B. Kothakota village of Madanapalle division, said the situation in Ukraine was “very critical, with sounds of missiles and bombings.”
She said the students were not able to withdraw cash from the ATMs despite waiting for hours. Shortage of groceries and non-availability of flights added to their woes. She sought immediate intervention of the Indian and Ukrainian governments to evacuate the students to safer places
Shyam Kumar (right) was asleep in his rented apartment in Odessa, Ukraine, when a loud explosion rang through his ears around 5 a.m. “I first thought it may be a road accident, but soon realised that war is now a reality,” he told The Hindu on February 14, as Russia began military operations in Ukraine. A fifth-year medical student of the Odessa National Medical University and a resident of Kakkanad, Kerala, Mr. Shyam Kumar immediately opened news channels and saw images of explosions and aerial attacks in major Ukrainian cities. “We later learnt that the railway station and other vital installations in Odessa were hit,” he said.
K.K. Manjunath from Kushalnagar, whose son Chandan M. Gowda (in picture) is in his third year of medicine at Kharkiv National Medical University in Ukraine, said, “My son and a few others from Karnataka have been holed up in an apartment since February 24. They are also alerted by the local authorities to move to either bunkers, the metro station or to the basement in case of any impending danger,” said Mr. Manjunath
In western Ukraine, on Wednesday, Ayush Kumar was trying to book a flight back to India for March. On February 24 morning, he was stocking up groceries and essentials instead. A resident of Uttar Pradesh, the second-year medical student at the Danylo Halytsky lviv National Medical University, Lviv, said over phone, “I was trying to leave for India and I was looking for a flight. Today, the airspace is closed. The situation is not as dangerous as in eastern Ukraine. But we are on alert. We were told to keep a stock of groceries and water and prepare a small backpack with documents”
Alagulakshmi Sivakumar from Telugu Street in Coimbatore, a third-year medical student of Bogomolets National Medical University in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, said in a voice note that she, along with 11 friends sought shelter in the university hostel as staying in their apartment was not safe.
“We are hearing blasts. There was an intelligence about possible missile attack around 3 a.m. [on February 25] and we could not sleep. We all stayed up till 6 a.m. We heard blasts 10 minutes before,” Ms. Sivakumar said in the voice note sent at 7 a.m.
On February 24 morning, sirens were sounded across Ukraine while explosions were reported in cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lutsk among many others.
For Priyanka Gurumallesh (fourth from left) of Mysuru, a second year MBBS student of Bukovinian State Medical University, in Chernivtsi, western Ukraine, the trip back home could not have been more timely. She reached Mysuru at 3 am. on Wednesday and within 24 hours the main airport at Kyiv from where international flights fly out of Ukraine, was shut down. “’When we left Ukraine the situation did not seem as alarming but television news reports this morning came as a shock’’, said Priyanka who is one of the thousands of Indians who study in BSMU.
Many Indian students stranded in Ukraine have taken refuge in the basement to escape Russia’s bombing raids. This is a college hostel at Kyiv in Ukraine
He says living expenses in Samarkand are higher than that of Ukraine but he is happy to be able to continue his education.
Tanwi Wadhva from Punjab’s Ferozepur, who was studying at Bukovinian State Medical University in Ukraine, was apprehensive about joining the university due to the loss of a semester.
“I attended online classes for eight months. We were hopeful that the war would end and we would go back. Some students even went back from different routes but I didn’t want to take that risk. I evaluated all options from Georgia to Poland and decided to come to Uzbekistan. The university admitted us a semester back, I was initially apprehensive about the loss of one semester but later I changed my mind and it was worth the decision,” she said.
Divyansh from Meerut who used to study at the same university as Wadhwa said Uzbekistan’s universities offered teaching and learning in English and the curriculum was on the same lines.
“Not all countries have universities which offer English as a medium of instruction. So that was a very important factor. Quality of life is similar in Ukraine and Samarkand but this place feels safer now,” he said.
Around 19,000 Indian students were studying in Ukraine when the Russian invasion began in February 2021.
According to estimates, approximately 2,000 Indian students have gone back to Ukraine and they are residing mostly in the western part of the East European country.
Several Indian medical students were left with no choice after their evacuation from Ukraine and transferred to universities in other countries to continue their studies. Many have gone to Russia, Serbia and other European countries.
Dr Zafar Aminov, Vice Chancellor, of Samarkand State Medical University, said when the war broke out, the Indian Embassy reached out to them enquiring if the affected students could seek a transfer.
“We evaluated the requirements of such students and then ultimately decided that enrolling them with a semester back would be a viable option to provide equivalence. We then set up a team to facilitate transfers and also made special arrangements for these students. We hired 30 more Indian teachers to ensure there are no accent issues,” he told PTI.
Aminov said the university has accommodated over 1,000 Indian transfer students from Ukraine.
Deepika Kaidala Jayaramaiah, a student from Karnataka, said after seeing the war situation right in front of her, moving to a peaceful country was the priority.
“I have only read about war in history books. Never imagined that I would witness the situation in person. After it was evident that going to Ukraine was not an option now, I decided to resume my medical journey in Uzbekistan,” she said.