Jasmine Jahan and Molalisha Behera take shelter at a railway station in Ukraine’s Kharkiv.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Despite his best efforts, Rajendra Pradhan, a pharmacist in southern Odisha’s Koraput district Circle Jail could not realise his dream of becoming a doctor. In time, he wanted both his sons to be doctors. Mr. Pradhan tried to get his older son, Amlan, enrolled in a medical college in India, but his rank in competitive exams was not high enough. His next best option had to be a medical college in Ukraine, the father decided, and Mr. Amlan did go on to graduate from one.
In the same way, Mr. Pradhan’s second son, Anshuman, is now a medical student, in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The dream, though, has turned into a nightmare as the young man is hiding in a bunker, hoping to get out safely from the war-torn nation.
“The older son is a house surgeon at the SCB Medical College, Cuttack. The second son, who is in the fifth year [of medical education in Kharkiv], would have become a doctor here in a year. We have sold land and taken bank loans to realise our dream. We hope the setback is temporary,” Surendra Pradhan, the youth’s uncle, said.
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
Jasmin Jahan, daughter of Mohmmed Abid Hussain, a medical superintendent in Kalimela in Malkangiri district, and Monalisha Behera, daughter of Subash Behera, Sub-Inspector of Police in Keonjhar, both fourth year medical students in Kharkiv, are also stranded.
“My daughter could not crack the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). But she wanted to become a doctor. I respected her choice of career. Ukraine is good place where it’s not too expensive to study medicine. She was advancing in her career well until the war disrupted everything,” Dr. Hussain said.
With the number of medical seats turning out to be drastically insufficient for students in India, and privately owned colleges charging hefty course fees, medical colleges in Ukraine fill the gap for parents in Odisha’s smaller towns and villages. Since Russian forces attacked Ukraine, parents from remote villages in Odisha are scrambling to reach their wards caught in the war zone.
An estimated 1,500 to 1,700 medical students from Odisha are currently in Ukraine. Ravi Kant, Resident Commissioner and the designated nodal officer for the evacuation of students from Odisha in Ukraine, said he had a list of 400 medical students in need of evacuation.
Parents have to cough up about ₹1 crore for an MBBS programme in a private college in India whereas the course fees in Ukraine ranges from ₹18 lakh to ₹25 lakh. Livings expenses add up to about ₹1 lakh-₹1.5 lakh per year in Ukraine. Thus, in less than ₹40 lakh, students from India secure a medical degree from Ukraine. The newly qualified doctors then have to pass with at least 50% marks in a Medical Council of India examination to become eligible to practice in India.
Swadhin Mohapatra, an orthopedician in a government-run health institution in Ukraine, after completing his post-graduation there, also runs a consultancy. “I facilitate the admission of 100 to 110 students from Odisha [in Ukraine every year]. In Kharkiv, there are about 800 to 900 students from Odisha alone. Another 100 Odisha students could be studying in the capital city of Kyiv. The course fee is very reasonable here. Moreover, the quality of medical studies is good. About 20 government-run institutes of Ukraine offer seats for foreign students,” Mr. Mohapatra said.
The onset of war in Ukraine has altered everything. Over phone, Ms. Jasmin said that the situation was turning worse at Kharkiv. “Amidst heavy shelling, we are taking shelter at the railway station. Our water and food stock is running out. With temperatures at freezing point, we are struggling to cope with situation,” she said.