Seven months after the war between Russia and Ukraine forced nearly 20,000 Indian students, most of them studying medicine in Ukraine, to return home to India, many are now making the journey back to their universities in the country Europe devastated by the war.
The students, mostly in the fourth, fifth and sixth years of their courses at Ukrainian medical universities, say they had no choice but to return, given the practical difficulties involved in transferring to universities in other countries countries and the need for practical training for final year medical students.
At the height of the war, the students had mostly left through Poland, Hungary, Slovakia or Romania, but now when they return they have been doing so via Moldova, a small country in the south-west of Ukraine that has issued e-visas Most of the students have returned to Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia, Ukrainian cities in the west, which they say are “comparatively safer” and away from war zones.
With airspace over Ukraine still closed, the students have flown indirectly from Delhi, with an eight-hour layover in Istanbul, to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, from where they board a bus to cross the border .
This is the route Kritee Suman, a fourth-year student at Ivano-Frankivsk Medical University, took to reach the northwestern city of Ivano after spending six months at home in Bihar.
“I decided to come back because there was no point in waiting any longer in India. Clinical subjects require practical exposure and that cannot be done online. The National Medical Council (NMC) has already said that degrees in online mode will not be valid in India,” says Suman, who spent around one lakh rupees to return to Ukraine. “Now we’re visiting hospitals here, getting hands-on training. It’s all pretty normal. My family was worried when I left, but they finally let me,” he says.
Since they returned to India in March, the fate of these students had been uncertain as India maintained that there was no provision to accommodate them in the country’s medical colleges and universities.
However, in a notice issued last week, the National Medical Commission (NMC) allowed Indian students to opt for the academic mobility program offered by Ukraine that allows them to move to universities in other countries and complete their studies.
The students, however, say that such a move involved practical obstacles.
Suman says agents charged a lot for a transfer to universities in other countries. “Also, the price of the course in other European countries is much higher than in Ukraine. The best option was to return to Ukraine,” he says.
Kartikey Tripathi, a fifth-year student at Lviv National Medical University, says: “The mobility program was not really practical because universities in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where the fee is relatively affordable, are not so as good as Ukraine’s. . Elsewhere in Europe, it’s too expensive to start from scratch.”
Convincing his parents was the hardest part. “Ladke aaye hain gharwalon se (I had to fight with my family to come here). I assured them that if the situation worsens, I will return home,” says Tripathi, who is from Gorakhpur in UP.
Anurag Krishna, a fourth-year student at Vinnytsya National Medical University, who also returned to Moldova, says western Ukraine is “absolutely safe” and “life is normal, not like what they show on the channels of news”.
“It would not have been easy for me to start again in any other country, not even in India. Talking about mobility programs is easy, but there is a lot of paperwork and paperwork involved… fifth and sixth year students cannot afford to wait and waste more time. I knew NMC would not help us in any way, so I decided to go back,” she says, adding that she had to work hard to convince her parents.
“I told them they had to be brave. I showed them some videos from Ukraine to tell them that the situation is peaceful and they agreed,” he says.
Another student, who has returned to Lviv and spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that switching to universities in other countries would not have been easy.
“The scoring and evaluation system in Ukrainian universities is different from those in other countries. The subjects and even the duration of the course are different. For example, here MBBS is called MD and it is a six-year course, unlike in India where it is for five years,” he said.
Aditi, a student at the National Medical University of Lviv, says: “My family was skeptical about me returning, but I didn’t want to stay at home anymore. So I returned to the city that has been at home”.