Nirdesh Doshi, an Indian medical student in Ukraine, is in a dilemma whether to return to India like most of his friends due to the volatile situation in the country. His panicked parents in Rajasthan have been pressuring him to return home at the earliest. The Indian government has also advised all the students in Ukraine to return home for now. But Nirdesh hasn’t been able to make up his mind about leaving – the airfares to India have doubled and he is scared of missing the semester as his university doesn’t conduct online classes.
“Even though the situation is normal in Ternopil where I stay, my parents have been constantly pressuring me to return home because they are worried a war might break out anytime soon and are concerned about my safety,” Nirdesh, a second year student of Ternopil National Medical University told The Federal.
A new advisory issued by the Indian Embassy in Kyiv on Sunday said, “In the view of the continued high levels of tensions and uncertainties with respect to the situation in Ukraine, all Indian nationals whose stay is not deemed essential and all Indian students are advised to leave Ukraine temporarily.”
According to reports, around 20,000 Indians including 18,000 students are residing in Ukraine.
“But I have not made a decision to leave the country yet. The university resumed in-person classes in September after conducting online classes for one-and-a-half years. And now they have refused to go back to online classes again. In that case, I cannot afford to miss my classes as my university examinations would be conducted in April-May and it is mandatory to have a significant percentage of attendance to write the exams,” he said.
Nirdesh said returning home when offline classes are underway would mean missing the entire semester. As the undergraduate medical course in Ukraine is a six-year course, missing six months would have a severe impact on his career, he said.
“Travelling immediately is almost an impossible proposition for first year, third year and sixth year students. Because first year students just joined college a couple of months ago and third and sixth year students have KROK, a Ukrainian medical examination which falls between May and June. Many of us cannot afford to travel back and forth between the countries,” he added.
Amar Jeet, another medical student shares Nirdesh’s anxieties. Besides the fear of losing out on classes and attendance, he says the current airfares to India are extremely steep. “On a normal day, the airfare would be below ₹30,000 and if we book in advance we can even book our round trips for the same cost. But, now, the price of tickets is close to ₹80,000 per person. The number of direct flights between the countries is also less,” he said.
Amar said that he had booked his tickets to return to New Delhi on March 6 because that is when he could find tickets for direct flights at an affordable price of ₹40,000. “Two days back when I checked the ticket price, it was ₹38,000. But now it has increased to ₹80,000 for this week,” he added.
“As of now, the university has not announced online classes for us and it is only risking my studies. But, I have made the decision to return home now because my parents are paranoid,” he said, adding that if the university does not conduct online classes, then he will have to repeat the entire semester.
A limited number of direct flights between the two countries is another issue that is preventing Indian students in Ukraine from returning home.
“The flights between Ukraine and New Delhi are limited and there are absolutely no direct flights between Ukraine and Chennai. We have to take a connecting flight and the layover is close to 18 hours. On a normal day, it would be just a couple of hours,” said Dev, a medical student, who is traveling back to India.
He says, those travelling to India via connecting flights are required to get their transit visas at least a few days before their arrival (in the country of transit) and as many of the students booking their tickets at the last minute are not aware of transit visas, they get stuck in difficult situations.
“One of my friends who was travelling to New Delhi via Istanubul, was sent back to Ukraine as she did not have a transit visa. She had to spend over ₹1.5 lakh to return to Ukraine after a lot of hassle,” he added.
“Many of my friends are reluctant to travel because of the long traveling hours and expensive flight tickets,” said Kripa Namitha Syam, a medical student from Sumy who returned to India a few days back.
She had travelled via Sharjah to reach Kochi from Kiev. “I usually take this route and I hardly wait at Sharjah for two hours for my next flight. But, this time, I had waited for 13 hours at Sharjah and the waiting time is more than the traveling time,” she added.
She says even though Sumy is considered one of the safest places in Ukraine, she decided to return home because of her worried parents.
Sanjita Shreya Singh, a veterinary science student at Kharkiv said that the situation is normal in her part of the country. “But, most of the students including Indians and Europeans have left the country already and others are also planning to leave. It is mainly because of the false and panicking alarms,” the student said, adding that she will return only in case of emergency as she needs to concentrate on her studies.