Ukraine Crisis: Stranded Indian Students Blame Colleges For Their Plight

Indian students hold unusual rules of Ukraine colleges responsible for them being stranded in the war-torn country

A woman stands outside debris after Russia bombed Ukraine

Students, who are stuck in various parts of Ukraine, are agonised, terrified and desperate to come back to India. After Russia began its military onslaught on Ukraine on Thursday, the stranded students fear for their lives in the war-torn country.  

A section of students, who spoke to Outlook over phone, have blamed their respective colleges for their plight. They say that despite the developing situation over the last few weeks, the colleges imposed unusual terms on them due to which they couldn’t leave on time.

A 2nd-year student hailing from Jammu and Kashmir who is pursuing an undergraduate medical course from the Zaprohzia State Medical University, said, “Colleges allowed students to go back to their respective countries only for two weeks and warned about extreme consequences including termination of admission in case they don’t return on time.”

Zaprohzia, a city in south-eastern Ukraine, is about 450 km away from Kyiv, the country’s capital. But Unlike Kyiv, the region is peaceful though residents are panic-stricken about the current situation.

“How would they know that the situation will normalise in the country within 15 days? That’s ridiculous and stupid. It is because of their obnoxious attitude that we are in trouble now,” the angry student said.

Indians arriving home from Ukraine | Credit: PTI

While there are scores of students stuck in Ukraine, this student is in touch with only four of them – all from J&K. “There are about 6,000 students stuck here with a large part of them being from other countries,” the student said. 

 Another student, who didn’t want to be identified, narrated a similar tale. “The colleges insisted on offline classes. Also, it is not possible for any student to go to India spending Rs 70,000 on a one way ticket and return within 15 days.”

Saqlain Ali Bhat from the Kharkiv Institute of Medicine and Biomedical Science said that he had to stay back as his institute announced exams. “I am in the 4th year of my MBBS course and we had to stay back as final exams were announced in my college,” he said.

Kharkiv, the second-largest city of Ukraine, is about 45 to 50 km from the Russian border in the Northeastern part of the country. Bhat said that he heard the sounds of explosions on Thursday night.  

“Currently, the situation seems under control and there is no airstrike happening but last evening it was scary. Panic is quite natural as we are close to the Russian border,” he said.

 About the multiple advisories issued by the Indian Embassy for leaving the country, he said, “The first advisory only came on February 15 just nine days before the war started. The flight prices had escalated by the time.”

Another student said, “India Embassy says so many things but we have seen in many cases when students’ education get jeopardised due to any reason, they never do anything.”

He added, “Also, as medical students, we are more concerned about our studies rather than other political developments. So, when colleges asked students to stay and continue classes, it gave an impression that we might be heading towards some sort of an understanding between the two countries. We never imagined it would come to the current situation.”

Anju Wariah, Director, STIC travel group, the general sales agent (GSA) of Ukraine International Airlines said that they were getting panic calls from several students after the closure of the airspace, which also led to the cancellation of both scheduled as well as chartered flights.

“We are closely in touch with the Indian government, which is taking all possible measures to evacuate the Indian nationals. The government has announced that it will try to evacuate Indian nationals to the neighbouring countries from where they can be flown back,” Wariah said and added, “We will extend our full support through our services available in the neighbouring countries to India.”