Like many young Indians in far-flung corners of the world, the life of an Indian student in Ukraine used to involve attending classes, homework, revising lessons, shopping for essentials, hanging out with our friends, and generally have great freedom of movement. Now, the same activities are punctuated with a constant fear, a panic that haunts both our conscious and unconscious minds: What if the war starts... and what if we can't make it?
With tensions between Ukraine and Russia rising, Indian students in Ukraine have families that are worried sick. News like Russia has increased their troops and the war is about to begin does nothing to ebb their fears. Even relatives and friends that we have not spoken to in ages are calling to check in about our conditions. We are facing terror, and the daily news shocks us.
Despite the situation in Ukraine, some universities are refusing to allow foreign students to leave the country, as well as denying them the ability to take classes online. Schools are saying, "You are a medical student, you should focus on your studies, and if we opt for online classes, you will face trouble coping with your studies."
Yet, even as our in-person classes continue, we -- as medical students -- are not allowed to interact with patients due to Covid and our clinical practices have been halted. What, then, is the point of taking in-person classes? Even when universities offer security by creating protection centres, it's only for the employees, not the students. There's no protection for foreign students in this country.
With some universities allowing Indian students to return and some refusing it, many Indian parents whose children are stuck in Ukraine are questioning, "Why can't you come when the others can?"
Just as our parents don't want to risk our lives, many of us are eager to return home as well. We students can't even focus on our studies or our daily life amid this fear and uncertainty. Some students are plagued by this constantly -- they send mails to the embassy daily, and have even asked the Dean of the College to grant them leave.
Some students think there will be no war and so, according to them, going back to India will not be beneficial. After all, the situation is presently normal -- the conflict has been ongoing for eight long years and so far, there has not been any combat. Others, who think that the war is coming, feel that flying back to India is far safer, and even booked tickets home which then got cancelled. Some of our college seniors are returning to India, some have already gone, and many of us are trying to do the same.
Though the Indian government has asked the students to leave Ukraine, we are unable to do so -- not just because our universities are not allowing us to leave, but also because the cost of flights home is extremely high. Airlines have increased flight ticket prices to Rs 1 lakh, when it was Rs 30,000 earlier. Most of us here are not even able to afford such huge sums for travel. How, then will the government ensure our safety?
The embassy is in support of Indians in Ukraine and is in continuous contact with students via calls and emails. They have assured us that we are safe and, if something is going to happen, they will evacuate us. Till now, the embassy has not sent us any flights for evacuation, saying that the ban previously set on normal flights has now been removed and flights are available. The embassy is trying to convince universities to allow Indian students to leave and take their classes online so that they can focus on their studies and take care of their safety.
As of now, we are having in-person classes, we have to go to college regularly and, while we are not facing any situation presently, each and every one of us is experiencing a fear of war -- yet there's no tension seen on the faces of Ukrainians. They seem to have no fear or stress, but there's no still no guarantee on what's going to happen.
(Harsh Goel is a third year medical student at Ivano Frankivsk National Medical University in Ukraine.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.