From being a student in a country which is bearing the wrath of a brutal war to studying in another that is responsible for this mayhem, Jisna Jiji (25), a final-year medical student who was among thousands evacuated from Ukraine nearly a year ago, has ended up in Russia to complete her education.
"Russia has been very welcoming to us. It did not impose any extra charges. We were allowed to continue our studies and our hard work has not been wasted," Jiji told PTI over the phone. Hailing from Kerala, Jiji is pursuing her MBBS from the Northern State Medical University in Russia's Arkhangelsk.
Exactly a year ago, Jiji, who was in her fifth year at a university in Sumy in Ukraine, was looking forward to completing her studies in Ukraine and had no inkling that 2022 would be so tumultuous for her and the country in which she was studying.
The war waged by Russia took everyone by surprise. Jiji along with several hundred students took an excruciating journey from Sumy to western borders after the war broke out in Ukraine.
The students were evacuated to India through 'Operation Ganga' conducted by the Indian government.
More than 17,000 Indians, mostly students, were evacuated from the war-hit Ukraine under the mission.
Several Indian medical students were left with no choice after their evacuation from Ukraine and have taken transfers to universities in other countries to continue their studies.
Many have gone to Russia, Serbia, Uzbekistan, and other European countries.
"The period after coming to India was very uncertain. We thought the war would end soon and we will be able to return. However, months passed and our student coordinator was also not giving straight answers," said Jiji.
Students have taken transfers to other universities through the academic mobility programme.
Last year in September, the Ministry of External Affairs and the National Medical Council (NMC) issued a notice through which the NMC would accept completion of their remaining courses in other countries (with the approval of the parent university/institution in Ukraine).
Jiji would complete her study in July 2023. "There are around 150 students in Russia that I know who are from Ukraine. We took a transfer. We came in October when there was no hope left," she said.
A few of her acquaintances have also gone back to Ukraine but she believes hers was the best decision to come to Russia.
"Financially and credibility-wise also, I feel this was the best option. Students who have gone back to Ukraine are still struggling as they are facing several kinds of issues like water shortage and power cuts," Jiji said.
Asked whether she feels safe in Russia, she replied in affirmation.
Several Russian universities have welcomed Indian students from Ukrainian medical universities.
They put hoardings and banners welcoming them. They also posted photos of Indian students on their official Instagram pages.
One of the posts read: "150+ Indian students from Ukrainian medical universities took transfers in Northern State Medical University,".
R B Gupta, president of the Parent's Association of Ukraine MBBS Students (PAUMS), claimed that around 2,500 students have gone back to Ukraine, and nearly 4,000 have taken transfers to other countries including Serbia, Russia and Uzbekistan.
"Those who have taken transfer are mostly fifth and sixth-year students as practicals are necessary. Around 3,000 students are still in India and taking online classes. While around 500 have changed streams also," he claimed.
Gupta, who for the last one year has been spearheading the campaign demanding one-time accommodation of evacuated students in MBBS colleges in India, said he has no hope that any help would come from the government side.
Gupta said his son, who is in his third year of MBBS, has taken transfer to a Serbian university after waiting for several months.
Ameen, 23, is in the last year of his MBBS and has taken transfer to a university in Uzbekistan.
Reflecting on the last year, Ameen, who goes by his first name, said: "It was hectic in terms of mental pressure regarding our studies. Mostly because we were uncertain about our online degree from Ukraine."
Ameen came to Tashkent on December 10 to resume his study. He is pretty content with his decision to transfer.
"I decided to study in Uzbekistan because of the academic mobility programme. At the time, that was the only safe option according to NMC guidelines for Ukraine returnee students," he said.
Asked whether the transfer programme was heavy on his family's pocket, he said: "We had to pay extra fees for the continuation of the mobility programme but the university fee hasn't changed that much."
"Mobility is actually a choice. We can either go to Ukraine, study online or choose mobility. We have to pay 1,500 dollars extra for this. But you can be sure that you are getting enough practical classes," he added.
Among those who are still in India taking online classes is Kanishk, a second-year student. He is still uncertain whether to opt for transfer or go back to Ukraine.
"I am not sure. Right now I am taking online classes. We had a pretty rough year. Nobody is helping us. We are somehow managing through online classes. You can't learn to treat people through online classes," he pointed out.