Indian students in Russia start stockpiling food, withdrawing cash, preparing to leave if needed

PUNE: It has been difficult times for Pooja Khandekar, 21, and her friends as the war between Russia and Ukraine has escalated over the past few days. Pooja, a native of Pandharpur in south Maharashtra, is currently in her second-year of MBBS at Northern State Medical University, Arkhangelsk city, Russia. According to her, though things are normal in Russia, the tension has been visible among Indian and other foreign students studying there after learning about the situation in Ukraine and the difficulties being faced by students there while getting out. Pooja said that foreign students in Russia have started stockpiling food and withdrawing money from banks to avoid any difficulties. If the war prolongs and the condition worsens, these students are preparing to take return flights to India.

“All of us are worried by the daily news about the war between Russia and Ukraine. We are getting daily updates about the war and also our parents out there in India are worried due to the war situation. Currently, we have started preparing for extreme situations. Like all Indian students here in Russia are withdrawing money from their bank accounts, as our friends in Ukraine had to face a money crunch as no ATMs were working,” Pooja said.

Indian students in Russia are continuing with their offline classes in colleges while constantly checking flight schedules, she said. Most of these students, who returned to campuses this year after the Covid situation abated, are staying in university hostels.

“Some of our friends are in Moscow and we are in regular contact with them as well. The situation out there in Moscow is normal and there are no effects of war out there. But everyone is worried and wants this war to end as early as possible. There are three Indian embassies in Russia but we have not got any alerts to leave the country or any war-related instructions to students,” Pooja said.

Another medical student Shashikant Kakade from the same university and originally from Beed district in Maharashtra, said, “I have withdrawn money from my bank accounts here in Russia. On an average, our monthly expenses here are around Rs18,000. So, we are getting cash for the next three months and also getting stock of raw food material. Our regular college lectures are going on, and we are staying in a university hostel. There are many messages circulating in students’ groups and on social media which prompts us to prepare for the worse situation.”

“My parents are worried back in India. Some of my friends are planning to return to India for a few months. But if we go back, there will be academic losses for us and we don’t want to miss studies due to war. There are a large number of students here in Russia too, and everyone is demanding that the war against Ukraine be stopped,” Kakade said.

Sayali Kulkarni, 22, who is from Pune, and is currently in her second year MBBS at a university in Gorgia, said that students are scared. “We are constantly getting calls from our parents to check on our wellbeing. Students at our campus are scared though we plan to continue studying here,” she said.

Students stranded along Romania-Suceava border

Among the large number of students stranded along the Romania-Suceava border is Pulkit Shrivastav, a native of Mumbai taking medical education at Ternopil in western Ukraine. He said, “We arrived here yesterday at around 3pm walking all the way from our university hostels and were hoping to get evacuated from here. It’s 7pm today now and over 24 hours have passed but we are still not able to cross the border. The Ukrainian soldiers are not allowing us to cross the border while the Indian embassy people are not responding to our calls. The situation is becoming worse day by day.”

Another student Saurabh Isapure, a native of Sangli in western Maharashtra, who is in his second year MBBS at the Bukovinian State Medical University (BSMU) located in Chernivtsi city in western Ukraine, said, “We had reached the Romania border yesterday but as there was a heavy rush and students were being beaten up by army people, we came away from there and now we are a group of students taking shelter in a nearby restaurant basement.”

According to Isapure, there are many students from India and other countries all along the Romania border. “The weather here is extremely cold and only a few of the Indian citizens have been allowed to cross the border so far, while a large number of Ukraine citizens are crossing the border,” he said.

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