Evacuated from Ukraine, Indian expat students based in UAE return home safely

Al Ain resident Gopakumar Gopalan’s daughter, Shreyasi Gopakumar, managed to board an evacuation flight from Budapest in Hungary to New Delhi on Monday and traveled to her mother’s home in Kerala state, in southern India.

Rohan Ranjith and Ninin Chattarji, sons of Abu Dhabi residents Dr Ranjith Kumar and Santhosh Chattarji respectively, flew from Bucharest in Romania to New Delhi on Tuesday. While Rohan Ranjith also flew to his family’s home in Kerala, Ninin Chattarji flew to Abu Dhabi to join his family here late on Tuesday evening.

Speaking to Gulf News by phone from Kerala, Shreyasi said she and her friends stayed in their hostel bunkers for six days before deciding to leave Kharkiv.

Shreyasi had joined the MBBS course at VN Karazin Kharkiv National University in December 2021. She said their journey across the border was led by her seniors Jasna and Ashwin and Shajaz from the agency. “They have been coordinating with various parties to move forward,” she added.

Rohan and Ninin, third- and first-year veterinary science students at the Lviv National Veterinary University, had left their hostel with 12 other students.

They said they managed to reach Romania with the help of a group of nuns. “The sisters sent us three vehicles to take us to the border with Romania. We will never forget their help and hospitality,” Rohan said.

Ninin said they were also grateful to others who organized a shelter for the students shortly after arriving in Romania.

The students and their parents also thanked the Indian government for organizing evacuation flights from different countries neighboring Ukraine. Thousands of Indian students have been evacuated after crossing the Ukrainian border into neighboring countries. Latest reports on Wednesday said the Indian government had evacuated around 18,000 Indian nationals under Operation Ganga, mostly students.

Although relieved at the safe return of their children, the parents said they were still concerned about the children’s future.

They appreciated the offer of Gulf Medical University, based in the United Arab Emirates, to welcome Indian students displaced from Ukraine with free places and scholarships based on merit criteria and admission policies. However, they said they weren’t sure if their children would qualify for the offer.

“Rohan and Ninin will not be eligible as they are veterinary science students,” Dr Kumar said.

Chattarji said students will have to wait and see the options open to them. “I hope their agencies will help with admission elsewhere,” he said.

In Shreyasi’s case, there is still hope as she is a medical student. “I just started my second semester. But, I don’t know if they will admit students between semesters. Either way, it’s a great gesture,” she added.

Students and parents said they hoped for help from more universities in the UAE, India and elsewhere to further their education.

Helen D. Jessen