Nigerian medical students who fled Ukraine continue their studies online

A sixth-year medical student at Ukraine’s Ternopil National Medical University, Dominic Oru, a Nigerian, was two months away from graduating from medical school when Russian forces invaded the country on February 24.

Oru woke up that day to learn of explosions in many Ukrainian cities. And, like hundreds of other Ternopil students, he fled to Romania. From there, he took a government-chartered flight to Nigeria in early March.

This week, however, Oru and his colleagues resumed online classes. He says it’s more like a meeting.

“Our main conversation was that we couldn’t say goodbye because we thought we still had time. There was going to be the graduation ceremony, where we’ll have pictures and everything.”

Oru says that amidst the uncertainties, he has high hopes, even as he worries about his teacher in Ukraine, who is also acting as a frontline responder.

“He looks really stressed. He looked like he’s had very little…sleep. I could see the bags around his eyes.”

Nigerian authorities said around 8,000 nationals were living in Ukraine when the invasion began. About 5,600 of them were students.

16-year-old first-year medical student Fatima Baffah also returned to Nigeria a few weeks ago and also started virtual learning. But for her, it’s not the same. She said she misses seeing her friends and teachers and looks forward to taking classes in person.

Baffah began his medical training in September. Now her mother, Sallah Baffah, says she has to stay out of Ukraine and needs a place to study peacefully.

Dominic Oru and his colleagues were planning a big dinner party to celebrate their graduation. But now he fears he will never see some of his classmates again.

Helen D. Jessen