Moldova emerges as new exit route for Indian students fleeing Ukraine

Moldova, a small landlocked nation in Eastern Europe, has become the new escape route for Indian students seeking refuge from the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Hundreds of medical students, including some from Maharashtra, from Odessa – a port city in Ukraine – have moved to Moldova from where they hope to be evacuated.

One such student is Sanket Raghvendra Pathak, a final-year MBBS student at Odessa National Medical University, who had to hide in a bunker when Russia invaded the city last week. Along with others, the Parbhani native hired a high-priced private bus to travel to neighboring Moldova on Sunday. They also hung Indian flags behind the vehicle.

“For a one hour trip, the bus charged 75,000 rupees per person. The ticket usually costs Rs 1,000 maximum but we had no choice but to flee to Moldova. The other exit routes through the borders of Poland and Romania were very far from Odessa. It was impossible for us to travel,” Sanket said.

Mumbai native Priyal Bharat Bhanushali, another medical student in Odessa, also had to live in a bunker with limited food and water. Priyal has now moved to the border that Ukraine shares with Moldova.

Priyal’s mother, Kajal, a resident of Mulund, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to evacuate the students from the Moldovan border. “Our children cannot reach these borders (Spain, Poland, Hungary) by traveling 15 to 16 hours by road in the midst of these bombardments and attacks. I can’t even imagine him traveling in this scary situation. Our children are helpless, helpless and so are we. Sir, you cannot even imagine the suffering we go through watching our children rush into the bunkers at the slightest sound heard,” the letter read.

Many students who have moved to Moldova are housed and accommodated at a university in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

On Monday, the Indian Embassy in Romania asked Indian students who are in government shelters in Moldova to stay put. “Embassy officials are in Chisinau and will visit shelters to facilitate evacuation,” the tweet read.

Although still far from their families in Maharashtra, the students are relieved to be safe in Moldova. “Now we can sleep peacefully, without fear of being bombarded,” Sanket said.