When Indian national Isha Sahni, 20, who is studying medicine at the Bukovinian State Medical University in the Ukranian city of Chernivtsi, arrived back in India’s capital of New Delhi, her parents heaved a huge sigh of relief. Deepak Sahni, a manager in a government department, said he and his wife Bharti were petrified as they followed the brewing crisis in Ukraine , with Russia massing troops near the border raising fears of an invasion. “We were prepared to sell off everything if need be to bring her back. We struggled for days to get a ticket for her and her three Indian friends. But as no flights were available through the normal route, we tapped an agent in the UK to book tickets from [the capital] Kyiv.” Isha says the journey back home was worse than a nightmare. To return to Delhi, she first took a 10-hour ride on a rickety bus from Chernivtsi to Kyiv. “But all flights kept getting cancelled so we were stranded at the airport for hours,” she recounted, adding that at some point they were told they could fly back to India via Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates but needed to procure a transit visa first. The four youngsters eventually got on a direct flight to India . On Sunday, India’s embassy in Kyiv issued a statement urging all Indian nationals, including those studying in Ukraine, to leave temporarily amid uncertainties. It added that Indian embassy officials and their families were also being evacuated from Kyiv. Air India, several days earlier, confirmed it would increase commercial flights between Kyiv and New Delhi, and offer three flights on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday but the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said this was not an “evacuation” plan. Biden agrees ‘in principle’ to Ukraine summit with Russia’s Putin There are an estimated 20,000 Indian students mostly pursuing degrees in engineering and medicine in Ukraine’s 15 or so universities. Ukraine has been a popular destination for Indians to study medicine, dentistry and nursing for over three decades. The cost of programmes are attractive. For a six-year MBBS course, for instance, Indians pay around US$35,000 in Ukraine, while in India the same course would cost them at least four times the amount. About 24 per cent of international students in Ukraine are from India. An Indian student in Ukraine who spoke to This Week in Asia on the phone said he was torn about whether to go home. Flight prices have skyrocketed to US$3,000 for a one-way ticket to Delhi from Kyiv, six times more than the US$500 it used to cost. “My parents invested their lives’ savings of about US$32,000 in my medical education. I can’t just up and leave. I’d rather wait and watch as I’m hopeful the situation will improve. My career is ruined if I am unable to return after leaving,” said the student, requesting that his name not be used for privacy reasons. Mohammad Iqbal, 21, a second year dentistry student at the Bukovinian State Medical University in Chernivtsi, said he booked his return flight to India through Bees Airline, a low-cost Ukrainian carrier but the flight was cancelled and he was struggling to get a refund. Australian mum stuck in Ukraine after son tests positive for Covid Amid petitions from parents and pressure from lawmakers, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has lifted restrictions on the number of flights between India and Ukraine under the bilateral air bubble arrangement. But some parents said the available tickets for the additional Air India flights were not enough and had been sold out within minutes. Tejaswita Maurya, whose brother Ashutosh, a medical student, is stranded in Ivanov, a city in western Ukraine, says that apart from flight hassles, the Indian students are undergoing other hardships as well. “There are no doctors available to attend to sick students and inflation has skyrocketed. It’s becoming increasingly untenable for students to survive on current budgets.” Most students say the worst part about being stuck in Ukraine is the lack of authentic information about the rapidly developing situation. “Because the Ukraine media is government-controlled, all the updates we’re getting about the crisis are from second-hand sources. Our parents are the only ones sharing information gleaned from Indian newspapers and TV, ” said Zeehsan Iqbal, 24, who is in his third year of an MBBS course at the Odessa National Medical University. All we want, he adds, is “transparency” so that students can prepare for the future. “It’s a matter of life and death for us,” he said.