Train civilians, feed troops: when the Indians return, their teachers embark on the war effort

Until about two weeks ago, Natalia Kalyniuk was studying forensic medicine and medical law at the National Medical University in Ternopil, western Ukraine. Now the 37-year-old associate professor makes camouflage netting for the Ukrainian army and helps organize medical supplies and food for civilians and troops in the war zone.

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“How can we see our house destroyed and do nothing? she asks.

With the Russian invasion forcing the return of thousands of Indian students, their teachers in Ukraine, including those in relatively less affected western cities like Ternopil and Lviv, threw themselves into the war effort.

Teachers organizing army logistics at TNMU.

They organize and deliver medicines to war zones, cook for soldiers and civilians, and conduct free online and offline medical assistance courses for citizens. Some even enlisted in the army.

Kalyniuk is part of the latter group, reporting daily to her military unit with her lawyer husband Bodgan Kalyniuk – who is learning to fire anti-tank missiles.

“I joined voluntarily. I leave my children, aged 10 and 5, at home with my mother and I participate,” she says, before referring to the WhatsApp messages she receives every day from her students – Indians and others – who inquire about his well-being.

“My job includes organizing and delivering supplies, such as medical supplies, food, camouflage netting and more, based on the needs of soldiers and civilians who are in bunkers in areas of war. Many women have left Ukraine for neighboring countries. I cannot leave my husband nor my friends and colleagues who are defending our land,” Kalyniuk told The Indian Express.

With martial law imposed in Ukraine, most universities have declared holidays for students – there is uncertainty about when classes will resume. In the meantime, they have turned into support centers for the army. In addition to providing logistical assistance, the medical school also works in hospitals and military camps to treat injured soldiers and civilians.

Nakonechna Sofia, Associate Professor in TNMU’s Department of Physiology, says, “Professors in clinical departments are primarily doctors who help treat soldiers. Faculty in academic departments, like mine, mainly deal with administrative work such as sorting and packing medicine, cooking food, and so on. I know at least four of my college colleagues who joined the military. She says her additional degree in clinical pharmacy now helps her sort out drugs for the military.

Teachers prepare food for the troops at the Ternopil National Medical University.

“We also collect khaki-colored fabrics to weave camouflage nets for our soldiers. The university cafe is now a cooking center where dumplings called ‘varenyky’ and other traditional foods that can be stored longer are prepared for the soldiers every day,” another teacher said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Behind these efforts by all teachers is a sense of collective will to do their part in a brutal invasion that has taken a heavy human toll.

According to Olena Pokryshko, an assistant professor at TMNU who teaches microbiology, virology and immunology: “The worst thing that can happen during a war is not death, but if you cannot help someone in need . Some qualified doctors from our university teach civilians how to control bleeding, help an injured person, etc.

Pokryshko, who is of part Russian descent, adds that these lessons are also posted online.

At Danylo Halytsky National Medical University in Lviv, faculty members also offer a free daily course on emergency medical assistance. Consulting services are also offered.

Mariana Kurban, Associate Professor, Preparatory Department of Internal Medicine, adds, “We organize humanitarian supplies such as medicine and clothing from European countries. Women prepare meals for the army and the refugees. We provide relief materials in Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Pokryshko and Kalyniuk say they have opened their homes to civilians from eastern cities such as Kharkiv and Kiev. “I don’t remember how many people from Kyiv have lived in my house and another apartment in recent days. Their homes were destroyed by the Russians and they are now homeless,” says Kalyniuk.

Pokryshko says, “We’re all in this together now. We are waiting for normality – and the return of our international students. »

Professors of medicine providing free first aid and emergency response courses for everyone.

Universities also help register “city patrol volunteers” who can help guard cities in crucial locations. Lists of professors and employees willing to donate blood for the army were also prepared to deal with emergencies.

At Ternopil University, cardiologist Dr Nadia Yarema guides people online on how patients with cardiovascular disease should be cared for in times of war.

Help also arrives from foreign students. Pokryshko says these students are fundraising at home and trying to send medicine and other supplies.

“My former Iraqi students contacted me to tell me that they had raised $11,000. I sent them a list of medical supplies, and they will send them via Turkey. Our students from Poland and India also help us a lot. One of our Indian students played the Ukrainian anthem on the harmonium and sent us a video, which we posted on our social media platforms. Some didn’t even want to go back to their country but went because their parents were worried,” she says.

About 1,700 Indian students are admitted to Ternopil National Medical University and nearly a thousand to Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University.

Pokryshko remembers trying to help runaway students and the difficulties they faced.

“I made an Instagram story to find all those students who were stuck in Kyiv and then we coordinated on several WhatsApp groups to help our Indian students reach the Embassy safely. During the days when the students were stuck at the borders, they kept calling me and I nearly lost my voice. They weren’t prepared for the difficulties they were facing. They were fighting, crying, cold in the open air – and I didn’t I didn’t sleep until they were safe,” she said.

For these teachers, the resistance continues day after day, underlined by hope.

Kalyniuk says, “We will protect our people, we will rebuild everything. And I hope that in the near future I will start traveling again with my Indian students to the beautiful places of our country.


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