From Ukraine to Lebanon, the uncertain future of Lebanese students who fled the war

Crystal crafts and colored glass trinkets from Ukraine decorate the Ramadan family’s dining room in Hadath, a suburb of Beirut. Following in the footsteps of her parents, who studied medicine there during the USSR, Fatima, 23, and Mohamed, 21, studied in eastern Ukraine. Since the Russian offensive, its course has been violently reversed.

Fatima was specializing in oral surgery, in Dnipro, far from the economic and social collapse in Lebanon that had upset her, during a visit last summer. In February the war that breaks out in Ukraine appears for the first time “distant”. But the noise of “rocket fire”, in early March, awakens her from her sleep. Exit becomes inevitable.

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Without the help of the Lebanese authorities, he sets off, with his brother and young compatriots, towards Lviv, the great city in the west of the country. “We feel in danger. We saw strikes, we had to change the route”, she describes. Thousands of kilometers away, her parents, dying of anguish, await the message that will tell them that Fatima and Mohamed have arrived in Romania.

Fatima, 23, is a dental student specializing in oral surgery.  She brought to Beirut some souvenirs from the Ukraine.  April 5, 2022.

More affordable studies than in Lebanon

More than 1,000 Lebanese students were educated in Ukraine before the war. Since then, most have fled the country. This popular destination for young Arabs dates back to the Cold War, when education was a tool of influence for the USSR. More recently, Ukraine offered, with an English course, which costs about 5,000 dollars a year, the possibility of more affordable studies than in Lebanon: quality private faculties there are expensive and, in the public university, places are limited.

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“Most of the Lebanese in Ukraine are in medicine, dentistry or engineering. When sending their son abroad, parents want him to return with a diploma that will guarantee him a future., specifies Wissam Charafeddine, professor of mathematics at the university, joined Lviv. The teacher, who made his life in Ukraine, facilitated the evacuation of students to Poland.

The Ramadan family paid for the return tickets themselves. After the relief of the reunion, uncertainty settled in. Since the end of March, Mohamed, a young colossus in his third year of medicine, has been taking online courses. His Ukrainian teachers give them “from home or shelter”. This does not allay the concern of losing one or more years. The Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon is trying to reassure about the possible return when the war ends.

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