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

By Laura Stephan

Posted today at 1:00 PM

Crystal crafts and trinkets of colored glass from Ukraine adorn the dining room of the Ramadan family in Hadath, a suburb of Beirut. Following in the footsteps of their parents, who studied medicine there during the USSR, Fatima, 23, and Mohamed, 21, studied in eastern Ukraine. Since the Russian offensive, their course has been violently turned upside down.

Fatima specialized in oral surgery, in Dnipro, far from the economic and social collapse in Lebanon that had upset her during a visit last summer. The war that breaks out in Ukraine first appears in February “far”† But the sound of “rocket fire”, wakes her from her sleep in early March. Departure becomes inevitable.

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Without help from the Lebanese authorities, she heads for Lviv, the big city in the west of the country, together with her brother and young compatriots. “We felt in danger. We saw strikes, we had to change the route”, she describes. Thousands of kilometers away, their parents are dying of fear to hear that Fatima and Mohamed have arrived in Romania.

Fatima, 23, studies dentistry and specializes in oral surgery.  She brought some souvenirs from Ukraine to Beirut.  Apr 5, 2022.

Studies cheaper than in Lebanon

Before the war, more than 1,000 Lebanese students were educated in Ukraine. Most have since 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, with an English course costing about $5,000 a year, Ukraine offered the opportunity for more affordable studies than in Lebanon – quality private faculties are expensive there and places are limited at public universities.

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“Most Lebanese in Ukraine are in medicine, dentistry or engineering. By sending their child abroad, the parents want him to come back with a diploma that guarantees him a future., specifies Wissam Charafeddine, professor of mathematics at the university, joined in Lviv. The teacher, who earned 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 set in. Mohamed, a young colossus in his third year of medicine, has been taking online courses since the end of March. His Ukrainian teachers give them “from home or shelter”† This does not take away the concern of losing one or more years. The Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon is trying to reassure them about the possible return when the war is over.

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