Jyothi Laldas
3 minute read
26 Feb 2022

Pietermaritzburg medical student stuck in Ukraine wants to come back home

Jyothi Laldas

Stranded in Ukraine, a Pietermaritzburg woman says chaotic scenes of panic and desperation are all she has seen since Russia invaded the country on Thursday.

Stranded in Ukraine, a Pietermaritzburg woman says chaotic scenes of panic and desperation are all she has seen since Russia invaded the country on Thursday.

Ansuria Moodley, a medical student from Newholme, moved to Dnipro in central Ukraine in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in search of a better education and future.

Moodley spoke to Weekend Witness on Friday, amid chaos and panic at the local train station, while trying to find a train out of Ukraine.

“Many of us arrived in the midst of the pandemic, and now we are here through the start of a war.

“I, like countless others, came to Ukraine to complete my studies. For me, getting a chance to finish what I started meant more than just that. It was a chance to achieve my life dream of becoming a doctor. I am in my 6th year, now in the last semester,” she said.

Moodley, who is also the social events officer at the Dnipro Medical Institute, is in touch with seven other South Africans in her city who are all trying to leave.

She said: 

“Now there is so much tension. The roads were quiet in my city [on Thursday]. Martial law has been declared by our president here and weapons are being handed out to anyone who may need them. Airstrikes have wiped out [most] airports. We are stuck here for now. The only way out is to get to the border of either Slovakia, Poland or Hungary. For now I am prepared and ready to leave at any time.”

Her attempts to find transport out of the city were unsuccessful on Friday.

Sharing an experience from Friday afternoon, having given up at the train station, she said she went to the local corner shop that she always goes to.

“Like at home, like Mimmies Bakery in Newholme, the ladies were just sitting at the counter and no one was in the store and our eyes welled up talking about the situation and how scared we feel,” said Moodley.

She said she was lucky to be in a place where they have not experienced the direct impact of the invasion as yet, such as the bombing.

“But my friends in the [other] cities have been affected. A South African friend was trapped in the metro (underground train station) [on Thursday] … but we can’t get hold of her now.

“The situation is very real and very frightening,” she said.

Ansuria Moodley standing outside the Lviv Opera Ho
Ansuria Moodley at the Lviv Opera House in Ukraine before the Russian invasion.

Moodley said she was scared for her life but she was also trying to be strong for her friends and younger students. She said she was also worried about her future as she may not get the chance to finish her studies in Dnipro.

“People are having panic attacks and crying and becoming hysterical. I have a fighting spirit and I have faith and believe that the prayers from my wonderful family and friends will see me home,” she said.

Moodley added that she would keep on trying to get out of the country.

She said: 

“I am trying to be patient too, because now it is just chaos, people are panicking. Locals say it’s best to wait for this panic to die down.”

“I am so sad, you know. I feel so sad and worried in my heart about the people here and this country that I have come to love.

“I’m eternally grateful to this beautiful country, and its people. I have had a good life here up until now. I have felt the warmth from locals even on the coldest of days. I have experienced how sensitive and considerate they can be towards one another.

“I have also seen how they embrace their deeply rooted culture and rich heritage. The infrastructure and facilities are far better than South Africa. Transportation is so easy and affordable. We have beautiful parks in Ukraine. Overall, living here is incredibly enjoyable. Most of all I love the language,” she said.