Ivorian Ben Ahmar Koné in Ukraine: risking his life to graduate

Return to Ukraine and risk his life to graduate. This incredible story is that of the Ivorian Ben Ahmar Koné, who was part of a group of African students who fled this country more than a year ago under the bombs. A 5th year medical student at Lviv University, he ended up in Le Mans, in western France, where he was unable to continue his studies in the same field in France. So he took online courses in Ukraine, and a month ago, he made the decision to go back to validate his diploma.

Ben Ahmar Koné, a 25-year-old Ivorian, has just passed his medical degree under bombs in Lviv, Ukraine. © Personal Archives of Ben Ahmar Koné

Text by: Sylvie Koffi


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He sometimes had moments of doubt, even discouragement, but Ben Ahmar Koné did not back down. It was not easy, because his departure from Ukraine, a year and a half ago, had been a real trauma.

He and other African students left a few days after the Russian bombing began. "It was very difficult and painful," he recalls. We first took a taxi and after that it was no longer possible to continue. So, we had to walk miles and miles. Once we arrived at the Polish border, the customs officers didn't want to let us pass because of the colour of our skin, so we had to wait another three days before we could cross the border and arrive in France.


Three days in the cold, without equipment, without food or drink. Ben Ahmar Koné and his comrades were not sure they would get out of it.

On French soil, it is impossible to enrol in medical school

Ben Ahmar Koné would like to continue his studies. Ukraine is not part of the European Union. There is no academic equivalence. He is forced to change courses and will therefore start all over again. He is in 1st year of biology.

At the same time, he continues his online medical classes: "Every morning I wake up to follow the distance courses with my university in Lviv, Ukraine." And it lasts a year and a half, until the day he makes the decision to go back. This is the only way for him to validate his diploma.

He left Ukraine under the bombs and he finds it under the bombs

The student leaves in July, just for a few days. In total, it will last two weeks, while he passes his exams. "There was a night when, around 3 a.m., all the students in the university residence had to take shelter because of the shelling. I was scared, but I only had one goal in mind," he says.

It was worth it, because Ben Ahmar Koné finally passed his exams. "I'm proud," he says, "that I made my parents proud. I left Ivory Coast with a dream and I just realized it, I graduated. Even if he is still struggling to realize what he has done.

What is the future for the young doctor Ben Ahmar Koné?

In France, his Ukrainian diploma did not allow him to practice. Ben Ahmar Koné does not mind. He would like to specialize in cardiology. Practising in another country... But for now, he works in a clothing store near Le Mans.

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Read on on the same topics:

  • Africa
  • Ukraine
  • Ivory Coast
  • France