Doncaster doctor reveals experiences of studying in 1970s Soviet era Moscow in new book

A Doncaster doctor has revealed his experiences of 1970s Soviet era Moscow in a new book.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 1:46 pm
Dr Hari Kumar studied in 1970s Moscow.
Dr Hari Kumar studied in 1970s Moscow.

Dr Hari Kumar a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, left his Indian village for the very first time as a 17-year-old to study medicine in the USSR – not knowing a word of Russian language of Soviet culture.

Now he has drawn on his memories for the new book, A Different Degree.

During his time there, he learned fluent Russian, studied medicine, and qualified as a doctor while in Moscow from 1971-1980.

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He later returned to India, married and had children, and then made another radical move – this time to the UK – where he lives to this day with his family.

Thirty-five years later, he went back to Moscow briefly for a reunion of his medical school batch.

Winston Churchill defined Russia as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

It has always been a place intriguing academics, readers and visitors alike.

He left India to study in the USSR.

Upon reuniting with old friends and recounting their experiences, they kept returning to the same underlying question; “Was life better for the common man under Communism or in today’s capitalist Russia?”.

It is by no means a simple question, but is one that Dr Kumar was inspired to unpick within the book which is mainly about his own unique experiences as a medical student in the

USSR - like experimenting with vodka, surviving the bitter winter and falling in love with Russian culture.

Although the book is about the life of a medical student behind the iron curtain, it is written with clarity and simplicity for everyone to understand and enjoy.

Hari describes the fun of living in an international community of students and narrates his interesting trips to cities within the USSR and to London and Paris.

While feeling homesick, he remembers his joyous childhood and exciting times in boarding schools back in India.

Hari recounts cherished observations of the lives and habits of the Soviet people, their joys, frustrations and hopes.

They lived good lives without having to worry about food and shelter or even crime, despite the controls and queues, and this book is sprinkled with moments of merriment and characteristically understated Russian jokes.

A Different Degree - Memoirs of an Indo-Soviet Doctor is available now.