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Bristol graduate’s pursuit to help his war-torn homeland: the remarkable story of Tomas Tokovyi

By Milan Perera, News Reporter

Epigram spoke to the Biochemistry student who graduated top of his class while campaigning for the Ukrainian war effort.

In his final year at the University of Bristol, Tomas’ whole world turned upside down when war broke out after Russia invaded Ukraine. He was frequently on the phone to his family overseas, sometimes every couple of hours to check on their wellbeing.

Despite this, Tomas passed his final exams with flying colours, coming top of his class as one of 120 students to receive his bachelor’s degree with First Class Honours.

Born in Ramat Gan in Israel to Ukrainian-born parents, he moved to Bila Tserkva in Ukraine at the age of three. As a promising student, Tokovyi displayed academic excellence in variety of subjects including languages. He is fluent in Ukrainian, Russian and English and can converse in Hebrew and French to an advanced level.

His life was changed irrevocably when he won the highly coveted HMC Scholarship to pursue his higher education in England at Pangbourne College. After obtaining three straight As in his A Levels, Tomas was never in doubt about where he wanted to go to university.

When Epigram asked Tokovyi on why he opted to come to Bristol, his answer was simple and unassailable:

'The University of Bristol has built up a reputation for biochemistry over the years and it’s second to none. And on top of that Bristol is a vibrant city with an amazing cultural scene and there is never a dull moment. The people are friendly and engaging and I loved my time in Bristol.'

Tomas immersed himself in biochemistry both on and off the academic calendar, completing internships over Summer to gain further experience. Currently, he has completed three biomedical research internships at Bristol, one in Norwich, one back at home in Ukraine, and one at Oxford where he worked for a biotech company.

Tokovyi also worked with his father in Israel. In short, he has research experience in three different countries under his belt which he believes an immense asset for his future work.

Tomas raising awareness of the conflict in Senate House

In February 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought his time in Bristol to an abrupt halt. While preparing for his final exams, Tomas took part in many events to raise awareness on and off campus about what is happening in Ukraine, most notably an event held at the Student Union which 200 people attended.

He built bonds with the Ukrainian community in Bristol and participated in the protest at the College Green in March 2022, proudly carrying the Ukrainian flag. Tokovyi was also instrumental in organising fundraising campaigns to bolster immediate humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine.

During this period, he missed some important lectures and practical sessions, however Tomas has openly acknowledged the unwavering support both academic and non-academic staff at the university provided.

As a result of his achievement in his course, he was awarded the prestigious Clarendon Scholarship to complete a master’s at the Oxford University in genomic medicine.

When asked of his future ambitions upon completion of studies, Tokovyi was full of optimism. His vision is to build a strong biotech and entrepreneurial culture in Ukraine which would enormously benefit both Ukraine and the wider world in pursuit of cutting-edge resistance to diseases.