South African students return home from invaded Ukraine
Vuhlari Mtonga, a medical student, one of South African students who were studying in Ukraine, is embraced by her sister, Mikateko Mtonga after arriving from the country invaded by Russia, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 10/2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

There were only tears of joy and relief this morning at OR Tambo International Airport in Joburg, South Africa, as ten students who had been studying in Ukraine, were safely returned home after being evacuated thanks to a partnership between DIRCO and Aspen Pharmacies.

South African students return home from invaded Ukraine
Vuhlari Mtonga, a medical student, one of South African students who were studying in Ukraine, is welcomed by her sister, Mikateko Mtonga after arriving from the country invaded by Russia, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 10/2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Medical student Vuhlari Mtonga, was just one of the South Africans reunited with her family today. In pictures here Vuhlari’s sister, Mikateko Mtonga, can be seen welcoming her… after Ukraine was invaded by Russia.

Aspen Pharmacare, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company, has partnered with the South African Department of International Relations and Corporation (DIRCO) to assist in the emergency evacuation of South African students who have been studying at various Universities in the Ukraine.

These students, many of whom have limited resources, were forced to flee Ukraine into neighbouring countries in the wake of the raging armed conflict, DIRCO and Aspen said in a join statement on Thursday.


The Students and other nationals crossed into neighbouring countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Most didn’t have the means to return home.

After learning of the plight of these students, Aspen Pharmacare joined forces with DIRCO to expedite both the travel arrangements and funding required to assist with their safe return to South Africa.

The first Groupof 10 Students arrived in Johannesburg this morning, 10 March 2022, on an Air France Flight.

Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Group Senior Executive Strategic Trade, said, “The Ukraine conflict has created a significant Humanitarian Crisis, from which a number of South African students studying abroad in the Ukraine have been severely impacted. After the weekend appeal to our Government and Corporate South Africa from many of these Students, Aspen who, has a presence in Ukraine and neighbouring territories decided join forces with South African Government to ensure the timeous and safe return of these Students to their home Country, so that they can be united with their loved ones.

“Our students are our future, and it is important that the Spirit of Ubuntu prevailed and that together with our Government, we were able to move swiftly to ensure their safe and timely return. We hope that they will be able to resume their studies in the not-toodistant future. Aspen is particularly privileged to have played a role at this time where we are witnessing a Global Humanitarian Crisis unfold before our eyes.

“We expect 23 of the 25 Student’s to be safely home by the weekend and remaining 2 to return during next week”.

South African students return home from invaded Ukraine
Vuhlari Mtonga, a medical student, one of South African students who were studying in Ukraine, is welcomed by her sister, Mikateko Mtonga after arriving from the country invaded by Russia, at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 10/2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Clayson Monyela, Deputy Director General DIRCO said, “We would like to thank Aspen Pharmacare for heeding the call of our government to partner with us and bring our citizens back home. We also want to extend a word of gratitude to all our Ambassadors, team of diplomats and South African volunteers (at home and abroad) who played a role in this project. This is the diplomacy of Ubuntu in practice”.