Two South Africans choose to stay in Ukraine as others flee
Pastor refuses to leave orphans in her care behind
Two brave South Africans have opted to remain in under-siege Ukraine and lend a helping hand to the battered citizens of the Eastern European country. This was revealed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation acting director-general and head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela.
Monyela, in an interview with Sunday World, said only two South Africans had decided to remain in Ukraine of their own volition. This includes a pastor who runs an orphanage, who told the diplomats she could not leave the children behind. An elderly man also refused to come back, saying he had developed a strong bond with his four dogs.
In total there were 78 South Africans in Ukraine and the list comprised 34 students who were rescued from the conflict zone and had taken refuge in neighbouring countries.
Monyela said the situation was complex and filled with trauma and emotions.
“This was a very difficult project to pull off. Because this was a country experiencing an armed conflict the normal services that you would get access to were no longer available.
This includes hiring a car to move around. A Whatsapp group was created where South African citizens shared information,” explained Monyela.
He said terrified South Africans were advised to move towards the borders with Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova.
“We then encountered another obstacle. Africans were targeted and racially profiled and some of them were prevented from buying train tickets,” he said.
He added that some people had walked long distances to get to places of safety. “Even when they got to the borders, they were put in separate lines and pushed back and not prioritised for assistance. We protested when the report came to our attention.”
The department had also activated SA ambassadors in neighbouring countries to facilitate the movement of South Africans to safe countries.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that SA had been requested to mediate in peace talks between Ukraine and Russia.
This follows hot on the heels of the decision by the state to abstain from a UN vote calling for Russia to be chastised for stoking tensions in Ukraine.
The governing party is known to have a soft spot for Russia, dating back to the former Soviet Union’s military training support during the fight against apartheid.
Africans were targeted and some prevented from buying train tickets