Sunday 25 February 2018

Tears of joy as family ripped apart by war are reunited in happy twist of fate

Benz in Clonakilty, Cork with Rose and his daughter Kinya and the son he never knew he had, four-month-old Israel.
Benz in Clonakilty, Cork with Rose and his daughter Kinya and the son he never knew he had, four-month-old Israel.
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A HARROWING tale of a family torn apart by war has ended in pure joy.

A father separated from his wife during the brutal Congolese civil war has been reunited with her in Ireland, and met the little boy he didn't even realise had been born.

Benz Tshiania and his wife Rose lost contact in early 2013 – and both feared that the other had been killed.

Rose and her baby daughter, Kiniya, were brought to safety in Ireland by the Red Cross.

Rose was provided with accommodation in Clonakilty in west Cork and, a few months later, gave birth to her son Israel in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

In an extraordinary twist, Benz also managed to find safety and also made his way to Ireland.

One of the few personal possessions Benz was able to save from his Congo home was his wedding photo.

He was housed in Limerick – oblivious to the fact he was just 150km from the wife he thought had been killed in Africa.

The breakthrough came when the Red Cross put the details of both families into their Restoring Family Links (RFL) programme, which cross-references refugee details across all aid agencies operating in the region. RFL services help members of separated families to exchange news and track each others' whereabouts.

Red Cross officials were astounded in June to discover that both husband and wife were safe and well – and that both were already in Ireland. Benz hadn't realised that Rose was pregnant when they became separated – and he cried tears of joy as he was reunited not only with his wife and little girl but with the infant son he didn't realise he had.

Red Cross officials, west Cork locals and the Congolese couple openly wept when they were reunited at The Lodge in Clonakilty.

"I cried every day and every night. It was very hard being away from your wife and family," Benz said.

"It was a dream come true for me to get them back – I am so happy and so thankful.

"I have a son and he is such a good boy. My heart is full of thanks."

Rose said she had dreaded the future without her husband. "I am so happy, I can sing, I can dance. It was a great day," she said.

"But I was afraid for the future. How would I raise my children on my own? What would the future have for us. But we are a family again. I don't know how to thank Irish people and the Red Cross."

The Congolese father of two had been unable to eat from the time he discovered his wife was alive and finally being reunited with her.

Red Cross volunteer Lar McCarthy, who brought Benz from Limerick to meet his wife in west Cork, said it was a truly heartwarming moment to see them reunited.

"They were happy just to be safe in each other's arms again," a Red Cross official said.

Throughout the trip from Limerick to west Cork, Benz clutched his wedding photo close to his heart.

Irish Independent

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