By Jackie Keogh, The Southern Star
A couple that believed the other had died during conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013 had a dramatic reunion in Clonakilty recently.
Members of Clonakilty Red Cross travelled to Limerick to bring Benz Tshiania to Clonakilty where he was reunited with his wife Rose, his daughter Kiniya, and Israel the four-month-old son he didn’t know existed.
Unknown to her, Rose was three weeks pregnant when the couple were separated as a result of the unrest in their country, and within a month Rose had made it to Dublin with her daughter.
Rose – who was subsequently relocated to The Lodge in Clonakilty – believed her husband had been killed and, like him, had spent a long time grieving for his loss, the loss of their life together, and the loss of a father for both Kiniya and Israel.
Benz, in the meantime, came to Ireland a number of months later, and was located at another Direct Provision Centre in Limerick. It was, however, only a few short weeks ago that he learned of the existence of the Red Cross tracing, messaging and family reunification service, Restoring Family Links, and he immediately got in touch with the Dublin office, which, in turn, enlisted the help of its national network of volunteers in the search for his wife.
Lar McCarthy, who is a volunteer with Clonakilty Red Cross, said he had the pleasure of being able to tell Rose that her husband was, in fact, alive and living about a hundred miles away. He said: ‘She cried for ages.’
Two weeks ago, Lar and another volunteer, Pat O’Connor, drove to Limerick to collect Benz.
Lar said they arrived at 7am to find that Benz had been waiting outside the hotel since 4am with just three possessions: a small packed suitcase, a wedding photograph (his only surviving memento of his life with Rose), and a bunch of flowers.
The assistant manager at The Lodge, Marian O’Regan, was on hand at the front door to formally welcome Benz to his new home – a family room – at the centre.
And in a scene worthy of any good movie, Benz formally knocked at the door to his new home, Rose opened it, and they jumped into each other’s arms, slumped to the floor, and cried for a very long time. It was Benz’s first time meeting his son, Israel.
Lar McCarthy said: ‘The reunion was unbelievable, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out so well. Sometimes we have to go back to people with bad news. But thankfully, that is not the case here. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending.’
This article originally appeared in the Southern Star newspaper