A Bittersweet Homecoming (Local Story)

source : Swellengram

The last few days have been something of a roller-coaster of emotions as Bianca / Louisa / Drieka / Henrietta was finally brought home to her family  – only made possible by the generosity and open hearts of both Swellendammers and even Gram readers from as far away as the UK.

I would love to be able to tell you her full story – but it is very shrouded in mystery. 

Bianca, as she prefers to be called now, had her 60th birthday last week. She is feisty, funny,  grateful, a real character!  She has been through such a lot – not only has she been trapped in an abusive relationship for years, she has been knocked over by a car – twice!  She has visible facial wounds and has mobility problems which means she looks quite drunk when she walks. She seems confused some of the time and cycles through vastly different emotions at a rapid rate. 

I was privileged to witness her return to the family, who she had not seen for over 37 years,  we have all being trying to piece together her story from when she left home in 1983 – but we can only pick it up in 1993 when she arrived in Jo’burg.  Tembi and Reuben brought her back on Saturday (- travelling from Joburg by bus paid for by the funds raised.)

Stopping for Breakfast at 4 Cousins
L to R Tembi, Bianca, Reuben and Graham
The family wait anxiously to greet her

She had been staying in Jo’burg with a family member of Tembi. who over the years had become so abusive that she was in dire need of saving, Reuben and Tembi were in fear for her life – but it was only when she recently built up some trust with Reuben that she told them she came from Swellendam. Determined to rescue her, Reuben started to research Swellendam and came across Swellengram on Facebook.  A couple of Whatsapps, a phone call and some stunning detective work from Graham, and her family was found.The money raised has gone to: 

Bus fares from Jo’burg, money for clothes for her and food for the journey, 6 sessions of family therapy, balloons, banners and braai meat for her and the family welcome reception, and some meals for Tembi and Reuben during their stay. 

We are particularly indebted to the owners of Marula Lodge, Umshanti and Schoone Oordt who are accommodating Reuben and Tembi at no cost. 

There is a long road ahead for this family – Bianca is learning now about family members who have passed away and is meeting her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.  If I get permission from her and the family to share some of what happened way back in 1983, but the true story is going to take a while to emerge – as even at the reunion there were conflicting stories and memories – there was a lot of emotion, sadness, anger, happiness, confusion .. it was exhausting just to be an observer, so goodness knows what it was like to be a participant.

Once again, Swellendam, thank you so much for playing your part in this story – you make me humble and proud. A special thank you to Tembi, Reuben and Graham for taking this lost human being and returning her to a place where she can lead a safe and dignified life,

Saying thank you to Tembu and Reuben
Saying thank you to Tembu and Reuben

There is a long road ahead for this family – Bianca is learning now about family members who have passed away and is meeting her nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.  If I get permission from her and the family to share some of what happened way back in 1983, but the true story is going to take a while to emerge – as even at the reunion there were conflicting stories and memories – there was a lot of emotion, sadness, anger, happiness, confusion .. it was exhausting just to be an observer, so goodness knows what it was like to be a participant.

Learning about the deaths of her parents and brother

Once again, Swellendam, thank you so much for playing your part in this story – you make me humble and proud. A special thank you to Tembi, Reuben and Graham for taking this lost human being and returning her to a place where she can lead a safe and dignified life.

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