Congo couple each believed other had died in civil war... but they were living 150km apart in Ireland
AN AFRICAN father separated from his wife during the brutal Congolese civil war was emotionally reunited with her in Ireland and the infant son he didn't even realise he had.
Benz Tshiania and his wife, Rose, became separated in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in early 2013.
Such was the violence in the region that each presumed the other had been killed by one of the warring factions.
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).
Incredibly, Benz also managed to find safety in Ireland. He was housed in Limerick - oblivious to the fact he was just 150km from the wife he feared had been killed in Africa.
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 are designed to enable members of separated families to exchange news and to rediscover their whereabouts.
The service is coordinated from the charity's Dublin office with 14 volunteers around the country.
Red Cross RFL 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 wept as he was reunited, not only with his wife and little girl, but with the infant son he didn't realise he had.
"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 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.
"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."
Red Cross officials, west Cork locals and the Congolese couple openly wept when they were reunited at The Lodge in Clonakilty.
The couple fell into each others arms and sobbed, refusing to separate for 30 minutes.
"They were happy just to be safe in each other's arms again," one Red Cross official said.