KISUMU: Kristyna Mrazcova had not been born when her grandfather left Prague University of Agriculture in the Slovak Republic (formerly Czechlovakia). And until her visit last week, she had not met most of her Kenya-based family members.
So it was tears of joy and celebrations as the family of 73-year-old Paul Richard Oudia Okello in Nyangera village, Usenge sub-location in Siaya County met one of their progeny born 30 years ago in Prague.
Fifty-two-year-old Peter Gwengi, Kristyna’s step-grandfather, termed the reunion a miracle.
According to Kristyna’s grandfather Oudia Okello, a retired agricultural Officer, the bonding was great. He spent hours holding hands with Kristyna, hugging and weeping tears of joy without uttering a word.
“This was one of the happiest moments in my life and to our entire family,” says Okello, adding that it was long overdue following Kristyna’s mother’s similar visit eight years ago.
It all began around 2003 when Kristyna and her brother Ondrej kept asking their mother Andrea why they looked different from their compatriots.
“We were curious about our colour and that’s when we asked our mother to try finding our grandfather after she had advised us that our grandfather is from Africa,” says Kristyna, adding that their mother had kept silent about the issue for a long time.
After too much pressure, Kristyna's mother decided to visit the hospital where she was born in Prague, armed with a copy of her birth certificate in search of her biological father. The birth certificate bore the details of Andrea’s father as Paul Richard Oudia Okello of Prague University.
From the hospital, their mother then visited Prague University from where she obtained more details about her father’s origin.
“My mother’s main fear was if her dad was still alive and whether he could accept her as his daughter,” she recalls.
In response to Andrea’s request, Prague University of Agriculture, where Oudia Okello studied in the 1960s shared his details and his contact address in Kenya, which Andrea later forwarded to International Red Cross Crescent, Geneva, which in turn linked up with Kenya Red Cross Society, Nairobi.
The Society successfully traced Oudia Okello to his rural home in Bondo sub-county, where he was managing an agrovet store after retirement from public service.
Okello, a father of eight, recalls that the Kenya Red Cross through its head office in Nairobi paid for Andrea’s maiden trip to Kenya in April/May 2007 to meet him and the extended family.
“I went to Czechoslovakia in 1962 through an airlift for studies before I met Andrea’s mother in 1965. I thereafter left for West Germany when Andrea was only three years old and it’s here that we lost contact with the mother until 36 years later when we reunited, courtesy of Red Cross Society,” said Oudia Okello.
In this connection, the father expresses gratitude to Dr Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross Society for the critical help.
“I happened to be a keynote speaker during an international conference organised by the International Red Cross Crescent in conjunction with Kenya Red Cross Society in Nairobi in the course of 2005/2006 and I used the occasion to narrate Andrea’s story, on a nameless basis, as an illustration of the excellent work which the two organisations were playing to reunite separated families in non-war situations. The illustration generated a lot of excitement in the conference,” said Francis Okello, Oudia’s younger brother.
On Monday, the jovial Kristyna, who was visiting Kenya for the second time, spoke to The Standard at her ancestral home. Her eyes filled with tears of joy as was her fiancé's George.
“I feel great to be home and it has been a nice experience meeting my larger family in Kenya. I am meeting my family here in Kenya and feeling like staying with them forever,” said Kristyna, who speaks a little Kiswahili and English.
She says her visit to the village has taught her about the country's history and family values.
According to Oudia Okello’s last-born, Jaramogi Okello, they have been communicating with Kristyna and her mother Andrea on phone but they have never met.
“It was really good to meet my niece after many years of communicating on social media,” said Jaramogi.
Kristyna’s first visit to Kenya was in January 2010 when she had accompanied a colleague on a business trip and she therefore met only a few members of the family who are based in Nairobi.
“During this visit, my fiancé and I flew to Tanzania, where we visited Dar-es-Salam, Arusha, and Zanzibar before flying to Kenya. We also enjoyed a road trip to our village in Nyangera from Nairobi using a matatu,” she narrates to The Standard.
They also enjoyed visiting Got-Ramogi, which has a cultural significance to their Luo family in Kenya.
“Other than visiting some of the historical sites in the county, we also enjoyed the traditional set-up, meals and we also interacted with a lot of people,” says George, adding that they are going to reciprocate by sponsoring family members to visit them in Europe.
The peak of their visit was on Tuesday when Andrea’s Kenya-based family, Kristyna and George, celebrated her Jubilee birthday through Skype.
“It was a big surprise for my mother and she has promised to come to Kenya in the next two months,” said Kristyna.