News - Ons Mense
Monday, 12 December 2016 15:36
Untitled Document

For 50 years Anette Whittle had wondered about the fate of the Angolan orphans she got to know in South West Africa. That is until a Tierpoort Seniors meeting when Dieter Laubinger told her his story.

“At the recent seniors meeting, I met Dieter who was seated at the same table as I was,” writes Anette. “I soon learnt that he had grown up in the former South West Africa. Because I had lived in Windhoek in the 1970s, we began to reminisce about the old days. I had taught at St Paul’s College, a private Catholic boys’ school in Klein Windhoek.

“Rumours of random killings and the burning of farmsteads in neighbouring Angola began to circulate in Windhoek. I was woken one night by urgent knocking on my door. Brother Helmeningildus from the nearby Catholic school calmly announced that Angola is burning.  He added that he urgently needed willing hands and open hearts.

“He explained that the first convoy of trucks, loaded with household goods, furniture and some livestock had arrived at the school during the night. The refugees had begged the priests and brothers for help. They had fled Angola with what they could salvage.

“The refugees handed over some lost children, whom they had picked up at various places en route. These children were wandering aimlessly along the road in a traumatised state. They reported that some school children were still trapped in far-flung boarding schools.

“The brothers and priests soon devised a system of recording the names of the children and the times and locations at which they were found. Within hours, donated blankets and clothing were delivered. Portuguese-speaking translators arrived.

Anette Whittle and Dieter Laubinger

“Farmers in the north of the country crossed into Angola with their trucks to assist with the mass evacuation from the farms and locating the rural boarding schools. That morning we travelled to the border towns of Ondangwa and Oshakati, where bewildered children were received by the brothers and volunteers, and were taken to St Pauls in Windhoek.

“During the next few days more convoys arrived from Angola. More children were received and taken to the Catholic school in Windhoek. Tears of joy flowed when each batch of new adult arrivals were united with their lost children. I recall one little boy who received the news from his neighbours that his entire family had been killed, but he refused to leave with them before his dog was also rescued.

“One day the remaining children were suddenly taken away by a charity organisation. The school was strangely empty. I never heard what happened to the children. No one knew for certain where they had gone.

After 50 years Dieter Laubinger could give Anette the answer: “It was such an experience for me to hear Anette’s story and that I was able to tell her what had happened to the children she had wondered about all of these years.”

“I was a senior flight attendant with SAA during the 1970s and routinely flew the Luanda-Lisbon route. We were at first sent to Luanda to collect some of the people trying to escape from Angola, some of whom were forced to leave everything they had worked for in order to save their lives.

“After that we were tasked to collect the orphaned refugees. Many of them were sick with fevers and all of them were very hungry; they kept asking for more food.

“When we arrived in Lisbon it was pouring with rain and it was the saddest sight for me to see the children herded into a fenced-off area. We gave them all of the blankets we had on board, trying to ease their distress.

“Thanks to the brothers and priest of the St Pauls Catholic School, we were able to hand over details of the children: names, ages, orphan status and possible living relatives.

“About three months later on another trip to Lisbon we made enquiries as to what had become of those children and it was such a relief to hear that they had been taken in by families in Lisbon and some were sent to surviving relatives; many to family members in Mozambique.