‘I have more freedom here’

2014-12-14 15:00

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“To grow up here means great freedom. I have more freedom here than in Pretoria. In South Africa, I was afraid – even paranoid – about crime. “Here I ride my bike alone in the streets and visit my friends – have done since I was 13.”

This is what Jean-Pierre Groenewald (17) – who was shot dead with his father Werner (46) and sister Rodé (15) in Afghanistan two weeks ago – wrote in his last blog about his home in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“The only threat here is bombs and stuff like that. No big deal, right?

“Actually, it is important, but because I grew up with it, we are not much troubled by such threats.

“This is thanks to my father, who never worried about security advisers’ warnings to lock everyone up whenever there was an attack. If you’re afraid, you will die every time you go out. There’s no sense in staying here. “I want to stay here. This is where my friends are. This is where my heart is – it’s as simple as that.”

Jean-Pierre and his sister were shot in his bedroom shortly after the same two Taliban attackers killed his father with three shots fired at point-blank range.

On Friday, Hannalie Groenewald bade her husband and children farewell at a memorial service in Pretoria. A doctor, she helped

embalm their bodies.

“It was only their bodies. I knew where their souls were,” she said.

Their home and all their belongings and pets were burnt in the attack. “Only the room where my children were shot was intact. It was a miracle because in the rest of the house there was nothing,” she said.

Indications are that the Taliban might have infiltrated the NGO for which Werner and Hannalie worked, and that the attack was

carefully planned. Hannalie was usually at home on Saturdays. But on that particular Saturday, she was on call and working.

“JP would have gone to university in Washington next year to study aviation technology.

“He always wanted to fly. And whenever he got a chance, he was out flying with the crew of a local aviation company in Kabul,” Hannalie said. “His dream was to come back to Afghanistan as a pilot one day and fly with them.

“Rodé did not yet know what she wanted to do. She liked to crochet, and she taught

everyone who wanted to learn – especially since the women in Afghanistan are more around the house than outside. She had a wonderful talent for writing stories and wrote a lot. Unfortunately, she never finished them.”

The children were schooled online. Hannalie and Werner both helped to teach them. Both children were fluent in English, Afrikaans and Dari, a local language.

JP called his blog Life as a TCK, or “third culture kid”.

In a post written at the end of October, he wrote how the family had returned to Kabul from a visit to China. “After we took off from Delhi towards Kabul, an incredible sense of relief came over me.

“I was on my way home – over the mountains with their snow-clad peaks.”

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