MY STORY | How my fiancé and I survived long-distance love under lockdown

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Chantelle Goliath with her daughter, Nicole, and her fiancé, Thomas Erk. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Chantelle Goliath with her daughter, Nicole, and her fiancé, Thomas Erk. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Chantelle Goliath, a clothing entrepreneur from Table View in Cape Town, had big plans for a new life with her German fiancé, Thomas Erk.

But because of Covid, Chantelle (36) and Thomas (58) were forced to postpone the wedding they’d been dreaming of – but things are looking up for the couple now.

She shares her story.

couple, cape town
Chantelle met Thomas on Tinder when he was looking to learn English in South Africa. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“Thomas, a CEO at an engineering company, took a sabbatical in 2019 and his plan was to travel the world. We met in January 2020 when I responded to a social media post on Tinder. He was in Cape Town looking for people to teach him English and we chatted for a bit.

We hit it off when we met up and he invited my daughter, Nicole, who’s 17, and I on holiday in February. We decided to start a relationship but in March he went back home to celebrate his birthday.

When lockdown was announced later that month, he rushed back to South Africa so we could be together as a family. In April his mother passed away, so he had to leave again.

Last May, Thomas proposed to me from Germany. He was meant to start a new job early this year, so our plan was for Nicole and me to relocate to Germany. We cancelled Nicole’s school, said our goodbyes to our loved ones and got ready to go.

Fast forward to January 2021 and the German government imposed a travel ban on South Africa. Even though we had the necessary visas and the date had been set, we couldn’t leave for Germany.

germany ban, south africa
Chantelle and Nicole hope to soon join Thomas in Germany, (PHOTO: Supplied)

We hoped the German authorities would lift the ban in February, but it never happened. Last year we degistered my daughter from school so she had to miss out on a year and because of our education system, she will have to redo a grade once she gets to Germany.

The past few months have been tough. I became depressed but Thomas was amazing and patient. He could not enjoy summer there as he was alone with his cat, but we had to push through.

Through social media we discovered we were one of many couples going through the same thing. We got into contact with the people from Love Is Not Tourism on Facebook, a group that fights to reunite couples and families separated by Covid-19 restrictions.

We found couples and families just like ours and it was a source of support and comfort. We also found so much support as the group signed petitions and tried to advocate for bans to be lifted around the world.

family, travel
Chantelle looks forward to the day they all can share a meal together. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Thomas and I tried everything to be together again – we regularly communicated with both our governments to see if there was a way we could be reunited. In between this we also had to deal with relatives and friends passing away due to Covid-19. We supported each other virtually but it’s just not the same as comforting someone face to face.

To keep our love alive, we committed to speaking on Skype in the morning and the evening – whether we were up to it or not. We also did online marriage counselling. Thomas proposed online twice – first in May and then again in September. With the help of my daughter, he had a ring made for me. Most of our communication was online so I’m very grateful for Zoom and Skype and I appreciate my family and friends for supporting me through these last few months.

Now the ban has been lifted we can finally get our lives on track. We’ve applied for the necessary visas and have submitted documents to the German government. If everything goes according to plan, we hope to be legally married there by September.

However, my daughter turns 18 next January. If she doesn’t get a visa now they’ll consider her an adult and she will have to remain behind. This means our family will be separated and I simply cannot leave my daughter behind. She needs to go so she can attend school in September.

My plan is not to travel for leisure with my daughter. I want to be with my fiancé because we have plans for life. Nicole and Thomas are also very fond of each other, so I look forward to them laughing together.

Now I’m looking forward to no longer planning things on Skype – I just want to be able to make Thomas a nice meal while we bond as a family.

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