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Separated by War, African Family Reunites in Triad

12:23 PM, Nov 6, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- After five years of searching, and thousands of miles, a mother, father and six children are together again.

To make this miracle happen, several agencies from multiple states, countries and even continents had to work together. Now, that family, from a small village in the Central African Republic, is happily reunited in the Triad.

"This is going to be a magical day for me and I will never forget this day, ever in my life," said 14-year-old Elsa Kotagonda. This is the first time Elsa will see her father and her twin brother in five years.

In 2008, an attack on their African village split them apart. Honorine Ningatoloum and four of her children ran in one direction. Her husband and three fled in another.

Honorine and her children came to Greensboro as refugees. It took years, but several Triad groups were able to track down their missing family members. On Tuesday, all that hard work paid off when their father and brother flew from Africa to the Piedmont Triad.

"Everybody's smiling and laughing so it's a happy moment," said Elsa. A reunion of eight family members, including mother and son, and husband and wife.

The local Red Cross chapter played a big role in bringing them together.

"It's kind of like Christmas, New Years, my 21st birthday, Thanksgiving, everything all rolled into one," said Rosemary Spezzo, who works for Red Cross International Services but is based here in the Triad.

Now, the family is looking forward to a sense of normalcy and acclimating to their new home, as one unit. "Spend time, talk about stuff, eat dinner, have a family moment," said Elsa.

A crude, hand-drawn map is where it all started. Honorine drew it for local Red Cross workers to show where she lived in Africa. This illustration played a part in helping track down her missing family members.

The family is still attempting to reunite with their seventh child. She's married with two kids. The family knows where she is in Africa. Now, they're working on bringing her to the Triad as well.


WFMY News 2

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