People

Courage and love

Courage and love

Hannelie Groenewald had to do what for most people would be the impossible. She literally had to rise from the ashes of her burnt down house after her husband and two children were shot and killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan almost four years ago. Her book, Terreur in Kaboel (Terror in Kabul), has recently been published.

The first thing that strikes you when you meet Hannelie, a much-loved medical doctor in Hartbeespoort, is the sense of peace and love that radiates from this woman who had to pick up the pieces after the unimaginable tragedy in her life. And there weren’t many pieces to pick up. She was left with only the clothes on her back and one of the family’s beloved dogs that has escaped the terrorist attack.

Her husband Werner and her two children, Jean-Pierre (17) and daughter Rode (15) were shot and killed when Taliban soldiers invaded their home in Kabul on 29 November 2014. The house was burnt down after the attack. Werner was doing missionary work and Hannelie, a medical doctor, was working at a medical clinic in this war-torn area. She was at the clinic at the time of the start of the attack and arrived home to be a distant witness of a continued attack of bomb explosions, grenades and AK47 being fired continuously.

It is a conscious decision. One can hide away in a corner, or face life and move forward.

How did she get through this, is the first question everyone must ask.
“It is a conscious decision. One can hide away in a corner, or face life and move forward. I have a very deep faith in God and have always trusted Him implicitly. Of course it drove me crazy at first. There was a time that I struggled to pray but I was never angry at God, only overcome by grief. And because of the national and international attention I could not be quiet and grieve. People wanted to help and comfort but thinking back, what I needed was silence to process my loss and grieve,” she says.

“I was lost, our family had spent 12 years in Afghanistan. It had become our lives and after the attack I was back in South Africa with absolutely nothing.”
Two months after the attack Hannelie was reunited with the family dog that miraculously survived the attack. “We thought Chico had been killed as well, but then he was found on the roof of the burnt building the next day.”
Hannelie had nothing and an animal welfare organisation raised money to fly Chico to South Africa and almost two months to the day of the attack, they were reunited. “Yes, he is the last bond with my family. The last living thing who saw my husband and children before they died. I don’t know what I will do the day he goes.”

Back in South Africa, Hannelie slowly moved back into the medical profession. “So much had changed in the 12 years we had been gone. New medicine, new procedures, it was so different to Afghanistan where you had to practise medicine with just the basic medication.”
She was also invited to give motivational talks and a year later she wrote the book about the horrific attack. “I did not know how to write, but once I started I couldn’t stop. By writing about it, thinking about it in depth, I could finally grieve, a year after the events. I cried while writing it. I processed, and I realised God does not put things in your path that you cannot handle.”
Three years after the attack Hannelie met her current husband at a motivational talk. He was a Godsend. I needed to be loved and cuddled and that is what I received.”

At another motivational talk she met Hartbeespoort general practitioner, Dr Keith Michael, who told her she should join his practice. “Everything just fell into place. I moved to Hartbeespoort and I love the community and the area. We do not have your typical medical practice. I believe we are there for the patient. We do not only dish out medicine and medical advice. We look at body and soul. We help in any way we can.”

She is where she should be at the moment. “One never knows what is next. Life changes in a moment but I feel I am living my life purpose. Many people do not know what the purpose of their lives are and if possible, I try and guide them. And that is what makes the medical profession so special. People unburden their fears and concerns and a doctor can guide, heal the body and listen to the soul.”
“I should be here now and I am happy. But what the future hold…. no one knows. The one big thing I learnt is no one can get through something like this alone. Don’t look around you, look up!”

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