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Memories of father Vjeko - 1/2
Monday, 11 June 2007 Written by fra Ivica Perić

fra Vjeko CuricThese are my memories of fra Vjeko. I write here what I know, what I heard from him directly as well as what I heard about him from others. In the first part I will describe my arrival in Africa and meeting fra Vjeko for the first time in Africa.

I came to Africa on the 28th of October 1990. After an English language course I bought my ticket from Split to Rome, then via Nairobi to Kigali, Rwanda. My final destination was Uganda but I wanted to visit our brothers in Rwanda.  At the time I bought my ticket war had not yet started in this country.  Just before I was due to fly the war broke out and I did think of changing my ticket but decided against it and flew as planned. It was there in Rwanda that  I met fra Vjeko and fra Pero Vrebac, both friars from the Province of Bosnia, and there also I met don Sebastijan, Salesian.

My arrival in Rwanda was quite a surprise for everybody as they were not expecting me.  War had broken out on October 1st a month before my arrival.  When I landed in Nairobi and wanted to continue to Kigali the ground staff informed me that all flights to Rwanda had been cancelled because of the war.  They said that one plane from the Cameroons was proceeding and if I really wanted I could board that one!  That is how it happened!  At Kigali only two passengers exited the plane—me and some African man.  In the airport building there were some few staff, there was a car in the parking lot, there were sandbags in various places and soldiers with rifles watching us from all angles.  We were probably very safe as usually madmen are not shot at!

When I emerged from the building there was don Sebastijan.  I had not known him before this but he was waving a passport as a sort of sign that he was waiting for me and in any event there were no other people coming out.  He had come at the request of Fra Vjeko simply as a sort of check but in fact nobody really thought that I would arrive.  Sebastijan and I went for lunch to his parish of Kicukoro, (3-4 km from the airport) where, at the time he was parish priest.  In this parish scenes from the film “Shotting Dogs” were filmed.  On the way to the parish we passed a number of road blocks but as Sebastijan was speaking Kinyarwanda, the local language of Rwanda, and as he had francs in his hand we moved safely.

From Kicukoro we drove to Kivumu, an hour’s drive away. At that time there were two friars in Kivumu, Fra Vjeko, parish priest, and fra Pero, master of novices, together with 7 novices. When we arrived, fra Vjeko was not there and the cook told us he was in church, so Sebastijan and I went there. It was a lovely sight.The Church is beautiful, semicircular in design and it was quite new at that time.  The bricks on the wall are red and white and look very colourful. The roof is made of asbestos.  There in the Church a religion class was going on with Fra Vjeko teaching hundreds of kids, all around the same age.  When Vjeko noticed us he said something in Kinyarwanda to the kids and they all started clapping.  Then he tried to end the class and dismiss the children.  No way! They wanted to touch us, stare at us, listen to us, pull our trousers, get us to notice them, quiz us but eventually Vjeko and Sebastian managed to send them home.

We then went back to the friary and chatted until it was time for Sebastian to go back home. He had to leave early as it was not safe to travel in the dark, with all the military road blocks and other uncertainties.

I stayed in Kivumu until the 4th of November.  There was a lot of work in the parish and Fr. Vjeko was alone in that ministry.  Masses, pastoral activities, teaching, all kept him busy.

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