Durban - The barriers of language, distance and time could not keep a star-crossed lover from tracking down his first love, convinced they were meant to be together.
Separated for almost half a century, a television appeal brought them together in Durban for an emotional reunion.
Sixty-year-old Arie Kuijper of the Netherlands met Amanzimtoti resident Doris Grobler while visiting relatives in Witbank in 1973. Kuijper’s relatives were neighbours with Grobler.
“When I saw Arie, it was love at first sight. He could not speak English, but luckily I could communicate with him in Afrikaans,” said Grobler.
The lovers, who were both 20 years old at the time, had to bid each other a sad farewell when Kuijper had to return to the Netherlands after his six-week holiday in South Africa.
“He reassured me that he would come back. He was making plans to immigrate to SA and work at his uncle’s bakery,” said Grobler.
However, when Kuijper returned to the Netherlands, his father died. He also couldn’t get a visa, which scuppered his plans further.
“There were so many things going on for Arie at the time, so I decided to visit him in the Netherlands,” said Grobler.
At the end of that year, she spent two months in the Netherlands where she was introduced to Kuijper’s family, and the couple got engaged.
“I was going to return to South Africa to get my stuff (and) then move to the Netherlands,” said Grobler.
When she returned home, however, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she could no longer move.
“We continued to write, but it was difficult for us both due to family responsibilities. My mother really needed me… We had to make a decision and we eventually parted ways,” said Grobler.
A few years later they married other people.
However, Grobler’s husband died in 1997.
Six years ago, with his wife’s consent, Kuijper began his search to find Grobler. When his attempts failed, he approached KRO, a Dutch television station, that ran a series called Memories, which reunites lost lovers.
It took them five years to locate Grobler in Amanzimtoti.
“When the television series contacted me, I was over the moon… I thought I would never see Arie again,” said Grobler.
The Memories crew flew to Durban last week and spent time shooting footage of Grobler before the romantic grand finale, when the couple met each other on Warner Beach for the first time in 40 years.
“Meeting her after all those years was just magical. The feelings I felt for her were just the same as all those years ago,” said Kuijper.
As for Grobler, she felt as though all those years apart meant nothing and that they were young lovers again.
“When he told me that he still loves me, all those feelings came rushing back; in fact, they never left me,” she said.
Their love story has a bittersweet ending. After the couple spent the week together in Durban, Kuijper had to return to his family in the Netherlands.
“I plan to always keep in touch with Doris… But I have a family now and, of course, I have to return to them,” said Kuijper.
Memories will be aired on Kyknet television channel and on KRO in December.