Released pair happy, grateful

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Copy of APTOPIX South Africa Somalia Pirate Hostages [2] AP Deborah Calitz, centre, and her partner Bruno Pelizzari, bottom centre, are escorted by police upon their arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: Associated Press

Pretoria, Gauteng - Bruno Pelizzari blames himself for “giving out information” about his departure from Dar-es-Salaam.

Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday night after arriving at a government guest house in Pretoria where he and his partner, Debbie Calitz, will be staying for the next week or so, the newly rescued former Somali hostage said: “I know where we went wrong. We gave out information about where we were going.”

When asked to whom this information was given, Pelizzari said “to the people organising the trip”.

The couple did not go into detail about their capture, explaining that once they had been de-briefed they would be at liberty to speak freely.

Commenting on the media frenzy at OR Tambo International Airport when the couple flew in from Rome on Wednesday, Pelizzari said: “It is beyond words, how I feel right now. The attention is overwhelming but it is wonderful to be back.”

Being held hostage for 20 months was a life-changing experience, he said.

“You become more religious and family becomes more important.

“The only thing keeping me alive was the hope that I would get out,” Pelizzari said.

Apart from his family the one thing about home that Pelizzari said he missed terribly was “a bunny chow”.

“A simple beans bunny, nothing fancy. I missed that a lot,” he said.

Pelizzari said when he thinks about the lengths his sister Vera Hecht went to, to bring them back, it brings tears to his eyes. “Even now as I’m speaking, she’s talking to people, telling them about Debbie and me,” Pelizzari said, his voice quivering.

Amid sounds of laughter and chatter a cheerful sounding Calitz said “Hello” as the phone was handed to her.

When asked how she was feeling, Calitz said she was tired.

“It’s still a bit hectic. I’m so tired but so happy. I wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction,” she said, about their arrival yesterday.

Calitz said she found strength in knowing that she might see her children again.

The pair said this incident had not dampened their passion for sailing. “Sailing is beautiful. The next time, we’ll just stay away from the Indian Ocean,” Calitz quipped.

Pelizzari said he planned to return to Dar-es-Salaam to fetch his boat. “My boat is my home,” he said.

Calitz and Pelizzari were kidnapped on a yacht off the south-eastern coast of Africa by Somali pirates in October 2010. They were held hostage for about 20 months until their release on Thursday.

The South African government reportedly helped secure their freedom in a joint effort with Italy and Somalia. Details of the terms of their release are not yet known.

At the airport welcome, Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane disclosed that South Africa had given the liberated areas of Somalia R100 million to create jobs there.

She said South Africa, through the African Union, was already “on the ground” in that country, working towards saving it from being a failed state.

Thanking the Somalians and the Italian government for their roles, she said South Africa had been very much in the loop when the pair were freed. - Daily News

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