Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari, with his grandson Calvin, are welcomed back in Durban at King Shaka International Airport last night. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu

Freed hostages Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari were met with tears, hugs and disbelieving stares from friends and family when they landed at King Shaka International Airport on Saturday night. Finally they were home.

Their family and friends, including Pelizzari’s sisters, mother, children and his 20-month-old-grandson, were all there to give them a warm welcome.

Posters painted with ‘Welcome Home Bruno and Debbie’ were held up by little children, while the adults wore yellow ‘believe’ ribbons.

Calitz and Pelizzari were clearly overwhelmed. A shell of their former selves after being held hostage for nearly two years, they hugged and kissed as many family members as they could. “They look so different,” one of the children remarked to her mother.

“I can’t believe this,” Calitz said, looking at their family and friends.

“Knowing that we had a family back home who were trying their best to get us out of that hell was what kept us going,” she said, holding back tears.

“Durban should’ve been where we came home first,” Pelizzari said, as he kissed the ground. “Durban is where the people who loved us most were and that’s where we’ve had tremendous support and are so grateful to everyone who did their bit in trying to help us.”

Pelizzari’s grandson, Calvin Pelizzari, climbed onto his grandfather’s lap, which evoked much emotion.

They said that they looked forward to the telephone calls from their family which came once every two months.

“Although we had such a short time to talk to them, it gave us hope that one day we’d see them again. It was the one thing that we looked forward to,” Calitz said.

They’ve accepted that they will never be the same again, but are going to try to put this ordeal behind them. “We are looking to write a book about what we went through and hopefully it will give us the much needed closure,” said Calitz.

But first they’re going to spend as much time with their family as possible.

“We are so happy to be back in Durban and we have never loved to be in South Africa more than we do right now,” said Calitz again. - Sunday Tribune