Home At Last
Information is slowly emerging about the horrific, nearly 20-month hostage ordeal that Durbanites Debbie Calitz and Bruno Pelizzari went through. ECR Newswatch's Seema Diahnan spoke to the couple in Rome, shortly before they boarded their flight to South Africa.
Debbie has told us she will be able to reveal more about exactly what happened when they were captured by Somali pirates only after they have been debriefed by government officials.
"We weren't allowed to make a noise at all - and if they heard us ... actually, I am not sure how much detail I can go into because we haven't been de-briefed yet," she said.
They were due to fly into Gauteng on Wednesday.
Debbie says they will get to meet loved ones before the debriefing.
"I am OK. We're strong, we're very strong people, South Africans are strong people! I am also just very tired and trying to get my stomach to adjust to proper food again - rich food. It was a very basic starch diet that we were on so your stomach is not used to it," she said.
Bruno has told Newswatch they are recuperating since being released last week.
"At one stage we were hungry, we were starving. Near the release time they brought our weight up.
"We were keeping fit, if you've seen it on the TV, in cells, [people] walking up and down - it's true, it's real. Mentally, we're good," said Bruno.
The couple say they are totally overwhelmed by the love and support shown by South Africans during their ordeal in Somalia.
"I just want to tell everyone in South Africa that I love you South Africans because we are so, so grateful for what you've all done for us, and I think just the thought of people thinking about us - even if they didn't donate anything to us - I'm sure sent vibrations our way because something kept us strong," said Debbie.
"I've been overwhelmed at the response. It's given me a total new hope for mankind," added Bruno.
53-year-old Bruno and 49-year-old Debbie say they have spent two birthdays in captivity and despite what's happened, they are a stronger couple.
"Being together for an extended period like that is extremely hard. We fought in the beginning, it was hard; try fight quietly, it's difficult," said Bruno.
"It's made us so much closer because 20 months, 24 hours a day, all the time in the same room, in the same space. We had to whisper when we fought, it's so difficult, but you know what - it teaches you self-control, you've got to be real with each other," added Debbie.
Debbie says they never lost faith.
"As long as I knew that maybe, that there might be some hope, that I might see my children again - I never gave up hope. You can't, you can't go down there into the dark - because then you'll disappear.
"I've never realised that people can be so cruel," added an emotional Debbie. "It was ... it was hell. I actually thought sometimes that we might be in hell."
Bruno has told Newswatch they were never sure when they'd be free.
"They would treat us a little bit better every time it got closer to what they called a 'release'. It happened three times before we thought 'it's never going to happen'.
"When it didn't, it's very disheartening. When we were finally released we were quite immune, we didn't want to go through it again, didn't want to think about it. The only time we knew it was real was when we saw that aeroplane in front of us and we climbed into it."
We take a look at the couple's arrival in South Africa after their long ordeal.