Edinburgh Evening News

Thu 26 May 2005
Yufrita Skyner with her sons Adam, left, and Fabian in their Edinburgh home.

Reunited and looking to future


YUNISNA smiles and chats with her sisters and their mother as the four women pore over photographs of the last time they were all together, at her wedding last December.

The happiness in the pictures and in their faces today belies the traumatic aftermath of that last reunion, cruelly ended when the Boxing Day tsunami swept through their family home in the Indonesian region of Aceh.

After just nine days as a wife, Yunisna became a widow at the age of 26 when her new husband Razi was carried to his death. His body was never found.

Turning the pages of the photo albums, which were salvaged from the wreckage, pictures of the wedding party are abruptly followed by harrowing snapshots of Yunisna’s wrecked home - dead bodies of family friends clearly visible among the debris.

Today, sitting in a comfortable Edinburgh house surrounded by her family, Yunisna is looking to the future - which she hopes will keep her in the Capital while she recovers from her ordeal.

Yunisna is staying at her elder sister Yufrita’s home in Queensferry Road, Barnton, after she, her other sister Yuriza, 33, and their mother Alimi, 64, were all granted permission to visit Britain.

But their visas are temporary and with no money to fund her plans to study here, Yunisna is likely to have to return to Aceh soon, with Yuriza and Alimi.

Like so many others in Aceh, the family’s home is in ruins, leaving them starting from scratch to build a new home - the sort of work which Mercy Corps is helping to fund through the Evening News-backed Capital Appeal.

This week as the latest fund-raising drive for the appeal, Edinburgh Giving Week, continues bringing in much-needed cash for survivors, Yunisna and her family tell the latest chapter in their story to show how badly needed that support is.

Yufrita Skyner, 37, who is married to Edinburgh software engineer David , 43, says: "I wanted my mother and sisters to stay here for a year but they can’t get a visa [for that length of time].

"Yunisna does not want to go back to Aceh at the moment because it is still too painful for her. She tried to work in Jakarta after the tsunami but she could not cope. Now she wants to study English or business studies here, but we can’t afford to pay for fees. Ideally I’d like to find a scholarship for her.

"You can’t forget something like this [the tsunami], but I think it would help take her mind off losing her husband if she could study over here for a while."

The day the tsunami struck still haunts all the women, who are well aware that they are lucky to be alive today. Yufrita and David’s two sons Adam, two and Fabian, ten months, now play happily in the lounge. But they too only escaped death when Yufrita and Yuriza were able to lift them and their grandmother to safety.

AND for weeks after being saved it was touch and go whether or not they would survive as the children battled E.coli and salmonella poisoning which they contracted after swallowing the disease-ridden water.

After treatment in hospitals in Indonesia, the boys returned home with their parents, but Adam was still so ill he was placed in isolation at the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital for two days when they arrived back in the Capital.

Yufrita says: "I went to see the psychiatrist and I still feel a bit terrified [about the tsunami].

"My sister Yunisna lost her husband. I know my two children could have died. I still don’t know how I did it but I remember grabbing Adam when the water came, and then I grabbed my grandmother too. My mother was holding a telephone line and my sister Yuriza was on her lap, holding Fabian on her head.

"I tried to reach my uncle too, but I couldn’t, so he died."

She adds: "Adam and Fabian are fine now but at first, in hospital in Indonesia, we didn’t know if they were going to survive."

A few months ago, Adam would have screamed in terror if his parents tried to take him swimming. But he has now lost his fear of water following the tsunami and plays happily in a paddling pool in his parents’ garden.

Yufrita remains concerned about her mother, however: "My mother still talks about it a lot. But sometimes she just sits and looks empty. I’m lucky because I can talk to the psychiatrist, but back in Indonesia my family won’t have that."

Counselling is something else which Mercy Corps is helping to fund in Indonesia, with projects including training for midwives and religious leaders in schools so that they can counsel people in the community. Meanwhile, rebuilding lost homes remains one of the key priorities which the £500,000 appeal will help fund.

Yufrita and her family believe they will need around £30,000 to build a new home in the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh, where they have lived for generations.

Yufrita says: "My family are homeless. We don’t want to lose our house but the garden has many bodies and skeletons so my family is scared to go back.

"They don’t want to live anywhere but Aceh, even with the earthquake, but land and property is very expensive now.

"All my family’s possessions were washed away. They have lost everything.

"Mercy Corps is really helping with its work in Aceh. It won’t take a year or two years to rebuild Aceh, it will take many years."