Bruce Gherbetti story

By on November 2, 2011
The human memory is more fallible than most of us want to believe, yet some things – like the love of a father – can never be forgotten.It had been two years and two weeks to the day since Bruce Gherbetti’s eight-year-old daughter Rion had seen or spoken to her father, but when she suddenly saw him standing in the back garden, teary-eyed and smiling, her reaction said it all.“Rion saw me and it registered in about 4 seconds and she said ‘dada’. I opened my arms and she came running into my arms. I was afraid that wouldn’t happen, but also I was quietly confident in my heart that it would.

I visualized that whole scenario every day for the last two years. It’s gold – it’s absolute gold,” Gherbetti said.

The journey from his home in Vancouver, Canada to Iwaki – a small town in Fukushima prefecture just 45km south of the Daiichi Nuclear Plant – has been a long and arduous one.

In September 2009, during the breakdown of their marriage, Bruce’s wife Taiko Suzuki abducted their three daughters, Rion (8), Lauren (6) and Julia (4), to Japan.

“I was absolutely devastated. I arrived home and the house was utterly empty and devoid of all traces of my family and children. I felt at a loss and confused, but at the same time there was a realization that my children were gone – overseas, back to Japan,” he says.

After his children were taken, Gherbetti suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for which he underwent counseling in Canada.

He also joined a number of web based support groups for left behind parents and gradually over time built up the confidence to come to Japan to find his kids.

On September  21st this year, he flew to Japan and within two days of arriving in the country, travelled up to Fukushima accompanied by a group of supporters, in search of his lost children.  All previous attempts Bruce had made to contact his children had been blocked by his wife Taiko and their number was disconnected after he first telephoned them from Canada. All Bruce had to go on was the address of the Suzuki family home in Iwaki City and a lot of faith.

Prior to being reunited with his children, Bruce has described his motivation for the surprise visit.

“I would simply like for the children to realize that I am still alive. I just want to arrive and give them the opportunity to see that I am here,” he says.

Attempts by left behind parents to re-unite with their children in Japan are rarely successful and sometimes result in arrest for the alienated parent. In Bruce’s case,  things went smoothly and he got to see all three of his daughters for a very emotional half hour in the back garden of their Iwaki home.

Bruce doesn’t know what the future holds, but he won’t give up on his kids.

“I’m willing to do anything and everything to re-connect with my children,” he says.

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