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Duke greets landmine victim who met his mother to complete ‘beautiful story’

Sandra Thijika was famously pictured sitting on Diana’s knee in 1997.

Sandra Tigica with Harry on Friday and his mother in 1997 (Dominic Lipinski/John Stillwell/PA)
Sandra Tigica with Harry on Friday and his mother in 1997 (Dominic Lipinski/John Stillwell/PA)

By Tony Jones, PA Court Correspondent

Diana, Princess of Wales cried as she watched a young Angolan girl being measured for a new prosthetic leg during her famous anti-landmine trip to the country.

Sandra Thijika, who was famously pictured sitting on Diana’s knee, described the experience of meeting the royal as making her feel “complete”.

And when she met the princess’s son, the Duke of Sussex, she described the encounter as a continuation of a long and beautiful story.

Harry ended the second day of his visit to Angola by meeting Ms Thijika, 38, a landmine victim who was famously pictured with his mother sitting under a fig tree in an orthopaedic workshop in Luanda in 1997.

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“It’s incredibly emotional to follow in the footsteps of my mother... If 20 years ago she hadn’t done what she did, this would still be a minefield. To see this as a thriving community is amazing.” – The Duke of Sussex Above, some words from The Duke of Sussex as he spoke candidly today about his experience retracing his mother’s visit to Angola in 1997. He was able to see firsthand more of the legacy she left on the world. Princess Diana brought global attention to the issue of landmines and helped change the future for this community in Huambo, and many more like it. This afternoon, 22 years later, The Duke was able to walk the same path, but now rather than walking amongst mines, he was able to walk among a bustling community with schools, colleges and small businesses. Earlier today The Duke joined @thehalotrust to once again highlight the issue of landmines that still threatens more than 60 million people worldwide. #RoyalVisitAngola Video © SussexRoyal

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The princess had not only walked through a partially cleared minefield in Angola to raise awareness about the issue of the weapons, but spent time with people maimed by the munitions laid during a bloody civil war

Ms Thijika said after chatting to Harry: “I think I met Princess Diana on a Tuesday, she came to the centre and she wanted to see how a change of prosthetic limb was done.

“At that time I was very small, I was a very tiny girl and they started measuring my knee so they could see how the prosthetic would fit.

“Princess Diana was watching this process and she started crying as she watched me getting measured for a new prosthetic.

“After they measured my knee we went outside and we sat by a fig tree and she was speaking to me and I felt very happy, I felt very complete to have the attention of a princess.

“It was an honour to be sitting next to a princess.”

Ms Thijika was a special guest at a reception hosted by Jessica Hand, Britain’s Ambassador to Angola, at her official residence in Luanda.

Speaking about Angola’s £48 million pledge to invest in the work of the landmine clearing charity Halo Trust in the country, the duke told Ms Thijika: “I know you will never get your leg back, but I hope with the president’s contribution…you will have some peace of mind.”

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Prince Harry stands with Eufrafina, three, her mother Sandra Thijika on a previous visit in 2007 (Andrew Parsons/PA)

The mother told the duke she had five children, and the royal seemed taken aback and asked for their ages and she told him, speaking through an interpreter: “I have a daughter I named her after Diana.”

Harry sounded a positive note, telling her: “Your children will be growing up to your age and there won’t be any landmines.”

In response to Harry’s pledge, the 38-year-old said: “I’m very happy to hear him say that, it feels like the work in Angola will continue and we will be landmine free.”

She said about meeting Harry: “This is a long story and this is a beautiful story because I’ve come out of the province to meet Diana’s son, so this is putting the focus on all of us who have physical disabilities.

“So it’s good for Angola that the world can see we need help that we need help and much can be done for us.”

PA

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