Today, after 4 years, the person who was responsible for the death of one of the greatest men I have ever known has began his prison sentence.
Yesterday justice was served. Yesterday a letter I had written, my victim impact statement, was read in court. I was not there. I wanted to be there yet I did not know if I could face the person who nearly took everything from me. I say nearly because he took my husband, Costa, from me, he took the future we will never get to share together but no one will ever take the love, or joy, or memories that we shared. No one will ever take the love and joy I feel now and have yet to feel watching my daughter grow up. The love I have for the people who do matter in my life. The joy I can find in small moments playing a guitar again, laughing at a friend’s joke, or holding a little hand on her first day of school. No one can take away the hope I feel as I open my heart to truly live my best life.
In testament to the great man that he was, when my letter was read, the judge himself said that in 25 years of doing what he does, he had never heard a victim impact statement that was free of hatred, racism and accusation. A letter focused on love and what had been lost but will never be forgotten. He called it a ‘Mandela’ letter and was truly moved by what he heard. I was honoured that my words could bring across the type of man that Costa was. It made me remember why I always choose love.
The accused has thus been sentenced to life in prison for murder plus 55 years for all his other crimes.
Many have asked to read my letter. It was easy yet so difficult to write. Here it is.
Mondi Gale Karvouniaris on the tragic loss
of her husband, Costa Karvouniaris,
as read in court by his sister
I grew up in South Africa. It is a beautiful country with some amazing people. I met the love of my life at University in Pretoria and for 9 years we built a beautiful life together. His name was Costa and he was everything to me, he was my world. We went through ups and downs and some crazy adventures. He was incredible though. He loved his family and was incredibly loyal. He helped people whenever he could. I even remember that one day he was sitting at a restaurant busy writing when he realized that there were some guys who had been working across the road that didn’t appear to have anything to drink. He asked the waiter to take all of them some water and coke, on his account. That waiter loves to tell that story. That waiter even came to his memorial and shared what an impact Costa had had in his life, always asking how he was and genuinely interested in his studies and dreams.
Costa loved me more than I ever thought I could be loved. He was always there for me, and always there for all his family and friends. He gave all of himself to make people genuinely happy and to make the world a better place.
We were married in 2012 and in building our home and lives together wanted to have four children. Children we could teach to be kind and have courage to build a better world. We worried about bringing out children into such a violent world, especially since we were very aware that in South Africa we lived behind electric fences and alarm systems. We spoke about it at great length, but we believed that changing the world started at home and if we could bring up a family that could affect positive change in this world that would be our legacy.
In May 2015 our beautiful daughter was born. She was happy and healthy and made our dreams come true. It was the best day of our lives when two hearts became three in our little family. All he truly wanted from life, other than to do what he could for people, was to be a father. He was an amazing father. He was an amazing, loving husband. He was a wonderful son, an amazing brother, and a friend to countless people. He was my best friend, my companion, my partner. We shared all our dreams and ambitions for life. There was so much we wanted to do in the world. With the birth of our daughter we started to plan the rest of our lives together. How we would raise our family and build a business where we could have massive impact helping people through sharing our knowledge through writing.
Every day for the first ten weeks of our daughter’s life he would walk in through the front door when he got from work and take his girls in his arms and thank God for the blessings that he had. We were such a happy and beautiful family and we were supposed to have a lifetime of joy and memories to create together.
One Friday afternoon that all changed. One Friday afternoon he never came home, and he would never ever come home again. One Friday afternoon he was shot in cold blood and for what, for money. He would have given these awful people everything had they just threatened him. Instead they shot him. They shot him. The love of my life, the father of my beautiful child who will now never know him. Who will never hear his laugh and feel his unconditional love for her. Who will never remember how great he was at telling stories. Who will never know how it feels to be safe in his arms.
My world fell apart. I felt as if I died that day. A huge part of me did. And with half of my heart, my dreams and all the plans in my life were gone. My beautiful innocent baby girl’s life would forever be affected by the horror of what happened to her father. Our lives fell apart and were completely destroyed. Destroyed, and for what? For greed. I will never know why one of the most incredible men I have ever known had to die when he was only 29 years old, so violently, and without the opportunity to truly make an even bigger impact on the world. I will never understand why my beautiful daughter will have to grow up without such an important figure in her life. My father died when I was very young, and I know how it affected me and he died of natural causes. All I wanted was to live a life with a man I love and a beautiful family that we raise. They took that from me. They took that from my daughter and they took an incredible man from this world that hundreds, if not thousands, of people who had met him and knew him, would miss.
Costa Karvouniaris was a remarkable human being. He was my world. He was my everything. The only reason I could carry on was because of our beautiful daughter who deserved so much more from life. She kept me going. I had to figure out how to earn an income again. I had to support my child and my mother who moved in with me to help me through the grief and through raising a child as a widow. I had to go to bed every night in our home in Pretoria fearing for my life and that of my family. The anxiety and fear and constant violent incidents that continued to happen around us and to people we knew drove me to do everything I could to leave South Africa and move to a country where we would not fear for our lives every moment of the day. My daughter, mother, and I live in Canada now where the fear and anxiety have completely gone. A country with such limited crime that we feel we can truly live. Live like Costa will never be able to, free and safe.
South Africa will always be my home yet there are those in South Africa that take from their own people constantly, whether through violence, murder, rape, and other sickening and gruesome crimes. Will the true horror of what crime in South Africa has become ever cease? There are amazing people in South Africa doing their best to build the country. Yet every day I hear another terrible and tragic story as a result of the uncontrollable crime. South Africa is a beautiful place completely marred by horrendous criminals, some who even manage to infiltrate those who are meant to protect us. I try to have hope though, hope in a legal and police system that will stop these criminals. Hope that justice will be served to those who have such blatant disrespect for this beautiful and fragile thing we call life.
No one deserves to die the way Costa did. No one. No one deserves to have their life ripped apart the way ours was. But it was. I can never change that. All I can hope for is that those responsible pay the true price for the family that they destroyed. That their just sentence is served but also that they come to the realization of what they have done. Of the people they have destroyed both physically and emotionally. I will fight every day to live for my daughter and myself because Costa can’t. I will carry the sorrow and grief, but I will tell his story over and over because he was a great man. He will never be forgotten.
I will love you forever Costa and your daughter will know of all the great things that you have done. We will celebrate how you lived for the rest of our lives, praying each day that justice will be served for what happened to you. One day we will see you again. One day our family will be together again in the beautiful heaven that awaits us. One day my love, but for now we live and honour you. We choose love.