Roanoke brothers show act of sacrifice and forgiveness

When you watch Koze Donasiyano play soccer you see an electrifying athletic performance. He's a senior at Patrick Henry, University of Virginia bound on a soccer scholarship, on the All American watch list and a Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year nominee. The kid is lightning in a bottle without a moments notice. But when Koze's brother Stephano watches him play, he sees a sacrifice coming to fruition and an unbelievable act of forgiveness.

Ten years ago, Koze and Stephano's entire family of ten moved to Roanoke as refugees from Tanzania. Seventeen years separate the eldest from the youngest. Stephano, the oldest, is used to being the big brother and the responsibility that comes with it.

"Back home I used to take care of my siblings when my parents went out," Stephano said. "The only days I could get a break was on Sundays because we'd go to church together."

The boys mother, Mariam, raised them in a devout Christian home. She had all the love in the world for her eight children, loved to tell jokes and sing in the house. 

"She was a great woman," Koze said. "She cared for me, her kids and the whole family a lot.

She was the bonding force that kept the family together but it was four years ago she was ripped away from the family's life. Their father murdered their mother leaving all 8 kids without either parent as he would be sentenced to life in prison.

"You know when you parents usually call you and you don't want to be called so much?," Koze asked. "I used to be the kid she used to call 24/7. I used to get tired of that but now I miss that because I love her."

Without a mother or father, Stephano was forced to assume the role as guardian for the kids and a brotherly parenting style formed.

"The easy part is making rules for your own kids," Stephano explained. "The hard part is making rules for your brothers and sisters knowing they're actually your siblings and not your 'kids'."

Another obvious tough part--Stephano putting his life on hold.

"The things my age group would do I couldn't do because I had to be a parent now instead of just a brother," Stephano said. "I didn't get the opportunity to grow as Stephano instead I grew as the guardian of my siblings."

Stephano sacrificed so his brothers and sisters could have opportunity. This year, Koze signed to play soccer for the University of Virginia on a full ride scholarship.

"I'm more like a parent now," Stephano laughed. "If my siblings are succeeding than I'm succeeding as a parent."

Stephano never thought Koze would turn out the way he did. He said his brother was a crazy child that was always screaming throughout the house.

"Now looking at him, it's just amazing the way Koze turned out to be," Stephano said.

Stephano and Koze know their mother would be proud of them and the life they lived.

"She is still a great part of my life," Koze said. "I want her to be happy for me in the decisions that I'm making."

"I think she would be happy for him," Stephano said. "She would definitely encourage him to do more and practice more because she wanted us to do things we loved to do."

The fact remains, one parent--the boys father--is still alive. To Koze, Stephano and their siblings, even a horrific crime can't change that and somehow they've forgiven the man that took away their mother.

"I was so angry and I thought I'd never forgive him," Koze admitted. "I ended up forgiving him because everyone makes mistakes in life. Sometimes the mistakes are greater than others but you have to learn how to forgive."

"If you're asking me have I forgiven my dad, of course I have," Stephano said. "Of course we all make sins and one day we hope God will forgive us."

Tragedy entered Koze and Stephano's life but watching them now, Stephano as a soccer coach at William Fleming and Koze an emerging soccer star, they exemplify a life free of resentment and full of forgiveness.

Check out the video above to see more of Koze and Stephano's story.


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