Click or flick across the above image for more colourful MATTHEW SMITHWICK photos from Carnivale.
SHE glanced at the time.
Her husband had been away about two hours.
“In Congo, if my husband went like that, I’d be worried,” she said.
“I’d be worried someone would come in and I’d be raped or killed.”
This was the reality for Wodonga’s Carnivale queen, torn from her home more than four years ago because of war.
Edwige Kirimwani, 23, said this matter-of-factly as she sat at her kitchen table in her red-brick Wodonga home.
Her children E’ka, 3, and E’beka, 2, were glued to the television.
The security chain on the front door was not to keep Ms Kirimwani safe but rather to keep curious E’ka and E’beka from running on to the street.
It’s a home like any other in Wodonga but like no other for the young woman.
Only the day earlier, Ms Kirimwani stood proud and beautiful on a stage at Wodonga’s Carnivale in a dress that its designer wanted to represent her story and those of all Border migrants.
The dress with the flamenco ruffles, Egyptian veil, African jewellery, towering Thai head-dress and Bhutan influences won the Carnivale’s wearable art award.
Designer Melanie Ruth, a trained hairdresser who moved to the Border from England last year, said the dress was about multiculturalism and to have Ms Kirimwani wear it was something special.
“I wanted to give her the opportunity, I haven’t lived through war ... If I could make her queen of the Carnivale ...,” Ms Ruth said, trailing off.
Ms Ruth meant it could shine a light on a story that was difficult, if not impossible, for Australians to understand.
Ms Ruth’s dress also gave Ms Kirimwani a taste of a dream.
“Modelling was my dream,” Ms Kirimwani said.
“I didn’t know this would happen for me, me with kids and a husband.”
Years earlier, fleeing her eastern Democratic Republic of Congo home of Bukavu with her three brothers, her only dream was to live.
Bukavu had fallen to Rwandan-backed rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy and rape was used as a tool of war.
Ms Kirimwani’s family fled. She and three brothers ran in one direction, her parents the other.
“It’s to save my life,” Ms Kirimwani said.
She would not know for three years if her parents were dead or alive.
Ms Kirimwani and her brothers walked to a refugee camp in Kenya where Ms Kirimwani met her husband Yves Nkoranyi, now 28, and working for VISTA support services in Wodonga.
A year later, they were granted a visa to Australia, Ms Kirimwani seven months’ pregnant.
“It was a miracle,” she said.
Her parents and seven brothers are still in Congo and she continues to apply for them to come here.
She moved to Wodonga four years ago today.
She works as a disability support worker and is in her second year of studies to become a nurse.
“I’m really happy to be here for my kids, for their education,” she said, flashing her Carnivale queen smile.