Mrs. Abimbola Essien-Nelson’s voice over the telephone exposed her grief despite her attempt to conceal it.
She has been heartbroken following the suspicious death of her younger sister, Mrs. Oluwashola Gaska (nee Adefolalu) in Poland and the cremation of her remains by her Polish husband, Mr. Jakub Gaska, despite the family’s objection.
The incident has been hard-hitting for the Adefolalus especially as Gaska carried on without remorse after his action.
Essien-Nelson said, “My sister, Sholly, was born on September 25, 1980. She was such a beautiful baby and my parents, Professor and Mrs. Daniel Oladele Adefolalu, named her Oluwashola Atunrayo Adefolalu. Atunrayo means ‘My joy has been restored’ and that is exactly how my mom felt at the birth of my sister. About two years before Sholly was born, my mom had almost lost her life giving birth to a still born baby. So, when Sholly was born, the whole family was super excited and thankful to God. I was 12 and my brother, Tokunbo, was 10 then and Sholly was our pride and joy. She was the object of everybody’s adoration.
“Sadly, our mother passed away in 1986 when Sholly was just five years old and so, at the age of 17, I basically became her mother. Oh, ours was an extraordinary sister bond. I loved my sister with all my heart and she loved me back. Even as a grown up 36-year-old woman, she still called me her ‘sistermom’ and I called her my ‘aburochild.’ I am a blogger and over the years I have shared my feelings about my sister on my blog.’’
Noting that her late sister was full of life, passion and loved to laugh, she added that anybody could hear her laugh from miles away.
“I remember my last phone call with her on December 24, 2016. She was laughing as usual as we talked. She always said, ‘Life is an orchestra; play it loud’ and she lived by it.’ She was always smiling or laughing. She was always positive about life no matter what. She was loving and kind; creative and artsy. Sholly moved to Poland to go to university in 2000.
She studied Architecture and Interior Design. After her studies, she decided to give life in Poland a shot and the rest is history. She met Jakub (Kuba) Gaska, fell in love and got married in 2010.’’
According to Essien-Nelson, Shola loved to take photos and ran a small photography business in Poland apart from her day job of teaching English as a foreign language.
Being a totally detribalised Nigerian, she explained that her late father did not discriminate based on tribe or nationality when Shola decided to marry Gaska.
She stated, ‘‘He had no issues with her marrying Gaska. He only wished she had made him visit Nigeria first to meet the family. In the end, he put her happiness first and gave his consent. I travelled to Poland for the wedding back then in August 2010.
“Like my sister, Gaska was the last born of three children. He was also much younger than his two older sisters and therefore a mama’s boy if you like. I believe these similarities were initially what made them click. To me, they had a great relationship and there was nothing to suggest that he would behave the way he has done.’’
She told our correspondent that before her sister’s death, she constantly received reports from her that there was friction in the marriage due to the interfering stance of her mother-in-law.
She added, ‘‘In the early years of the marriage, we used to joke about it and I would ask her to calm down, that the mother would eventually understand that her son was now married and step back. Sadly, that did not happen and as they lived in the same home. One can imagine her frustration.
Towards the end of 2016, she was so happy because they had started building their own house and she was finally going to be able to live with her husband alone for the first time since they got married.’’
But sadly, a puzzling development truncated that dream as conveyed in the call Abimbola received from Gaska on Wednesday, December 28, 2016.
“I was at work that day and I will never forget that moment. At about 11.28am on Wednesday, December 28, 2016, I received a telephone call from Kuba. I remember looking at my phone surprised to see his number. I thought to myself maybe Sholly is pregnant but feeling poorly with it and Kuba is calling me to give me the good news. How wrong I was! ‘There’s been an accident, Shola was unconscious and has died.’
Those were his words. I screamed and fell to the ground. The office was spinning; my world had just crashed. I was still crying and asking him to explain what he had just said when the telephone was disconnected.
“He called back and this time he said that Shola had been feeling sick on Tuesday evening, and that he and his sister had taken her to the hospital. Tests were said to have been conducted which showed she had anaemia and low haemoglobin level. She was admitted and treated but eventually passed away at about 3am on Wednesday, December 28, 2016. It just does not make any sense. How do you die from anaemia in a hospital? I spoke to my sister on December 24 and there was nothing to suggest that would be the last time.
And till today, we are not even sure of what really killed her. Apart from speaking with my sister on December 24, I also chatted with her on Facebook on December 26 and 27. She was not sick,’’ she insisted.
She noted that Gaska increased the pain the Adefolalus felt after losing their daughter in an inexplicable circumstance when he announced that he was going to cremate her corpse as they had both agreed.
Essien-Nelson stated, “One wonders what kind of discussion they were having for such a topic to come up. We asked him to suspend all his plans until my family and I got there in early January 2017. We also made it clear to him that because of the sudden nature of her death, we wanted to see her. We sent several sets of representatives from the Nigerian community to him in this regard but he refused to allow anyone have access to the corpse. He said Shola told him that I was the only one to be allowed to see her body. Again, this is just bizarre.
What kind of discussions where they having?
“When it became clear that Kuba had no plans of waiting for my husband and I to get to Poland, we purchased tickets for my aunty and two of my cousins to fly in from Ireland to participate in the burial arrangements. We asked him to suspend all arrangements for the burial/cremation until their arrival but he defiantly proceeded to cremate the remains a day before their arrival. He said ‘the cremation will proceed as planned and there is nothing anyone can do about it.’’
It was learnt that Gaska defiantly sent the remains of Shola for cremation on January 2, 2017 without he or any members of his family in attendance.
According to the Adefolalus, Gaska also later interred the ashes on his birthday, January 7, 2017, by holding a burial without informing the deceased’s family members.
Essien-Nelson further said that after constant requests for photograph of her late sister from Gaska, he reluctantly sent a photograph, which she said when examined carefully, revealed attempts to conceal the swelling on her lips and neck region with clear signs of trauma and bruises.
It was also gathered that Gaska hurriedly pulled down the deceased’s social media accounts and her business website. It was learnt that friends of Shola have also initiated an online ‘Justice for Sholly’ petition on change.org. It was addressed to the Mayor of Krakow and the Polish Ambassador in Nigeria.
In her cry for justice, Essien-Nelson has also petitioned the Nigerian government and the Polish authorities to step into the matter. She stated the position of the family at a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday.
When contacted, an official of the Nigerian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, identified only as Mr. Ogunsanya, said the embassy received report on the incident which it was gathered occurred at Gaska’s family home at ul. Owiecimska 33, 32 –551, Wygielzow, GMINA Babice District, Chrzanow County, Lesser Poland, a suburb of Krakow.
He said through a text message on Thursday , “It was a pity. The Embassy reported to the Polish Police as well as the host Foreign Ministry for investigation and possible prosecution. The two departments had submitted their reports which were submitted to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Presidency through Mrs. Erewe (Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa).’’
When contacted Dabiri-Erewa, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, she said a preliminary report on the matter was prepared by Ogunsanya immediately the incident happened and forwarded to Essien-Nelson.
She added that the office was awaiting further investigation and next steps to take on the case.
The Director, Public Communications, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Clement Aduku, said the ministry was not aware of the incident.
Aduku stated, “The Consular and Immigration Services Department handle such matters and need to give an update on it before any official statement can be issued on the matter. The media will be communicated when such details are made available through the diplomatic channels.’’
A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Mr. Jiti Ogunye, however, said the deceased’s family had a right to lodge a criminal complaint in Poland having suspected a criminal intent regarding her demise.
Ogunye said, “If the lady was taken to the hospital as the husband claimed, there should be a coroner’s inquest into what led to her death before her remains were cremated. The doctors who attended to her, what was responsible for her death and other things will be revealed. This will thus determine the husband’s prosecution if found culpable. The remedy lies in Poland. They need to file a criminal complaint that they suspect that her death was due to criminal neglect.’’
The emails sent to the Poland Police Headquarters and the Mayor of Krakow on the matter had yet to be responded to as of the time of filing this report.
Also, Gaska neither replied the email sent to him nor the text message to his mobile.