#meetyouinparis: Truth behind tragic hashtag

 

THEY were just a few simple words spoken by loved ones. But it is something Sara Zelenak's parents will never forget.

The Queensland au pair was only three months into her new life in London when she was murdered in an attack by Islamist extremists last June at London Bridge. Ms Zelenak, 21, was one of eight people killed in the stabbing attack. A second Australian, nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, also died.

When she died Ms Zelenak had been planning a trip to Paris to be reunited with her parents, who were to make the long journey there from Australia.

The last time her mother Julie Wallace spoke to her daughter was a few hours before the attack where she told her how she couldn't wait to have baguettes and cheese with her parents, drink wine, and climb the Eiffel Tower.

At her funeral, Sara's mother Mrs Wallace told of their final conversation.

"The last thing she said was 'Mum, see you in 26 sleeps in Paris'," Ms Wallace said.

"'I can't wait to eat croissants, French food, cheese and wine.'

"That didn't happen. Unfortunately no one knows why - we'll never understand."

Mrs Wallace and husband Mark are now on an emotional bike ride from London to the French capital where they are to arrive on June 30 - the day last year they were supposed to meet Sara.

 

Sara Zelenak was killed in the London Bridge terror attack
Sara Zelenak was killed in the London Bridge terror attack

 

 

Ms Zelenak’s parents are on a bike ride to Paris to raise money for a charity they have set up in her memory.
Ms Zelenak’s parents are on a bike ride to Paris to raise money for a charity they have set up in her memory.

Riding with them are four other cyclists, including officers from the Met Police, who they became close to during the investigation into the terror attack.

The ride has been called #MeetYouInParis and will raise money for the not-for-profit Sarz Sanctuary, an organisation the couple have set up and named after their daughter to offer help to victims of violence.

"Julie and Mark understand that there is not a one size fits all when it comes to dealing with traumatic grief. They want to create an environment where people can feel comfortable and supported in exploring different ways of treating their grief to find the best option for them," a message from the couple on the Sarz Sanctuary website said.

Sarz Sanctuary will offer a free holistic healing sanctuary, providing the widest range of grief therapies that will be delivered in 7-day programs. At first, this will happen in one centre on Australia's Sunshine Coast. Once up and running, sanctuaries will be rolled out globally.

Mrs Wallace said they didn't want their daughter to have died in vain.

"We want to honour Sara's life and give purpose to her loss by helping others who have, like us, suffered traumatic grief," she wrote.

Sara Zelenak's parents Julie and Mark Wallace
Sara Zelenak's parents Julie and Mark Wallace

 

The charity ride will raise money for Sarz Sanctuary.
The charity ride will raise money for Sarz Sanctuary.

 

Mr and Mrs  Wallace with London Bridge terror attack survivor Candice Hedge (centre)
Mr and Mrs Wallace with London Bridge terror attack survivor Candice Hedge (centre)

They have applied for charitable status in Australia and Britain.

Before they set off on the ride they were met by Australia's High Commissioner George Brandis near the site Ms Zelenak was killed. they have also met an Australian survivor of the atrocity, Candice Hedge, who was stabbed in the neck.

In their last post, they told of the trip through London and to the White Cliffs of Dover where they caught a ferry to France. They spent the night at a hotel in Calais, before heading towards Paris.

"When Sara left a few months earlier to take the Aussie 'rite of passage' of living and working in the UK and travelling around Europe, we never thought it would be the last time we saw her."

"As parents, we don't think we will ever be able to come to terms with losing our child."

Mrs Wallace previously told of her terror when she heard she was missing, and revealed how close she had come to two previous terror attacks.

"The one with the policeman being stabbed three months ago, she was there the day before in the exact same spot," she said.

"She was going to go to the [Ariana Grande] concert. Everything she's just missed."

Ms Zelenak's friend Pri Goncalves says they became separated on the London Bridge when the attacks started.

"Sara was with me when people started running and shouting but at that very moment we got separated," she said at the time.

Ms Goncalves says she has been desperately trying to contact Sara since they were separated.

"When I was close to Borough Market I saw a guy on top of another guy who was screaming and then I knew something really bad was happening. I think he was stabbing him," she said.

"So I started calling her (Sara) but she never picked up the phone."

 

For more information, to donate or to follow their journey go to Sarz Sanctuary on Facebook.

 

andrew.koubaridis@news.com.au


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