He left Rwanda in 1975 as a lone migrant worker and ended up in northern Uganda. Yet 37 years later, Mathias Mbonaruza has returned to his motherland, with a family of 17 people, including his wife, children and grandchildren.
He still speaks some Kinyarwanda but none of his family knows their native language.
His family members speak Arabic, English and several languages spoken in northern Uganda.
Mbonaruza and his family, who has been living in Rhino Camp, Adjumani District in northern Uganda, were among 42 Rwandans who voluntarily returned home on Thursday from the neighbouring country.
The other returnees were living in Nakivale Camp in western Uganda.
The returnees were received by officials from government and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) at Kagitumba border.
Mbonaruza told The New Times he left for Uganda as a migrant worker in the 1975 before fleeing to Sudan during the war that ousted Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1979.
He returned to the West Nile region of northern Uganda after that war.
"Despite living a dejected life in a camp, I thought it would be better to return home and die in my home country" he said.
He reckons he has relatives in the Cyabingo area of the Northern Province.
Dawa Joseline 27, a daughter to Mbonaruza, said initially she thought they were Sudanese until "our father told us of our Rwandan roots".
"I feel so proud to be home even as we are faced with a language barrier," Dawa, who worked as a taxi driver, said.
The assistant settlement commandant of Nakivale Camp, under the Ugandan prime minister's office, Irene Abina Polyne, said the returnees came back under the Come-and-See, Go-and-Tell initiative.
"Some of these refugees had visited Rwanda to assess the situation and finally decided to repatriate voluntarily, and the Ugandan government is ready to continue facilitating the refugees who want to return home", she said.
Rosette Mukanyangenzi, a mother of four who left in 1994, said the problem of insufficient food and other basic needs made it necessary for her and her family to return home.
"I came to Rwanda recently to assess the situation and I realised the country was stable, went back and informed my husband and others to return and more are coming," she narrated.
She said her family is in Gatsibo District in Eastern Province.
Brenda Shantaria, the in-charge of repatriation at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs, welcomed the returnees at the Gatuna border, and pledged government support in their reintegration process.
UNHCR recently recommended the invocation of a Cessation Clause on Rwandan refugees, with the host countries set to enforce the decision come June 30, 2013. The UN agency says the reasons that drove Rwandans into exile were no more.
Most of the refugees fled between 1959 and 1998.
The Cessation Clause states that refugees must either voluntarily return home or apply for citizenship to stay in their host countries.
While more than 3.4 million refugees have voluntarily returned to Rwanda since 1994, another 100,000 still live as refugees, mainly in African countries.