Meeting the woman was the latest way Prince Harry has continued to follow in his mother's footsteps

By Joelle Goldstein
September 27, 2019 09:41 PM

Prince Harry is not only visiting the same places in Angola that Princess Diana did — he’s also meeting the same people who made an impact on her.

During his visit to the city of Huambo on Friday, Harry, 35, stopped at the Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre, the African hospital that his mother visited back in 1997, which has since been renamed after her.

While there, the Duke of Sussex was introduced to landmine victim Sandra Thijika. Though their meeting may have appeared to be a typical encounter, it was much more special than what initially meets the eye.

More than two decades before meeting the prince, Sandra famously shared a moment with Diana under a fig tree at an orthopedic workshop as a 13-year-old girl. The pair were captured sitting beside each other as Diana, then 36, placed her hand on Sandra’s shoulder.

Now, a 35-year-old woman with a prosthetic leg to help her get around, Sandra couldn’t help but smile as Harry shook her hand and later, knelt down beside her chair to chat with her on Friday.

Prince Harry, Princess Diana
Sandra Thijika with Princess Diana and Prince Harry
| Credit: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images; John Stillwell/PA Images
Prince Harry
Prince Harry and Sandra Thijika
| Credit: Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images

Sandra wasn’t the only person that Harry interacted with while visiting the site.

The royal also met with another landmine victim — Justina Cesar, who lost her leg at 3-years-old — as well as a number of young patients that he spent time with and watched as they received treatment from the center.

RELATED VIDEO: The Diana Diaries: Remembering the People’s Princess and Her Humanitarian Impact in Africa

Besides getting to know the patients, Harry toured the facilities and met the Minister for Health, the Director of Orthopedic Centre and a representative of BP, which has donated equipment.

Following a recent renovation, the hospital aims to become Angola’s national center of excellence in orthopedic care.

Prince Harry
Prince Harry with Justina Cesar
| Credit: Ian Vogler/Getty Image

The new dad to son Archie also made a short speech, where he explained why the visit was so “deeply personal and meaningful” to him.

“Since my mother’s visit to Huambo so many years ago, this city has undergone such a visible transformation,” he said in his speech. “I am humbled and honored that my mother’s work and commitment to de-mining continues to inspire and that her legacy is being recognized and celebrated today with the naming of the center in her honor.”

“It has been an honor to retrace my mother’s steps today. I lost her twenty-two years ago, but the memory of her is with me daily and her legacy lives on which is why I am so happy to name the center – ‘The Princess Diana Orthopaedic Centre.’ ”

Princess Diana Prince Harry Duke of Sussex
Prince Harry
| Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

On Thursday, Prince Harry visited the exact site where his mother walked 22 years ago. The former landmine field is now a vibrant community, with several colleges, schools, and small businesses. A tree, dubbed The Diana Tree, marks the spot where she was photographed in 1997.

“It has been emotional retracing my mother’s steps along this street 22 years on, and to see the transformation that has taken place, from an unsafe and desolate place into a vibrant community of local businesses and colleges,” Harry said in a speech at the site. “This is a wonderful example of how the UK partnership with Angola can address the issue of landmines, bringing prosperity to an area, creating jobs, helping people access education and healthcare, and making communities safer. The work of de-mining is dangerous, expensive and laborious, and I have the utmost admiration and respect for all who do this hazardous work and risk their lives in service of their community.”

He continued, “I am incredibly proud as I know my mother would’ve been, of the role that the United Kingdom has played in this transformation through funding and the expertise brought by UK specialist organizations such as the HALO Trust and Mines Advisory Group.”

Princess Diana and Prince Harry
| Credit: PA Wire/PA Images; Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images
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Earlier in the day, Harry visited a HALO Trust mine site outside Dirico in Angola, where he remotely detonated a mine and met with members of the community to learn how the de-mining efforts are benefitting the local population. Harry also gave a speech about the importance of clearing landmines in the context of conservation and for humanitarian reasons.

“Later today I will visit Huambo, to see the place where my mother walked through a minefield in 1997. Once heavily mined, the second city of Angola is now safe,” he said. “With the right international support, this land around us here can also be like Huambo – a landmine-free, diverse, dynamic, and thriving community, connected to and benefitting from all that it has to offer.”