Can you tell them apart? Hardly. Julian and Julius Nkurayija are so identical that sometimes even their children mix up their identities. Agnes Kyotalengerire talked to them.
From the age of six, they have had to explain that they are two different people. It is not once or twice that identical twins Julius and Julian Nkurayija have had people mistaking them.
They vividly recall how teachers and pupils struggled to differentiate them since they always wore similar clothes and were in the same class.
“One time, I committed a crime and the teacher punished Julian instead of me,” Julius recalls.
To try and differentiate them, the teachers put them in different streams. When they got to P6, Julian was taken to Mbuya Army Primary School while Julius stayed at East Kololo Primary School.
For secondary education, Julian joined St Edwards Bukumi and Julius went to City High.
The twins worked at Naguru Teenage Centre as volunteers during their S6 vacation, counselling and testing youth for HIV. Later, they worked as peer educators for an international organisation.
As can be imagined, their resemblance often confused people. Sometimes, the director, Edith Mukisa, would give Julius an assignment, only to demand for it from Julian.
On Julian’s wedding, during the time for exchanging rings, the priest kept telling Julius to hold the bride’s arm to fix the ring.
Julian says it took his father-in-law a long time to tell them apart.
“During the introduction, he thought we wanted to confuse his daughter,” he laughs.
Julian and Julius as babies
However, Julius says there are moments when mistaken identity has bailed him out of situations. Once when he was stuck without a passport photo, he successfully used his twin brother’s.
Another time, Julian went to Mulago Hospital past visiting hours, but because Julius worked there at the time, the gateman let him in, mistaking him for Julius.
When they opened bank accounts, Julian picked up his ATM card first. When Julius came for his, the bank manager sent him away, saying he had already picked it.
The manager was shocked on discovering he could not differentiate their pictures on the computer, without their account numbers and signatures.
Even the children get confused
During the interview, Julian’s children kept pointing at his wedding pictures calling their father Uncle Julius.
Julian confessed that the children cannot tell them apart, especially when they interact with them at different times. The 36-year-olds admit that they do not regret being identical.
“It feels good to know that you have someone who looks exactly like you. It only gets bad when someone bumps into one of us and starts a discussion on things we do not know about. When we explain that it is mistaken identity, they think we are playing tricks,” Julian says.
However, Julius and Julian have different personalities.
Their mother, Agatha Busingye Nkurayija, describes Julius, the older twin, as slightly bigger and taller compared to Julian.
She says Julian has a deep voice and is quite outgoing, while Julius is a bit reserved and enjoys his privacy.
Busingye says the twins have been close and protective of each other since childhood. She raised them single handedly and says she did not give them twin names because they do not believe in twin rituals.
Julian’s two sets of twins
The Nkurayijas with their children; from left Anaya, Aviel and Hariel
Julian Nkurayija and his wife Mary, produced two sets of twins. The first set was fraternal; a boy and a girl.
Unfortunately, the babies were preterm and the girl passed on after five days, leaving them with Anaya Nkuraija, who will turn five on November 14. Two years later, Mary produced another set of twins.
This time, they were identical boys; Aviel and Hariel born on June 12, 2011. She says nursing two babies came with additional costs.
The younger set stopped breastfeeding at four months, so the parents were forced to introduce formula, which was expensive. The babies would fall sick at the same time, so the parents resorted to treating them at the same time.
“When Hariel falls sick, Aviel is also given treatment to avoid going back to hospital the next day,” Julian says.
Mary says the babies would sleep and wake up at the same time. Fortunately, her mother and her sister helped her. Julian would help out at night since the babies would wake up at the same time.
Her worst moment
What she dreaded about the multiple pregnancy was the bed rest.
“At about three months, my cervix would open, so to avoid miscarriages, the doctors would stitch it and advise me to take bed rest until I delivered,” Mary says.
For the first pregnancy, Mary took bed rest for seven months and the second one, for six months.
“I would stay in bed with my legs elevated to avoid exerting pressure on the cervix. I was not allowed to step out of bed not even walking to the sitting room.
“I would only use five minutes to bathe to avoid standing for long. I would work online and conduct meetings on phone and sometimes workers came to my house for training.”
Julian says losing their baby girl was the most challenging moment, but they have tried to talk and pray about it. Despite the challenges, Julian and Mary consider their twin experience a blessing.