PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Juliet Bornia grew up in South Africa, something she used to keep secret when she traveled.

"When people asked you where you were from you would say Australia or New Zealand. You wouldn't want to tell anybody where you were from. You were worried about the backlash," she said.

Bornia grew up during apartheid, with black servants. 

"We were old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, but too young to do anything about it as children growing up there," Bornia said. 

Eventually, she was old enough to do something about it. With a smile, Bornia relives voting to end apartheid -  and to elect Nelson Mandela as president. 

"What made him so different and what made whites revere him is that after power he protected whites," she said. 

He always showed an interest in everybody. Bornia recalls meeting Mandela one day as his helicopter landed where she lived, a year after he came into power. 

"He treated everybody as if they were alone. He asked everyone a question including myself. He asked  me, 'What are you studying?' I said, 'Law', and he said, 'Good, me too.'"

It's a statement that stuck with her. 

"Whenever times were tough during studying, I always thought of him and the gift it was to have an education as well," she said. 

Mandela's death devastated people all over the world, but it made Bornia appreciate his life even more. 

"When he dies, you suddenly realized the impact he had on your life, and how different things could have been. I think that's when it really hit you, the alternative scenario, what could've happened," Bornia said. 

Bornia now lives in Palm Desert with her husband.  She just got back from visiting her mother in South Africa - a new land in her eyes. 

"It is wonderful to see blacks and whites and Indians and mixed race people all together. You always hear about he good but you don't see the good. I see such good when I visit there and I'm now proud to say I grew up there," Bornia said.