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Mormon leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf, refugee-turned-pilot-turned-apostle, returned to his childhood home in the Czech Republic this week more than 70 years after he and his family fled the East European nation.

"I am glad that even though we left and had to experience the sadness of war, I still have great memories of those first four years of my life in the Czech Republic," the 75-year-old Uchtdorf, second counselor in the governing First Presidency of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a news release. "I feel very much at home here, coming back to the place of my birth."

In a video accompanying the release, Uchtdorf, with wife Harriet at his side, explained that years after his family left Ostrava, in what is now the Czech Republic, he received a religious blessing while in Arizona informing him that one day he would go back to the place of his birth and "proclaim the gospel."

Earlier during his visit, Uchtdorf established the first LDS stake (a group of Mormon congregations) in the Czech Republic, with its more than 2,500 Latter-day Saints.

"This is a happy place," he said in the video, noting an earlier return to the Czech Republic in 1995, "and this stake will grow and will be a strength and a wonderful blessing to this nation."

The popular Uchtdorf, sometimes dubbed "Mormonism's Pope Francis," was actually a refugee twice in his life — once while leaving Czechoslovakia and again while moving from then-East Germany to West Germany.

David Noyce