It was a dying wish of her grandmother’s and as much as she tried, it was one she could not forget.
This was not the post I had originally planned. I like my posts to have a theme and as it was Christmas and New Year, I had drafted one about the interconnectedness of people. So, in all honesty, this theme has been rattling around my head for some weeks. And then, coincidentally, a peace activist that I have befriended told me the prophecy of the coming of the Shambala Warriors. Hmm, I thought – another fable about interconnectedness. Perhaps a better post than the one I was writing.
Then three days ago I receive a message. It was a random Facebook message from someone, a stranger, looking for my 90 year-old Latvian mother, Vera.
She came to Australia in 1947 as a World War 2 displaced person. She described herself as an only child and an orphan. Some members of her family were killed in the war, others disappeared behind the Iron Curtain which had slammed shut.
She told us this time and time again. She was all alone, she said, with no family. No-one. I used to say, “Don’t worry, you’ll always have me. I’ll never leave you.”
But what about distant family I thought? Aren’t we all connected to someone – however distantly? And so I travelled to Latvia twice, in 1992 and 2010, looking for information about her people. I wandered down graveyards in strange towns that she had mentioned, trying to find a Ludzitis. Having never seen photos of my grandparents (she lost most photos in the war) I have always wondered what they looked like. I looked at old photos in regional museums hoping that a face might jump out and claim me. I sat down in records offices looking at lists of names, trying to find a connection to her, a document of some kind that would retrace her footsteps. All her family did indeed seem to have gone.
And yet a beautiful soul in Latvia had known all along about Vera’s story. While growing up, her grandmother told her Vera’s story – how she had fled to Australia along with thousands of others displaced refugees.
And she made her promise, as her dying wish, that she would one day track her down and find her. She spoke no English, but found through contacts someone who knew someone who lived in Australia … perhaps he could help. He did. He was prepared to do a couple of months of research, grill older members of the Latvian community and, once he located Vera’s married name, fire-off random messages to all the Hickeys on Facebook.
Her grandmother, Ursule, was Vera’s sister. I had an auntie? And there seem to be other siblings too. I am still not sure whether to believe this news yet they seem to know too much about Vera. I am in shock. Double shock. Stunned that she has relatives. And more stunned that she lied to me, to us, all those years ago. I was intensely close to my mother, I adored her. What was behind this invention? It was the Cold War. Was it fear, paranoia or a desire to protect family who could be arrested? I ring her best friend, Reina, who came on the same migrant ship and quiz her: did Vera ever, ever speak of a sister? No, never, she said. She spoke of an auntie in the country, but not a sister.
Yet more than this I am thrilled and excited to pieces for suddenly, the missing pieces of my family puzzle are within reach. I rush over to her hostel to tell Vera the news. What a dark horse you are! Your family … they have found you!
In my heart, I absolutely knew it! Hadn’t for weeks the Universe been telling me that loud and clear? We are all interconnected. Like roots from a giant tree, we can grow miles away from the trunk, and not even recognize where we came from. Yet we are still connected to the same source and love will find a way.