I'd been trying to trace my family tree on the Belgian side for years, but had found most had died during the war. That was apart from one distant Aunt, Lucienne who lived in Brussels, aged over 90 at the time, but we exchanged a few letters. She wrote in French and I replied in English, so I guess as much a struggle for her as it was for me. One day, I opened her latest letter, and there it was... "This is a photo of your mother and father's wedding"! The photo showed a young man in a sailor uniform, obviously my father, and a smartly dressed and beautiful woman, but hey, hang on, that wasn't even vaguely like my mother!
Instant conclusion...I had to be adopted! Hallelujah! I could escape! It fulfilled a dream, why question it! For about a month I made all sorts of plans as to what I'd say to my new, real mother when I met her. How I'd forgive her and tell her all about my horrible life since she gave me away. How she'd hug me, crying, and say how sorry she was (must have seen that on TV). Did I have half brothers and sisters? They couldn't be worse than the ones I had, surely! The name of the woman (bride) was mentioned in the letter, Molly Cohen, now I could start my search.
First the London telephone directories at my local post office, and in book form there were dozens (no digital search then)! Cohen was a fairly common name, so starting at the beginning, I phoned every one; about a weeks wages. But, half way through... Bingo! I found her! But all was not to end well. She told me that she had know my father once, but would be grateful if I'd never contact her again, putting the phone down on me. I was shattered, my own mother didn't want to know me. There was little I could do at the time, and it took years for it all to slowly work further back in my mind.
It wasn't until later in life that I was contacted by a woman of similar age to me, Cynthia Rose Kovar,
who explained that she was the daughter of Molly and Norbert (my dad) Sencier. We shared the same father, who was now sadly dead, and Cynthia had never met him since she was a baby. She had so many questions. She was under the impression that our father had moved to South Africa, yet all her life he had been no more than an hours drive away. I tried to reassure her, that even though he was a hard working and decent man, she hadn't missed out on the, 'ideal father' relationship that she'd probably imagined. He'd been severely damaged by the war years, was very reclusive and had spent very little time with us as children. He was also agoraphobic, staying in his room reading books, only going out to work when darkness fell. We used to think he might even be a vampire! (TV again)
She had taken the name of Dr. Ilya Kovar, who she'd married, but had then changed back to become Cynthia Rose Sencier, my little half sister.
So the photo in the wedding picture was my father's first wife, Molly Cohen, a jewish girl who he'd married several years before meeting my mother, Ellen Patricia Laffan.
Cynthia and I met several times in the years after that, most memorably for the first time in York Minster, after she had travelled north from London, and I south from Edinburgh. We spent the day talking about our lives, our parents and our families. I met her lovely children and she met some of mine. She was less than 5 foot tall but 2 years older than me, and as I was over 6 foot tall, she used the age factor to call me her, 'little brother'.
6 years ago, I told her I had cancer, and she disappeared in the same breath! I've never been able to make contact since, and often wonder what happened in her mind to destroy a relationship that seemed to be going so well. Since then, her mother has died and so has mine! Wherever you are Cynthia Rose Sencier, know that I still love you, 'big Sis'. I'm in Bangkok now, doing well, still in remission, hoping that you are doing well too.