In Sweden, A Curious Case Of Twins Separated As Babies

Indonesian-born twins Lin Backman and Emilie Falk used scraps of anecdotal information and Facebook to find each other after 30 years. Adopted as babies, both women grew up in Sweden, work as teachers and even chose the same song for their weddings.

Similarities in separated twins' lives can often be uncanny (Ruth L)
Similarities in separated twins' lives can often be uncanny (Ruth L)
Claudia Becker

Lin Backman, 29, was still a baby when her adoptive parents came to get her at an orphanage in Indonesia in 1983. The Backmans were going to take the infant girl from Semarang back to Sweden with them. They must have been so happy to leave the orphanage at the other end of the world with the child and climb in the taxi – excited and maybe a little uncertain too. And then the cab driver said something that confused them: "Where is the other one, the sister?" he asked.

The Backmans knew nothing of a sister. But the cab driver was sure that baby Lin had a twin. He even knew the supposed twin's name, and told the Backmans what it was.

Back in Sweden, the couple tried to find out more about their adopted daughter's supposed twin. Their search led them to a little girl who, interestingly enough, was also living in Sweden – just about 40 km away. A couple named Falk had adopted the girl, Emilie, from the same orphanage in Indonesia.

Was Emilie really their daughter's twin? The two couples met to look over the adoption papers together. They were surprised to learn that both girls had a mother with the same name, Maryati Rajiman. But the rest of what was in the papers didn't add up to anything conclusive.

What's more, the girls didn't resemble each other particularly. This was back in the days before DNA tests, which would have resolved the matter. Neither the Backmans nor the Falks came away from the encounter believing their children were related. They didn't stay in touch. However, both couples would later tell their daughters about the meeting.

Lin Backman and Emilie Falk both found the information interesting, but after an initial flurry of questions they too let the matter rest. As busy teens, they had enough going on in their lives. Both graduated from high school and went to university, then fell in love and got married.

Finding each other on Facebook

Emilie Falk saw her marriage not only as the beginning of a new phase in her life, but also an occasion to take a look at her past, her roots. "I began to think about families, and about my adoption," she says.

She did some research, and in a network for adopted children from Indonesia found Lin Backman. She exchanged her first words with her on Facebook. "I was born on March 18, 1983 in Semarang," she wrote. "My biological mother's name is Maryati Rajiman." It wasn't long before she got an answer. "Wow, that's my mother's name!" Backman wrote enthusiastically. "And that's my birthday!"

The two young women decided to meet. And when they did, they found out they had a lot of things in common. For starters, both were teachers. They also got married on the same day, albeit one year apart. Strangely enough, they had both requested the same song, "You and Me" by a group called Lifehouse, be played at their wedding parties.

Twins separated shortly after birth and reunited years later offer psychologists and biologists wonderful possibilities to research the extent to which our genes determine our personality. Results can often be uncanny.

One much-publicized example in Ohio, in the United States, is the case of Jim Lewis and Jim Springer, twin brothers separated a few weeks after birth and adopted by different parents. For 39 years neither knew about the other, and then in 1979 they met – and discovered how similar they were. They both smoked the same brand of cigarettes, drank the same beer, drove the same car. Both had been married twice, first to a Linda and then to a Betty. Their sons were named James Alan and James Allan; their dogs were named Toy. Both had second jobs as auxiliary sheriffs and gardens with a tree on the lawn near a white bench.

However compelling the similarities were, however, they did not constitute proof of a genetic role. What has come to be commonly accepted today is that genetic and environmental influences play equally important roles in determining personality. Indeed, there are also examples of sets of twins displaying very different characteristics.

Putting their suspicions to the test

Lin Backman and Emilie Falk are individual personalities with different talents. They are also fraternal as opposed to identical twins, so genetically speaking their relation to each other is that of normal siblings.

DNA testing gave the young women the certainty they wanted that they were indeed related. When Backman got the result, she called her sister on her mobile. Falk was in her car when she found out that she and Lin had a 99.98% probability of being sisters. "My first reaction was to laugh," she says, adding that the next thought that occurred to her was that she and Lin had already spent nine months together – in their mother's uterus. And she couldn't imagine ever being separated from her again.

But neither twin is crying over the years they spent apart. "There's nothing to be sad about," says Falk. "I'm just happy that we found each other."

The women are now planning a trip to Indonesia together to find both their biological parents. They already have their mother's name. From the adoption papers they also have one detail about their dad: they know that he was a taxi driver.

Read the original story in German

Photo - Ruth L

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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