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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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How WeChat Is Helping Bhutan's Disappearing Languages Find A New Voice

Phd candidate Tashi Dema, from the University of New England, discusses how social media apps, particularly WeChat, are helping to preserve local Bhutanese languages without a written alphabet. Dema argues that preservation of these languages has far-reaching benefits for the small Himalayan country's rich culture and tradition.

A monk in red performing while a sillouhet of a monk is being illuminated by their phone.

Monk performing while a sillouheted monk is on their phone

Source: Caterina Sanders/Unsplash
Tashi Dema

THIMPHU — Dechen, 40, grew up in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. Her native language was Mangdip, also known as Nyenkha, as her parents are originally from central Bhutan. She went to schools in the city, where the curriculum was predominantly taught in Dzongkha, the national language, and English.

In Dechen’s house, everyone spoke Dzongkha. She only spoke her mother tongue when she had guests from her village, who could not understand Dzongkha and during her occasional visits to her village nestled in the mountains. Her mother tongue knowledge was limited.

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However, things have now changed.

With 90% of Bhutanese people using social media and social media penetrating all remotes areas in Bhutan, Dechen’s relatives in remote villages are connected on WeChat.

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