I saw my sister, Dagmar for the first time when I was five years old. This was in Frankfurt in 1950. My mother had left Dagmar with her mother when she came to South Africa with my father, after the war. Dagmar and I don't have the same father. Just before we went to Frankfurt my mother told me I had a sister, but it was a secret for her, my father and me. A sister! Wow! When I got off the plane and saw her I was instantly in love. My proudest moments were when she'd put her arm around me and introduce me as, "Karoli, mein schwester." I was a sister I belonged to her and she belonged to me. But after 6 months my mother and I returned to South Africa.
The next time I saw Dagmar I was twenty, married and on honeymoon in Rome, where she lived with her husband. We could only converse in German, and mine was rusty, but it didn't matter we loved each other so much. It has to be said that Dagmar was so beautiful that men would stop us in the street to gape at her, which was a bit galling for the three years younger, not nearly as beautiful sister.
One evening Dagmar and I got drunk together and she asked me why our mother had left her. I was blindsided and told her what my mother said when I asked why Dagmar wasn’t coming with us. "I asked her, but she wanted to stay with the Omi." Dagmar was silent. The shame would stay with me for years. After that we lost contact.
Our mother let Dagmar down again when her own mother died and she didn't go to be with Dagmar. She couldn’t apologize to Dagmar and that was the end of their relationship.
I’d lost contact with Dagmar, but she’s always been on my mind, and thirty-five years later when I began writing memoir I tried to find her. She wasn't anywhere, but then when I put in Arianna my niece's name, there she was on Facebook. I didn't know if it was her, but really I did, she was blond, but stunningly beautiful, and a lot like Dagmar. I sent messages and didn't hear anything back, until a ping from Messenger at 2am today confirmed that it was her. There she was my beautiful niece, and between tears the messages went between us, until we spoke on What’s App. And in one hour I will be talking to my sister, who also cried when Arianna told her. My very own sister, niece, and great-nephew! All in one day!