1. The early years
33-year-old Lin Backlund and Emelie Falk tick all of the boxes when it comes to mysterious, unique and heartwarming circumstances.
After all, it’s not everyday you meet twins who were separated at birth, only to be reunited as adults 29 years later. It’s also somewhat of a rare occurrence to discover that both sisters grew up to be school teachers, got married on the same day and even danced to the same wedding song – You and Me by Lifehouse.
In 1983, the non-identical twins were born to a large family in the northern city of Semarang, Indonesia. Eight months later, they were taken to an orphanage where they were both separately adopted to two loving couples. Strangely enough, both families lived in Sweden and raised the girls in adjoining towns.
The only catch was that neither twin knew about the other, and that wasn’t going to change any time soon.
“I knew I had a lot of siblings in Indonesia because we read the adoption papers a few times when I was young,” Lin said. “But I never felt like anything was missing. My younger sisters in Sweden were, and are, my real sisters.”
Emelie expressed similar feelings, but admitted that sometimes she did feel like something was missing.
“I guess in my heart I knew I had a twin sister, but I had everything you could ask for: two loving parents and a little brother. I had a really happy life,” she revealed. “When I was a little girl, my mum used to tell me I was born in her heart instead of her belly.”
Both girls grew up to be beautiful, kind hearted and smart young women with loving husbands and children of their own. They already had everything they wanted and needed, so why waste time digging up the past?
But when Emelie started planning her wedding in 2009, she began wondering about the circumstances surrounding her adoption. Eventually, she thought that perhaps it was worth some investigating. And just like an itch that wouldn’t go away, the curiosity eventually consumed her.
Which is when everything started to unravel…
“When you were a small girl, a woman called to ask if her daughter could maybe be your biological sister,” were the words Emelie’s mother used when she was questioned about the adoption.
According to her, when Lin’s parents left the orphanage with their new baby all those years ago, their taxi driver – confused – turned to them and asked:
“What about the other one, the sister?”
Assumedly, he’d seen the babies around and knew a thing or two about them. He even happily jotted the girls’ Indonesian names down on a piece of paper – Nur Hidayah (now Lin) and Nur Kasanah (now Emelie) so that the Backlunds could decide what to do with the information.
And without further adieu, the family took Lin home to Sweden and vowed to one day uncover the truth.
3. When nothing added up
Two years later, the Backlunds were finally able to track down Emelie and her family. To their astonishment, the Falks also lived in southern Sweden, which was a huge coincidence considering the twins were both born in Indonesia.
Eventually, the families arranged a meeting and sat down with one common goal in mind: to figure everything out once and for all.
But when the Backlunds and the Falks compared their daughters’ birth certificates, a few confusing discrepancies were found. Lin’s certificate said she had more siblings than Emelie’s, and both documents listed different addresses for their biological parents. The only thing the birth certificates did have in common were their parents’ names, which wasn’t enough to convince anyone.
In light of this new information, the Backlunds and Falks concluded their daughters weren’t sisters, let alone twins. DNA tests hadn’t been invented back then, so there was very little anyone could do.
“We weren’t similar at all,” Emelie said. “And they were all just happy being a family. My parents has been longing for children for more than ten years.”
All connections were soon forgotten and subsequent contact was lost. However, both girls were raised in stable and loving homes. Lin was blessed with two younger sisters, while Emelie grew up with a brother three years her junior. To their parents’ credit, neither twin ever felt out of place or like they didn’t belong in their own homes.
“There was no difference between us growing up,” Lin said when questioned about her siblings. “Once my mother told the doctor, a few seconds before she could think it through, that she couldn’t understand why I was allergic to a lot of stuff, since neither she or my father had any allergies. She worked as a nurse and she’s usually educated, but just in that small second – that’s how natural she thought it was that we should have the same genes.”
4. PUTTING THEIR SUSPICIONS TO THE TEST
Fast forward 29 years and both women were still living in Sweden. They had moved out of their childhood homes, but they still had very positive relationships with their parents and siblings.
But after learning of her adoption story, then 29-year-old Emelie began to think that maybe there was more to the story than her parents originally suspected. And now that technology was so advanced and information was more easily accessible, she could take matters into her own hands.
“When all of this information came to me, I decided to search for Lin, and I found her on Facebook,” Emelie said. “I was really nervous to send her a message, but I wrote ‘Hi, my name is Emelie. I don’t know if you’re the person I’m looking for, but…’ and then I told her the whole story my mum told me.”
According to Emelie, Lin was very sceptical at first and gave “quite short” replies, such as “Hi. Hm, this sounds weird.” But after Lin spoke with her own mother who confirmed Emelie’s story, she became more enthusiastic and the two soon became fast friends.
“We decided to meet for the first time in Lund at Lin’s place,” Emelie said. “When I saw her, the first thing I thought was that she was really pretty and had long legs. We sat in her living room and talked about everything and nothing. It felt really nice and relaxed.”
However, even though both women felt an instant connection, Lin said the meeting wasn’t particularly overwhelming or exciting, as neither twin knew whether they were actually sisters.
“We met because we at least had the same background, and we were probably born in the same village, or at least we had been in the same orphanage,” she admitted.
After getting to know each other a bit more and keeping in constant contact, Lin and Emelie both eventually agreed to undertake a DNA test to find out once and for all if their feelings were warranted.
“It (the test) said we were 99.98% sisters,” Emelie said. “That made us both laugh and cry. It felt really nice, although we could already feel in our hearts that we were sisters and twins before the results came back.”
“I knew it was something good and special,” Lin agreed. “When we got the DNA results, it was a relief. It was an ‘okay’ that we were allowed to feel what we were feeling. We felt like we had been friends all our lives.”
5. The similarities and differences
Although Lin and Emelie are fraternal twins with many different interests, it’s blatantly obvious they also have plenty in common – and not only their teaching professions, wedding dates and wedding song selections.
“We’re both sensitive and sometimes we act on a feeling,” Lin said. “We have a hard time letting things go, and we care a lot about the wellbeing of others, which can be both good and bad. We both also like home decorating and being creative. Emelie is good at writing, making birthday cards, scrapbooking and so on, and I have my sewing and gardening. We both also like music and singing, but Emelie’s so much better.”
But just like any other siblings, the twins also have their differences. For example, while Lin appears more calm and reserved, Emelie comes across louder and more outgoing.
“I like to talk and laugh out loud,” Emelie said. “I like to do things very fast and get them done quickly, while Lin’s the opposite.”
Lin, who agreed, said that Emelie is more comfortable being the centre of attention.
“She’s more social than me. I like to be in the background, except for when I teach,” she said. “People sometimes say I’m like the older sister and she’s the younger one, but I think that’s because she’s more lively and outgoing.
We’re both teachers, so we both like education. However, Emelie’s more patient with younger kids because I educate 17-19 year olds,” Lin laughed. “For me, they’re too much effort – even my own!”
Lin then admitted that she’s calmer and more of a thinker than Emelie, but that Emelie tends to share more personal stories than she does.
“I’m happy to do that as well, but with people I know,” she said. “I don’t know why, because I trust people too, but I guess I just don’t like being in the centre as much. Emelie’s more sensitive and knows the right thing to say. I went to high school with just guys, so I guess sometimes I communicate as a typical male. No prejudice there, but I’m just more straight forward with what I think and I don’t take the time to read feelings.”
And although they are two independent, strong women with their own lives and responsibilities, at the end of the day they have the twin thing down pat.
“We can both sense how the other is feeling,” Emelie said. “Sometimes we text the other one in the middle of the night with “I know you’re awake. What’s up? How are you feeling?”
6. Nature vs nurture
“I think the environment plays the absolute biggest part of who we become. I also think it’s dangerous to think it’s all in our genes, like ‘blood is thicker than water’ because honestly, sometimes it’s not. You’re not done or finished when you’re born, you are made and change during your lifetime. The choices you make affect who you are. It’s not all in your genes. You are able to change who you are.” – Lin Backlund.
Lin and Emelie might be fraternal twins, but the nature vs nurture debate is always an interesting concept when it comes to twins or siblings who were separated at birth and raised apart.
The debate is one of the oldest arguments in the history of psychology. There are many good and relevant points for both sides, so it’s been difficult for researchers to determine whether a person’s development is predisposed by his or her DNA, or whether it’s influenced by his or her experiences and environment.
There has always been fascination surrounding twins and siblings raised separately. Identical twins, in particular, share the same amount of DNA because they originate from the same egg. Fraternal twins, like Lin and Emelie, come from separate eggs and share only 50% of their DNA, just like normal siblings.
According to Personality Research, fraternal twins are far less likely to be as similar as identical twins, but there are still possibilities that they – like any normal siblings – could grow up to have the same interests, tastes in food, fashion style, friends and more.
Personality is a good example of a trait that has been studied in both identical and fraternal twins. Identical twins reared apart are much more similar in personality than fraternal twins in the same situation. According to researchers, this suggests that personality is heritable.
Dr Nancy Segal, Professor of Psychology at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and Director of the Twin Studies Centre, has authored approximately 120 scientific articles regarding twins. She has also published four books, and is currently working on a fifth one titled ‘Twin Mythconceptions: Facts Or Fiction?’
According to Dr Segal, identical twins reared apart are just as alike as identical twins reared together. To rule out identical appearance, she even studied personality in unrelated look alikes who turned out to be quite different. However, this wasn’t surprising as she very much expected that to be the case.
Dr Segal revealed that nature and nurture both play roles in shaping a person, but genes have a greater influence on some things, such as personality, rather than other things like job satisfaction.
She also said that separated twins are generally more alike than different later in life. One example she provided was a set of identical twins she studied in her book: ‘Invisible by two: lives of extraordinary twins.’ These twin brothers were part of a landmark Minnesota twin study that Dr Segal was heavily involved with, and which took place from the late 1980s until the early 2000s.
Jack Yufe and Oskar Stohr were born in 1993 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to a German Catholic mother and a Romanian Jewish father. However, Yufe grew up as Jewish in Trinidad and became part of the Israeli navy. His identical twin brother, Oskar Stohr was raised as a Catholic in Nazi Germany and eventually joined the Hitler Youth.
According to Dr Segal, the men were “very similar in most aspects, except for their political and historical views.”
When the brothers first met, they didn’t get along at all. In fact, they refused to acknowledge each other as fellow human beings – let alone twins. They said goodbye on bad terms, and it wasn’t until 25 years later during the Minnesota Twin Study that they were reunited.
When Yufe and Stohr met at the airport, coincidently they were both wearing the exact same outfit: a white sports jacket, a shirt and glasses. Additionally, both twins enjoyed reading books from back to front, wrapped rubber bands around their wrists, wore tight swimsuits, sneezed loudly in lifts and always flushed the toilet before and after using it.
In Dr Segal’s book, she said most of these traits could be explained by genetics. The toilet flushing, for example, was most likely a result of the brothers’ aversion to germs.
The only things the men didn’t have in common were their political views and beliefs, including who they thought was responsible for World War II. Obviously, the twins had extremely different upbringings and it was difficult for their genes to overcome such prominent and strong environmentally shaped beliefs.
The Minnesota Twin Study ran for over 20 years. The researchers studied 137 pairs of separated twins – 81 identical and 56 fraternal. The study was revolutionary in the respect that scientists discovered the environment didn’t play a role as significant as they originally suspected. For example, religiosity and social attitudes showed a genetic influence, rather than an environmental one.
Another study, which was commissioned by the Journal Science, researched intelligence in relation to genetics. They found that 70 percent of IQ variation across the twin population was caused by genetic differences, and 30 percent was due to environmental differences.
Among identical twins, 80 percent of those surveyed said they felt closer to their new twin than they currently did with their oldest and closest friends. According to researchers, this suggested a very strong genetic component in the bond between identical twins.
Twin studies have evolved significantly over the last few decades. New research has given scientists an entirely innovative understanding of the roles that both genes and the environment play in human development. Now and in the future, researchers are aiming to link specific genes to certain behaviours. They’re also hoping to discover a lot more about genetic and environmental crossovers and their relationships to both identical and fraternal twins.
7. Where are Lin and Emelie now?
It’s now been five years since Lin and Emelie met for the first time, but according to them it feels much longer.
“It was like suddenly having a new best friend that you don’t really know, but it feels like you do,” Lin said. “We have known each other for just five years, but it feels like a life time. I also feel safe with her. I know she will be there for me and I for her no matter what.
We send text messages every other day, and talk almost every week. We both work as teachers and have small children, so we have a lot to discuss. However, we both have very busy lives, so we don’t see each other that often. It’s also hard because we have different families, so all holidays and special occasions are with different families and friends.”
And although Emelie said sometimes she feels sad that she and Lin missed out on so much of each other’s lives, she wouldn’t change anything, as they both have very good lives.
“Now we have kids, and they have the opportunity to get to know each other and be a part of each other’s lives,” Emelie said. “That makes me happy.”
Lin currently lives with her husband and two young sons, while Emelie lives with her husband and two infant daughters.
Emelie teaches Swedish to immigrants, and also teaches English and Swedish to young children. When she gets the time, she enjoys writing, singing and hanging out with her family and friends.
Lin leads a very busy life teaching high school students, but she also runs a small company where she sells and sews clothes. Some of her hobbies also include running, cycling and gardening.
8. More reunions
Due to the success of their own reunion, the twins have even travelled back to Indonesia a few times to meet their biological family. According to Emelie, their first meeting was “magical,” but she couldn’t have done it without Lin by her side.
During one of their trips to Indonesia, Lin and Emelie were shocked to discover that they also had biological twin brothers who were separated at birth, adopted and raised separately – only a few years prior to their own adoptions.
After reaching out to the Internet, the women were eventually able to locate their twin brothers, Heru and Hero. One of the brothers was presumed dead, so they only searched for Heru. However, it was a very pleasant surprise when both Heru and Hero responded to the search.
The male twins were raised in different countries, and according to Lin, they have many differences. The men still have difficulties speaking with each other, as they both experienced “sad and hard” childhoods which affected them greatly.
As for their other biological siblings, they have 13 in total. 11 of them are still in Indonesia, and Lin and Emelie have even been introduced to some of them.
Emelie said that she’d always believed her personality was similar to her Swedish family’s, but upon meeting her Indonesian family, she realised that she and Lin also inherited a number of traits from them.
“I don’t like being alone,” she said. “And I believe it’s because we have a lot of family members and it’s somehow in my blood to feel safe with a lot of people around me. I’m also sensitive, just like my sisters and biological mum.”
9. But the story isn’t over yet…
There are still some remaining mysteries regarding Lin and Emelie’s story…
Firstly, why was that taxi driver so familiar with the babies’ names all those years ago? Nobody knows for sure, but some people have speculated that he was actually their biological father.
And secondly, are Lin and Emelie’s similarities and differences due to their near identical upbringings or were they caused by DNA?
“We both had good, safe childhoods with everything we ever needed,” Lin said. “We both have the same culture and same typical Swedish family life, so it’s hard to see any differences there. Perhaps it would have been easier if one of us were brought up in a totally different culture or country. We were even brought up in the same part of Sweden.”
10. Their advice
While many can’t relate to Lin and Emelie’s situation, it’s never certain what life has in store. And if you’ve been separated from a loved one, or if you were adopted, one day you might want to find out more.
Here’s Emelie’s advice:
“It’s so different for every person, but I know that for many people this means everything. My advice is to be as calm as possible and take your time to get to know the person you were separated from. It’s very emotional, and it’s not always easy to handle.
Lin and I were lucky that we had each other when we were searching for our biological parents. We’re also in the same country, speak the same language and have people around us who make us feel safe. I think it’s important that you have someone to talk to. Family members, friends, or even someone you don’t know. There are a lot of different adoption groups on Facebook, for example – people to talk to and share experiences with.”
If you have any questions regarding adoption, you can anonymously call the adoption hotline on 1-800-923-6602, or you can visit their website.