Indonesian-born twins reunite in Sweden after 30 years

Indonesian twin sisters separated only weeks after birth have found each other almost 30 years later in Sweden, living just 60 kilometres apart.

Indonesian-born twins reunite in Sweden after 30 years
Twin sisters Emilie Falk (left) and Lin Backlund (right)

On top of this, they both work as teachers and were both married on the same day… but the coincidences don’t stop there.

Lin Backlund, 28, was more than a little sceptical when she received a Facebook message from a woman claiming to be her twin sister.

“I thought, ‘What crazy person is this’,” she tells The Local, adding that she ignored the message.

However, her curiosity aroused, Backlund approached her adoptive mother about the possibility of there being any truth in the unusual message, and was shocked to learn of a strange set of events that had been almost forgotten.

“My Swedish parents’ taxi driver was the key to everything,” Backlund explains.

When her parents were taking her to Sweden from the orphanage in Indonesia, when she was just 8 months old, the taxi driver asked the parents what had happened to Nur Kasanah (the name of her sister).

“He somehow knew that my [birth] parents had a girl named Nur Hidayah, which was me, and he was enquiring about my sister who had left the orphanage in Jakarta four weeks previously. Some think he was our birth father, but we don’t know,” she says.

The driver wrote the Indonesian names of the two girls down for Backlund’s parents, who two years later arranged a meeting with other the adopting family who were also living in Sweden.

However, at the meeting, discrepancies were found in the adoption papers, and it wasn’t clear whether the girls were actually sisters or just born on the same day.

“No one thought we looked at all alike, even back then,” Backlund chuckles, adding that the connection was forgotten and that the families lost contact.

That was 26 years ago.

But upon learning about this forgotten family history last year, Backlund decided to respond to the Facebook message, saying she was interested in meeting the sender.

Backlund wanted to see for herself if this woman, calling herself Emilie Falk of Helsingborg, was really her twin.

The women organized a meeting at Backlund’s parents’ home in Höör, with the aim of getting to the bottom of their sisterly mystery and to see where things led from there.

According to Backlund, she and Falk clicked immediately.

“It felt like we were sisters already,” she recalls.

“It felt like we’d known each other for a long, long time – even though we hadn’t. I have two other sisters, but the bond here was a lot different. Of course, the bond with my sisters is a lot stronger as we were brought up together, but it felt like I had known Emilie for a lifetime.”

The sisters’ unlikely story was highlighted earlier in the week by the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, which marvelled over the fact that Backlund and Falk, who were born on March 18th, 1983, in Semarang, Indonesia, had been living so close to one another for decades in southern Sweden.

The pair met several times since their first encounter, and eventually agreed to undertake a DNA test to find out once and for all if they were indeed biological sisters.

And when the DNA tests came in, Backlund and Falk were elated to discover that they were indeed twin sisters.

“It wouldn’t have mattered to me what the result was, but I was so happy to know for certain,” Backlund says.

As the sisters talked more about the astonishing coincidence of their Swedish reunion, they slowly began to find more similarities.

They both work as teachers, both speak the same dialect of Swedish (Skånska), and even have similar tastes in wedding planning.

“When we started comparing photos and papers, we found out that we both got married on exactly the same day. Emilie’s wedding was exactly one year before mine – to the day!”

But the final surprise was still to come.

“We even had the same wedding song – ‘You and Me’ by Lifehouse. Not many people seem to have heard of it; it’s not that common I think,” Backlund explains.

“We were amazed.”

In terms of the future, the sisters are keen to dig deeper into their past, and hope to eventually determine the identity of the taxi driver back in Indonesia who provided the initial clues leading to the sisters re-uniting in Sweden nearly three decades later.

“We want to find out if we have any family left in Indonesia, that’s our next step,” says Backlund.

“But we don’t really mind what we find now that we’ve found each other again.”

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‘You have to understand the Swedish concept of lagom if you want to find work’

When Laras Pinji started looking for jobs in Sweden she kept running into brick walls, but once she had grasped the meaning of ‘lagom’ she soon found her way into the world of work.

'You have to understand the Swedish concept of lagom if you want to find work'
Laras Pinji with her mentor at Mitt Liv.

More than four years have passed since Pinji moved from Dubai to Sweden with her husband and two children after her spouse got a job here.

Brimming with enthusiasm and equipped with journalism skills from her homeland Indonesia, she hoped to soon find work. 

“It was spring when we left Dubai and landed at Stockholm’s snowy white airport. We were staggered, but excited. Starting a new life in this lovely country was a challenge to the whole family.”     

While her husband started work, Pinji set about studying Swedish. After a few months she got accepted onto a master’s programme in international and comparative studies at Stockholm University. 

“Since my husband works and pays taxes we, his family, are entitled by Swedish law to free education. 

“For me this was a chance to evolve academically and improve my competence.” 

Hundreds of job applications – no responses

In 2015 she was keen to start working and decided to take a break from her studies. But the labour market proved tough to crack. 

“I sent countless job applications and hundreds of emails. At first, I was digging in my own field, journalism, but then swiftly reckoned that to get a job in this highly competitive realm, I needed a high level of Swedish that I didn’t yet possess. I changed my strategy and started searching more broadly, but got the same result: no replies at all.” 

She realised she must be doing something wrong, and endeavoured to figure it out. But she had few Swedish contacts and didn’t know where to turn for advice. 

But a tip from a friend nudged her in the direction of a free mentorship programme called Mitt livs chans (the chance of my life). 

“My friend told me that to join this programme and have a Swedish mentor’s help, I needed no more than being a newcomer with higher education, who understands Swedish and wants to get help.”

“I joined Mitt liv in September 2015, and after that many things became clearer to me. I learned that Swedes prefer shorter, detailed and more concise CVs, and that the applicant needs to exemplify their experience, and talk about their previous skills.”

For instance, when she told her mentor about a previous job as a communications coordinator for social media, he advised her to include more specifics on her CV, such as how often she posted and how many people her posts reached. 

Put your interests in your CV

“There’s also the ‘humane part’ of the CV that’s often not taken seriously by job seekers.

“I learned that the job seeker needs to give the employer a glimpse of their personal interests, of their extra activities out of the office. Who are you as a human being, and what do you do in your spare time? The employer might have similar interests to you, and this familiarity might make it easier for them to decide to employ you.” 

The course gave her more confidence and, what’s more, it produced results. With her finely tuned CV she got called to more than ten interviews. But, in a serendipitous twist, she ended up working as a communications coordinator for Mitt liv, the very organization that had given her  the guidance she needed. 

“I love my work. It allows me to meet people in the same situation I was in when I first moved here. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to inspire them. Because I know very well how depressing it feels when you have the skills, but can’t find your place. It really harms your self-confidence.” 

It took Pinji four years to get her first job contract in Sweden. 

“I think this was a bit too long. The process could have been way quicker if I’d known from the beginning the meaning of lagom: that is, adequate and sufficient; not too little, and never too much. 

“Being concise, accurate and articulate is the way to ‘lagomness’, and it’s the way to get a job.”


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