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Andy’s story: reconnecting with his birth family

Black and white photo of Andy's father kissing his mother, standing next to her sisterOriginally from Latvia, Andy Valters’ family was displaced to Germany after the Second World War. His mother (pictured here receiving a kiss from his father) died shortly after he was born, making his father a single parent. At the age of nine he was fostered to an English family near Taunton, Somerset, while his father, Bernard Valters, stayed working in Germany.

“I did feel lost as any nine year old would do but I was fostered by a very loving family,” says Andy, now a 64-year-old father of two with five grandchildren. “My father came across when I was 11 and had to bring a friend with him who could speak English because by that time I’d lost my Latvian and German. That was the last time I saw him.”

Family tragedy

In 1965, Andy was informed that his father had died in a car accident. Along with the letter he received was a photograph of a woman and twin boys, whom he believed to be his father’s second wife and his half-brothers.

Old photo of Andy's father with MagdalenaAndy says: “I was in the special forces so I wasn’t able to contact anyone that hadn’t been checked by the security services. When I left the services, so much time had gone by that I left things – I didn’t want to upset the apple cart. Recently my daughter persuaded me saying, ‘You may not be interested, Dad, but your son and daughter are’.”

Andy contacted the Red Cross’ international family tracing services in Worcester in October 2009 for help reconnecting him with his family. Having been in the forces, he was familiar with this side of the Red Cross’ work. He says: “I hoped that if I ever became a prisoner of war, I would receive Red Cross food parcels but I also knew the Red Cross searched for lost relatives.”

The first phone call

A request was sent to the German Red Cross and in July 2010 the International Family Tracing team in Worcester received a letter saying that Magdalena Thiele, Bernard Valters’ widow (pictured above with his father), had been located and was eager to hear from Andy. He wrote her a letter and soon received a telephone call he describes simply as “wonderful”.

Black and white photo of Andy's brother as a young man“She immediately started talking about my father and it was wonderful to hear her talking about him,” he says. “Even though she knew him for a long time, they were only married nine months before he was killed in a car accident. One of the things she told me was how he used to cry because he had lost his son and, at the same time, he didn’t want to contact me because he knew I had a new life. It’s very sad that he thought that.”

Andy is now in contact with Magdalena regularly and is beginning to learn more about this side of the family. He has now discovered he has a brother living in Latvia (pictured right) and hopes the Red Cross will be able to help trace him too.

He says: “You could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me because I didn’t know I had a brother. I thought when I left Germany I was solo! Magdalena thinks he’s about 75 but she lost contact with him after my father’s death in 1965. I’ve got pictures of him and his wife and of a son with a Latvian inscription on the back, so I’m hoping this may act as a clue to his whereabouts.”

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