What sounds dreamy just became reality! In a surprising turn of events, a 42-year-old lawyer, who was stolen as a child at birth during the rule of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and later raised and adopted in the United States, traveled all the way to South America to meet his biological mother for the first time.
“She didn’t know about me because they took me at birth and told her I was dead,” Jimmy Lippert Thyden said, according to media outlets.
“When she asked for my body, they told her they had disposed of it,” he added. “So we’ve never held each other, we’ve never hugged,” Thyden shared.
Covering the distance to his mother’s hometown of Valdivia some 740km south of the Chilean capital, Lippert Thyden finally reunited with his biological family and tearfully hugged Maria Angelica Gonzalez, his biological mother, and told her he loved her.
“I love you very much,” Jimmy Lippert Thyden told his mother in Spanish as they hugged with teary eyes.
“It knocked the wind out of me. … I was suffocated by the gravity of this moment,” Thyden told The Associated Press in a video call after the reunion. “How do you hug someone in a way that makes up for 42 years of hugs?”
The Chilean lawyer traveled to his homeland with his wife, Johannah, and their two daughters, Ebba Joy, 8, and Betty Grace, 5, who met their grandmother for the first time.
Welcomed with a wholesome gesture, Thyden was greeted with 42 colorful balloons, each one signifying a year of lost time with his Chilean family.
“There is an empowerment in popping those balloons, empowerment in being there with your family to take inventory of all that was lost,” he said.
Lippert Thyden reconnected with his family with the help DNA tracing via MyHeritage.com and Nos Buscamos, a Chilean NGO which helps reconnect families separated during the 17-year dictatorship.
Thousands of people were disappeared and tens of thousands tortured during Pinochet’s rule, which ended in 1990. Augusto Pinochet ruled this South American country, after a CIA-led bloody coup, for 17 years.
“This case is one of hundreds or thousands of cases of child trafficking during the dictatorship and democracy,” Nos Buscamos founder Constanza del Rio said, according to media outlets.
“These children were declared as dead and sold to foreigners for $10,000 or $15,000.”
Thyden reconnected with his biological mother, brothers and sister. (Constanza Del Rio/Nos Buscamos via AP)
With the help of Chilean nonprofit Nos Buscamos, Thyden discovered that he was a prematurely born child at a hospital in Santiago, Chile’s capital, and placed in an incubator. His mother, Gonzalez, was told to leave the hospital, but when she returned to get her son, authorities told her that he died and his body had been disposed of, according to the case file, which Thyden summarized to the AP.
“The paperwork I have for my adoption tells me I have no living relatives. And I learned in the last few months that I have a mama and I have four brothers and a sister,” Thyden said in the interview from Ashburn, Virginia, where he works as a criminal defense attorney representing “people who look like me” who cannot afford a lawyer.
He said his was a case of “counterfeit adoption.”
Nos Buscamos estimates tens of thousands of babies were taken from Chilean families in the 1970s and 1980s, based on a report from the Investigations Police of Chile.
This particular child-trafficking case coincided with many other human rights violations that took place during the 17-year reign of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who on September 11, 1973, led a Chilean coup to overthrow Marxist President Salvador Allende.
During his notorious dictatorship, at least 3,095 people were killed, according to government figures, and tens of thousands more were tortured or jailed for political reasons.
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