Family reunites after decades spent apart
Campbell River’s Judi Edgar recently discovered a family she never realized she had.
This summer Edgar flew to Rodekro, Denmark where she was reunited with a brother she had not spoken to in 49 years and her sister, who she last saw 31 years ago.
“My family over there is wonderful, they couldn’t have gone more out of their way to make us feel welcome,” said Edgar, who met her brother Raymond Jonigkeit’s wife, Carla, their daughter, granddaughter and great granddaughter for the first time. “And we were all under one roof, so we had a lot of quality time together.”
Edgar also brought her husband along for the trip as did her sister, Rosita Tomich, who flew to Denmark from her home in Perth, Australia, for the family reunion.
It was Tomich who arranged the get together for Jonigkeit’s 65th birthday.
Edgar jumped at the chance to get reacquainted with the brother she had last seen when he was just 15 and she a 10-year-old girl.
“He was a grown man,” Edgar said. “Very polite, just a real gentleman. And with Rosita, it was like we had never been apart, we picked up just like it had been yesterday, it was wonderful.”
Edgar said her month-long vacation to Denmark was an eye opening experience. She didn’t expect to be able to communicate with her family and the locals as well as she did.
“Initially I was concerned about the language barrier because I had been told Carla couldn’t speak English well but she spoke really good English and the daughter and granddaughter did as well,” Edgar said. “At the different stores we went to, they would greet you in Danish but as soon as they heard you answer in English they would revert to English.”
Edgar also got to experience a Danish holiday.
“They wanted to share Christmas with us and the special foods they have at Christmas, so we had Christmas in July,” Edgar said. “They have a tradition where everyone eats a bowl of pudding and whoever has a nut in their pudding gets an extra present. I don’t think it was planned, but I got the nut and they gave me a ceramic hedgehog.”
Edgar figures she came home with a little extra weight with all the pastries, sausages and cheeses they were fed every day.
“My brother’s daughter lives to bake and what they say about Danish pastries is true, it was real good,” Edgar said.
The only downside to the trip was the cold weather.
“My brother has a 28-foot cabin cruiser and we planned to go out often and do some fishing but there were really cold winds nearly every day off the North Sea,” Edgar said. “Every day except one we lit a fire in Raymond’s wood stove to get the chill off. It was unusual weather, at the same time last year it was apparently unbearably hot.”
Edgar said the thing that most surprised her about Denmark was the patriotism and the size of the roads.
“Everybody’s got a Danish flag on their property and they raise the flags high if it’s someone’s birthday or if a baby has been born,” she said. “All the houses are made of brick and the streets are very, very narrow. I made (husband) Tom lie across the street and he could almost touch the other end, and it’s two-way traffic.”
Edgar also visited the spot in Flensburg, Germany where the house she grew up in used to be and stepped foot on the same cobblestones she walked across with her mom and dad as a child in the 1950s.
But for Edgar the best part of the trip was discovering she has a loving family on the other side of the world.
“I’ve got a loving, giving family that I’ve missed out on for many years,” Edgar said. “But we’ve since all gotten on Skype. It’s a nine hour time difference in Denmark and 16 in Australia so it’s really tricky but it all works, we’ve managed.
“We will never not be in touch again, we’re together forever now.”
Her sister, Tomich plans to visit Campbell River next year and Edgar hopes to be able to go back to Denmark in a few years.