Tearful reunion for Chinese sisters after 79 years

Madam Que Bamei (far right), 87, with her half-sister Qijie. When they met each other on March 29, after being separated for 79 years, they held each other and cried for a long time without uttering a word.
Madam Que Bamei (right), 87, with her half-sister Qijie. When they met each other on March 29, after being separated for 79 years, they held each other and cried for a long time without uttering a word.PHOTO: XINHUA

NANNING • Bursting into tears, Que Bamei tightly held her older sister, with whom she had lost contact 79 years ago amid the turmoil of the Japanese invasion.

Madam Que, 87, was born into a large family in Qinzhou city in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. When the Japanese invaded the city in 1939, the eight-year-old was separated from her eight siblings and fled with other family members to neighbouring Guangdong province.

She was adopted by a family in the city of Zhanjiang and had not returned to her home town since.

Decades later, Madam Que's memories of her home town faded to a few blurred pictures. "(It has) a big courtyard with a pool in front; besides the pool is the grave of grandpa," she recalled.

In February, she underwent surgery for gallstone and talked often about going back to her home town.

Her grandson, Mr Huang Guangpeng, 33, decided to help her fulfil her wish. He used online charity platform Baobei Hujia (meaning "baby returns home"), which is dedicated to helping people reunite with their long-lost relatives.

With limited information, volunteers on the platform found it difficult to locate her village. Madam Que, who is illiterate, initially gave her family name as "Ji", but the volunteers were told there was no one with that surname in the area.

They later found a household with the family name "Que", which bears a similar pronunciation to "Ji" according to the local dialect.

The volunteers confirmed that Madam Que was born in Dashigu village, in the town of Shabu in Qinnan. Her father Que Mingguang, an officer, died in battle and her five brothers were lost in the war.

Her three sisters married in Qinzhou, and two of them had died. But her half-sister Qijie is still alive.

Before meeting in person, the sisters spoke over video-chat and promised to meet soon.

On March 29, accompanied by her children, Bamei arrived in Dashigu after a four-hour ride.

Neighbours set off firecrackers to welcome her. She and her sister held each other and cried for a long time without uttering a word.

"Finally, I get to see you again," Bamei murmured in an unfamiliar Qinzhou dialect.

They stayed together that day and talked late into the night.

Mr Huang said: "Thanks to the convenience offered by the Internet and the efforts of volunteers, my grandma and her sister now have less regret in their lives."

He said that his grandma used to be a quiet person, but has become chattier after the reunion, telling everyone about her childhood stories and family history

The two sisters plan to meet again soon.

XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Tearful reunion for Chinese sisters after 79 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe