A chance social media interaction has united a family split by World War II.
Three generations of Warrnambool’s van Bruggen family joined formerly-unknown Canadian members in a reunion more than two generations in the making at Tower Hill on Sunday.
The clan with a shared surname found each other using Facebook almost nine years ago before their first face-to-face meeting at the popular south-west tourist spot.
While the group shared family stories of childhoods spent more than 13,000 kilometres apart, the event achieved more than filling gaps in the group’s ancestry.
“This was the first time my dad (Fred) talked about life in Holland,” said Sue Cody (nee van Bruggen).
“He’s 78 now and he spent years thinking he had no other family in the world.”
The van Bruggen family was one of thousands to leave war-torn Europe for a better life in the 1950s.
Half of the flock swapped hemispheres for the lucky country and unbeknown to them, the other half moved to Canada.
“We don’t know if it was by chance or if there was an incident,” Sue said.
“And there’s no one to ask, they’ve all passed since then.”
British-Columbian Henk van Bruggen and wife Christine made the trek to Australia as part of a Pacific holiday.
He said the gathering had provided a stronger sense of identity.
“Meeting them was like a home-coming,” he said.
“Fred reminds me so much of my late father and grandfather, I felt an immediate connection.”