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While some people who were abandoned as children are traveling south to search for their biological parents, some are planning to go north to search for their relatives.
Wu Nansheng, aged 75, is searching for his younger brother who he abandoned over 50 years ago. Wu said his brother should be 59 years old, and yet the only thing he knows that can help identify him is a birth mark on his left arm.
In 1960, 19-year-old Wu abandoned his 2-year-old brother at the entrance of the Yixing Department Store. Two days after the boy was abandoned, Wu's 42-year-old mother starved to death.
This is in line with what was recorded by Wuxi's local chronicles, which said that from 1959 to 1961, the monthly grain ration per person was only 7.5 to 10 kilograms, and deaths from starvation and children being abandoned was common during that time.
Although Wu has long passed the age at which his mother died, his tears still gush when he recalls that difficult period.
"I'm always haunted by dreams of my brother, leaning in a ramshackle old house, his eyes drooping and his breath feeble. 'I'm hungry,' he cries to me," Wu said.
Also haunted by her missing sibling is Lü Shunfang. Before Lü's mother died, she often mentioned her younger daughter Lü Yafang, who was abandoned in April 1960. Lü Shunfang promised her mother that she will find her little sister, and has since devoted herself to helping families who lost each other during the famine to reunite.
For the past 16 years, Lü has run a website which allows those who are searching for their relatives to post their information and share their experiences of searching, and has organized many gatherings in cities like Nanjing, Wuxi, Changzhou and Jiangyin, the cities that saw the most abandoned children at that time.
However, most of the people who attend these gatherings are the abandoned children themselves, and few parents come.
Lü conjectures that many of these parents have either passed away or are too old to attend these meetings, or don't know about them.
"Of course it's also possible that they have no intention of seeking their abandoned children, as each family had many children at that time and they didn't mind losing one," she said.
No need to keep in touch
The advance of DNA technology once filled Wang with the hope that he may one day use his genetic information to find his birth parents. But when he found that only two people had put their DNA info in Jiading district's DNA database to help them search for missing relatives, he felt despair. "No one is looking for us. Who do we match our DNA with?" he said.
Lü Shunfang has helped over 200 children find their parents with her website in the past 16 years. But the reunions can be complicated.
A rich businessman who grew up in Luoyang managed to find his relatives in Shanghai last year. Before doing a DNA test, he kept his financial status a secret just in case his wealth would change the attitude of his relatives.
A woman from Luoyang who was abandoned as a child managed to find her brother two years ago. But he told her that as their parents are no longer alive, he doesn't want to keep in touch with her.
Lü said this is a common situation in families with multiple children. Most of these siblings would say that "it's great to see you alive, but there's no need for us to keep in contact."
Many abandoned children have given up their efforts to find their birth parents. Yu has seen many people visit him with hope and leave disenchanted. Some would leave with a bag of earth from the city or a bottle of water from Wuxi's Tai lake as a token.
Yu used to try to mobilize the local government to help these former lost children find their parents, but few responded. "It's a tragedy of a bygone age. Who would dare to reveal those scars?"(news from the Global Times)