“Even if I run and run I can’t stop thinking of her. My biggest wish is one day she’ll come here and see where I live. … I think about her every night because I miss her so much. I care about her a lot.” Alexandra, adopted daughter of Wenche and Sigmund Hauglum, Fresvik, Norway, population 234 (Twin Sisters).
“There’s a big ocean between us.” Mia, adopted daughter of Angela and Andy Hansen, Sacramento, California, population 479,686 (2013, U. S. Census Bureau).
I was given the opportunity to view the upcoming Twin Sisters in advance of its airing, a documentary that is a poignant examination of our notions of family—the genetic ones we inherit and the ones we create. Chinese twins Alexandra and Mia are separated, living respectively in Norway and the United States with their adoptive families.
I watched the documentary several times. I experienced feelings of anger towards the individuals who knowingly separated the girls; sadness that the twins were separated; hope that the girls’ connection continues and strengthens; and admiration for their parents who, despite this awful predicament, are dedicated to keeping the twins connected. They put their daughters first.
We know that the initial separation of mother and child is the first of many losses for adopted children. But what happens when the separation is created by the country of origin (China)? What happens when twins are adopted by two sets of parents living a world apart?
What happens when the mothers of these newly adopted daughters met by chance in China and were struck by the similarities of their babies’ features, and realized that their daughters shared more than a birthday and the same backstory? Adoptive mothers Angela and Wenche asked the orphanage personnel if their daughters were twins. Orphanage personnel told them that the girls were not. A DNA test a year later proved otherwise, proved that the girls were not only sisters, but also identical twins.
This certainly is not the first instance of Chinese twins being separated by their country of origin and raised by two sets of adoptive parents. Twin Sisters provides viewers with a glimpse into the contrasts and similarities in the sisters’ lives.
Alexandra and Mia were 8-years-old when the documentary was filmed. They are now 11. Angela Hanson shared with me that the girls have been together several times since the documentary was filmed, “Our visits together have varied in time from a few days to a few weeks. “
Additionally, the girls FaceTime every weekend, “Alexandra is doing great with her English and the girls have no problem communicating.”
Twins Sisters documents the sweetness, anticipation and excitement of Mia and Alexandra as they prepare to visit with and spend time with one another. Viewers will pick up on the uncanny connection between the sisters, despite the language and cultural barriers and being raised thousands of miles apart. Angela shares. “The girls are very much alike in their personalities, likes, and dislikes. They are both outgoing and friendly. The do not like carbonation (no soda for them!), spicy food or olives, and they love pasta.”
Tune in to watch Twin Sisters, produced and directed by Mona Friis Bertheussen, premiering TOMORROW NIGHT (Monday, October 20, 2014) on the PBS series Independent Lens from 10:00-11:00 PM ET (check your local listings). I encourage you to watch and then share your thoughts below, and/or comment on the documentary’s Talkback section.
~ Photos courtesy of ITVS