Forty-four-year-old Angela Palmer has spent most of her life believing her own mother abandoned her as a baby. Now, she's learned the real story and gotten to speak with her mom for the first time in decades. And while Palmer is thrilled, her quest isn't over yet. She now has to try to raise enough funds to bring the mother she never knew from Croatia to the United States.
Their new beginning was triggered by, of all things, a Facebook friend request. "I was at work the week before Thanksgiving, when I received a friend request from a woman named Helga Simeckie in Croatia," Palmer, a 44-year-old from Oceanside, California, tells Yahoo Shine. "I didn't think much of it because I get random requests all the time, until she sent me a message written in German, asking when I was born." Palmer, who was born and raised in Germany, speaks the language fluently and wrote the woman back, asking who she was.
"She said she was mother - I was shocked because my mother had abandoned me when I was a baby," says Palmer. She had been raised by her father, who had always told her that her that after her mother gained custody after their divorce, she dropped Palmer off at a German orphanage when she was less than a year old. "Later, my father took me in, and although he was an alcoholic and mentally and physically abusive, he was the only parent I knew," she says.
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But Simeckie tells a different story. After emailing Palmer the evidence she had - her birth certificate and old family photos - she told Palmer that she hadn't actually abandoned her, Palmer's father actually kidnapped her. "She said my father was wanted in Germany for kidnapping and domestic violence, but he avoided the police by constantly moving us to new cities," she says.
It all began to make sense to Palmer, whose father had said he was a traveling salesman and had to keep moving their small family in order to find work. In fact, they moved 12 times before Palmer turned 18. "Apparently, my paternal grandfather had kept my mother informed of my whereabouts during the years she was in contact with my father, but each time he received a court summons, we moved again," she says. "I still don't understand how he managed to escape the law so many times."
Palmer has one memory of her mother - on her 16th birthday, she received a call from Simeckie, who tried to explain why she had been absent from her daughter's life. "A family member said my aunt was on the phone so I picked up and it was my mom," she says. "She started to explain but I hung up on her, angry that she had abandoned me."
As for her father, Palmer hadn't heard from him since she as 18 when she left Europe to attend college in North Carolina. "I heard that he died a few years ago, but I don't know much else," she says.
Now divorced after 20 years of marriage and mom to a 21-year-old son, Palmer has spent the past four living in the San Diego area, and never stopped wondering about her mother. "I would think of her around Mother's Day because it would always hurt to not have someone to send a gift," she says. "My mother is also a mother again. She has a husband and two sons."
In late November, the mother-daughter duo spoke for the first time over Skype with the help of local news affiliate San Diego6. Now, Palmer is trying to raise funds to bring her mother to the United States from Croatia, through the website Fundly, where, as of Tuesday, she had raised more than $1,200 of the $4,000 she needs for a round-trip plane ticket. "I have an amazing gift that I didn't have last year and I hope that my story will encourage others to keep looking for lost family members," says Palmer. "My story could happen to anyone."