Sue Russell’s story appears in TAKE A BREAK and BEST magazines …
Do you want to sell your story to more than one publication? Sue Russell’s extraordinary story about how she managed to track her birth mum after 60 years apart first appeared via Featureworld over two pages of the Sunday Mirror newspaper. Since then it has appeared over two pages of Take a Break magazine and most recently over two pages of Best mag!
Sue said: “I am amazed you have managed to place my story in so many publications!”
Sue had a super story to tell, which helps, but 99 per cent of interviewees who sell a story via Featureworld want their story sold on again – and in over 90 per cent of cases I am able to place their story in another publication! In some cases – such as with Sue’s story – I am able to place a story more than twice. This not only gives you more money (you are paid every time I sell your story), it also gains you more publicity…
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Sue Russell, 66, never thought she’d meet her birth mum – but when she read some letters from 60 years ago from her she changed her mind. Only was it too late…?
I sat my grandchild on my knee and opened the photo album.
There was me as a little girl in the garden in the arms of my adoptive mum. And another of me going to school.
“I want to see one of you as a tiny baby,” said my granddaughter.
“I don’t have any…” I replied, “I was adopted when I was six weeks old…”
For years I’d never wanted to find my birth family. My adoptive parents were wonderful.
They always told me how I came to them dressed in a little hand knitted outfit with a tiny bracelet around my wrist.
Yet it would have broken their hearts if when they were alive I’d wanted to search for my biological family – so I never had.
And now aged 66, married with three children and six grandchildren of my own, life was happy.
Over the years I’d made half hearted attempts to find out more of my past. But some things were best left in the past.
“After all,” I said to my husband Phillip, “ if I searched for my biological parents there was no telling what horrors I might find…”
Months passed and I thought no more of tracing my birth family.
Until one day when I got chatting to a friend of a friend. She was a social worker.
I found myself telling her, “I was adopted as a baby.”
And she replied, “Do you want me to see if I can find out some more about you.”
“Why not…” I said.
I never thought she’d find anything. But a week later I got a phone call.
It was the social worker. Hidden in a drawer at London’s Westminster council offices, she had found something amazing.
Four letters written in 1950. They were from a woman called Joyce Payne and they were about me – and then my name was Gillian.
My heart missed a beat as I read the first one. In it Joyce – my birth mother – asked for a photo of me. In perfect handwriting she wrote:“Could you please let me know whether my daughter is still well and happy as I have been very worried lately by a feeling that there is something wrong…” adding “Could you please let me know if my daughter is still well and happy in her new home.”
Another letter said she hoped the new parents would “‘continue to love her’, adding: “I have proved from my own experience that mother’s love is a very wonderful thing…”
That was followed by a further letter in October 1950 in which she says: “I must try to forget her as much as possible now that she belongs to someone else, but I would still like a photograph of her…”
As I read them I felt tears welling up.
For the first time I realised how much my birth mother had loved me and how hard it must have been to give me up.
Re reading the letters I said to Phillip: “I have to find her.”
“If she’s still alive…” he said slowly…My tummy turned over. What would I find?
Over the next few weeks and armed with the letters I did more research online. I discovered a year after Joyce gave me up, the adoption agency closed.
I felt sick as I thought how Joyce must have worried that I was ok. And then I found out that a year later presumably to start a new life, Joyce had emigrated to Australia.
It took more detective work. I traced my adoptive father and found out he’d died. But finally I managed to find an address in Australia.
I sent a letter to the address with Joyce’s name on it. I had no idea if I had found the right family let alone if she were even still alive…
But a week later I received an emotional email. My letter had gone to Joyce’s daughter’s.
And she’d handed the letter to her mother, who now lives in Ballina, New South Wales. She said Joyce had burst into tears when she read it.
Fingers shaking I dialed the daughter’s number in Australia.
She handed me over to Joyce – now aged 88.
There was an emotional silence then a voice that sounded like me said, “I thought I’d never hear from you again.”
But after that it was as if we’d never been apart.
All the gaps in my life were filled in.
Joyce told me how following my birth on 4th February 1950 she’d resigned herself to never seeing me again.
She was 20 when she fell pregnant with me out of wedlock. The father didn’t want to know and she was sent to a home for unmarried mothers to give birth.
After giving birth to me prematurely on 4th February 1950 I weighed just 4Ib and was whisked into intensive care.
Joyce said: “You were immediately whipped away and as I was an unmarried mother, no one spoke to me. It was to be five days before I even plucked up the courage to ask if I’d had a boy or a girl.”
Once out of intensive care Joyce cared for me at the home for six weeks, naming me Gillian.
Finally she was sent to an adoption agency with me.
Tears came to my eyes as Joyce told me: “I thought it was to show you to your future parents for their approval. I dressed you in a suit I’d knitted for her myself and placed a silver bracelet on your wrist. I was so proud of you.”
Devastatingly, she had no idea when she handed me over to an agency worker it was to be the last time she would see me.
“I was mortified when you weren’t brought back to me,” she said, “I had no idea who had adopted you or where you were. I went away feeling completely empty and lost that I wasn’t able to say goodbye.”
Over the next 12 months she penned four heartbreaking letters to the adoption agency asking about me.
My adoptive parents sent a photo of me aged six months old to the adoption agency who forwarded it to Joyce. But then when she heard nothing she decided to make a fresh start.
After emigrating in May 1955 to Australia where her sister lived, in 1959 she went on to marry her late husband, Kenneth, giving birth to two more daughters – Jennifer, now aged 54, and Therese, 53. She now also has two grandchildren.
“I told your half sisters about you,” she said, “I never forgot you.”
I put the phone down and said to my husband Phillip, “We must see Joyce.”
In June 2016 Phillip and I made the 10,500 mile 26-hour journey from our home in Plymouth Devon to Ballina.
At the airport we hugged one another close.
We spent the next four weeks together every day. Incredibly we discovered we like the same food, the same clothes and even staying up talking until the small hours.
Phillip said: “You’re both so similar I can’t tell who it is when you’re both chatting!”
When it was time to say goodbye it was so emotional.
I feel so lucky to have found Joyce – and we are already planning a trip back.
Joyce Payne said: ““When Sue and I met the connection was instant. Coming face to face was like two pieces of a jigsaw coming together.
“Sue and I have so much in common it was spooky, even the way we both carefully unwrap parcels.
“I never thought I’d see Sue again. So to find her after all these years has been very emotional and quite amazing.”
Have you been reunited with a loved one? If you would like to tell your story as Sue and Joyce have done, I would love to hear from you! Simply contact me using the confidential sell my story form >>>