A MOTHER'S search for the daughter she left behind in Brazil 26 years ago has ended with a family reunion in New Zealand.
When Gisa Berry left her homeland and moved to NZ with older daughter Jackeline Rodrigues, then 8, and a 4-year old son, her former partner "disappeared" with the couple's 18-month-old child, Emmanuelle.
Private and professional searches could not break through "the networks he had in place to make sure no-one could find her", Ms Berry said.
She migrated to New Zealand vowing never to give up her search. Here Ms Berry remarried and had another child, Sofia.
At the emotional family reunion at Ms Rodrigues' Onerahi home earlier this month, Ms Berry met not only her long-lost daughter, now 27, but 16-month-old grandson Joao.
The story of how the family found Emmanuelle Bruna sounds like an episode from the television show Missing Pieces.
Frustrated by the long-distance search, Ms Berry had returned to Brazil in 1993 to look for her daughter - unsuccessfully.
Jackeline Rodrigues had also searched online and in Brazil.
"In our heart of hearts my mother and I believed we would be reunited with Emmanuelle one day, but it was hard to keep up that hope," Ms Rodrigues said.
"When I was a girl I would write a letter to her and say a prayer and sleep with the letter under my pillow because I believed it might help bring her to us."
In recent years a friend of Ms Berry offered to help search for Emmanuelle as she had some experience in tracing people.
She came up with photos and details of five possibilities, until a disheartened Ms Berry asked her to stop looking. But one day her friend turned up with another photo.
"I took one look and said, 'how did you get a photo of me when I was a girl?'," Ms Berry said.
It was Emmanuelle, whose Brazilian family had kept hidden the knowledge of her mother's search.
Ms Bruna, in New Zealand to spend three months with her new-found family, said her Brazilian family are happy she has been reunited with her mother.
She said both sides of the family understand now that her father had been afraid of losing her. She said she had a good life with him, her stepmother and a younger brother.
"I knew my mother existed but I didn't know where," Ms Bruna said.
- Northern Advocate