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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

Facebook helps family separated by war reunite decades later

Civil war tore Guatemala apart for over 30 years – and even these reunited siblings are still missing a brother and two sisters.

Guatemalan refugees fill water containers with rainwater at a camp in China, Mexico, July 9, 1984 - they had fled the strife which separated families like the Velasquez siblings.
Guatemalan refugees fill water containers with rainwater at a camp in China, Mexico, July 9, 1984 - they had fled the strife which separated families like the Velasquez siblings.

GUATEMALAN SIBLINGS WHO lost contact during the country’s turbulent 1960-1996 civil strife have been reunited 31 years later, with some help from Facebook.

Ofelia, Avilio and Elsira Funez Velasquez had their tearful reunion at the headquarters of the Mutual Support Group, an activist with the social group, Enrique Barrera, said.

Sister and brother Ofelia and Avilio grew up in the family’s home town of La Democracia, in Huehuetenango, orphaned when their parents were killed in the years of violence.

Their sister Elsira, however, was adopted more than 20 years ago by a family in Honduras. In San Pedro Sula, she studied to be a nurse and started a family, all without knowing where her siblings were.

The reunion was made possible when the Mutual Support Group helped reunite another of the family’s children, Criserio, with brother Avilio.

When their picture was posted on Facebook, their missing sister Elsira spotted her brothers, and promptly contacted the Mutual Support Group for help.

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A banner showing just some portraits of people who disappeared during the decades-long Guatemalan civil war. Image: AP Photo/Luis Soto

“I felt so happy because I have found my sisters and brother,” said the woman, now 35, who was four when she lost track of her siblings.

Of the family’s seven children, four have been brought together while three are still missing: Victor, Estela and Roberta.

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Ixil Mayan women gather around a mass grave near Ixtupil in Guatemala in May 2013 as forensic anthropologists exhume the skeletons of their loved ones who died during the civil war. Image: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

– © AFP, 2013

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