Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has discovered a half-sister she never knew existed.
Ms Wade-Brown's already convoluted family tree grew an extra branch when Austrian vineyard owner Brigitte Rupp emailed her mayoral address in August, asking for help tracking the father she had been searching for since she was 16.
"Before my life ends I would like to know my half-sisters or/and brothers and something of the person who was my father," the message read.
The email was "a bit of a bombshell", Ms Wade-Brown said. Although cautious about any potential scam, she did not dismiss it. She knew her British officer father had been stationed in Austria, and she had already discovered one half-sister later in life.
"If you are my sister then welcome to our family," Ms Wade-Brown replied.
Speaking from Austria, Ms Rupp told The Dominion Post that Ms Wade-Brown's response was electrifying.
"Afterwards it was the same feeling as when you drink three glasses of good wine. I was singing all the old songs, like 'I've looked at life from both sides now'."
The pair went on to Skype and exchanged photos and family histories. It emerged that Ms Wade-Brown's father, Paul, who also had children by two other women, had met Ms Rupp's mother Paula while working in Graz, in occupied Austria, in 1945.
Ms Rupp also contacted Ms Wade-Brown's London-based half-sister Anastasia, who grew up with the Wade-Browns in London, as Ms Wade-Brown's grandmother's adopted daughter. It was not until after Anastasia married that she and Ms Wade-Brown learned they were, in fact, half-sisters.
For Ms Wade-Brown the discovery of another half-sister has not coloured her memory of her father. She urged any servicemen with unacknowledged children to seek them out.
"I don't feel I've lost anything, I purely feel I've gained family."
The pair plan to meet, although Ms Rupp must first conquer a fear of flying before venturing to Wellington.
- © Fairfax NZ News