Ocracoke woman’s journey leads her to a
large family she didn’t know she had
By CONNIE LEINBACH
resident Ingeborg Frye will travel to the Netherlands in August to
celebrate her 57th birthday with three siblings she never knew she had
as a child.
An only child, having a brother was always at the top of her Christmas list, says Frye in her Dutch-tinged accent.
As an adult, she finally got her wish.
Frye, an Ocracoke resident for 11 years, is the community response team
specialist for Hotline of Hyde County, a nonprofit domestic abuse
agency based in Swan Quarter.
Also an adopted child, Frye learned she had siblings just hours before
she was to board a plane for her move to America when she was 28. She
was married to an American military man, had two children and was ready
to leave when her father came by to say goodbye.
Years before that day, she had discovered by accident she was adopted
when she needed her birth certificate, which listed her birth parents
and her adoptive parents.
“I was flabbergasted,” she says.
Her father insisted it was not important and that he was her dad. “It
was not up for discussion,” she says. Her mother had died when
Frye was 15.
Then, years later when she was about to leave the Netherlands for a new
life in America, her father asked her if she had any questions.
“I knew what he meant,” she says looking off. “So I asked him why my (birth) mother didn’t want me.”
“He said, ‘She could not take care of you guys.’”
“Guys? Guys?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
And her father told her she had two brothers elsewhere in the Netherlands.
“I was torn about getting on the plane,” she says. “I was already
emotional about leaving, and then someone dumps that on you. It
was the day before my birthday.”
Thus began Frye’s decades-long search that eventually revealed she had siblings she always wished for.
In 1984, Frye was living in the United States with her own growing
family when she began searching for her brothers by writing town
officials in the towns where her father had told her they lived. When
she struck out, she got the idea to contact children’s services in one
of the towns.
“Lo and behold, I got a letter from a social worker who’d found my
brother, Hein,” she says. The social worker offered to make contact
with Hein and also search for more siblings.
“One day I was cooking dinner around 6 p.m. and out of the blue I got a phone call,” she says.
“He said, ‘Ingeborg? Do you know who this is?’ And without asking
who it was, I did know. It was my brother,” she says with a
smile. “He was really excited.”
She traveled back to the Netherlands as soon as she could.
“When I met Hein for the first time in 1991, I just knew he was my
brother,” she says. “Hein and I are like two peas in a pod. I just love
him to pieces.”
Hein told her that their other brother, Gerrie, had showed up on his
doorstep one day a few years earlier. She did not meet Gerrie
then because he’s a merchant marine and away for long periods of time.
In 1996, they decided to find Gerrie, but did not find him at home, nor
anywhere else nearby. Since Frye’s time in the Netherlands was limited,
they needed results.
“We drove by a local radio station and Hein’s wife, Monique, suggested
we go in there,” she says. “So the radio deejay broadcasted: ‘If you’re
listening, Gerrie, call your brother Hein.’”
By the time they got back to Hein’s house about 90 minutes away, a
message from Gerrie was on the answering machine. He came
over right away and the three had another happy reunion.
“Then Gerrie said, ‘We have a sister!’” Frye says.
Gerrie had tried to contact her, but she hadn’t responded. They let it go for the time being.
Last year, the daughter of another heretofore unknown brother, Michael, in England, contacted Hein.
After acquainting themselves with this new-found niece, they agreed to
a surprise Skype contact to meet Michael on his 60th birthday.
Frye says the name “Michael” is significant.
“All of us (brothers and sisters) have a child named Michael or Michel,” Frye, who has four children, says.
Last year, when she visited the Netherlands, she, Hein, and Michael decided to contact their half-sister, Ada.
Ada, the only sibling who had lived with their birth mother, who died
several years ago, was shocked. She had never known about any of
this, but she has come around and will be part of the birthday reunion
at Hein’s house in Leeuwarden on Aug. 19. Gerrie may or may not
be part of it.
Their birth mother, Frye says, had been contacted years before by the
children’s services worker Frye originally dealt with and declined to
meet her other children.
But Frye may soon learn more details about her birth mother when she
meets with her mother’s sister-in-law during the August trip.
“She’s the only living relative of that generation and she wants to talk to me,” Frye says.
And there are even more siblings to be found.
Since Frye’s birth mother had married a Polish man in 1945 and moved to
England, Frye suspects more children may have been born before her and
her brothers, who all were born in the mid-1950s in Holland.
“It didn’t add up,” Frye continues. “Given my mother’s track record, there were no children until 1955?”
Her relatives remember two other children, and Frye has since found out
about a sister born in 1953 in England, whom she is tracking down.
Frye and her brothers have been open about their unusual family
history. They’ve talked about finding each other on local Netherlands
television, and all of Hein’s neighbors follow the evolving story.
Frye feels for other adoptees and believes they deserve the truth.
“When people decide to adopt, they should be honest with their kids,”
she says. “When I told my dad about discovering Gerrie and Hein,
he was infuriated,” she said. “I don’t know why.”
When she made trips to the Netherlands, she would visit her father and
her brothers. Family friends were distressed that she spent less
time with her dad and time with others whom they thought were
“friends,” not knowing she was actually visiting her brothers.
“It caused a lot of pain,” she says.
Her (adoptive) parents withholding the truth from her for so long compounded the lies.
“When I was a child, I used to put a bowl of sugar on the window sill
for the stork to bring me a brother,” she says. “I was so disappointed
when it didn’t happen.”
As a pre-teen she once asked her mother what it was like to have a
baby. Her mother hesitated and said, “It costs a lot of money.”
“That never sunk in until years later,” Frye says. “This would have been the perfect moment to discuss my adoption.”
She was adopted at the age of 6 after having been in several foster
homes. The Fryes provided her a comfortable life while her two brothers
had bounced around in foster homes, landing on their own at the age of
Frye’s family story is still unfolding.
Her birth name is Engelbertha Francisca Szozda, and she is OK with releasing that in case there are other siblings out there.
“As a child, I’ve had a recurring dream that I had four
brothers,” she says. When she described her dream to her parents,
they dismissed it and didn’t even want to discuss it.
Maybe soon Frye will find an answer.