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Reared-Apart Twins: Tales of Two Cities

Identical twins growing up 1,000 miles apart meet at last.

Reared-apart twins can be separated by cities, states, countries, or continents, but they are a rich source of information about what shapes behavior. I recently learned of two new cases of adopted apart identical female twins. Dolores and Mirta were raised in Argentina, in the cities of Córdoba and Moreno, respectively, over 1,000 miles apart. Alice and Linh were raised in Sweden and Vietnam, respectively, over 5,000 miles apart.

The twins in both sets have known each other for a number of years. Mirta and Dolores met about 10 years ago when they were 50 years of age. They met in Moreno, the city where Mirta lives. The year before they met, Dolores learned from a cousin that she had been adopted, although she had wondered about this possibility for a while. When young, she could see that her parents were older than those of her friends. She also “sensed” somehow that she was not their biological child. Dolores’s process of finding her twin sister reads like a thriller.

Alice, who is now 30 years of age, was adopted when she was 10 months old. She learned that she had a twin when she turned 16. She met her twin sister Linh for the first time four years later. The many miles between their homes in Sweden and Vietnam explain why these twins have met in person on only two occasions. The twins do, however, stay in touch via Facebook, Instagram, and group chats, assisted by bilingual friends.

This post presents the amazing story of Dolores and Mirta; I will cover Alice and Linh in a later entry.

Dolores and Mirta

Dolores was adopted as an infant after her parents brought her home from the countryside near Córdoba. Her mother and father listened to her childhood questions about her suspected adoption, but they denied it. Then at age 24, having earned a college degree in Spanish literature and history, Dolores took a teaching job in Neuquén, located a thousand miles from Córdoba. She met her husband there, continued to work, and started a family.

Fifteen years later, Dolores was in touch with a cousin who confirmed her having been adopted—it was an open family secret. Dolores then contacted her uncle who had been a signatory on her birth certificate. He also admitted that she had been adopted, but also disclosed the surprising news that she had a twin sister. In May 2008, Dolores traveled to Córdoba to search her birth records but found no clues.

In May 2010, Dolores’s daughter’s friend telephoned to say that she had seen Dolores interviewed on Crónica TV with reference to a criminal investigation. Dolores had been near the courthouse that day but had not been interviewed. She wondered if this other woman could be her twin sister. She turned on the television and saw an interview about a different case with a woman from the city of Moreno who looked exactly like her. With the help of a priest from Moreno, Dolores found her sister, Mirta. A neighbor met with Mirta first to prepare her for a reunion with her twin sister.

The twins met in Moreno on June 17, 2010. As Mirta described it, when they met, they alternated between hugging each other and pausing to stare. They looked exactly alike. According to Dolores, “This woman had brown eyes identical to mine. The shape of her face was the same, even her nose! The first thing that caught my attention was her hands. She moved them just like me. When I heard her speak, I couldn't believe it! It was the same tone of voice as mine. She was not only my sister—she was my twin sister!”

In fact, Mirta had also suspected she was adopted, something that her parents had also denied. Interestingly, Mirta conceived twins, but when her doctors asked about her medical history by her doctor, she said there were no twins in her family. It was not until she was 40 that her mother revealed that she had been adopted and that she had a twin.

I asked the twins about their childhood and adult similarities and differences. Their most remarkable similarity is that both played solitary Scrabble as a child and never cheated—neither twin tolerates dishonesty. They are also very orderly, passionate about chocolate, and known for doing jobs well. They share political views, health histories, preferences for specific televised series, and an understanding of their parents’ decisions to keep their adoption and twinship a secret. The twins’ differences include attitudes toward dogs, number of friends, interest in cooking, and level of activity.

Most importantly, Mirta and Dolores are delighted to have met one another, acquiring in-laws, nieces, and nephews in the process. According to Dolores, “The moment of meeting ... wonderful, indescribable. It was the same feeling I had when my son was born, and I saw his little face. It was being born again and [holding] each other in an endless embrace—as if we had known each other forever.”

I am grateful to the twins for answering my questions and to Dr. Laura A. Pérgola, founder of the Multifamilias Foundation in Argentina, who assisted me with posing these questions to Mirta and Dolores. An expanded version of this post will appear in print in a forthcoming issue of the journal Twin Research and Human Genetics.