HAVING the chance to reconnect with long lost family is something not many people get to experience.

But for Linda Lewin, this became a reality.

One day in 2011 the jeweller, based in Stobo, received an "out of the blue" email from a person she had never been in contact with before saying they were a long lost relative.

The email, from an aunty Linda had never met, nor heard of, claimed to be searching for members of her family who had left Myanmar (formerly Burma) decades ago.

Border Telegraph: Linda LewinLinda Lewin (Image: Linda Lewin)

In the message, Aunty Netty said Linda's family in Myanmar were wanting to meet her, and invited her to visit and stay with them.

For many people, an email from a stranger inviting you to travel more than 5,000 miles to meet distant relatives would see you scoff and swiftly delete what you would assume to be a scam.

Linda said: "The email basically said, 'come and visit us'.

"I showed it to my family and friends and they said 'this is a scam'."

But Linda had a feeling this email was more than that.

"I knew it wasn't [a scam]," Linda added. "I knew my father had been born in Burma."

Her grandfather was a student in the UK in the 1920s when he met his wife and the couple returned to Burma and had three children.

Linda's father, Desmond, was forced to leave Myanmar when he was just 12 years old with his mother and two siblings in the 1940s because of the threat of Japanese forces during WWII.

Her grandfather remained in Myanmar and died.

Border Telegraph: Linda (left) her father Desmond, her mother, and one of her siblingsLinda (left) her father Desmond, her mother, and one of her siblings (Image: Linda Lewin)

As she grew up in Glasgow, Linda's father didn't share much of his past with her and her siblings.

However, what he did share were fairytales of the jungle and streets filled with sapphires.

Trusting her instincts, Linda and her sister Hilary brought the fairytales of their childhood to life and travelled to Yangon and their family's village of Bassein.

She said: "Burma was opening up to the world at that point.

"Aung San Suu Kyi [former State Counsellor of Myanmar] was out of house arrest and she made her way into parliament and everything looked fabulous."

Once in Yangon Linda felt right at home, and she and her family acted as though there had been no distance between them all.

Border Telegraph: On her first visit to Myanmar Linda was greeted by many from her long lost familyOn her first visit to Myanmar Linda was greeted by many from her long lost family (Image: Linda Lewin)

She added: "When I got there I found we had never been forgotten.

"One of the uncles had a family tree and we were noted in that family tree."

Every year that followed Linda and her family would spend time together.

And on the third trip to Myanmar, Linda was joined by her 82-year-old father – marking the first time he had returned to his home in 70 years.

Linda said: "Over the course of about 10 years I got to know my family really well and I started a volunteer teaching project."

In addition to discovering more about her personal history, Linda found that her Scottish home and her home in Myanmar were more connected than she had first thought.

She said: "Glasgow and Yangon, which was called Rangoon in the days of the empire, they were so closely connected in business.

"It would have been oil and rice [trade] and there would have been an office in Glasgow and an office in Rangoon designed by the same architects and run by the same people.

"And when I was in Yangon I could see all the wartime columns in various buildings which were made in Scotland.

"There is a really strong connection at that period of the end of the empire but then we just walked away and left them [Myanmar] to it."

Border Telegraph: During her visits to Myanmar Linda made note of her family's storiesDuring her visits to Myanmar Linda made note of her family's stories (Image: Linda Lewin)

However, the trips came to a halt when the global coronavirus pandemic struck, and meant that Linda was unable to travel.

She added: "Come COVID and everything travel shut down and I thought, 'I've been doing this every year, spending a month or six weeks out there, what am I going to do now?'."

As coronavirus restrictions began to ease in the UK, political unrest grew in Myanmar.

A military coup in 2021 saw many people die.

According to the UK Government, townships in Yangon are currently under nighttime curfews and across the country there are regular clashes between the military and opposition activists and there have been a number of bombings in public places.

The pandemic and military coup mean Linda and her family haven't seen each other since 2019.

Over the years she had been making notes about her travels, her family, and Myanmar itself.

And with lockdown enforced, Linda took the opportunity to turn her family's story into a book.

Border Telegraph: One of Linda's illustrations which she drew for her bookOne of Linda's illustrations which she drew for her book (Image: Linda Lewin)

My Faraway Country Myanmar tells Linda's story, not only of how she reconnected with her long lost family, but also about how she came to learn much more about the country of her father's birth.

Linda said: "I wrote my way through the coup and two years later we have the book which covers our family's story and my experience of getting to know the country and my experience of the coup.

"Writing the book gave me a much better understanding the trauma that everyone had been through, including my father, and why he didn't speak about it.

"When I started to write I asked him questions and he started to remember more.

"All the various motives I had when I sat down to write, the one that remains is Myanmar, Burma, it doesn't get any news coverage.

"And because I have such a personal connection and because I know people there want to have a voice, this is my little bit to try and help give them a voice."

My Faraway Country Myanmar is available to buy from Golden Hare Books, Waterstones, and may also be available from local retailers.