‘He’s my brother, my blood’: Family together again
A BROTHER and sister who last saw each other as children 26 years ago have had an emotional reunion in Cairns.
Alosha Michalenko from Cairns and Anna Ivanchikova from Belarus last saw each other in 1994 when Alosha was nine and Anna one.
"It's been really special," says Mr Michalenko, 35, who works as a microbiologist for Cairns Regional Council.
The two shared a father and it was his death that pushed the two siblings even closer.
"Our father passed away two years ago, so it's just us left from that side and that's why Anna really wanted to come and reconnect," said Mr Michalenko, now a dad himself.
Ms Ivanchikova, 27, said the distance between Europe and Australia always made contact difficult. But with her work as a hair stylist taking her to Dubai, she had grabbed the chance to see her brother again.
"I wanted to come over. I have only my mother and him (Alosha) and I want to look because he is really like a copy of my dad - his voice, manner, walk and sense of humour.
"We were strangers and I wanted to come because he's my brother, my blood."
Mr Michalenko said the two had been close as children before he came to Australia.
"We even have video of us playing together. I'd still go to my dad's half-in-half in Belarus. Anna and I grew up together, while I was still there."
While the two had kept in touch over the years by letter, email, online chat and Skype, Mr Michalenko was nervous about her arrival at Cairns Airport last week.
"I was worried that we may not get along because we don't really know each other, but we clicked straight away and we're very similar considering we grew apart for so long.
"It was very surreal seeing Anna at the airport for the first time. I'd only seen photos of her, never in real life and it was just like 'oh my god'.
"I was very happy and excited, just to see her, give her a hug, a kiss. I was very, very emotional. Even my wife was in tears because she understands how big this is."
While Anna gained a niece and nephew, Mr Michalenko's children are treasuring time with the aunt they never knew.
"They love Anna. They were shy for maybe two days and then cuddles. It was really nice. They've taken to her."
Ms Ivanchikova said her father had always kept the memory of her brother alive while she was growing up.
"Every time he told me about Alosha 'you have a brother, you have a brother'.
"I had never seen him, but I knew he was there."
Mr Michalenko said their time together was filled with family fun, photos and taking in the sights around Cairns - swimming holes, beaches, the reef and wildlife.
"It's going to be very sad to see her go. This has been very special. These memories will be forever."