REUNITING loved ones is all in a day’s work. But after 30 years of searching, the dedicated man behind the Oz Reunion website finally received a happy ending of his own. The Oz Reunion website creator caught everyone’s eye at Sydney Airport in June, as he prepared to meet his 34-year-old niece Katy for the first time. Displaying a sign reading: “Uncle Mike is here”, he stood proudly, waiting to catch a first glimpse of his newest relative.
And Katy, whom Mike described as “full of beans”, was everything he could have hoped for. “It was quite exciting for me,” Mike said of the experience. “The ‘Uncle Mike’ sign on my head added to the whole atmosphere of it. It was the only way I could think to stand out.” While Mike was ecstatic about meeting Katy, he admits feeling butterflies before their long-awaited reunion. “Meeting someone for the first time and not knowing their history or what they’re like is quite nerve-wracking,” he said.
Mike first established the Oz Reunion website – www.reunion.com.au – in 2000, in the hope of finding his half-brother, Nicholas. As the site became increasingly more popular and successfully reunited many others, Mike motivated himself even more to complete his search.
An email from Katy, who had been directed to Mike’s listing through a Google search, finally gave him an answer. Sadly, Nicholas had passed away just three years earlier, and Mike was devastated at missing the chance to get to know his brother. But at the same time, knowing his search was over and making contact with Nicholas’s daughter gave Mike a great deal of joy.
After meeting at the airport, Mike, Katy and her boyfriend Craig began their journey by visiting Mike’s sister at her Sydney home, where they shared drinks, stories and tears. “We got acquainted there and went through some photographs,” Mike said with a smile as he recalled the short holiday. Sharing images of Mike’s father Ilija and Nicholas together, was a moment Mike was happy to have experienced with Katy. As Katy had missed out on meeting Mike and Nicholas’ father – who passed away when Mike was 14- this was a perfect opportunity for Mike to share his memories with her. “My father was Katy’s grandfather too so it was a combination of a very long journey. It was nice that my sister got to meet Katy too.”
The pair spent the weekend together, where Mike who was born and bred in Sydney, showed Katy all the wonderful sights of the city. “We played tourists for a weekend,” he said. Mike described the whole experience as unforgettable: “It was very memorable … meeting like that for the first time was such a fabulous thing to happen.”
Of Katy, he said: “She’s full of beans and full of life, and it’s a real pleasure to start to get to know her.” The pair have already caught up since their first meeting. Mike travelled to Melbourne in August to visit Katy, her mum Christine, sister Sharon, and Katy’s niece Kimberley. Happy snaps capture these precious moments. After speaking on the phone regularly, the pair have promised to stay in contact and have made plans to meet up for a third time, with Katy hoping to visit the Sunshine Coast around Christmas this year.
Although Mike’s search is over and a new chapter of his life has begun, he remains passionate about continuing the Oz Reunion website. “I enjoy helping people and my own experience has given me great motivation to help others along the way,” he said. “I have spent many hours setting up the website and I had no help from anyone at the start. Now with over 500,000 hits each month, it has gotten to a point where it runs itself. ”
Mike’s website is a catalyst for all types of reunions, including adoptions, missing persons and school reunions to name a few. In the past, internet users had turned to Oz Reunion as a last resort, he said, and only then had finally found success in their search. “It is a brilliant feeling and I feel so privileged, he said of his small part in bringing people back together. “It does make you proud – the ability to change people’s lives is an immense satisfaction and I will continue to do that. I think that will be my legacy.”
Mike’s heart-warming tale is proof to those who experience heartache that happy endings are possible, too.
Story by Hayley Doblo