By Wendy Williams
A BRITISH family is on a quest to trace their Spanish relatives after losing touch three decades ago.
Sisters Maria, 39, and Josephine Shepperd, 46, insist the two sides of the family were torn apart after their Spanish mother Josefa Ruiz Jaen died when they were still children.
Their father was very strict and according to Maria’s son Paul he beat them if they even dared to ‘mention a word about their mum’ after she died.
“They were simply too scared to say anything growing up,” explained Paul, who is now appealing to Olive Press readers to help in their search.
Based in Southampton, they are hoping they can find aunts or cousins, who they believe live in Murcia or Andalucia.
“But we have simply not had any luck so far,” explained student Paul.
“We have been trying for years and years but have not heard a peep. We have tried the consulate, the internet and family records with nothing.”
He understands that his grandmother Josefa and her family were extremely wealthy and originally owned a huge estate in Murcia, but during the war things changed.
“Murcia was raided by an army and my grandmother, who was only five or six, had to hide with her three siblings while soldiers brutally murdered their mother and father and raided their house,” he continued.
“They ran away and she never went back.”
His grandmother managed to travel to Germany, where she met her husband Eric Shepperd in the 1960s.
Together they moved to Southampton where they married and had four children – Maria, Lolly, Josephine and Steven.
For a time the sisters went over to visit their Spanish relatives and got on really well.
But after their mother died in 1981 this was stopped by their father, a disciplinarian who didn’t even let them have photos of their mother.
Mother-of-four Josephine confirmed: “I went to Murcia in 1976 when I was 11 and I saw the family, with my uncle Ramon and Paco who must now be in their 80s, and Ramon had a son also called Ramon who must now be in his 40s.
“But the last contact we had was when my mum died in 1981.”
She added: “My mum never spoke much about the Civil War and the history and I was too young, it was only years later that I wished I had paid more attention.
“Now we want to get the full story again and for our Spanish relatives to know that we didn’t ignore them, there were circumstances beyond our control and we have been searching ever since.”
Please contact the Olive Press if you have any information that may help the Shepperd family at [email protected]