22. nov. 2022, 05:37
One Christmas day in 1979, five small children from Chile landed on Danish soil at Kastrup Airport. Among them was the barely five-year-old Rune Renato Hansen. In the arrivals hall, his new family waited anxiously to welcome him.
His Danish adoptive parents and older sister welcomed him with open arms, happy smiles and a furry teddy bear, which he still has to this day.
All the signs were that the orphaned Chilean boy could now look forward to a safe upbringing in a loving family in Kalundborg, where he would never want for anything. But what no one could see on the handsome and confident boy was that he was carrying a hidden baggage. A baggage that he himself did not yet know about. Other than a vague feeling in his body that something was very wrong.
A baggage that would come to weigh on him increasingly over the years. Like many of Chile’s other adopted children, he came straight from the state-run “Casa National del Niño” orphanage. The adoption papers said he was an identity-less street child who had been dropped off at the orphanage. And there were two blank spaces where his parents’ names should appear. But something was not as it should be. And what exactly was wrong, he would only understand the full extent of 40 years later.
Growing up, Rune Renato Hansen experienced two basic feelings or sensations. One was the feeling of not belonging, because he was constantly reminded that he was different. The other was an inner feeling that something was not as it should be. A voice telling him to be glad he was alive at all. That he had survived something he didn’t know what. For he remembered nothing from the years before he came to Denmark. All he knew was that he lived in the Casa National del Niño orphanage just before he left Chile.
According to the papers, he was placed there when he was two years old. But he had no idea what preceded this and who his biological parents were. As he grew older and lived a normal life of school, football, friends and nuclear family like most other Danish children, his sense of rootlessness and uncertainty only increased. The big question of who his biological family was and what had happened to them loomed ever larger.
Without any answer.
In his own imagination, he had two older brothers and a younger sister in Chile. His mother was a small, beautiful woman with curly hair, and his father was a tall man with a beard. When Rune was in his mid-20s, he decided to go to his native country in the hope that it would clear something up for him. He wanted to visit the orphanage in the capital, Santiago, to see if it might stir up some memories. But he was also aware that it might be emotionally difficult to return. So he agreed with a childhood friend to come along on the trip to support him.
When Rune Hansen arrived in Chile’s capital, Santiago, something happened inside him. Walking around the city alone, it was as if the streets were “talking” to him, as he says. Images began to appear before his inner eye. Among other things, what the orphanage looked like. Rune has almost no pictures of himself from his trip to Chile. It was “before the time of the selfi”, as he says.
He saw that he lived on the first floor. There were four rooms with 12-14 beds in each. And there were bars on the windows. He also saw a picture of a big staircase in front of the building that went up to the front door, and he saw a picture of nuns. But he didn’t remember anything about what it had been like to live there.
The next day, he and his friend went to Casa National del Niño. They managed to get hold of a woman who spoke English. When Rune told her that he had lived at the orphanage, she said: “Then you must have been up on the first floor”. Then she showed them up there. Everything looked just as he had imagined. It was as if only half an hour had passed since he had left there.
The experience of a few days in Santiago suddenly bringing back memories he had repressed for 20 years gave Rune the idea that he might be able to get help to remember more. He hoped he could get in touch with experiences from the early years of his life that he knew his body was hiding.
In the years following his trip to Chile, he began to seek professional help. First with clairvoyants and then with hypnotists. But although he tried hypnosis several times, it had no effect. The explanation, according to the hypnotists, was that he was not ready to see what he was supposed to see. And that he was unconsciously blocking access to his earliest memories. They believed he was reacting in the same way as people who have been to war or had other traumatic experiences.
Only in 2019 did Rune Hansen manage to recall what he believes was a memory from his very early childhood. He experienced being in a living room where he was sitting in a kind of corner. Opposite him, his father sat in a chair reading. It was evening and the atmosphere was cosy and safe.
But suddenly there was a loud knock at the door. Three or four soldiers with machine guns trampled into the living room, heading straight for his father. Then the picture froze and he saw no more.
What happened next, Rune Hansen has not managed to recall. Although he has tried several times since to be hypnotised again. But it turned out that there was more.
The stolen children
In early 2020, it emerged in the Danish media that up to 20,000 Chilean children had been stolen from their parents for adoption in the US and Europe. Denmark is one of them. The majority of illegal adoptions took place from the 1970s until the mid-1990s during Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.
The state orphanage Casa National del Niño, where Rune Hansen had been placed, was suspected of having brokered a particularly large number of illegal adoptions. In 2018, the Chilean government set up a judicial commission, which was now fully investigating the thousands of reported cases of stolen children to find those responsible for child trafficking.
Rune Hansen feared he had been adopted without his parents’ consent. So he contacted the organisation Chilean Adoptees Worldwide (CAW) to see if they could help with information in his case.
From Rune’s old Chilean passport, they could see that he was still registered as a citizen of Chile. This was a strong indication that his adoption had not been done properly, they said. Because if they had, he would have been erased from the registers. According to CAW’s assessment, it was 99 percent certain that Rune Hansen was one of the stolen children. Rune was first furious, then deeply distressed. He cried a lot. Thoughts about who his biological family really was flared up with extra force.
Were his parents still alive? Did he have siblings in Chile? And did they go looking for him? Rune decided to have a DNA test, hopefully to get in touch with relatives. He needed to find out the truth about his past.
In August 2020, in connection with his appearance in the TV 2 documentary ‘The Stolen Children’, Rune Hansen embarked on a new experiment with hypnosis. The cameraman discreetly stayed in the background, while Rune was placed in a skinny leather armchair with a footstool and a blanket over his legs. As he sat with his eyes closed, hypnotherapist Annelise Dahl tried several times to put him into a trance. But nothing happened. Rune saw nothing.
After half an hour, the hypnotherapist thought they should take a break. She asked Rune if he was sure he wanted to go through with it? Yes, he replied. Then she told him to tell himself that he was ready. And then they could try again. Once again, Rune lay back in his chair, eyes closed.
The hypnotist began to count down from five, while she quietly repeated that he should go back to the time when he was separated from his family and tell what he saw. At the number “1”, Rune saw three dark figures standing before him. They were his mother, father and younger sister. They were dead, and they were waiting for him. Rune wanted to tell the hypnotherapist what he saw. But at the same second he was hit from behind by something that felt like it was coming at 200 kilometres an hour. Like a “tackle by Stig Tøfting”, Rune described the feeling afterwards.
An insane fear overcame him. He screamed and squirmed in his chair to escape the violent feeling. He fell to the floor between the chair and the footstool. He cried. He was frightened, and as soon as he came to himself again, he began to sob.
– What was this, he asked, his eyes wide open as he lay on the floor. The hypnotist said in a calm voice: “I can’t answer you. I have never experienced it to this extent.
In the documentary, the sequence lasts less than a minute. But in reality it took about 5-6 minutes for Rune Hansen to go in and out of the trance. Until finally he was grinning a little in embarrassment when he realised his wild reaction. Although today Rune would not have been without the experience, it stuck with him and marked him for months afterwards. And it hit him harder than he could have imagined.
After the hypnosis, Rune Hansen fell into a depression-like state. He experienced a pain so great that he felt like cutting himself open so it could get out of his body. It took him over three months to recover from the intense anxiety that had overtaken him during the hypnosis. Once he had recovered – with the help of a psychologist – he tried going to the hypnotist a few more times. He hoped to find out what had caused him such anxiety as a child. But he couldn’t let go enough to go back into a trance.
Instead, he was now looking forward to travelling to Chile for the second time in his life as part of the TV shoot. The plan included approaching the Chilean investigative police in Santiago, who were leading the investigation into the illegal adoption cases, to ask them to hand over Rune’s files and papers from the orphanage. According to the rules, he was entitled to see all the documents in his case. Perhaps the names of Rune’s family members were found here.
Telephone number of mother
In December 2021, Rune Hansen and the TV crew left for Chile After a few inquiries to the National Investigation Police, they managed to get Rune’s file from the orphanage.
And there was more new information. Among other things, the papers revealed that Renato – which is Rune’s Chilean name – was brought to the orphanage by the military. The soldiers had allegedly found him on the street, and on arrival he was filthy, long-haired and barefoot. But the same file from Casa National del Niño also contained another explanation for how he ended up there. It said that his biological mother had handed him in voluntarily. On a piece of paper loosely inserted into the file was her name, Carmen Chaves, and a telephone number. For Rune, it gave renewed hope that he would finally find his birth mother. He was excited and nervous when the TV crew called her.
The woman, who correctly introduced herself as Carmen Chavez, did not want to meet. But she agreed to have a DNA test. When the results came back, Rune got a disappointing message.
There was no match between his and the woman’s DNA. She was not Rune’s mother.
Confirmed in hunch
The trip to Chile was a bit of an anticlimax for Rune Renato Hansen. He had hoped he would return to Denmark a new man, reunited with his biological family. But even though he didn’t fulfil his great dream of finding close relatives in the form of a mother, father, sister or brother, the trip did give him some sort of clarification. It’s all lie upon lie upon lie
For it only confirmed his sense that something was very wrong. And that it wasn’t him who was all “cuckoo” when he felt things weren’t right. The many contradictions in his file just underlined that the adoption was probably not legal.
– In my adoption papers alone, there are three different versions of when I arrived at the orphanage. In one place it says I was born there, and in another it says I was both two and four years old when I arrived,” says Rune Hansen, adding.
– It’s all lie upon lie upon lie. Why lie if you have nothing to hide?
Hoping for a miracle
But despite the fact that Rune Hansen is to some extent reconciled to the fact that he was not reunited with his Chilean family, it is still difficult for him. The rootlessness and uncertainty nags at him. Every single day. His violent experience during hypnosis only gave him more reason to fear that he was being forcibly separated from his family.
But he tries to push it away so he can function in everyday life and do his job as a masseur and body therapist. All he can hope for now is that his DNA profile, held in the MyHeritage database, will one day connect him with a close family member.
For the time being, he has made contact with a distant relative – a second cousin, also called a grand cousin – named Martha. He met her briefly in Chile during the TV shoot, where she told him that her sister had been stolen and adopted to Sweden. The plan is for Rune to visit Martha again soon with his daughter, Isabel. She is 13 years old and will be confirmed in the spring. Her confirmation present is a ticket to Chile.
In the meantime, he hopes for a miracle. Because in Chile, there’s a DNA specialist who volunteers to track down the families of people who have been adopted. It’s a patient job that takes months and years.
One of the cases he’s looking at is Rune’s.
Watch ‘The Stolen Children’ right now on TV 2 PLAY or Wednesday at 8.50pm on TV 2