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Ursula von der Leyen: How the early death of her sister affected her

Ursula von der Leyen: How the early death of her sister affected her

In a new interview, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen looked back on a “dark time” in her life.

CDU politician Ursula von der Leyen (65) rarely gives private insights. Before the European elections, however, she spoke in an interview with “Bild” about the serious stroke of fate in her childhood that still affects her today. When she was just 13 years old, her sister Eva-Benita, two years younger than her, died of cancer. Even more than 50 years later, the loss still hurts her.

“That was bitter”

At the time, the family lived in Brussels. It was a “dark time,” von der Leyen remembers. “Her death changed us a lot. As a family. I still remember how, as a child, I saw my parents’ helplessness and despair because they couldn’t help her.” Her sister was in a lot of pain and the medication was “not good enough” at the time. “And then those many, many months of slow death. That was bitter.”

Her mother fought “like a lioness” to ensure that the girl could stay at home as much as possible and did not have to stay in the hospital, even though at the time “the doctors liked to keep the children in the clinic.” It was right that her mother acted that way, says von der Leyen, who has seven children herself. “That had a big impact on me. I believe that this experience was one of the reasons why I later studied medicine.”

After death everything changed

Eight weeks after Eva-Benita’s death, the family moved to Germany. Von der Leyen’s mother was pregnant again. “Three months after her death, my fifth brother was born and the family structure changed,” the politician said. “Before that, we were two boys, two girls, two boys. When my sister died, I was a girl and five brothers.” This time was a “huge turning point in my life.” “Everything was suddenly different and new for me, and then there was Germany and puberty.”

And of course the grief for her lost little sister. “We were only two years apart and shared everything together. She was always there, and I was always there for her too. And because we had two older and two younger brothers, we stuck together very tightly.” With her, she lost a close confidante. “Her death taught me how important it is to enjoy the moment, because it can be over at any time.”

She enjoys the time with her family all the more, which she spends in Austria, among other places. That is where her sister was laid to rest. “As we moved away from Brussels and didn’t yet know exactly where we would settle in Germany, she is buried in Austria. On a mountain pasture where my parents had been vacationing with us since 1968. It is still our family place today.”

Source: Stern

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