The shameful secret of Britain's lost children: I was told I had no family

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LAST YEAR Helen Lazlitt, 50, a Melbourne office worker, found out she had a brother and a sister. The discovery changed her life.

'It made me feel whole for the first time in my life. Until then I had no idea who I was or where I came from. I had always wondered if I had a family and a mum and dad, but as the years went by the sense of depression became worse. Then I saw The Leaving of Liverpool and I realised I wasn't a freak; there were others like me. Then I got in touch with the Child Migrants Trust.'

Mrs Lazlitt sailed for Australia when she was 11. She was one of four children sent from Nazareth House orphanage in Aberdeen to another Catholic ophanage in Adelaide.

Her elder brother, Brian, who now lives in New Zealand, has told her he can remember their mother taking her to an orphanage in Edinburgh when she was only a few months old.

'He says he can remember coming home without the baby. He cried for three days when the trust traced him and told him I was alive. I also have a sister in the US. But my mother died four years ago and my younger brother is also dead.'

Mrs Lazlitt's brother has told her that her mother had a difficult, 'topsy-turvy' life and suffered from bouts of drinking. 'But my brother has given me pictures of her and she looks a lovely lady.'

Mrs Azlitt first tried to find her family years ago. She wrote to the Scottish nuns. 'But I got a letter back saying they had no records to help me.' She was 48 when she finally traced her birth certificate and personal papers.

She is not bitter about her time in the Adelaide home. 'All we ever did was clean, but at least they put a roof over our heads. I really feel for the boys who ended up in the Christian Brothers homes. Their treatment was brutal. My suffering was more personal; not having a mother or father or anyone to cuddle.

'However, I think the policy was disgusting. We were just little children. I was always told I had no family. Time is short now and there are so many people trying to find those they have lost. I know a woman who has contacted her family to find her brother died just six months ago.'

Three years after leaving orphanage, Mrs Azlitt married a man 13 years her senior when she was 19. She has five children. 'I could not wait to have a family of my own. I was so desperate for my own flesh and blood.'

(Photograph omitted)