- Associated Press - Saturday, April 5, 2014

ELIZABETHTON, Ky. (AP) - When Heather Everett, of Elizabethtown, was 8, a move from Germany to the United States separated her from her half-sister, Sarah Scherzer.

A little less than two decades later, Everett was reunited last week with Scherzer in Elizabethtown thanks to a German reality TV show, “Ticket to Love.” Scherzer’s grandparents, Siglinde and Horst Eckstein, accompanied her on the trip.

“At first, I couldn’t believe they were there,” Everett said. “My heart was pumping, that’s for sure.”

The concept of the show is to reunite German citizens who have not seen family in other countries for years, said Guido Willweber, casting coordinator for the show. Scherzer’s story was one of four chosen for two pilot episodes set to air in May.

Everett was led to believe Willweber was writing a book about siblings who have grown up on different continents, and agreed to an on-camera interview for the book. When Andrea Ballschuh, host of the show, arrived instead of Willweber, Everett knew something was amiss.

“I kind of had a gut feeling,” she said. “Normally stuff like that you only see on TV. You think it doesn’t really happen, but it happens.”

When Everett saw Scherzer and the Ecksteins, a wave of emotion came over her, she said.

“Memories came flooding back when I saw them,” she said. “We all connected immediately. It was like we haven’t been apart that long.”

The show paid for the family’s round-trip airfare, a week’s worth of accommodations and transportation, Willweber said.

“It’s really a genuine project,” he said. “It’s beautiful to see how they react and how the story connects.”

The family, from Schwarzenbruck, Germany, was able to tour the area, have a picnic at Green River and take time to reconnect.

“There’s a lot of things I haven’t seen,” Everett said. “We were all kind of like tourists.”

Siglinde Eckstein was especially impressed with Wal-Mart, Everett said.

“She was amazed,” she said. “She thought it was amazing.”

Everett was impressed by how much she and Scherzer had in common including their views and doodling. She said even their boyfriends look and act the same.

“We learned a lot about each other,” she said. “We have so much in common. It makes me wonder that all this time we’ve been apart if we’ve been doing the same thing.”

The sisters have the same father, and the Ecksteins are Scherzer’s maternal grandparents. Although Everett isn’t a blood relative to the Ecksteins, she developed a close relationship with them and her stepmother while in Germany.

“They’re not really my grandparents, but when I was there, they were my everything,” she said. “They always showed me a lot of love and affection.”

The family also met Everett’s daughter, Autumn, who appreciated her Aunt Sarah building a bird nest for her out of pillows and blankets.

Everett said Autumn is fascinated with birds and she slept in the makeshift nest for a couple nights.

The show chose the family partly because phone calls between them had a language barrier, Willweber said. The only thing Siglinde Eckstein could say in English was “I love you.”

“They would call and say ‘I love you’ over and over again and then cry,” he said.

Everett, who could speak German when she left the country, no longer can speak the language, but plans to study it. Scherzer can speak English, but even with technology, the two rarely spoke before they were reunited, Everett said.

“We really didn’t know what to say to each other,” she said, admitting she was hesitant to reach out to Scherzer because she didn’t know how she would react. “We didn’t know much about each other’s lives. You can’t tell that much on Facebook.”

Everett is thankful the show was able to bridge that gap to allow her to reconnect and she plans to make more frequent visits to Germany.

“The time we did have was really, really nice,” she said. “At first, I wasn’t too thrilled about the filming. Now that I know what they’re about, I think it’s amazing.”

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Information from: The News-Enterprise, http://www.thenewsenterprise.com

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