It is August 30th, 2015 and Sophia is checking in for her journey to Uganda, a journey she has still not returned from.
Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to you, all parents know this.
But we don’t know if we have really lost our child, if she really won’t come home anymore.
A mother whose son was one of the victims of flight MH17, the plane that was taken down over Ukraine three years ago, said in an interview that no child is as present as a deceased child. As Sophia’s mother I immediately thought: ‘Except for a missing child, who is even more present. A missing child is always on your mind, is in your head, in your body, you see and hear her everywhere.

And always those questions: ‘Where is she? Is she alive? Under what circumstances? Will she come home again? How long will this take?’

Sophia’s incomprehensible absence, so entirely unreal, throws a dark shadow over our lives. Practically every day I must tell myself that it is really true: Sophia is missing, her fate is entirely unclear.
And at the same time the world keeps turning. Part of our life has come to a halt, other parts ‘simply’ go on.
Sophia’s youngest brother Jan passed his A-levels and has started a new life as a university student. At the graduation ceremony his mentor mentioned how five years ago his sister sat on that same stage, in that same chair. That she disappeared in October 2015 and that we do not know what happened to her. You could hear a pin drop in that auditorium.
Moments like this, true family moments, make Sophia’s absence extra painful, if that is even possible. We are four where we should be five.
Sophia’s brother Max turned 21 and is making steady progress with his studies, in spite of everything. We, their parents, watch in awe. We would not be able to do what they manage.

Recently I went back to Uganda again. I spoke to many people and heard several new things, which produce even more questions.
Almost immediately after Sophia disappeared the story was told that she was likely attacked by a wild animal. Any traces or indications of this have never been found. There is no evidence for anything.
What we do have are many things that do not add up, and many, many questions. It is a gigantic puzzle where most pieces are missing . This is unacceptable and that’s why we have to keep searching for Sophia, our beautiful girl, so full of ambition and zest for life. Keep searching for answers to all those gruelling questions. Every path that could bring us closer to those anwers, closer to Sophia, we will take.

We are supported in this by people who are willing to share their expertise with us, and are willing to give us advice. Plus the many people who keep showing their compassion and empathy for our ongoing ordeal. We are not the only ones to miss Sophia so intensely. We cannot and will not desert her. Our gratitude to those who keep helping and supporting us is immense. They may not quite realise how important that is for us, but it is. It helps us to keep going, to fight on, to maintain hope.

When nothing is sure, everything is possible.

Marije Slijkerman
Gerard, Max en Jan Koetsier