Brazilian Woman Lived In Cave Before Being Reunited With Mother 30 Years Later

There’s no greater bond than the one between family members. Aside from a biological link, there’s something special about the connection between siblings, cousins, parents, children, grandparents, and other relatives. No matter the distance or time that may have passed, people will always continue to share something innate and ultimately beautiful.

Oftentimes, the prior experiences we endure — whether positive or negative — shape our character. These experiences also have an uncanny way of determining life paths. There’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason for why we enter certain situations. With that said, everyone tries their hardest to make the best of any situation. In some cases, one enjoys a happy outcome. Others aren’t as fortunate — particularly when beset by trials and tribulations as a young child.

35-year-old Christina Rickardsson learned this the hard way. A native of Brazil, she grew up in an impoverished background with both her mother and little brother. Times were tough, and situations dictated a less-than-ideal way of living. Rickardsson and her family lived the sort of life no one would wish on their worst enemy. It was trying, difficult, and horribly sad. Still within all of the hardship, Rickardsson tried to live as normal a childhood as possible.

One day, something unimaginable happened. The lives of Christina, her brother, and her mother became forever changed with one decision. As we learned with this story, family bonds transcend decades of lost time. Rickardsson entered a world of danger, adventure, excitement, love, and utter surprise. You’ll be shocked to hear about her wildly fascinating life.

Image Source: Instagram/ChristinaRickardsson

Christina Rickardsson was born by the name of Christiana Mara Coelho. Her mother, Petronilia, was a single parent. The two resided in the Southeastern region of Minas Gerais. Petronilia was a very poor woman. By the time she was 15 days old, her mother took Christina to her future home. It was a shocking place, to say the least.

Image Source: Instagram/ChristinaRickardsson

The nearby town of Diamantina was too expensive of a place for the mother and daughter to stay in. As such, Petronilia took her 15-day old daughter to a cave in the Brazilian wilderness. For the next five years, the duo lived here. However, dangerous wild animals quickly proved to be a major problem.

Image Source: Brasil Wire

Venomous spiders, snakes, centipedes, and scorpions routinely were present in the sleeping area of both the mother and daughter. One evening, Christina remembers a jaguar entering their home in search of food. With little money, Petronilia and Christina had to be creative when it came to eating food.

Image Source: Wikipedia

As a source of meat, the family would use a slingshot to target small birds. Christina remembers the first time in which she was successful in catching the source of food:

“We came close to starvation, but I often look on those years as my best years. [My mother] always had time for me, and I got all her love. We chatted for hours, taking in the beauty of the wilderness, feet dangling over the mouth of the caves. I gained confidence from hunting and scavenging and still recall my immense pride when I claimed my first bird, which we grilled over our tiny fire pit. It made a good meal with fruit, berries and nuts.”

Image Source: The Original Tree Swing

Petronilia and Christina would routinely hike to the nearest major city of Diamantina. Here, the two would beg for money and food. They’d sell flowers and dried leaves in order to purchase rice and other small things. Petronilia’s stories of Jesus and God would help a young Christina make the long journey. However, they returned to find a major problem awaiting them at their cave.

Image Source: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

A group of men with dogs aggressively forced Petronilia and Christina from their home. After five years, the two had to find somewhere else to live. They ultimately walked all the way to the major city of São Paulo. From there, the two started a new life for themselves in a favela slum. Though in a new and exciting big city, things only got worse for Christina.

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Christina’s mother would disappear for long stretches of time. As a result, Christina became one of the millions of street children living in São Paulo. She befriended another young girl named Camile. The two of them would do all sorts of activities together — including protecting one another. On what appeared to be a normal day, something absolutely tragic occurred.

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Reports indicated that Brazilian military police have been known to kill street children as a way to sweep through the streets. This largely is due to tourism and the goal to make the city seem safer/cleaner. Camile and Christina came upon a group of children being lined up for such an act. The military police saw the two girls — and began chasing them. Christina was able to get away safely, though Camile sadly wasn’t as fortunate. 

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Christina watched in horror as poor Camile was executed by military police. Knowing she was no longer safe, Christina left the area in search of shelter. For months, she also resorted to rummaging through trashcans for food. The seven-year-old version of Christina was fighting for survival. One day, something truly special happened.

Image Source: Victor Moriyama/Getty Images

Christina finally became reunited with her mother. Petronilia had given birth to another baby — a little boy named Patrique. Now reunited, Christina began taking care of her baby brother. She’d often carry him around in a cardboard box. Newspapers were used for blankets. Determined to not have her children continue to live on the streets, Petronilia made what many consider to be a very difficult decision.

Image Source: Patrick Coelho Rickardsson/Facebook

Petronilia put both Christina and Patrique in temporary orphanage care. This was done in order for Petronilia to find a job. She’d then eventually regain custody of them once her finances were in order. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the case. Christina and Patrique would soon find themselves leaving Brazil for a completely new culture.

Image Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Though there were a large number of children residing at this orphanage, Christina and Patrique were picked for adoption by a Swedish couple. The orphanage had prevented Petronilia from visiting her children. On the day Christina and Patrique left the orphanage for Sweden, Petronilia had to be restrained from running through the gates to her children. After screaming and crying ensued, the brother and sister were about to embark on quite a crazy journey.

Image Source: NY Post

An 8-year-old Christina and a 2-year-old Patrique now lived in Vindeln — a city located in the Northeast portion of Sweden. The siblings were adopted by middle-aged parents Lilian-Ann and Sture Rickardsson. Life was far more quiet than it was in São Paulo. It was also cleaner. The transition for Christina surprisingly went very well from the start:

“Everything was a shock in the beginning. The weather, the religion, the food culture,  how you dress, how you talk and social codes are so much different. It’s like taking someone from planet earth and moving them to Mars to live with the Martians. I learned Swedish and forgot Portuguese in a matter of months. I called [Lilian-Ann and Sture] mum and dad almost from the get-go. After years of fighting for survival and against hunger and abuse, I had hope for a future.”

Image Source: Jason Fray/All Rights Reserved

Christina and Patrique lived positive lives in Sweden. Each acclimated brilliantly to their new environments. Sadly, a tragic situation hit the Rickardsson family. Lilian-Ann passed away due to cancer. Christina was only 15 when this occurred. As time went on, there was even more of an urge to find out about the status of her biological mother.

Image Source: Instagram/ChristinaRickardsson

In 2015, Christina made her way back to Brazil for the first time in 24 years. She wanted more than anything to find her birth mother. Christina went to the orphanage where she had once lived. She also got in touch with an expert researcher tasked with finding lost people. Eventually, Christina had a breakthrough. Her mother was in fact alive — living in the city of Belo Horizonte.

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Christina and her mother Petronilia were able to reunite together after nearly a quarter-century. Petronilia was living with her two sisters during this time. It was then told to Christina that her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Petronilia spent 15 years walking the streets looking for both Christina and Patrique after they had been adopted. Upon hearing this news, Patrique flew from Sweden to Brazil to also meet up with his mother.

Image Source: NY Post

Impacted by this meeting, Christina decided to create the Coehlo Growth Foundation. This organization is aimed at providing street children (like Christina) with the resources needed to live functional lives. The work is done primarily in Brazil — including at the orphanage where Christina and Patrique once lived. Christina and Patrique even visited the cave where she once lived.

Image Source:  NY Post

Christina also wrote an autobiography entitled Never Stop Walking. It spoke of her entire life in Brazil — and how she beat the odds through determination, resourcefulness, and survival. It’s acted as an inspiration for millions troubled by personal issues. She’s also given a TED Talk on her personal strife.

Image Source: Amazon

The story of Christina Rickardsson is truly eye-opening. Though this woman and her family dealt with plenty of obstacles, they were ultimately able to reunite in what turned out to be a beautiful story. The determination by Christina to survive can be used as wonderful motivation for anyone also suffering with personal problems.

Image Source: Instagram/ChristinaRickardsson

Quote Sources: NY Post, Brasil Wire, Christina Rickardsson Foundation

Link: Coelho Growth Foundation