Swedish and English "twin soul sister" penpals reunite in Sheffield after 50 years of friendship

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The two best friends realised recently that this year marks fifty years since their first contact as penpals.

Two best friends from England and Sweden are reuniting in Sheffield this week, celebrating half a century of friendship.

“Twin soul sisters” Caroline Hall, aged 61, and Helen Horned, 62, first connected as penpals during their first year of secondary school. 

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“We met in person when Caroline and her family came to my town, Linköping, for a week when we were 13. I can still feel the pain of when she left,” said Helen.

Since then, the pair have visited each other more than 25 times.

Helen adds: “I didn’t think this far ahead, but I do remember thinking ‘she’s a keeper’. It was so expensive to call each other back then, but we did it anyway.”

Helen (left) and Caroline (right) say they have both supported each other through the "trials and tribulations of life".Helen (left) and Caroline (right) say they have both supported each other through the "trials and tribulations of life".
Helen (left) and Caroline (right) say they have both supported each other through the "trials and tribulations of life". | National World

Initially, when Caroline drew Helen’s name out of the hat in her letter-writing class when penpals were being assigned, she tried to put the paper back.

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She said: “‘Helen’ sounds so English. I wanted to have someone called Agnetha or something!”

Sharing a lifetime of experiences through letters, calls, and messages every Sunday, the duo have supported each other in everything from separation to motherhood.

Caroline said: “Helen was the first to get separated, and she knew exactly what I was going through when it happened to me. One of her sons lives in the US and one of mine lives in Canada, so we both share that sort of loss.”

The two women each have three sons, who are all between the ages of 22 and 36.

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The two women have visited each other over 25 times since they first met at 13-years-oldThe two women have visited each other over 25 times since they first met at 13-years-old
The two women have visited each other over 25 times since they first met at 13-years-old | National World

This week, in Helen’s third visit to Sheffield, the women have plans to visit the Peak District, Hebden Bridge, and the Yorkshire Dales, which Helen knows from the opening credits of Emmerdale.

“It sounds silly, but I will love it,” she said.

She went to see ABBA Voyage in London last week, when she arrived in the UK.

She said: “I grew up with them. I went to their concert in 1974 soon after they appeared on Eurovision, so seeing them again was quite emotional. It felt so alive.

“The UK is absolutely fabulous. I love coming here.”

Caroline says their friendship was meant to be, so the thousand miles between them makes no difference. 

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“I remember one of Helen’s letters saying no one else had had their penpal write back to them, but I did! You know, I remember thinking, she looked just like someone out of ABBA,” she said.

Helen adds: “I call Caroline my twin soul sister. She knows me so well. We both know what the other is thinking.”

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