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MasterChef Ana Schwarz’s family tragedy

Losing her triplet sister has taken years to get over.

When she is competing on MasterChef, contestant Ana Schwarz comes across as determined and fiercely competitive, but the strength of mind she shows on screen was shaped by a heartbreaking event in her past. The shocking sudden death of her triplet sister, Lara, at age 18, is still a sensitive subject for the Waiheke-based mother of three, but the tragedy helped her get through the intense pressure of MasterChef in quite an unexpected way.

“I’ve dreamt about Lara a lot in the MasterChef house,” says Ana, mother to Mia (8), Jai (7), and baby Sienna. “Maybe she’s one of my guardian angels. It’s not like she’s dead. Sometimes I’m aware that she is there with me. “It seems to happen at times that are quite refl ective. That’s what MasterChef is like for me,” she says.

Although it occurred 22 years ago, the horrifying details of Lara’s passing are still very real  for Ana. The 40-year-old can vividly remember the call from police telling her that her sister had died after stepping in front of a train. Ana was devastated. “It all happened so quickly, and I was so overcome with grief. I realised later the train that had hit Lara probably went past me that day, because I was with a friend at the time who lived right near the train tracks.”

With time, Ana has come to understand that her sister was troubled at the time of her death. “I felt really angry at her for quite a while. But now I think she was a bit of a lost soul. Perhaps it wasn’t her time. It helps me to believe it was a fatal accident.

“I know she was super sensitive and found it hard to get through challenges in her life.” Of her five siblings, Ana was closest to Lara. As a triplet they also shared an extra bond, and as women Ana felt a deeper connection to Lara than to her triplet brother, Paul. After Lara’s passing, Ana withdrew from the world. “It actually made me more sensitive. It was like all of her sensitivity was dumped on me. It was almost too overwhelming losing someone at an age when you’re just discovering yourself as a person.”

Ana says that, after Lara’s death, she found her place in the world with the support of her family, partner Geoff and by becoming a mother. Discovering her love of cooking in recent years and through her experiences on MasterChef, she felt a sense of self she says had been missing for some time. “It feels like I’ve regained that thing I lost. I’ve got a newfound confidence. I’ve had so many hurdles and had  to overcome a lot of old stuff. “I’m happy doing something that it feels like I’m meant to be doing.”

In the past few years Ana has forged a deeper relationship with Paul, who shares her love of cooking and encouraged her to apply for MasterChef. Despite her passing, Ana says Lara’s spirit has stayed with the family through Ana’s son Jai. “Jai said to me the other day, ‘Auntie Lara gave me such and such,’ and I said, ‘Lara? Auntie Lara? Oh, okay.’ I didn’t question it. I thought it was cool.”

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