Imagine thinking your entire family had perished under inhumane conditions during one of the most hellish periods of your life. Imagine having believed this for the last 75+ years. Then imagine learning one of your siblings had actually survived and had a son. This is precisely what happened to Eliahu Pietruszka who, at 102 years old, got the chance to meet the nephew he never knew he had.
Following email correspondence from a cousin in Canada, Pietruszka’s grandson, 47-year-old Shakhar Smorodinsky, learned that a Volf Pietruszka had filled out a Yad Vashem page listing Eliahu as his older brother in 2005. Volf was one of Eliahu’s younger twin brothers whom Eliahu had assumed died in a Siberian work camp during the war after the rest of his family had been killed in a death camp in Poland. And though Volf had sadly passed away in 2011, Smorodinsky learned that Volf had a son, his only child, Alexandre.
Needless to say, Eliahu Pietruszka, who now resides in an elder care facility in Israel, was overjoyed to learn of his nephew’s existence. After having lived the majority of his life believing he was the only surviving member of his family, news of Alexandre brought Pietruszka to tears, reports NBC News: “It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son.”
Alexandre, who is 66 and resides in a remote part of Russia, agreed to fly in to see Pietruszka, and the two hit it off in an emotionally-charged meeting: “You are a copy of your father,” Pietruszka told Alexandre. “I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you.”
As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles — the most recent estimate places it at only about 100,000 — such a meeting is a small miracle in and of itself. That two family members, separated by space and time and unaware of each other’s existence following the monstrosities of World War II, were able to meet at all elicits all the feels.
The database responsible for the uncle and nephew’s meeting, Yad Vashem Database, is part of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, whose mission is to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to educate younger generations about the plight of those who lived through it. Thanks to its efforts, families such as the Pietruszkas are able to reunite and learn about their relatives while also actively working to never forget the atrocities of this period in history.
While the conditions responsible for the Pietruszka family’s separation are unforgivable, this story is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal world climate right now. May these family members make up for lost time and bask in the joy of getting to know one another for as long as possible.
To learn more about The Holocaust Remembrance Center’s mission and offerings, visit the Yad Vashem website here.