A 102-year-old Polish man who believed his entire family had died in the Holocaust was reduced to tears this week when he met a nephew that he didn’t know he had.
Eliahu Pietruszka was just 24 years old when he fled Warsaw in 1939 during World War II, according to the Associated Press.
He headed to the Soviet Union, leaving behind his parents and twin brothers Volf and Zelig, who were nine years younger than him. Both of his parents and Zelig were later transported from the Warsaw Ghetto to a Nazi death camp where they were killed, but Volf somehow managed to escape to the Soviet Union as well.
AP reports that Eliahu was able to briefly get in contact with Volf before he was sent to a Siberian work camp by the Soviets.
Assuming his last living relative was killed in Siberia, Eliahu later married a woman in Russia and relocated to Israel in 1949 to rebuild his family.
But just two weeks ago, Shakhar Smorodinsky, a grandson of Eliahu, received an email from a cousin living in Canada who was in the process of mapping out her family tree.
She had uncovered a page dedicated to Eliahu on Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial’s comprehensive online database, a genealogy tool that has reunited hundreds of Holocaust survivors with their relatives.
The profile was filled out in 2005 by Volf Pietruszka, who apparently thought his older brother had died.
After conducting more research, the family discovered that Volf had survived his time in the Siberian work camp and resettled in an industrial city in Russia’s Ural Mountains to live as a construction worker.
Smorodinsky found his last known address, only to discover that Volf had died in 2011. However, he learned that Volf’s only son Alexandre still lived in the remote Russian town — and after a brief chat on Skype, 66-year-old Alexandre agreed to fly out and visit his long-lost uncle.
On Thursday, Eliahu met Alexandre for the first time in the lobby of his retirement home. Emotional footage of the event shows the two strangers embracing and kissing each other on the cheek through streams of tears.
“You are a copy of your father,” said an overwhelmed Eliahu. “I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you.”
“It’s a miracle. I never thought this would happen,” said a tearful Alexandre.
Eliahu, who is now a great-grandfather of 10, said the reunion fulfilled a life-long dream of his.
“I am overjoyed,” he said. “This shows it is never too late. People can always find what they are looking for if they try hard enough. I succeeded.”
- This article was initially published on AOL.com: 102-year-old Holocaust survivor who thought his entire family died meets nephew he didn’t know existed
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