Family reunions are an emotional experience for many people. But it was a life changing experience for one elderly holocaust survivor who believed all his family had died.
Eliahu Pietruszka lost parents and one of his brothers in a Nazi death camp – and was unaware that his younger brother was able to escape and fled to Russia while he himself fled to Poland.
Now in an emotional reunion years in the making, Eliahu has met his younger brother’s son, Alexandre.
Alexandre had flown from a remote part of Russia all the way to Israel to see his long lost uncle.
“It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son,” said Pietruszka while fighting back tears.
“After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him.”
“In my heart, I thought [my brother] was no longer alive,” Pietruszka said.
Eliahu, devastated and alone, married in Russia and later migrated to Israel in 1949 to start a new life.
Only a mere two weeks ago, Eliahu’s grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, received an email from a cousin in Canada who was working on her family tree.
It was through her work that the found as testimony filled out in 2005 by Volf Pietruszka – Eliahu’s younger brother.
Volf, it turned out, had survived and settled in Magnitogorsk in the Ural Mountains.
Shakhar was then able to track down an address and reached out to discover that Volf, who had spent his life as a construction worker, had died in 2011 at the age of 88.
Though what they were able to find instead was Alexandre – Volf’s only child, who was still living there.
After Shakhar arranged a brief Skype chat, Alexandre decided to come see the uncle he never knew he had.
Upon meeting, the two embraced each other tightly and spoke to each other Russian – a language Eliahu hadn’t spoken in decades.
“You are a copy of your father,” said a shaking Eliahu, who has a hearing aid and gets around in a rolling walker. “I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you.”
“It’s a miracle. I never thought this would happen,” said Alexandre, himself a retired construction worker, kept saying.
For Eliahu, a retired microbiologist and great-grandfather of 10, meeting his late brother’s family was a beautiful moment to come out of a devastating tragedy.
“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.”