Separated by World War II, family finally to be reunited

Discussion in 'World War 2' started by David Layne, Jun 11, 2009.

  1. David Layne

    David Layne Active Member

    When Stanislaw "Stanley" Pasternak got a phone call from the American Red Cross telling him they had located his mother's family, missing in the Ukraine since the end of World War II, he thought it was a scam.

    But Pasternak took the woman's name, hung up, and called information to get the Red Cross' telephone number in New Jersey and then called her back.

    After confirming that the call legitimate, Pasternak said, his thoughts turned to his mother, Eugenia Kawczak, now 86, who had lived the last 64 years believing her brothers and sisters, separated by the Nazis, had all died during the war.

    "Everyone has been so excited about this thing," said Pasternak, who lives in Wolfeboro.

    His mother, who lives in Salem, N.J., is scheduled to fly today with her stepdaughter Nadija to Germany and then to the Ukraine to meet her long-lost siblings.

    Pasternak says the trip is bittersweet. While it will be the first time the siblings have seen each other since they were young children, it also may be their last get-together, as all are in their late 80s and early 90s.

    The reunion will be captured by a film crew as part of a documentary about the Red Cross, Pasternak added.

    Since learning that her siblings are alive and well, Pasternak said, his mother has telephoned them and has been "writing letters like crazy.

    "I'm so happy for my mother. She worked hard all her life. It's something special in her older years to be able to relax and see her family," said her only son.

    The story began in Germany, when Eugenia's father died young and her mother was unable to care for five children by herself. The children were placed into foster care. Eugenia ran away, stowing herself aboard a train and making her way back to Kiev where she rounded up her siblings.

    Their mother took them to work on a farm where there would be food, but the war broke out and the Nazis separated the Catholic family.

    Pasternak said his mother was fortunate to be taken to another farm where she had to work hard but was fed well. She never knew what had happened to her siblings. Her good fortune continued at war's end on May 17, 1945, as she found herself in an area of Germany which was liberated by U.S. soldiers.

    She later married her first husband, Boris Pasternak, and had two children: A daughter, Vera, and Stanislaw.

    "Apparently, he loved her dearly, but not children," Stanley said of what led to the couple's divorce.

    As a single mother of two children, Eugenia decided to try and emigrate to America to find work to support her family.

    Pasternak recounted that Benjamin C. Adams, who went on to become a New Hampshire Senator, saw a picture of the family and agreed to sponsor them if Eugenia would agree to become a nanny to his five children for a year. She agreed and the trio set off by train from Germany on the first leg of a trip to New York.

    Stanley said their first scheduled departure date aboard the U.S.S. Muir was postponed by six months after he required stitches in his head after jumping on a bed and falling off. When they eventually arrived in New York, Stanley took sick and he was placed in quarantine on Ellis Island for the better part of a year, nearly dying.

    "They never knew what I had," he recounted.

    Meanwhile, his mother and sister moved to Derry to live with the Adams family. After her year-long contract was up, she met the man who would become her second husband and, after marrying, moved to Boston. The couple later had a daughter of their own.

    "My mother is very, very excited," Pasternak said of the upcoming reunion.

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