An emotional family reunion between Eliahu Pietzruska and Alexandre Pietzruska
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20 November 2017
Alexandre Pietruszka arrived last week from Russia to Israel to be united for the first time with his uncle Eliahu Pietruszka and his cousin Prof. Nechama Smorodinsky. Pages of Testimonies, recorded on Yad Vashem's online database of Shoah Victims' Names, made the incredible discovery possible.
Eliahu Pietruszka, 102, born in Warsaw, Poland, fled eastward in 1939 as the Germans invaded Poland. He left behind his parents, David and Paula, and his twin brothers Wolf (Vovek) and Zelig (Zenek), eight years his junior. Eliahu survived the war and managed to reach Israel, and lives today in the city of Kfar Saba. All these years, Eliahu believed that he was the sole survivor of the family and that his entire family had been murdered during the Holocaust. He knew that his mother, father, and at least one of his twin brothers, Zelig, were deported from the Warsaw Ghetto and murdered in an extermination camp. Eliahu also knew that his brother Wolf had managed to reach the Russian front. In 1940, Wolf successfully sent a letter to Eliahu. However, despite many attempts to correspond, Eliahu never received a reply. Unsure of his brother's fate, Eliahu assumed that his brother Wolf was killed in a labor camp in Siberia.
However, two weeks ago, Eliahu's grandson, Prof. Shakhar Smorodinsky, received an e-mail from Hagit Weinstein-Mikanovsky, an Israeli now living in Canada, who was conducting research on her mother's family. She was seeking information about her relatives David and Paula Pietruszka. She found Pages of Testimony in Yad Vashem Shoah Victims' Names Database, submitted by a man named Wolf Pietruszka in 2005 for his parents David and Paula Pietruszka and his brothers Zelig and Eliahu. Weinstein-Mikanovsky located Shakhar, Eliahu's grandson, and contacted him, inquiring about his family. Smorodinsky consulted with his mother, Nechama, and realized that this was indeed her family. They unsuccessfully tried to contact Wolf Pietruszka in Russia and reached his son Alexandre. Wolf did survive the Holocaust, but passed away in 2011 in Russia.
After an emotional conversation on Skype, Alexandre arrived in Israel last week for a miraculous first time meeting with his uncle Eliahu Pietruszka and his cousin Nechama Smorodinsky. During their meeting, Alexandre was overwhelmed by how much his father and uncle resembled each other, and was moved to tears when he saw a pre-war family photograph. He said that it was the first time that he saw a photograph of his grandparents.
Alexandre said that his father Wolf always believed that he was alone in the world and that no one from his family survived the war. In response, Eliahu told him: "You are no longer alone. You now have family in Israel. It is truly a miracle. I never thought that this would happen. It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother and that is his son. After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him."
Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, said: "As families gather to light the Chanukah candles, I call upon them to check whether their family members who were murdered in the Holocaust are commemorated in the Yad Vashem Shoah Victims' Names Database, and to complete Pages of Testimonies in memory of those who are not recorded in the database."
To date, about three-quarters of the victims of the Holocaust have been commemorated on Yad Vashem's database: Some 4,700,000 names have been gathered by Yad Vashem and are recorded in the online resource. The database is available in five languages: English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish and German. However, the names of over a million victims are still missing. Yad Vashem calls on the public to complete the historic imperative to restore the identity of the millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust by filling out Pages of Testimony. Volunteers are standing by to assist in filling out Pages of Testimony. To arrange personal assistance, please call Yad Vashem +972-(0) 2-6443808 or +972-(0)2-6443235 for Russian speakers or via e-mail email@example.com.