On 30 March 2015, two cousins who found each other thanks to Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names met for the first time. The emotional and unexpected meeting between Tatiana Zuckerman of Moscow (66) and Shalhevet Sara Ziv of Kfar Sava (67) took place on the Mount of Remembrance during an educator's seminar at the International School for Holocaust Studies, coordinated in partnership with the Holocaust Foundation based in Moscow.
Tatiana had come especially from Moscow to take part in the seminar. All her life she believed that she had almost no extended family, and apart from her mother, Rachel Perelman (Milenki) (87), an Auschwitz survivor who now lives in New York, and a very small number of distant cousins, no family members who survived the Holocaust. During her visit, Tatiana asked for assistance in searching Yad Vashem's databases to check for information about her family and their fate during the Holocaust. To her surprise, Tatiana found a Page of Testimony in the Names Database commemorating her grandmother Tzeril Milenki, who was killed in the Minsk ghetto. The Page of Testimony was submitted in 2011 by Shalhevet Ziv, who wrote that she was a great-niece of Tzeril.
Using social media networking and intensive investigations, Yad Vashem staff helped Tatiana locate Shalhevet within a few hours. With the help of a translator – Tatiana speaks only Russian – they confirmed that they are in fact related: their grandmothers were sisters. Shalhevet came to Yad Vashem the next morning so that she could meet with her cousin before Tatiana returned to Moscow. The two women immediately felt a strong family connection and talked for hours, comparing their family narratives and history as well as their lives today. Shalhevet showed Tatiana the family pictures and documents that she had gathered over the years and explained how her grandmother, Sarah Soreh Mara Milenki, Tzeril's sister, was burned alive along with other Jews of her town in the synagogue in Rakov. The women also remembered additional members of the family who were murdered in the Holocaust: Eta, Malka, Avraham, Mordechai Motel and Rechavam Milenki.
The meeting was especially poignant for Shalhevet, who has invested many years and much effort investigating the roots of her family. As a tribute to her grandmother Sarah (who she was named after) and her mother, Elka Kodinvinski, Shalhevet has made it her mission to share her family's legacy. After meeting with Tatiana, she is now able to further her research of the family tree, making corrections and additions based on information she has learned from her newly found cousin. She is preparing to publish a book based on her research, in which she was able to trace the roots of her family as far back as 1838. For her part, Tatiana feels that she has been given the gift of a family: "I cannot wait to share this discovery with my mother; she will be deeply moved to know that others survived. All these years we believed we were the only ones."