I never expected to be so hopeful in finding my missing family.
Everything changed a few days before my birthday this June. I received a call from the local chapter of the American Red Cross. I had sent the chapter a tracing request for my grandmother’s sister, who had been missing for 66 years.
The excited woman on the other line said my grand aunt had been found alive in Russia. I was so shaken up that I almost had to sit down. My first reaction was “Are you sure you have the right person?”
The Red Cross employee was confident the agency found the right person. I gave her my e-mail address so she could e-mail me my grand aunt’s contact information.
I thanked the woman and immediately called my mother when I hung up. I called my mom- “Your aunt is alive in Russia!” My mother was shocked too. Her aunt had been missing since she was 3 years old.
I called the phone numbers the Red Cross gave. No one answered on one line. I got an answer on the other line. My Russian was so rusty and the woman who answered did not speak English. So I had to wait until the next day for my mother to call her aunt. My mother was at a store and it was already 10:30 p.m. in Russia when we got the news.
The next morning, my mother talked to her aunt.
Since then, it has felt so weird that I finally found this woman. I have her professional photo from the 1940s completely memorized- her hair, clothes and smile.
I am in regular contact with one of my grand aunt’s granddaughter. We have exchanged photos and information. I hope to visit the family in the next 10 years. I cannot visit now when I have two young kids.
I am so grateful to the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center. After several requests for tracing my grand aunt, the trace can be marked as a success.
Here is my advice on making your trace request as successful as possible.
1. Provide all possible names for your relative, even nicknames. My grand aunt changed her first name to her known nickname.
2. Ask relatives for any details they remember on the missing person. The old addresses of my grand aunt helped find her.
3. Make sure all the information you provide to the center is accurate.
4. Be patient. My request almost took two years to complete.