Countdown begins for AncestryDNA to solve a 71-year-old mystery from WWII

I didn’t think I would ever get this close to finally solving a family mystery from WWII. My great-grandparents died in the 1970s, wondering whatever happened to their free-spirited daughter and unborn grandchild.

Five years ago, American Red Cross with the help of International Tracing Service found my missing grand aunt alive after vanishing for 66 years. The incredible news came days before my birthday, a great gift.

Now, I am waiting for Ancestry DNA to come through for my entire family and especially for the daughter of my grand aunt. She, her children and grandchildren don’t know anything about her father.

In the past year her matches on Family Tree DNA haven’t been close enough to answer the question on the mystery father from war-torn Berlin, Germany. Tired of waiting for the golden match, I finally gave into paying for a DNA test through Ancestry DNA.

It’s been an 11-month ordeal. The first Ancestry DNA kit was returned to my cousin. It’s illegal to send spit-filled test tubes through the Russian postal service abroad.

Thankfully, Ancestry DNA agreed to send me a second kit at no charge. I created a new plan to get around Russian laws. I found a contact to get the DNA kit out of Russia while they travelled abroad.

I told my cousin of the plan and the importance of immediately getting her mother to do the test so everything would line up properly. I started to sweat two weeks before my contact would travel.

My cousin didn’t answer my message about whether she mailed the DNA test until 6 days before my contact would travel. She told me she mailed the package that day. I got even more nervous.

The distance the package had to travel was close to the distance between Toronto, Canada, and New York City. How could the Russian postal service deliver the package in time?

I was devastated when I learned that the package arrived in my contact’s city a day after the traveling contact left Russia. Then, it took another 4 days to get through the city and into the local post office.

The next time the contact would travel abroad was scheduled months away. I was one step away from getting my hands on the package and done with waiting.

Thanks to a distant cousin from Russia on Ancestry DNA, I got advice for getting the package out of Russia. My contact followed my directions and I had the package in my hands 6 days later.

I couldn’t be happier to finally touch this package. I saw that U.S. customs cut open the package inside to inspect the contents. They didn’t care the customs form didn’t declare the actual object inside because DNA kits aren’t illegal in U.S. postal mail.

I immediately put the DNA test in the return shipping box at the post office. It took a week for Ancestry to list the kit as arrived.

Now, the waiting game begins. Will the matches again be too distant to find the father’s family? Will close matches refuse to answer my messages?

Let’s hope for a holiday miracle and finally say mystery solved.

Read the previous posts on this journey:

A shocking twist gets thrown into finding the mystery birth father from WWII
A DNA test and small paper trail face off to complete a WWII love story

Trio of siblings reunite after overcoming the challenges of finding family in the Ukrainian countryside

Last week, I was so thrilled to start a search for the birth family of a Ukrainian adoptee named Sarah.

I thought this would be an easy case. Sarah gave me her mother’s full name and the village where her mother lived 18 years ago. Finding that village on Google Maps was easy with having the village’s region and neighborhood.

My challenge of bringing Sarah emotionally home to her family appeared when I only found one woman registered for the village on popular social network Odnoklassniki. That woman only accepts messages from friends so I messaged a woman in the next village for help.

It took 3 days to get a response. I explained the situation with Sarah and I was immediately given a phone number to a relative named Valentine. All she knew about this adoption was that there was a girl born 15-20 years ago.

My friend in Moscow, Katya, reached Valentine 3 days later on his cell phone. It was a quick call, due to the expense of international calling. Valentine confirmed that Sarah had 2 siblings and she had been left at the maternity hospital.

Even with Katya’s knowledge of Russian and Ukrainian, she could hardly understand Valentine. She asked him to message me on Odnoklassniki. We waited 48 hours and he never contacted me. Then I recruited my cousin, Tatyana, in Kiev to reach out to him.

Valentine didn’t answer his cell phone when Tatyana called three days later. She messaged him my profile page on Odnoklassniki. Sarah was feeling rejected again by her family but this was a language and lack of access to Internet problem. I was screaming in my head “Get on the freakin Internet and message me!”

With all this waiting, I was joking in my head whether I needed to contact a Moldovan on the other side of Ukraine. It has taken an American, a Russian and a Ukrainian to get this far.

Thankfully, it only took two more days to finally talk to Valentine on Odnoklassniki. He confirmed my suspicions from the database of all Ukrainians on nomer.org that the grandfather had lived in the village (but he died recently) and told me the family has lived 86 years in the village.

Valentine provided me with the names of Sarah’s four aunts and one uncle, but he doesn’t know anything about her father nor the whereabouts of her brother and sister. Much of what Valentine wrote I couldn’t understand even with using Google Translate.

Thanks to crafty searching , I found an aunt on  Vkontakte. I put the name of the family village in Russian and then site: http://www.vk.com in the Google search box and the aunt appeared as a result.

I had already tried to find anyone from the village on  Vkontakte, but “no one” existed. The aunt appeared through my crafty searching because she put the family village as her hometown, but not as her current location.

I messaged her immediately upon finding her and the waiting game restarted. It took 4 days to get a very excited message from the aunt. She provided me with the names of Sarah’s brother, Vladimir and sister, Svetlana, who is attending college.

Sarah jumped on finding her siblings on social networks after I didn’t have luck. She sent me a link to a girl, whose page I viewed before as a possible cousin. Once I went through her photos and saw she had a brother Vladimir and was friends with the aunt, I had some hope they were siblings.

Having problems sleeping at 5 a.m., I finally messaged the girl whether she had the same mother. She responded immediately and I informed her that she has an older sister. Svetlana is shocked, but overjoyed.

Yesterday, Sarah was wondering whether she would ever find her siblings. Today, she added a sister as a friend on  Vkontakte and saw a picture of her mother with the same nose and chin. She has some closure and a new beginning with her family.

* All names were changed for privacy. Search was done for free.

Related posts:
An early birthday present for a Russian adoptee- a sister
Love and Faith reconnect Russian adoptee with birth family after 16 years