My dad was born in Soviet Union, in the area that is now Ukraine, and lived there until he was 25. He has told me many stories of the hardship that he and my grandmother experienced living in a totalitarian state.
A person disappearing without a trace was a common occurrence in the Soviet Union. That person’s family members were left to wonder whether they had been killed, escaped the country or sent to Siberia.
My grandfather left his family in 1957 to go back to his native country, Hungary. Hungary at the time was in a revolution against the Soviet-imposed regime. After the revolution failed, my disenchanted grandfather escaped to the West in hopes of finding freedom.
At this point, my grandmother had no way of contacting him and did not know where he was or if he was still alive.
Around 1968, my grandmother was in Moscow, Russia and walked into a Red Cross office. She told them her story and asked if they could locate my grandfather.
Through the International Tracing Program, Red Cross tracked down my grandfather’s second wife in Hungary. She contacted my grandfather who was living in Cologne, West Germany. Since he was considered a traitor to the Soviet Union for escaping to the West, his whereabouts and existence were of no importance to the state. This had made him very hard to track.
Shortly after my grandfather was contacted, my dad received a letter from him. The letter contained a picture of two little girls. At the age of 16, my dad finally learned of the existence of his two half sisters.
Since immigrating to the United States my dad, has kept in contact with both of his sisters. One now lives in England and the other is in Hungary. They have both come to visit my family in the United States, and I feel fortunate to have been able to get to know my aunts and cousins on my dad’s side.
This summer my family and I went to Hungary to visit my dad’s sister and nephew. The country is beautiful and it was great to see my dad reconnect with his sister who is one of the few living family members he has left.
I am glad to know this story because it is an important part of my family history and it gives me a personal connection to the amazing services that the Red Cross offers to people across the world! To learn more about our International Services at the Greater Chicago Chapter, click here.