When Eliahu Pietruszka survived the Holocaust, he operated under the impression that his entire family had perished before him leaving him alone in the world. He held this belief throughout his 102 years, only recently finding out his brother had survived and given him a nephew.
Pietruszka’s frail body shuffled through the lobby of his retirement home as he embraced his nephew, crying on the shoulder of a man he had never met, according to NBC. After holding his nephew’s face in his hands, kissing both cheeks, he began choking out fragments of Russian, a language he hadn’t spoken in many years.
Pietruszka fled Poland in the beginning of World War II and only recently discovered his younger brother had survived as well, leaving him with 66-year-old Alexandre. Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial’s comprehensive online database of Holocaust victims made the meeting possible as Alexandre flew in from a remote part of Russia to meet his uncle for the first time, according to ABC.
“It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son,” Pietruszka said. “After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him.”
Fleeing Warsaw in his mid twenties, Pietruszka headed to the Soviet Union leaving behind his parents and twin brothers Volf and Zelig, who were nine years younger than him. While his parents were killed in a Nazi death camp, Volf escaped but was later sent to a Siberian work camp, where Pietruszka assumed he had died.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Pietruszka’s grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, received an email from a cousin in Canada working on her family tree. She has found a Yad Vashem page of testimony filled out in 2005 by Volf Pietruszka for his older brother Eliahu, who he also thought had died.
This discovery led to the journey Pietruszka and Alexandre shared as he flew in to meet his uncle in person for the first time.
“You are a copy of your father,” Pietruszka said as he shook. “I haven’t slept in two nights waiting for you. This shows it is never too late. People can always find what they are looking for if they try hard enough. I succeeded.”