102-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Meets Family after Thinking They All Died in Camp


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Approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Every single one of these individuals has a story.

Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project has made it their mission to memorialize each Jew murdered. Their Pages of Testimony is the manner in which they record biographical information about each individual as a person and not just a number.

The project’s website states, “Since 1955, Yad Vashem has been fulfilling its mandate to preserve the memory of Holocaust victims by collecting their names, the ultimate representation of a person’s identity…. This is a race against time, before those who remember them are no longer with us.”

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In a particularly emotional example, the database offered a family much more than names or even answers. It led to a family reunion that has gone viral.

The race against time came to a stop for Hagit Weinstein Mikanovsky after using of the Yad Vashem database. She spent hours searching the database as she filled in her family tree.

Mikanovsky realized she was related to Eliahu and Volf Pietruszka. Conflicting information arose, however.

In 2005, Volf filled out a page of testimony for his older brother, Eliahu. He believed that Eliahu was dead.

Eliahu, in fact, had survived the Holocaust. At the start of World War II, he fled Poland at the age of 24.

He was a survivor, but never saw his twin brothers, Volf and Zelig, or parents again. Eliahu thought they had all died at work and death camps.

This assumption was only true of his parents and Zelig, though. Volf escaped from a a Siberian work camp unbeknownst to Eliahu.

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Eliahu ended up marrying, and then moving to Israel in 1949. He now lives in a retirement home at the age of 102.

Shakhar Smorodinsky, his grandson, received an email from Mikanovsky that would lead to a reunion nobody ever expected. She got connected to Smorodinsky when she found a YouTube video he had uploaded titled “Eliahu Pietruszka 100 birthday video.”

Smorodinsky, who ended up being Mikanovsky’s cousin, helped put more pieces together. He found that Volf passed away in 2011 after living as a construction worker in Russia.

Volf’s only son, 66-year-old Alexandre, was contacted. Alexandre wanted to meet his uncle for the first time.

So, he flew from Russia to meet 102-year-old Eliahu at his retirement home in Israel. The emotional reunion was recorded by The Associated Press.

“It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son. After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him,” Eliahu commented.

It was a privilege to watch such a touching meeting. Debbie Berman, a Yad Vashem official who came to the reunion, felt the same way, and even commented, “I feel like we are kind of touching a piece of history.”

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Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College.
Carolyn Fultz is a former contributor for Liftable Media. She holds a B.A. in Communication from Hope College. Carolyn's writing has been featured in both online and print media, including Just Between Us magazine. She resides in Phoenix with her husband and children.
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