102-year-old man who lost family in Holocaust meets nephew for the first time: 'You are a copy of your father'
WATCH 'I have waited for 70 years to see you,' says Holocaust survivor during emotional reunion with his family
A 102-year-old Holocaust survivor thought his entire family had perished in World War II — until he met his nephew.
Eliahu Pietruszka found out that his brother had, in fact, survived the Holocaust and that his brother's son would come from Russia to visit him in Israel just a few days later, according to the Associated Press. Their teary, joyful meeting was made possible by resourceful grandchildren utilizing a genealogical database at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the AP reported. Their emotional meeting was captured on video.
"I haven't slept in two nights waiting for you,” Eliahu Pietruszka said upon meeting his 66-year-old nephew, Alexandre Pietruszka.
Alexandre Pietruszka had traveled to the Israeli retirement home where Eliahu lives from a remote part of Russia to meet him on Thursday as relatives looked on.
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“You are a copy of your father,” Eliahu Pietruszka, a retired microbiologist, said in Russian. He embraced his nephew and placed a kiss on his cheek.
Eliahu Pietruszka fled Poland in 1939 at the age of 24, leaving behind his parents and his twin younger brothers, Volf and Zelig, according to the AP. Both of his parents and Zelig were killed in a Nazi death camp. Eliahu knew Volf had escaped persecution in Poland but thought he had died at a Siberian work camp.
But it turns out Volf had survived and worked for years as a construction worker in an industrial Russian city in the Ural Mountains. In 2005, Volf Pietruszka filled out a testimony page for Eliahu, whom he thought had died, at the Yad Vashem memorial, according to the AP. The memorial has existed since the 1950s but the database was made available online in 2004, the AP reported.
Eliahu Pietruszka’s grandson, Shakhar Smorodinsky, recently received an email from a cousin in Canada who had found Volf’s testimony in Yad Vashem’s database. The grandson tracked down a phone number and reached Alexandre.
Alexandre Pietruszka said his father had died in 2011, but that he would fly to Israel himself to meet his uncle for the first time. The centenarian lives in a retirement home in Kfar Saba, Israel.
"I have waited for 70 years to see you," Eliahu Pietruszka told his nephew when they met.
Alexandre Pietruszka called the meeting miraculous.
“I never thought this would happen," he told his uncle.
A representative from Yad Vashem called it “unbelievable.”
“This is one of the last opportunities that we will have to witness something like this,” Debbie Berman, a representative from Yad Vashem who witnessed the reunion, told the AP. “I feel that we are kind of touching a piece of history.”
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