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Red Cross Connects Cousins – 76 Years Later


Elizabeth "Lily" Farkas was one of millions of people separated from her family amid the chaos and confusion of World War II. But thanks to a Red Cross search across international borders, she and a cousin connected after many decades.

Lily, who now lives in Sarasota, was a teenager in Hungary during the war, and recalled those as “God awful” times.

In 1945, the Russians came in to liberate Hungary from the Nazis, but when the Communists took over in 1949, liberation became domination and the Hungarian government was subordinate to Soviet control.

Hungarian students began demonstrating against the Communist government in 1956 but the Soviets sent in tanks and troops and defeated the Hungarian freedom fighters.Thousands of people died, more than 26,000 were put on trial, about 13,000 were imprisoned and about 300 were executed. Nearly 200,000 refugees escaped into Austria or Yugoslavia and eventually started new lives in other parts of the world.

Lily participated in the Hungarian Revolution and worked underground. She served 2 ½ years as a political prisoner in Budapest and a prison in northeastern Hungary. Her husband, Imre, was sentenced to death but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

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In 1956 Imre and other prisoners broke out of an infamous political prison in Vac, Hungary, three days after the revolution started. Imre and Lily were reunited in Budapest and arrived in the United States on Christmas Eve 1956. They have since had two daughters and three grandchildren who live in Holland.

Although Mrs. Farkas lost touch with her family in Hungary, a second cousin – Judit Bojthy Hajda – contacted the Red Cross to help locate her long lost relative after 76 years.

Cindy Desmond, Director of Volunteers, Client Services and Training for the Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Red Cross, spoke with Lily to inform her that her second cousin wanted to connect with her. Red Cross family tracing services help reconnect families who have been separated internationally by war and natural disasters.

“At first, Lily was hesitant,” said Cindy. “Then the memories started to come back.”

Now Lily corresponds with her second cousin, talking on the phone and sending photos to each other over the internet.

There are American Red Cross caseworkers at local chapters around the United States helping families locate missing relatives by working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations in nearly every country around the world.

Once a family member is found, the Red Cross helps them reconnect. In the past year, the American Red Cross helped reconnect more than 4,200 families – bridging years of separation to renew critical links between new communities in the U.S. and their families around the world.

American Red Cross: American Red Cross helps vulnerable people and communities around the world prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, humanitarian emergencies and health crises by mobilizing the power of the world's largest humanitarian network, made up of 186 Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies and more than 13 million volunteers. In all our work, we abide by the seven fundamental principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.