At the onset of World War II, Michael Chudik left Poland for the United States. As the war continued, battles between Nazi and Soviet forces destroyed the village of Smereczne that Michael’s family, including his brother Nicolas, called home. Many villagers were relocated to the Ukraine as part of an exchange of populations between the Soviet Union and Poland.
For more than 60 years, attempts made by Michael’s family in the United States to locate their relatives in the Ukraine were unsuccessful until Michael’s daughter Dorothy and her cousin John sought the help of the American Red Cross.
“The American Red Cross helps families who have lost touch or have become disconnected because of natural disasters or war or other kinds of conflicts,” said Hank Bernstein, the Restoring Family Links volunteer caseworker who worked on Dorothy and John’s case. “In those situations, one of the great emotional issues that people face is the loss of contact with their relatives. The Red Cross provides a service to link them together.”
Bernstein worked with Red Cross Restoring Family Links colleagues at the International Committee of the Red Cross to attempt to locate Dorothy and John’s family. After several months, the Red Cross found Dorothy’s cousin Ivanna and her granddaughter Viktoriya in the Ukraine.
“Hank called me and said ‘We got a connection,’” Dorothy recalled. “And goodness, it was the greatest thing that anyone could have ever told me.”
In February, Bernstein set up a Skype call to connect Dorothy in New Jersey and John in Wisconsin with their family in the Ukraine. With the help of a volunteer translator arranged by Red Cross of Northern New Jersey Board Vice Chair Ed Susco, Dorothy and John were able to see and communicate with the family they had been unable to reach for decades.
During the call, the family was able to share photographs and help fill in the missing pieces of their family tree. Dorothy was relieved to find out that her father’s family was alive and well.
“To know they are fine and living and have children and grandchildren is just great. It really is wonderful,” she said. “I am so grateful to the Red Cross - extremely grateful.”
Bernstein was happy he could help bring the family back together through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links service.
“It’s a very rewarding experience,” he said. “It’s been very meaningful to me to help do something to help others.”
RESTORING FAMILY LINKS The chaos and confusion of war and disaster can separate families when they need each other most. When this happens, the Red Cross joins the search across international borders, offering a unique service that reconnects families. American Red Cross caseworkers around the U.S. help families locate missing relatives by working with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations in nearly every country around the world.
When families are separated internationally due to armed conflict, disaster or other circumstances, the Red Cross helps. Restoring Family Links is a free service in which Red Cross Caseworkers help reconnect families.
American Red Cross caseworkers around the U.S. help families locate missing relatives by working with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations in nearly every country around the world. Annually the American Red Cross assists more than 5,000 families trying to reconnect with their loved ones in the U.S. and around the world.