Wars divide families sometimes for decades. In this moving story, Helen Krutz writes of three sisters torn apart by war, but whose children are finally reuniting 70 years later.
Early this year, 2014, my sister Anita called with the news that our cousin Jeannie from Australia would be visiting Niagara Falls. Before this, the most recent contact we had had between our continents was the sharing of sad news. Our mothers had passed away.
Jeannie had asked a very Aussie question. “Is Niagara Falls anywhere close to you?” I, living in Montreal, replied to Anita in Gatineau, Quebec, that this could be a very interesting road trip indeed. We joked around with our eldest sister in Quebec City. After the joking was done we investigated the question of how long Jeannie would be here. In fact her whole trip would start in New York City for 3 days and then a one day stop in Niagara Falls, followed by a cruise out of Vancouver!
I have 5 siblings and by now word had spread to the youngest sister in Montreal and our brother in Edmonton. My brother remarked that we would never be able to afford a trip to Australia to finally all meet together. Everyone thought that a weekend trip to New York to meet a cousin only known to us in Christmas cards and family lore was very alluring. Following along in the buzzing emails and Facebook shout-outs was another cousin, Monica, from British Columbia. Monica is the only daughter of the other of my Mom’s sisters, Meta, who also is “no longer with us”.
Our Mothers were Lithuanian. During WW2 they were evacuated to Germany where they lived in refugee camps. In payment for being “rescued from the Russians” and barely fed and poorly housed in camps, they were obliged into forced labour. Following the end of the war, each of these former Lithuanians were presented with a passport declaring them stateless. My mother made it to Canada. Successful efforts were made to bring Meta over. Lidia the last sister ended up in Australia. People apparently lined up at the Red Cross to find family and see if immigration quotas were filled to Canada or the US. Australia was always available.
I have a clear memory of my Mother crying after she opened her sister Lidia’s card from Australia. Her hand written note sent love and expressed how she missed a white Christmas. As young children, my brother and I ran outside to make snowballs and asked Mom if we could send them to our Auntie.
In May, we, the children of three sisters torn apart by war, will meet. If we round off the time frame, it will be 70 years. We didn’t realize at first that this gathering will be on Mother’s Day weekend. That brings chills of emotion!
Helen Krutz, Daughter of Emma Olga Prelip
Diagnostic Imaging Laboratory Technologist, Dawson College