Over the past 66 years, Irene Famulak’s thoughts often strayed thousands of miles from her home in Philadelphia, PA.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Red Cross chapter CEO Tom Foley with Irene Famulak. American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter
Irene remembered the Ukraine. She could close her eyes and see her mother, her father, her six brothers and sisters. Time and again, Irene re-lived that day in 1942 when Nazis invaded her home, captured her family and separated them.
As Nazi troops took her away, Irene remembers her little brother, George (Wssewolod) Galizkij, pulling on the hem of her dress, begging her not to go. She spent the rest of the war serving as a cook in a concentration camp in Germany without seeing her family again.
For more than six decades, she has lived with the uncertainty and the lack of closure of not knowing what happened to them, wondering if they were dead or alive. And, if alive, where were they living?
Irene Famulak with her daughter and son-in-law, Tania and Alex Posharow. American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter
In May 2008, Irene’s world was transformed. The American Red Cross called to tell Irene that her brother, George, was trying to find her.
Soon arrangements were made for Irene to travel to Ukraine with some of her family members in the U.S. Irene, now 83, prepared for the flight to the Ukraine to meet her 81-year-old brother.
When asked how she would respond to seeing her brother, she said, “I’m going to hug him. I’m going to kiss him. I’m going to cry.” Then she added, “This is my dream.”
On July 8, Irene and George were reunited at long last.
“This is clearly a life-changing event for Irene and her family, and a very special occasion for this chapter,” said Tom Foley, CEO of the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “Every day we answer the call for help when our neighbors lose their homes to a fire or another disaster, so you can imagine the joy it brings us to answer the call of hope from the Holocaust Tracing Service and play a role in reuniting a brother and sister after 66 years.”
How did George find Irene?
Irene Famulak with (from left to right) the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter CEO Tom Foley and Steve Michalson, Kira Foley-Tuzman and Carol Barnett, the tracing team for this case. American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter
George’s search began with his contacting the International Committee of the Red Cross in Germany. His message went to the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and onto the local chapter in Philadelphia. From there, local volunteers were able to locate Irene and re-connect these family members at last.
The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center is a national clearinghouse for persons seeking the fates of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath. All American Red Cross tracing services are confidential and free of charge.
As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the American Red Cross alleviates the suffering of victims of war, disaster and other international crises, and works with other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to improve chronic, life-threatening conditions in developing nations. We reconnect families separated by emergencies and educate the American public about international humanitarian law. This assistance is made possible through the generosity of the American public.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.