When Leslie Cartier moved to Baltimore, Maryland, she knew she wanted to volunteer.
Just the Right Volunteer Opportunity May Change Your Life
Leslie Cartier accepts the Central Maryland Chapter, Volunteer of the Month award from Holocaust & War Victims Tracing Center Director, Linda Klein. From left to right: Tania Neidig, Program Coordinator; Linda Klein, Director; Leslie Cartier; Sue Bornemann, Program Coordinator Il; Jessica Wodarczyk, Tracing Manager; Dorian Dean, Research Associate.
Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center
An animal welfare volunteer, Cartier contacted the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but at the time the SPCA wasn’t in need of volunteers.
Cartier’s second choice was to volunteer in an American Red Cross program serving military and military families. Again, no volunteers were needed at the time.
Then Cartier learned of the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center, a national clearinghouse for persons seeking the fates of loved ones missing since the Holocaust and its aftermath. She had enjoyed working on a family genealogy with her father, so she signed up as a tracing volunteer.
Cartier’s life has never been the same. “Overwhelming,” is how she describes her Red Cross volunteer experience, “a most wonderful cause.”
Your Service May Change the Lives of Others
Cartier has also been able to change the life of several people who have spent years wondering what happened to family and friends lost during the Holocaust.
Cartier helped to reunite two sisters separated during World War II. Eugenia Kawczak, age 86, now lives in New Jersey. Her 90-year-old sister, Melania Babenko, lives in the Ukraine.
Her work reunited Irene Famulak, a resident of Pennsylvania, with her brother, Wssewolod Galezkij, from the Ukraine. At the time their family was torn apart Irene was 17 and Wssewolod was 7—that was 66 years ago.
“I love the detective aspect of my work,” Cartier explains. “Over the years names have changed, women have married, things like that.”
She tells of one particularly difficult case. Cartier was trying to locate a woman’s childhood friend who had fled the Holocaust. It was one of those “pound your head on the desk” cases; she was looking for an obscure clue. Then Cartier realized a mistake had been made in the passenger manifest; the boys’ name was Solomon, it had been recorded as Sally. Cartier had found the missing link. Within days, the former playmates were happily in touch with each other.
Tracing Volunteers Can Serve in Many Ways
As a tracing volunteer, Cartier works on fresh inquiries from people in Europe searching for someone believed to be living in the United States. When her workload allows, Cartier reopens old cases that had negative findings the first time around.
Other tracing volunteers might work on inquiries that originate in the U.S., looking for the fate of someone left in Europe. These inquiries are sent to other Red Cross societies for research.
Cartier recently moved from Baltimore. The Tracing Center was the only thing she cried about when she left. “The Tracing Center is addictive,” she says.
The good news for Cartier is that she still continues to serve as a tracing volunteer—working virtually from her new home.
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.