At two years old, Shalom Koray was found inside an abandoned potato sack in the Warsaw ghetto. Someone, presumably a police officer, smuggled him out and sent him to hide away in an orphanage. Because of the circumstances, Shalom was never able to reunite with his lost family—until now.
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Shalom, then called “Piotr Korczak,” spent six years of his life inside a Catholic institution located in Zakopane, Poland, before a Jewish woman working with the resistance named Lena Küchler-Silberman found him and five other children, starving and living in squalor.
Küchler-Silberman took the children to join about 100 other young refugees, and together, they moved to Czechoslovakia and then France. In 1949, she was able to get Shalom and a select few others into Israel. A family adopted him and gave him his new name. Today, he lives in northern Israel.
At the time of his rescue, Shalom was too young to know anything about his parents, and there was no way for science to help solve the mystery of his identity. So he accepted his fate and started a family of his own. Shalom is a father of three and a grandfather of eight.
But at 83, thanks to a DNA test, he learned that he has a cousin, Ann Meddin Hellman, and an extended family living in Charleston, South Carolina.
“You can’t go looking for something if you don’t know what you want to find,” Shalom told The Guardian. “I didn’t know anything. If not for the DNA test, like, there is nothing.”
Shalom Koray and His Cousin Will Soon Meet in Person
The reunion was made possible by a Polish professor Magdalena Smoczyńska. She spent five years researching a group of orphans who survived the Holocaust. That research led her to Shalom last summer, and he agreed to hand over a cheek swab for My Heritage DNA.
Meanwhile, Ann was busy trying to learn about her father’s side of the family, which she thought was completely lost during the war.
Ann learned that her grandfather, Abraham Louis Mednitzky Meddin, had emigrated to the U.S. in 1983, which saved his lineage. However, he had a brother named Yadidia Mednitsky, who remained in Europe. The test proved that Shalom was his grandson.
“We would have never found him,” Ann continued. “There was no way that I could have looked him up in a phone book or found him under any circumstances. … I bet there would have been no other way besides DNA.”
Ann and Shalom Koray have spent the last few months writing letters to each other with the help of Google Translate. Ann shared that Shalom will travel to Charleston this summer to meet Ann and her children and grandchildren.
You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.
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