“This Must Be… A Miracle.” WWII Refugee Meets Daughter She Gave Up For Adoption.

closeup of gerda cole and sonya grist as they embrace with their eyes closed.

Eighty years is a long time to wait for something you’ve always wanted, but some things — and people — are worth the wait!

Gerda Cole was just 18 years old when she was forced to give up her firstborn child during World War II. Born in Vienna, Austria, Gerda was sent to live in England in 1939 to avoid Jewish persecution. By the time her daughter Sonya was born a few years later, war had ravaged the land and left her with no options for raising a child on her own.

“I had very limited personal education, and this, combined with wartime, left me no recourse but to have Sonya adopted under the advice of the refuge committee,” Gerda explained. “The condition was not to have any further connection with the child.”

Sonya Grist was adopted by an English family. While her family seldom spoke of her birth mother, she always wondered what had become of her and yearned for a connection. Over the years, she tried to find Gerda a few times but nothing ever panned out… until now!

Sonya’s son, Stephen Grist, was doing some genealogy research in hopes of securing Austrian citizenship for himself and his family in the wake of Brexit. Unable to locate any death records for Gerda, he tracked down her son, who informed him that Gerda was alive and well and living in Revera Kennedy Lodge Long Term Care Home in Canada.

“I just thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s just blown my mind,'” said Stephen. “The idea that her mother was still alive and she would have the opportunity to meet her was so exciting it just threw us all for a loop. When I told my mother that [Gerda] was still alive, she just said, ‘I want to get on an airplane to Canada right now and give her a big hug.'”

It took a few months to arrange a visit, but Sonya, now 80 years old, and Stephen finally got the opportunity to fly to Toronto to meet Gerda. The visit happened to coincide with Gerda’s 98th birthday, so they had a lot to celebrate!

Once they finally met, they couldn’t stop smiling and holding one another. Sonya was just so overjoyed to finally meet the mother she assumed had passed away years ago! She says she has “a thousand questions,” but will take her time asking now that they’re in contact. As for Gerda, meeting her long-lost daughter was the best birthday gift she could ever ask for.

“When I heard, I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “This must be … a miracle. It means so much to be able to live to see this moment.”

We’re so glad that Sonya and Stephen got to meet Gerda, even if it did take more than eight decades! It’s never too late, after all, to welcome a new family member into your heart.

Don’t forget to share this story to celebrate Sonya and Gerda’s long-awaited reunion.

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