When a small letter makes a big difference.

Some time ago I wrote about a recent moment where I had the opportunity to help two relatives reunite. The grandmother of one of them wrote a letter to her brother in the USA telling how much she’s missing him and how she’s waiting for his letters impatiently. Little did she know when she sent this letter from Moscow that almost 100 years later this letter would be the thread leading her grandson to meeting his second cousin, the grandson of her brother. Her brother kept this letter all his life in a drawer of his nightstand and never told anyone that he had a sister. His son discovered this letter after his death and passed it to his son. This exact letter was what started my research.

I started with address books, then various databases and websites and one thread after another led me to a person who lived in Russia and who took some time to respond to my multiple messages because he had just come back from a trip to the USA. Jetlagged upon his return from New York, he opened one of my messages and responded that the woman I was looking for was his grandmother, but told me that she didn’t have any brothers in the USA. We talked and talked; I showed him the letter and he recalled that he had her autobiography. He pulled out several pages covered with her handwriting, and there was something that attracted our attention: she had a unique way of writing one of the letters and we could clearly see this letter written the same way in both the autobiography and the letter to her brother! No DNA test was needed at that point. We knew right away that this is the same person!

Five months later, I find myself in one of the city’s restaurants sharing the reunion excitement with the two newly found relatives. They ask questions; they share information; they are excitedly speaking about family ties. The Russian relative tells us about a tradition he has with one of his cousins, in which they enjoy a tea drinking ceremony every time they meet. His newly found cousin orders a cup of tea, and happily joins the tradition.