Israeli woman discovers Catholic father fought Nazis, in genealogy search

Elana Milman adopted as a small child born soon after WWII, says she found her biological parents with the help of My Heritage uncovering a brother she never knew she had

When Elana Milman published her autobiography last year, detailing her lifelong journey to find her biological parents, she had resigned herself to the belief she would never discover who her father was. However, thanks to a DNA test and some thorough "genealogical detective work," Milman uncovered unexpected surprises about her heritage, as reported by CNN.
Milman, born in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp, recently returned to Israel from Poland where she had an emotional reunion with a brother she never knew existed.
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פולנים מובלים למאסר בסיומו של מרד ורשה נגד הנאצים, 1 באוקטובר 1944
פולנים מובלים למאסר בסיומו של מרד ורשה נגד הנאצים, 1 באוקטובר 1944
Polish prisoners being led by Nazi troops after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1944
(Photo: Keystone / Getty Images)
This closing of a chapter in her life was part of her incessant search for her biological father. At the age of six, she discovered she was adopted and in an interview with CNN said that discovery was “a kind of stab in my tummy.” Any attempt to discuss the matter with her adoptive parents ended with them telling her she would know when she was grown.
Milman was brought to Israel in a group of children, months before independence and was adopted by a couple from Kibbutz Merhavia, near Haif.
It wasn't until her 30s that Milman finally found her birth certificate, which, after thorough research, led her to her biological mother living in Canada. She discovered she was born as Helena Lewinska, to a Polish-Jewish woman named Franziska Lewinska, who had married and changed her name.
Despite the emotional reunion, her mother who had escaped the Warsaw Ghetto and lived on the other side of the city under a false identity, remained vague about her father's identity. “When I bugged her too much, she said ‘the only thing I can tell you is that he was a very good singer and dancer – and very handsome.’” Milman said.
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(Photo: Shutterstock)
Milman had made peace with never knowing who her biological father was but when Gilad Japhet, founder and CEO of the Israeli genealogy site MyHeritage, read her autobiography he decided to help. Milman discovered she was half Ashkenazi Jewish and half Eastern European, with a 2.3% DNA match to a Polish woman living in France — a small but crucial match.
This detail was the missing piece of the puzzle. "We mapped the family, mapping eight pairs of great-grandparents, and delved into each branch and its male descendants. We marked potential candidates, who were in the right place, at the right time and of the right age," Roi Mandel, MyHeritage’s director of research, told CNN.
The team found a man named Eugeniusz Gorzkoś, which led them to his son, 72-year-old Juliusz, who lives in northern Poland. A DNA test proved that he and Milman were siblings.
In a call last March, Juliusz said their father was a virtuoso violinist and singer — prompting her to burst into tears, because she too had played the violin in an orchestra for ten years and had been a singer as well.
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רועי מנדל
רועי מנדל
Roi Mandel
(Photo: MyHeritage)
Last month, the two met in Poland, where Milman and her granddaughter received a warm welcome from her brother and his son
Milman took the opportunity to visit Warsaw, where she was moved by a plaque commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and its heroes. According to her, the moment she realized she was standing in the place where her parents bravely faced the Nazis 80 years ago was a defining one.
"I am a descendant of a Polish-Jewish mother – a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto – and a Polish-Catholic father, a former Armia Krajowa fighter who was injured and captured on the first day of the Polish uprising on August 1, 1944," she told CNN. “I finally closed the circle – both paternal and maternal.
How her parents met one another remains a mystery (both have died), but the journey she’s been through led her to publish a new autobiographical book titled "The Secrets My Mother Kept," which will be available in English via Amazon.
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