This reunion story is a delight. Gerda Cole got the best and most unexpected 98th birthday present. She got to meet her daughter, Sonya Grist, for the firs time in 80 years.
The family reunion was a surprise to everyone and is thanks to the persistence of Stephen Grist, son to Sonya and grandson to Gerda. He explains that thanks to Brexit and the pandemic, he began to investigate who his mom’s birth parents were in order to apply for Austrian citizenship. He says that his mother’s adoptive parents were secretive about it and although she had searched over the years she was unable to find them and eventually thought her mother had died.
It turns out Gerda was alive and in a nursing home in Canada!
Gerda was a young Jewish girl fleeing persecution in Austria during World War II. An 18-year-old refugee in England, she did not have the means to support a child so she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption.
“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,” she told CBC News. “The condition was not to have any further connection with the child.”
When Sonya learned that her mother was alive and that she was about to celebrate her 98th birthday, she booked a flight to Canada from the UK so that she could meet her mother for the first time.
“Just over a year ago I didn’t know that my mother was still alive. I knew very little. I still don’t know much and there’s a thousand questions I’ve got to ask her, but I don’t want to bombard her,” Sonya said.
However, the two have learned that they already share many things in common such as a love of travel and steel band music.
As for Gerda, she is thrilled to meet her daughter, the Toronto Sun reported. “My daughter, my grandson Stephen, thanks for this opportunity, it means so much to be able to live to see this moment.” said Gerda.