March 28th, a little before midnight: Violetta, her daughter Dasha and their dog Udin, get off the car train at Oslo central station. It has been almost 3 days, 5 train rides, and one ferry cruise — across 4 countries — since they managed to escape Ukraine: their home, which has become a battlefield.
A Norwegian woman standing on the platform notices the 3, and immediately runs towards them. It is evident she is excited and deeply relieved to see them, and they are all hugging, wiping away tears of happiness. One never would have guessed that until recently, they were total strangers and didn’t know about each other’s existence. Now, this woman — Tatiana — is giving them a safe, warm asylum at her home in Oslo. All thanks to their fresh discovery, made through MyHeritage: they are family.
‘The best Christmas present’
The discovery occurred just 3 months earlier, on Christmas Eve, 2021.
Violetta Brzezicka, age 55, and her husband, Igor Brikez, age 57, celebrated the holiday with Violetta’s 83-year-old mother, Wytalisa Brzezicka, at her home in Kyiv.
Igor, a passionate MyHeritage user, devoted 3 years to researching his family history, and managed to trace his family tree way back to 1689. He decided it was time to give some attention to his wife’s legacy: “I asked Wytalisa to tell me as much as possible about her family,” Igor says. “Using the MyHeritage app, I simultaneously entered the information and scanned the family photos, enriching my family tree in real time.”
Almost immediately, Igor and Violetta got a Smart Match connecting them through Violetta’s grandfather (Joseph Brzezicki) to Tatiana Brzezicka, 53, from Oslo: another dedicated MyHeritage user who manages 15 family trees with information about 2,287 people and more than 2,000 photographs and archival documents — all going back to the mid-13th century.
MyHeritage’s Smart Matching feature informed Igor that Tatiana’s grandfather is Violetta’s half-uncle and Wytalisa’s half-brother.
That very night, December 25, 2021, Igor and Violetta sent a message to Tatiana through the MyHeritage website. Tatiana answered instantly, and they spoke for the first time the next morning. “This was the best Christmas present from MyHeritage to our family,” says Igor. “Violetta and Tatiana spoke for more than two hours. After the initial excitement subsided, Violetta instantly felt she was talking to a dear, close person, and also amazed by the great amounts of valuable information Tatiana shared about their family.”
Fleeing for their lives
Two months later, on February 24, the war broke out. “We woke up to the sounds of explosions,” Igor recalls. “Russia launched missile attacks throughout Ukraine and our hometown of Kyiv. At noon, Tatiana called, urging us to come stay with her at her home in Oslo.”
Finding it hard to leave their home and their life behind, Violetta, Igor, and their young daughter Dasha (age 28) moved to the home of their eldest daughter Anastasia, located 100km from Kyiv. They were repeatedly evacuated to shelters due to severe attacks.
As the war intensified and expanded, there was no doubt their lives were in real danger. Anastasia escaped to Istanbul with her two children, aged 8 and 4. Violetta and Dasha understood, with heavy hearts, they must flee as well — and worst of all, they’d have to leave without Igor. As a man in the age range for military service, he was banned from leaving Ukraine.
Their journey to find refuge began March 26, on a night train from Kyiv, Ukraine to Helm, Poland.
“The train set off very quietly,” Igor says. “All lights were off, for safety reasons, and all the curtains on the train’s windows were shut, so I couldn’t wave goodbye to my loved ones. I stood on the platform, watching the train disappearing into the darkness of Kyiv’s night.”
Due to the curfew imposed in Kyiv, forbidden citizens to move around the city after sunset, Igor had to spend the night at the train station. Sitting on the first chair he came across, knowing it would be impossible to fall asleep, Igor couldn’t stop thinking that only 3 months earlier his family didn’t even know Tatiana existed. “Suddenly, she is our dearest relative, giving us tremendous and generous help. I never imagined that MyHeritage would become such an important part of my family’s life.”
Meanwhile, in Helm, a group of volunteers helped Violetta, Dasha, and Udin board a suburban train to Warsaw. After spending a night at a refugee shelter in Warsaw, Polish volunteers took them to a train heading north, to Gdynia, a port city on the Baltic coast of Poland.
Tatiana tried to buy them airplane tickets, but the fact that they were traveling with their dog, Udin, complicated matters. In Gdynia, they boarded a ferry and sailed across the Baltic Sea to Karlskrona, Sweden.
Irena, a volunteer Tatiana had found, waited for the 3 and took them to eat and rest at her home in Karlskrona. At that point they were two train rides away from the final destination: one train to Gothenburg, Sweden, and a last train to Oslo, Norway — where Violetta, Dasha, and Udin finally met up with Tatiana.
Living as one family
For several months now, Violetta and Dasha have been living with Tatiana at her home as one family. Udin, on the other hand, is still trying to make friends with Tatiana’s cat, Lissa.
This beautiful story was brought to our attention by Igor, who contacted us in April because he was having trouble renewing his MyHeritage subscription due to the war. We were happy and honored to extend Igor’s subscription for free — as we have been doing for all Ukrainian users with existing subscriptions since the war broke out — and we’re deeply grateful to him for sharing his story. Our thoughts are with him and we’re praying that he will soon be safely reunited with his family.
If you’ve also made a life-changing discovery through MyHeritage, we’d love to hear about it! Send us your story via this form or email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Source: My Heritage