Texas Gulf Coast American Red Cross

The Ties That Bind – Finding Family Half a World Away

Siblings: Wendy, Miroslav and Bronia.

Jacob Uzman, American Red Cross Contributor

It was spring 1991 when Wendy Baca returned to her home in New York City to a very full answering machine. While she was travelling, a Red Cross worker named Ludwig had repeatedly called with very important information — a man in Czechoslovakia reached out to the Red Cross because he was Wendy’s brother and wanted to get in touch with the sister he had never met.

Wendy’s parents came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in very different ways. Her mother, an opera singer, immigrated to the country to sing with the Detroit Symphony in 1947. Her father, on the other hand, escaped communist Czechoslovakia in the early fifties after working for years to smuggle dissidents and other people out of the Soviet Union and into the west. The two met in Chicago and began their life together.

Wendy already knew that she had family in Czechoslovakia. She met her sister Bronia at her father’s funeral in 1990 but finding out she also had a brother was “totally out of left field.” Ludwig told Wendy that when the iron curtain came down between Western and Eastern Europe, her long-lost brother, Miroslav, had finally been able to reach out through the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program.

Even though they didn’t speak the same language — Miroslav only spoke Czech and Wendy only spoke English — they agreed to meet. When Wendy saw Miroslav, the spitting image of her father, any doubt that they were not family was firmly erased.

Wendy’s family is not the first to be reunited by the Red Cross. The organization has a long history of bringing families together, dating back to the 1800s. During both World War I and World War II, the organization kept lists of prisoners of war in order to keep families updated on the status of their loved ones. Today, Red Cross offices around the world work together to ensure that families separated by conflict or disaster are able to reconnect. Every year, the organization handles hundreds of thousands of communications between relatives to bring thousands of families back together.

The efforts of the Red Cross opened a whole new world to Wendy, introducing her to family she never knew she had. She was able to reunite her brother and sister and only a few years later, attend her niece’s wedding in the Czech Republic.

Today, Wendy works as a Major Gifts Officer for the Red Cross, helping raise money to support the organization that brought her family together. Thanks to the work of fundraisers like Wendy, Red Cross and Red Crescent offices all across the globe continue their work of reconnecting separated families.

To find out more about the Restoring Family Links program please visit: http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/international-services/reconnecting-families.