98-year-old Jewish woman reunited with her daughter 80 years after putting her up for adoption amid WWII

98-year-old Jewish refugee reunited with her daughter 80 years after putting her up for adoption amid WWII.
98-year-old Jewish refugee reunited with her daughter 80 years after putting her up for adoption amid WWII. (Dan Pearce/Metroland)

A Jewish woman, who put her newborn daughter up for adoption after escaping the Nazis in WWII, finally got the chance to reunite with her 80 years later.

98-year-old, Gerda Cole, was just 18 when she fled to England as a refugee in 1942. Shortly after making it safely to the U.K., she gave birth to her daughter, Sonya Grist.

As a refugee in an unhappy marriage, Gerda felt she didn’t have the resources to give her daughter the life she deserved. When describing that difficult decision, Gerda says, “I felt it was only fair to her.”

“I had very limited personal education, and this, combined with wartime, left me no recourse but to have my daughter Sonya adopted under the advice of the refugee committee,” Gerda explained. “The condition was not to have any further connection with the child.”

The two women would go on to lead separate lives for eight decades, until Sonya’s son, Stephen Grist, found his biological grandmother, Gerda, while researching his family lineage.

Surprised that Gerda was still living, Stephen discovered she was a resident at a nursing home in Toronto, Canada and decided to reach out.
After hearing the good news, Gerda described the discovery as “a miracle.”

“When I heard, I just couldn’t believe it,” Gerda said. “It means so much to be able to live to see this moment.”

But there was a twist, Stephen didn’t tell his mother right away; he wanted to gather all the info before surprising her with the life-changing news.

Once she got over the initial shock, Sonya was eager to meet the mother she knew so little about.

“When I told my mother that [Gerda] was still alive, she just said, ‘I want to get on an airplane to Canada right now and give her a big hug,’ ” Stephen said.

And so, after eight decades, Gerda finally got to reunite with her daughter on Saturday, May 7th at a joint birthday and reunion celebration hosted by her retirement home.

Sonya, who flew in from the U.K. to attend the event, said she was “shaking” while waiting to meet her biological mom, CBC reported.

“Just over a year ago I didn’t know that my mother was still alive,” Sonya said, adding that she “knew very little” about her mother beforehand.

“I still don’t know much and there’s a thousand questions I’ve got to ask her,” she added.

Gerda, who wore a blue birthday ribbon and tiara for the special occasion, thanked both Stephen and Sonya “for this opportunity” to meet them for the first time.

“It means so much to me to live to see this moment,” Gerda said.

Although she’s 98 years old and her daughter is 80, the two women have plans to try and make up for lost time. It was a true majical ending to a story this family will pass down for generations.

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