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“Helping hand that kept us alive”: How Red Cross helped reunite a family

By Melinna Mills
Hanna portrait
Meet Hanna, a mother, an artist, and a grandmother who beams of joy. She will welcome you into her home with a warm smile - you may be surprised to learn she is 87 years old and a survivor from World War 2.

Hanna was 7 years old when war broke out in Poland in September 1939. She lived with her mother, father, and three siblings. The war took everything from them.

“Leaving our house, being on the run, it was survival all the time. Trying to get food, trying to stay alive, and not knowing where to get help. You are sort of lost all the time.”

Hanna didn’t see her father for 10 years from the time war broke out as her father was taken prisoner. Through it all, the Red Cross played a major role in Hanna’s story. They helped connect her mother and father through letters, helped them while in refugee camps by giving clothes and access to doctors, and sent food parcels to the camp where her father was prisoner which helped him stay alive.

“We got help from the Red Cross at the very crucial points when we needed information, or we needed that helping hand that kept us alive.”

When Hanna and her family arrived in England, they were met by somebody from the Red Cross who looked after refugees. Hanna shares, “it was a great help when you are in a new country without the language. It was nice to have somebody to have to hold your hand at least the first few days. That was very, very helpful.”

Hanna supports the Canadian Red Cross today because she appreciates how the Red Cross can help people in need in Canada and around the world.

“If I can help a little bit so they can help others, I feel much better knowing that I’ve done something in my life that can help others.”

Family portrait
Sitting in Hanna’s home and hearing her story was deeply moving. Hanna’s daughters Yvonne and Dorothy were both there listening with tears in their eyes. Yvonne worked for the Canadian Red Cross for 10 years. She worked in Restoring Family Links and was doing what the Red Cross did for her family during the war. She was involved in re-establishing contact with family members who had been separated due to war and disasters. Yvonne shares:

 “This is a case of what goes around comes around, the Red Cross helped my family and 50 years later the next generation is helping other people in the same way. I find it very meaningful to be a part of that.”

As Hanna and her daughters thoughtfully prepared lunch, you could feel the love in this family. While watching Hanna laugh, eat, and chat with her daughters, I was inspired. Inspired by her resiliency and reminded about the importance of family. We are truly blessed to have our family and friends around us.

Learn how you can give to the Red Cross.

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