A Family Reunited By Technology
Some 80 years ago, Shabtai Baskin left his two brothers in Slutsk, Belarus and never saw them again. He fled his home town to avoid persecution by the Stalinist regime for his Zionist ideology, arriving in the town of Nikopol in the Ukraine, and then, in July 1941, just a few days before the Germans invaded, he continued eastward, to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
In Tashkent, as a radio amateur he received reports of the systematic killing of Jews in Nazi-occupied areas, but after the war ended he was unable to discover what happened to his family and whether they survived the horrors of the Holocaust.
After a spell in a displaced persons camp in Germany, Baskin immigrated to British Mandate Palestine. When the Soviet Union fell in the early 1990s he made another, failed, attempt to discover his family’s fate and passed away a few years later, never knowing what happened to them.
Baskin’s grandson Rani Markovich, who grew up in Kfar Saba and had many conversations with his grandfather about his adventures, decided after his death to look for his lost relatives.
After a disappointing trip to Belarus where he flew to search for documents related to his family, Markovich turned to the Israeli hi-tech company MyHeritage, run by his friend Gilad Japhet, which has 93 million global users and has created 39 million family trees.
The company hired a Belarusian genealogist who dived into the archives and found an old KGB document regarding the Zionist activities of Baskin and other members of his family.
The genealogist then found out that the wife and daughter of one of Baskin’s brothers survived the Holocaust and after the fall of the Soviet Union left for the United States.
After the discovery last November, Markovich’s mother Pnina went to the US for a historic reunion, after they previously met in an emotional Skype call.
“A Few months after MyHeritage told us they found our family, my mom flew to Indiana in the United States to meet her lost cousin Galina, “ Markovich told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Just before the trip to USA, Markovich and his family made another surprising discovery.
“ We always knew my grandfather had a fourth brother who disappeared in 1941 when he was sent to the war with the Russian army. What he didn’t know is that he had a girl who grew up with the family of the other brother and now lives in New York,” Markovich said.
According to Roi Mendel, a researcher at MyHeritage usually users just type their names in My Heritage site and check if there is any relevant information.
“The story of Rani was particularly interesting, and we decided to help more than usual “ Mendel told TPS, adding that the company had decided to make the “particularly touching story” public ahead of Family Day, marked Thursday.
Last week, the family held a birthday party for Galina, albeit through a video conference call. It was their first joint family celebration.
“We speak through skype almost every week, it’s incredible that we could find a piece of our family that we lost so many years ago,” Markovich said.