It was a reunion for the ages when a 98-year-old Jewish woman met the daughter she'd given up for adoption for the first time in 80 years, on her birthday no less.
According to the Christian Post, Gerda Cole fled her native home of Vienna, Austria, in 1939 at the start of World War II to escape the rise in anti-Semitism. Her parents placed her on a children's transport to England when she was 15 years old. Three years later, Cole gave birth to her daughter, Sonya Grist.
When sharing her experience with the media, Cole said when she was in England, the refugee committee urged her to put her daughter up for adoption because of her financial situation. She was to have no further contact with the baby. So that's what Cole initially did.
After WWII ended, Cole emigrated to Canada where she earned three university degrees and traveled the world, visiting archeological digs in Israel and Cyprus.
Cole's daughter, Sonya Grist shared that many parts of her story and the adoption kept a secret throughout her life living in England. Grist became a mother, and it was her son, Stephen, that helped put all the puzzle pieces together.
When Stephen was trying to find all the background and history of his mom and her genealogy, he expected to find that Cole had passed away and that he would find only her death certificate.
"The Austrian government allowed anybody who could trace their ancestry back to people who had left Austria in the early 1930s — they could apply for Austrian citizenship," says Stephen to The Toronto Sun.
As Stephen continued his search, adding Austrian citizenship to his list of things to accomplish, he was surprised with something else. His grandmother was still alive.
"Eventually, I discover that Gerda, my mother's birth mother, has a stepson and I contact the stepson on Facebook, and I say, 'I'm missing one last piece of information. I just need Gerda's death certificate to be able to finish the application for Austrian citizenship. So can you help me with that?' And he said, 'You're not going to find her death certificate because she's still alive and living in a nursing home in Canada.' And I was like, 'Oh, my God! My mother's mother is still alive and is 97 [and] turning 98 (Saturday)!"
On May 7, Cole's birthday, she met her daughter Sonya for the first time in 80 years in her nursing home in Toronto.
"My daughter, my grandson, Stephen, thanks for this opportunity. It means so much to be able to live to see this moment," Cole was quoted as saying to reporters. "Thank you all for coming and sharing this wonderful experience with me. I am so overjoyed to be able to say, 'my daughter.' It means so much to be able to live to see these moments."