Holocaust survivor meets daughter she gave up for adoption 80 years ago

  • In 1939, Gerda Cole from Vienna, Austria, was brought to England to evade Jewish persecution. 
  • When she gave birth to her daughter a few years later, her country was already devastated by the war.
  • Upon the advice of the refugee committee, Gerda gave her daughter up for adoption. 

Waiting eighty years for something you’ve always desired is a long time, but certain things — and people — are worth waiting for!

Gerda Cole, who was born in Vienna, Austria, was only 18 years old when she had to give up her firstborn child during World War II. 

Gerda was brought to England in 1939 to evade Jewish persecution. By the time she gave birth to her daughter Sonya, the region had been devastated by war, leaving her with no choices for bringing up a child on her own.

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

A family from England adopted Sonya Grist. Although her family rarely mentioned her birth mother, she was always curious about her whereabouts and wished for a connection. She attempted a few times throughout the years to locate Gerda, but nothing worked out… until now!


Stephen Grist, Sonya’s son, was conducting genealogy research in the hopes of obtaining Austrian citizenship for him and his family in the aftermath of Brexit. 

He tracked out Gerda’s son, who informed him that Gerda was alive and well and residing in Revera Kennedy Lodge Long Term Care Home in Canada.

“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.’” said Stephen.

After months of planning, Sonya, now 80, and Stephen were eventually able to fly to Toronto to meet Gerda. The visit fell on Gerda’s 98th birthday, so there was plenty to celebrate!


They couldn’t stop smiling and clutching each other after they finally met. Sonya was ecstatic to finally see the mother she had imagined had died years before! She says she has “a thousand questions,” but she’ll ask them when they’re ready. 

Meeting her long-lost child was the nicest birthday present Gerda could have hoped for.

“When I heard, I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “This must be … a miracle. It means so much to be able to live to see this moment.”

We’re thrilled Sonya and Stephen were able to meet Gerda, even if it took almost eight decades! After all, it’s never too late to welcome a new family member.

Source: Inspire More

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