11-year search gathers relatives


Wednesday September 12 05:28 AM EDT

Local — The Arizona Daily Star — updated 5:28 AM ET Sep 12

At age 10, Nadia Larsen asked her father about his family, separated by World War II, because she longed to know her roots.

All he told her was that she came from “blue blood,” but the girl replied that her blood was red.

Larsen, now 46 and part of a reunification effort by the American Red Cross (news — web sites) Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center, finally understands what her father meant.

The Sabino Canyon-area resident returned last week from Poland, where she met her father’s family, including two half- brothers. Her father, Romuald Dombrowski, came from a wealthy, aristocratic family.

“I finally have a family,” Larsen said Tuesday from her home. “It feels great. I still cry.”

It took 3,000 hours of research on the Internet and the help of the Red Cross war victims center to locate relatives.

Larsen is one of two people in Southern Arizona reunited this year with relatives lost during the Holocaust and the war, said Rebecka Wendling, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Southern Arizona Chapter.

Since last year, the Baltimore-based center has received 48 new cases from Southern Arizona. Across the nation, the center has reunited nearly 1,000 survivors with their relatives, Wendling said.

Larsen recalled the empty feeling she had as a child growing up in Tel Aviv. Both her parents were World War II refugees.

Her father was placed into the Polish forces under British command. “He was in Iran, Iraq and ended up in Palestine, which later became Israel,” Larsen said.

Her mother, Nina Dombrowski, who is 79, was separated from her family as a teen-ager and put to work on a German farm.

Her parents met through friends in Jerusalem. They married in 1954, and eventually ran a successful steakhouse in Tel Aviv. Larsen’s father died of lung cancer in 1985.

Neither spoke about their family. “I had no grandparents, nieces, nephews and cousins. I had nothing — only my parents, a brother and sister.

Eleven years ago, Larsen, a former businesswoman who speaks five languages and is an interpreter, searched for her mother’s family. She found and met five relatives in Belarus, part of the former Soviet Union.

Two years ago, she began the search for her father’s family.

For Larsen, finding her father’s 18 relatives has made her feel whole. She picked up clues through the British Ministry of Defense in London, where she obtained his military records, including two war medals on behalf of her father.

She learned about her grandparents, Tomasz Adam and Kazimiera Maria Dombrowski, who had three children. She also learned about her father’s first wife and two sons.

Larsen met her aunt and half-brothers through letters. She also met a New Jersey cousin who will visit here next month.

Now, she has 150 photographs and 10 videocassettes. Her family has been introduced to different Polish foods and champagnes.

Larsen is working on learning Polish so she can speak to her relatives in their native tongue.

“I am staying in touch with them. I feel so good,” Larsen said.