A special Christmas for Polish orphan

A special Christmas for Polish orphan
Ms Colleen Turzynski, 26, has moved from Poland to Washington, where she is now taking a degree course in art and design. Some eight months after her tragic story first came to light, she will be visiting Singapore to meet her long lost family for the first time.

This Christmas will be a special one for Ms Colleen Turzynski, 26, who is finally flying to Singapore to visit her long-lost relatives.

At the top of her list of things to do during her month-long visit to Singapore starting on Tuesday is neither shopping nor sightseeing, but paying respects to her late mother Lee Kui Yin, whom she lost when she was just 17 months old.

Her mother's ashes are at Mount Vernon Columbarium. Ms Turzynski, who is deaf, told The Sunday Times through gestures and text messages: "It is most important to visit my mum's niche."

Since the story of her search for her Singapore family was published by The Straits Times in April, Ms Turzynski - who lost her mother as well as her Polish father and grandfather in a tragic murder in the United States 24 years ago - has been looking forward to a reunion with her Singaporean kin. Having lived in Poland since her parents' death, she had lost all contact with her mother's family.

After reading her story in The Straits Times in April, three family members immediately came forward, producing photos of her parents and her when she was a baby.

The newspaper also set up a Skype chat in which, with the help of a sign language translator, she had a virtual meeting with some members of her mother's family for the first time.

With their support and some help from Straits Times readers, who donated about $7,000 to her for school and travel to Singapore, she will be meeting her Singaporean relatives this week.

But before visiting her mother, she made a trip to New Jersey, where her father and grandfather are buried, and cried when she found their graves after looking for three hours. She said: "I cried because I finally got to meet my dad and granddad."

Her trip to the US had convinced her that she wanted to study there, so she applied to a university and has since moved from Poland to Washington, where she is now taking a degree course in art and design. She hopes to be a graphic designer after graduation.

But this winter away from school will be dedicated to spending time in Singapore and getting to know her family. Already, her Singaporean friend at school has told her about the fast-paced city, how clean and humid it is, and how littering is against the law.

She has been communicating with her cousins over e-mail and WhatsApp to arrange her visit here.

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