“I want to find the answers”: Daughter seeking dead mum’s past

A Singaporean woman met a Polish man while she was visiting Poland. When exactly this meeting happened is not clear, but they exchanged contact information, and a relationship blossomed from there.

Ms Lee Kui Yin and Mr Kazimierz Turzynski were married in New Jersey in the United States in 1985 and in Oct 13, 1988, they had a daughter Colleen, but their family story stops short of a happy ending.

In March 1990, the couple – he was 35, while she was 39 – was brutally murdered in their New Jersey home, leaving behind their 17-month-old daughter.

Now, at 25, Ms Colleen Turzynski, who has been living in Poland with the paternal side of her family, is trying to find her Singaporean relatives so she can learn more about her parents.

What she does know about their lives is vague, and comes mostly from her paternal grandmother.

Ms Turzynski tells The Straits Times that her parents wanted to live in Singapore, but there were visa issues so her father was not allowed to stay.

Wearing a leopard print top and some simple costume jewellery, she spoke to The Straits Times at her friend's home in Washington, DC on April 5.

Showing photographs of her parents in what looks like Singapore’s Changi airport, she says in sign language, through an interpreter: “They were happy there.”

Like her parents, Ms Turzynski is deaf.

She also shows another photo of her parents with a couple whom she believes could be an uncle and his wife. They were sitting in what looks like a “kopitiam”, or coffeeshop, in Singapore.

She says her father found a job loading ships in Singapore, but she is not sure what her mother worked as in Singapore.

Sometime after that photo was taken - she is not sure exactly when - her parents left for the United States.

Her father’s death certificate indicates that he was a press operator at Pure Rubber Co in Fairfield, New Jersey.

Her mother, she says, was a seamstress, while her death certificate indicates that her occupation was “packer”, and no company name was provided.

The couple lived together with Ms Turzynski’s grandfather, Mieczyslaw Turzynski. All three were murdered on the same day, and the case remains unsolved.

From photos of their life in the United States, the family seemed happy. There are family photos with Ms Turzynski and her mother against the New York skyline, and another with Ms Turzynski celebrating what is probably her first birthday with her parents.

Ms Turzynski says her parents wanted her to be born in the United States because they felt she would have more opportunities there, but at the same time her mother often talked about taking her home to Singapore, according to Ms Turzynski’s grandmother.

But nothing is absolutely clear when it comes to Ms Lee’s life story. In fact, Ms Turzynski is not even sure of her mother’s date of birth which is different on her death certificate (July 14, 1950) and in the records of the State of New Jersey (Oct 15, 1954).

Also, Ms Turzynski believes her mother’s ashes are in Singapore but does not know where her final resting place is.

For now, her only links to her dead mother are some photos and three pieces of gold jewellery - two rings and one necklace with a Panda pendant - which her mother had been wearing when she was murdered.

She says: “I always have all these questions which I want to solve. I want to find the answers.”simlinoi@sph.com.sg