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Outpouring of support for Colleen Turzynski who was looking for her Singapore family

Published on Apr 14, 2014 4:32 PM
Ms Colleen Turzynski in Washington DC, after the video call with her Singapore family. A handful offered donations, hundreds left messages of support and thousands shared the article on Facebook. -- FILE PHOTO: MELISSA SIM

A handful offered donations, hundreds left messages of support and thousands shared the article on Facebook. The story of Ms Colleen Turzynski, 25, struck a chord with Singaporeans who all wanted to help in their own way.

The article on deaf orphan Ms Turzynski's search for her Singaporean family, which first appeared in The Straits Times on April 7 reached 216,000 Facebook users, with thousands sharing the story hoping this would increase Ms Turzynski's chance of success.

Readers encouraged their friends to spread the word. Reader Gabriel Q Chan wrote: "Sharing this hoping it will reach someone somewhere."

There were also well-wishers who wrote to The Straits Times, offering her a place to stay, or wishing to contribute to her airfare if she ever decided to visit Singapore, one reader even offered to use his air miles to get her a ticket home.

Ms Turzynski's mother Lee Kui Yin, 39, who was from Singapore; her Polish father Kazimierz Turzynski, 35; and grandfather Mieczyslaw Turzynski, 61, were murdered in a brutal stabbing in New Jersey in 1990.

Police found their bodies a week later and discovered Ms Turzynski who was then 17 months old. She had survived by drinking water from the toilet and eating cereal. She was taken to Poland where she was raised by her paternal uncle and grandmother and lost contact with her mother's family in Singapore.

Five months ago when she returned to the United States, she started searching for her Singapore relatives. She approached the Singapore consulate in New York and the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families. The Straits Times ran a story about her search and among those who reached out to her after the article was published were members of her family, who contacted the paper almost immediately.

Over video chat, Ms Turzynski met her Singapore relatives for the first time in years on April 10. During the emotional 45-minute call, the families spoke about their desire to meet up in Singapore soon. Ms Turzynski told The Straits Times she hoped to visit in the next one or two years. In the meantime, she would save up and improve her English.

This time, Singaporeans rejoiced with Ms Turzynski and once again offered to help her make her way to Singapore. The story reached 200,000 people on Facebook. There were also more than 6,500 likes, share and comments.

"It's such a touching story," wrote Kristal Lim. "I'm feeling so happy for Colleen. She must be extremely overwhelmed with happiness. Great job! Straits Times!"

A common theme among the comments were offers for Ms Turzynski to visit Singapore sooner rather than later.

Wrote Trina Liu on Facebook: "No need to wait for one to two years to fly to Singapore Colleen. I'm sure if you want to visit, we would gladly pool some money for you to visit. Hope you visit your mom's family real soon."

Ya Hui added: "I am very touched by this story... I would like to donate money towards a fund that helps bring her here to Singapore now if there is one set up for her... Could Straits Times let us know how to do so?"

Ms Turzynski was touched by the outpouring of support and said she "wanted to thank everyone who has been so loving" and those who have helped her.

Those who wish to send Ms Turzynski well wishes or contribute to her Singapore visit may email with their details.