Colleen Turzynski may come to Singapore earlier than planned

Robin kept the quilt which Ms Turzynski used as a baby as a memento of the foster child she had to give up. The quilt is back with Ms Turzynski. -- ST PHOTO: JEREMY AU YONG
Robin kept the quilt which Ms Turzynski used as a baby as a memento of the foster child she had to give up. The quilt is back with Ms Turzynski. -- ST PHOTO: JEREMY AU YONG

The Chinese New Year was never a part of her calendar, but all that is about to change as Ms Colleen Turzynski hopes to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Goat in Singapore next year instead of holding off her visit for a year or two as originally planned.

Relatives say they will pay for her trip home, and people touched by her story have also offered to contribute to her visit or her education - in particular, her efforts to learn English and Mandarin so she can communicate with her family.

"How wonderful people are... I feel so much gratitude. I wouldn't know how to thank the Singapore people for that," said Ms Turzynski, when The Sunday Times caught up with her in New Jersey, where she lives with her former foster parents.

Ms Turzynski, who is deaf, said, through a translator, that she is excited about her upcoming trip: "I want to celebrate the new year and meet a lot of my family."

The story of her search for her long-lost Singaporean family was first published in The Straits Times on April 7.

Her family members responded almost immediately when they saw her name and photo in newspaper and they were all reunited through an emotional Skype video call organised by The Straits Times from the home of a friend of Ms Turzynski's in Washington, DC. Ten family members gathered at her uncle's home in Whampoa in Singapore on April 10 for the chat.

Ms Turzynski had been taken to Poland and raised by her paternal uncle and grandmother after the murder of her parents and grandfather in New Jersey when she was only a toddler and lost all contact with her Singapore kin.

But she keeps in touch with people in the United States, in particular, the foster family that took her in for a year and her godparents. Her godmother, Mrs Visha Olczak, 66, said the Turzynskis were a "close-knit, loving family".

Ms Turzynski's foster mother, who wanted to be known only as Robin, added that she could tell Colleen's mother and father cared for her because she was such a "happy baby". She took care of baby Colleen for a year while custody hearings were going on and has treated Ms Turzynski as family ever since.

The hardest day was parting with Colleen when she left for Poland, said Robin. "It's like having your heart ripped out," said Robin, who kept - and slept with - a quilt that Ms Turzynski used as a baby.

Now that Ms Turzynski is back her foster mum and dad in the US, she has her quilt back - as well as her foster family.

Knowing how important finding her Singapore family has been to her, Robin said: "It's so good that she's putting the pieces back together. She deserves to know."

Ms Turzynski plans to return to Warsaw, Poland, next month for a month, pack up her things and return to the US for good. Robin has encouraged her to fly to Singapore by Christmas if she can.

Ms Turzynski said she will have to factor in when her courses at a university in Washington, DC, begin.

She has been sending e-mails to and chatting on WhatsApp with her cousins. Smiling and gesturing excitedly, she said: "I feel so happy to know that my family loves me."

And as for the support she is getting from Singaporeans, she said: "In Singapore, they really are wonderful. They really want to help and support me, I was really shocked. I have such happiness."