Polish orphan Colleen 'a tomboy, like her mother'

Ms Turzynski holding an old photograph that had her late mother, Madam Lee Kui Yin, in it. (From left) Polish orphan Colleen Turzynski, her aunt Lee Say Moi, Mr Lim Chin Heng, and from the Singapore Association for the Deaf, senior manager Neo Hock S
Ms Turzynski holding an old photograph that had her late mother, Madam Lee Kui Yin, in it. (From left) Polish orphan Colleen Turzynski, her aunt Lee Say Moi, Mr Lim Chin Heng, and from the Singapore Association for the Deaf, senior manager Neo Hock Sik, deputy director Alvan Yap, sign language interpreter Zach Tay and social work officer Elizabeth Khoo. Mr Lim and Ms Khoo are friends of Ms Turzynski's late mother, and Ms Turzynski said meeting them helped her to find out more about her mother.ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG
Ms Turzynski holding an old photograph that had her late mother, Madam Lee Kui Yin, in it. (From left) Polish orphan Colleen Turzynski, her aunt Lee Say Moi, Mr Lim Chin Heng, and from the Singapore Association for the Deaf, senior manager Neo Hock S
Ms Turzynski holding an old photograph that had her late mother, Madam Lee Kui Yin, in it. (From left) Polish orphan Colleen Turzynski, her aunt Lee Say Moi, Mr Lim Chin Heng, and from the Singapore Association for the Deaf, senior manager Neo Hock Sik, deputy director Alvan Yap, sign language interpreter Zach Tay and social work officer Elizabeth Khoo. Mr Lim and Ms Khoo are friends of Ms Turzynski's late mother, and Ms Turzynski said meeting them helped her to find out more about her mother.ST PHOTOS: MARK CHEONG

She has her late mother's eyes, lips and medium build.

And like her mother, Madam Lee Kui Yin, Ms Colleen Turzynski was also a bit of a tomboy.

"As a child, I would cry when my Polish family made me wear skirts. I liked to wear shorts, and only became more 'ladylike' later on," she told The Straits Times yesterday, through a sign language interpreter from the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf).

Ms Turzynski, 26, learnt more about her mother yesterday when she met two of her mum's friends for the first time.

Ms Turzynski, who lost her parents and Polish grandfather when they were murdered in their home in New Jersey 24 years ago, is on a trip to connect with her Singaporean mother's family.

She knew hardly anything about Madam Lee until family members got in touch with the media in April after reading about her in The Straits Times.

Part-time resource teacher Lim Chin Heng, 64, knew Madam Lee in the early 1980s when he led a social group for deaf people, which Madam Lee was a part of. Activities included learning American and Shanghainese sign language.

Said Mr Lim, through an interpreter: "I feel very touched to see Colleen. She's been searching for her mother's family, and I'm glad to be able to give her information about her mother."

SADeaf social work officer Elizabeth Khoo also knew Madam Lee through that social group, of which she was the secretary.

Madam Lee, then in her early 30s, was an active volunteer at fund-raising events, said Ms Khoo, who also showed Ms Turzynski old photos of her mother at outings with friends.

Ms Khoo said through an interpreter: "I have missed her mother a lot and was very sad when she died. I'm glad to meet Colleen. She has her mother's features, and she is very pretty."

Madam Lee was 39 when she died.

Ms Turzynski, who is taking a degree course in art and design in the United States, said: "I've learnt about my mother from her family.

"By meeting her friends, I can get a better understanding of her personality, so that helps me know my mum more."

She arrived in Singapore last week and will be here for about a month.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg