Looking for the child they never met

SINGAPORE – For 25 years, Colleen Turzynski lived with her paternal relatives in Poland, but her Singaporean family never stopped looking for her.

The photograph may have yellowed, but to the Lee siblings, their niece Colleen Turzynski was never out of the picture. 

Mr Lee Tak Nyen, 70,  Colleen Turzynski's uncle said: "We wanted to claim custody of Colleen, but the Singapore embassary said we won't be able to get it. They said custody belongs to the Polish relatives. I asked if I could have an address so I can send some money to Colleen when I had some, but they didn't give us."

That was in 1990, the year their sister, Colleen's mother, Lee Kui Yin, was brutally killed in a triple murder.

Colleen's father, Kazimierz Turzynski, and grandfather were also killed. The Lees fought hard for Colleen's custody. The family were poor but they hired the lawyer to plead their case. But the US court eventually awarded custody of Ms Turzynski, who is deaf, to her Polish family, thinking she would be better off with family who know sign language.

Madam Lee Say Moi, 66, Colleen's aunt, said: "We were disappointed with the results. I have arranged for her to go to a school here. Someone from the children welfare department came to our house, checked out the environment, and said everything was ok, everything was settled. I don't know why we lost custody.

"But I thought,since her paternal grandmother wants to raise her, then let her bring Colleen back to Poland."

Without the name of Colleen's custodian's, the Lees had no way to keep in touch. They went for 25 years without knowing anything about Colleen, wishing only the best for the child they had never met.

Mr Lee said: "They told us if we wanted to fight for custody, we would need to hire a lawyer. We didn't have money at the time, so we gave up. If the paternal family wants her, then so be it, we had no choice."

Madam Lee added: "It's a burden in my heart."

Mr Lee continued: "It's not that we don't want her, we didn't even have an address.'

Madam Lee said: "We only want to know how she's doing, if she has a good life, then we are happy."

On April 7, the family finally got the news they had been waiting for. The Straits Times reported that day that Colleen had travelled from her home in Poland to the United states, hoping to learn more about her past and reconnect with her mother's family.

Madam Lee said: "Finally waited till this day, I'm very happy. I was in tears when I saw the article. My older brother had talked about Colleen recently, to see how we can look for her and connect back with her. 

"We even asked our children to search on the Internet. I always thought, when she grows up, she will come and look for us. One of these days, she will find us.

"Now, our hearts are at peace, it's just that we haven't met her yet."

Mr Lee added: "Seeing her all grown up, we are all relieved."

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