Sisters Reunited
This article first appeared in the Courier Gazette, Rockland, Maine; on May 16, 1990.

SIGNS OF LOVE -- Two Russian sisters separated during World War II were reunited at the home of Thomaston resident Nadia Larson on May 16 after a 47-year separation. Lena Krasnova, left and her sister, Nina Dombrowsky were teenagers when they last had contact -- now they are grandmothers.

...................Staff Photo by Leanna M. Robicheau.

Apart Since WWII, Sisters Reunited

by Leanne M. Robicheau, Staff Writer.

THOMASTON -- Two Russian sisters separated during Wold War II have been reunited 47 years later thanks to the Red Cross and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's move towards a more open society.

"We were separated as teenagers and met again as grandmothers," said Lena Krasnova, 66, of Mogilev, Russia, interviewed in Thomaston.

"I remember her (Lena) when she was young -- long hair, nice teeth," said Nina Dombrovsky, 68, of Tel Aviv. Israel.

Dombrowsky is the mother of Nadia Larson of Thomaston. Larsen translated the thoughts of her mother and aunt for The Courier-Gazette. Nearly a half century after losing contact, the sisters finally embraced each other May 16 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

They then traveled to Larsen's Main Street home in Thomaston. Krasnova had come from Russian for a six-week visit, and Dombrovsky was already in Thomaston to help her daughter with her two-month old baby, Bridgette Kathleen.

In 1942, the two teenage girls were walking to the market when they were captured by Germans and placed in separate work areas. They explained that the Germans would not let family members know the whereabouts of relatives.

Their mother died as a result of the war. Their father died when they were toddlers.

When Krasnova was liberated by the Americans she returned to her hometown of Mogilev, located in "White Russia," which is a region similar to New England, Larsen said. She returned to destruction. Her home had been totally burned.

Dombrowsky, liberated by the Russians, remained in Poland where she was working.

During a six-month hospital stay for foot problems, Dombrovsky met a Russian military officer who she gave a photo of her sister. Dombrovsky asked him to find her sister and let he know that she was still alive.

The Russian soldier not only found Lena, he married her. They are still together today.

No connection was ever made because Dombrovsky married and moved to Israel.

Twelve years ago while Larsen was studying in France, she contacted the Red Cross to try to locate her aunt.

"By the time they found her, I had left Paris," Larsen said.

When Larsen went to Maine to marry, she had to return to Israel to get necessary documents. Her maiden name was placed in the computer and a message appeared that someone was looking for her. Larsen left her mother's address. Dombrowsky in turn received a message to contact the Red Cross. The connection was made.

The sisters swapped photos beforehand and met last month. Dombrovsky carried a sign to the airport with her sister's name written in Russian to help find each other.

Gorbachev's new policies allowed Krasnova to leave her country for the first time in her life.

The women shared some similarities and differences in their lifestyles during their many years of separation.

Dombrovsky, who divorced and remarried, has three children and five grandchildren; Kasnova has two children and four grandchildren.

Larsen, who attended private schools in Switzerland and France, said that her mother lived well in Israel. Her parents owned a restaurant and their own home.

"Israel is considered as a second America -- only a smaller version," Larson said.

Krasnova's life in Russia is quite different from her sister's life.

She and her husband, Yvan, live in two rooms with her son, daughter-in-law and two grand children.

Krasnova's son is on a waiting list for a flat which takes at least five years. As an architectural engineer in charge of six engineers he earns the equivalent of $40. per month.

Krasnova's husband as a war hero makes the same amount of income per month. Other military benefits to the disabled veteran include: a half-pound of sugar a month, ration coupons for various commodities, two pounds of meat and one chicken per month and medical services.

"Everything requires being on a waiting list or standing in line," Krasnova said.

Her husband has been on a waiting list to buy a winter coat for three years.

Krasnova's daily routine includes standing in line for milk, or whatever food item is available that day. Her next big decision is what she can cook for dinner with so little food.

Most people survive by having vegetable gardens, she said.

It takes about three years to buy a car if you can afford to pay 10,000 rubles, which is equal to $1,500 in American currency.

Krasnova saw the massive cloud from Chernobyl.

"They (Russians) bombed it to make it fall down," Krasnova said.

Her eldest grandson's bones were affected by the nuclear accident. The 16-year-old is checked monthly and every few months is taken to a "clear area" to breathe fresh air, she said.

Krasnova is still pinching herself every once in a while to see if America is real or simply a dream....

"Americans are always smiling," She said.

No wonder, with all they have, she added. "Actually they are too spoiled."

One day Larson took her aunt to Shaw's Supermarket, in Rockland.

"Wow, my head is dizzy. I can't believe it," Krasnova said.

She was amazed at the quantity and variety of dog foods. In Russia, there is no variety of foods for people, never mind pets which only get bones, she added.

Krasnova enjoyed a meal at McDonald's Restaurant in Rockland. Big Macs in Russia are only savored by the rich and famous, she said.

Pizza and ice cream [is on her list? - illegible] of American treats so far.

Krasnova has yet to try lobster, despite the fact that her nephew-in-law, Peter Larsen, owns one of Maine's larger lobster companies, Atwood brothers.

When she visited the pound, she was most impressed at how hard the lobstermen work.

People in Russia do not work as hard, Krasnova said, explaining they earn the same amount of money whether they work or not.

"There is no incentive. no productivity," she said.

The sisters have many years to compensate for. They plan to write frequently and visit as much as possible. Kresnova can only leave Russia once a year.

"Even though we are sisters," Dombrovsky said, "we are strangers."

They both worried about how they would get along.

"My sister is a very simple, good-hearted person," Dombrovsky said.

[note I have left this newspaper clipping as it was written, even though the different spellings of Dambrovsky/Dambrowsky are used interchangebly.

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