Red Cross helping to reunite families separated by war

Posted: Sunday, July 19, 2009

As part of its mission to help reunite families who have been separated by war and strife in other countries, the American Red Cross is looking for any connections to the families with the name Mstislav Gergilevich or Bogoliubov in Alaska.

"This is a request from another country to help find a loved one they believe defected to here prior to the collapse of the former Soviet Union," said Reid Bowman, Red Cross district director. "This is a monumental task, but most often the smallest clue is what makes these cases come together and helps us to bring peace to the family."

Those with information about these families should contact the Red Cross immediately. All information provided to the Red Cross will be confidential.

Nancy Barros, a local volunteer and educator for the American Red Cross' International Services, said information is kept confidential to protect the families.

"One reason we hold the information in confidentiality is because people in many cultures are punished because of their family ties - or their relationship to other people," she said. "We may never know why a person is searching for a family member."

The Red Cross started this service on the fields of northern Italy during the 1859 Battle of Solferino, Barros said.

"Henri Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross came upon the ravages of war and heard hundreds of men saying 'Please tell my mother, my wife, my family that I have died. Please let my family know what happen,'" she explained. "The humanity that Dunant shared was the first step or design of starting a international movement to help those who have been separated by war, civil unrest or natural disaster."

In Barros' four-plus years working for the Central Arizona Chapter of the Red Cross, she said she's helped with more than 1,300 family connections.

"When I first came to that chapter as a volunteer, we had 14 cases," she said. "By sharing, marketing and utilizing the media, we were able to get the word out, and we increased our case load from two figures to four within a period of two years."

But because many do not even know the Red Cross offers this service, only about four inquiries a year arise in Alaska.

"We're hoping to really get information out about this service, because we think there are probably more people who could benefit from it," said Kelly Hurd, development and marketing director for the Red Cross in Anchorage.

And this may be the first time in Alaska the Red Cross has needed to look for a person by using a poster, which are being distributed throughout the state.

Anyone with information on families in Alaska with the name Mstislav Gergilevich or Bogoliubov can contact the Red Cross' toll free number at 888-345-4376 or call the Juneau office at 463-5713.

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