Don't Ever Give Up! One Woman's Message About Finding a Loved One

Staff Writer

Last month, Jutta Bolen discovered who her biological father was. Over the span of 67 years, she never really knew her father, but knew she wanted to find out more information about his whereabouts.

The journey began when a boy and a girl met in Germany in 1952. Jutta’s mother Anne Pohl was introduced to army man Bill Vanko and it would be this meeting that resulted in Anne having Jutta. Jutta recounted she was told that Bill stayed with her until she was about six months old. Why he left isn’t completely clear. It could have been he was called to go back to the United States. It was also rumored that a family death kept Bill in his hometown. While he sometimes sent some gifts to Jutta and her mother, her mother was unsure of how to respond back.

“She got packages from the United States with baby clothes in it, but she could never reply back because she didn’t know English to thank him back. She raised me by herself. We didn’t have running water. We didn’t have a bathroom inside. It was almost like living in the country. We were very poor, but we were very blessed. She had her baby, which was me,” Jutta said.

Bill married another woman in the United States, and Jutta’s mother married a new man when she was 8-years-old. Like Bill, he also was a GI and the family traveled around the world and the U.S. including Germany, Georgia, Washington and Vietnam. Jutta was then adopted by her mother’s husband, Bill Farber. But when she was in her twenties, Jutta’s curiosity about her biological father grew.

“I asked, ‘do you remember his name?’ My mother said it was Bill. I thought she might be making that up because it was my dad’s name. I’m thinking, ‘okay, do you have any idea at all where he would’ve been from?’ She goes, ‘I think he went to New York.’ After that, I asked my dad to check to see if he could see who my biological dad was because my dad was pretty high in the army. He looks at me and goes, ‘he had eight years to come and get you, I’m your dad.’ So nothing was ever said again,” Jutta said.

After her adopted father and mother had passed away, Jutta still wanted to find out about her biological dad. Her daughter Jessica turned her over to ancestry.com. When she signed up, Jutta was able to receive a match from someone who believed they were related.

“My husband and I were watching t.v.. and he fell asleep. I looked at my phone to see if I had any messages from any of my kids because they’ll say good night or whatever. I looked at my phone, and this is the message that I got. I looked at that, and it said, ‘my husband John Vanko.’ I’m going ‘Vanko, Vanko.’ Anyway, I looked at my husband, and said, ‘do you think this is a scam, do you think this is real?’ I was shaking. I was crying. He goes, ‘it’s real,’ “ Jutta said.

After that text message, Jutta found out that John Vanko was her cousin, and his father was her biological uncle. John and a few cousins decided to get into contact with Jutta. She learned that her dad wasn’t a native of New York, but rather a native of Pennsylvania where he was born in Coaldale and lived in Kalyers. Jutta found out that while Bill sent her and her mother gifts on occasion, he wasn’t allowed to mention that he had a child from a previous relationship.

“They said he could never afford to come back to Germany. His life went on, but it was always a secret. It was secret because I was a German, and back then in 1952, and my mom had a hard time being pregnant with me because it was from a GI. Come to find out, everything she told me about Bill Vanko, the reason I couldn’t find anyone on there is because I spelled it ‘Vango’ instead of ‘Vanko.’ That was one thing that stopped me from finding any Vankos who would’ve been related to me,” Jutta said.

According to Jutta, after that first encounter through text messages, everything went a little crazy. Jutta found out she had a brother, a sister, first cousins, nieces and nephews as part of the Vanko family. Sadly, Jutta couldn’t contact her father because she found out he had died in 1980.

Luckily for Jutta, she was accepted well by her biological family. They have reached out to her in more ways than one. Her brother Bill has sent her photos of her father, and one of her female cousins from Canton, Ohio wants to drop by to chat.

The journey had many twists and turns and through it all Jutta realizes how much her life has changed. Even though she couldn’t connect with her father directly, the connection is still there with the family she has discovered.

“I don’t have to wonder, ‘do I have family out there?’ I have a birthday now for the first time in 67 years that I can put my mom and my dad together,” Jutta said.

Ultimately there are others out there who have similar stories or are on their own journeys trying to find their family. What is Jutta’s advice? Absolutely never give up.

“I don’t care if they’re 10, if they’re 17, or if they’re 67 like me. Never, ever give up. I lived my life. I got married. I had kids. The pain in my heart was always there wondering what my dad looks like. Wondering if I had brothers or sisters,” Jutta said. “Never, ever give up.”

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