Edmonton

Sherwood Park area woman will meet long-lost sister for first time in 54 years

Phyllis Podsednik grew up in Alberta thinking she was an only child. But when she was 11-years-old, she was shocked to find out she had siblings — nine of them living across the United States.

Phyllis Podsednik has nine siblings but didn’t know they existed until she was 11-years-old

Phyllis Podsednik, fourth from the right, with seven of her siblings in 2017. She will meet one of her sisters for the first time this week. (Zdenek Podsednik)

Phyllis Podsednik grew up in Alberta thinking she was an only child.

But when she was 11-years-old, she was shocked to find out she had siblings — nine of them.

The 54-year-old Sherwood Park area woman will come face-to-face with one of her older sisters, Karen Nadolski, for the first time on Thursday.

Nadolski found her family last October through DNA testing on Ancestry.com, said Podsednik, the youngest of the 10 siblings.

It was a distant cousin who helped Nadolski get in touch with the oldest sister of the family who later told Podsednik.

"There was a phone call that took place and a lot of tears that took place when she finally found us in October," Podsednik said of the first time she heard her older sister's voice.

Finding her was a miracle, she added.

Nadolski is flying into Edmonton from Buffalo, New York on Thursday, where she'll meet Podsednik and her oldest sister, who is 64-years-old, in person for the first time.

'You're part of me'

Thursday's meeting won't be the first encounter Podsednik has had with one of her long-lost family members.

Last August, she travelled to Kentucky where she and seven of her siblings came together for the first time.

"Throughout all the sorrows and all the pain, they've come out to become these awesome, beautiful people," she said, noting that the bond she felt with her family was immediate.

"It's that recognition of 'You're part of me.'"

Nadolski came forward a few months after the reunion.

Throughout all the sorrows and all the pain, they've come out to become these awesome, beautiful people.- Phyllis  Podsednik

The 10 siblings share the same mother. She's in her 80s and has dementia, Podsednik said, so the details of how the children were separated are unclear.

"She never talked about it when I was growing up. It was kind of a tender subject with her," Podsednik said. "I wish I would have asked her all these questions years and years ago."

She said at least seven of her sisters and one brother were born in the United States, and were separated when they were put into the foster care system.

Phyllis Podsednik and seven of her long-lost siblings came together last August. (Zdenek Podsednik)

But Podsednik's upbringing was different. She was born in Yukon after her mother left the U.S. when she didn't have the means to take care of the children.

Podsednik met a few of her sisters when they came to Canada to meet their mother — the common denominator between the siblings, despite their drastically different childhoods.

Other siblings stayed in touch because they had the same father, she said.

The group officially connected over Facebook in 2013, coming together for the family reunion four years later.

One sibling still missing

But there's one more woman who hasn't connected with her nine siblings.

Her birth mother named her Sheryl Ann Emerson, but the family doesn't know where she is.

Sheryl Ann Emerson, if you're out there, we are waiting and we are looking for you.- Phyllis Podsednik

Podsednik said her sister was born and put up for adoption in 1962, most likely in Alberta or Saskatchewan.

She could even be in Edmonton, Podsednik said. She wonders if the two have ever crossed paths.

Emerson might not know she has nine siblings who are looking for her, Podsednik said, but the family hopes to find her through DNA testing.

"Sheryl Ann Emerson, if you're out there, we are waiting and we are looking for you," Podsednik said.

"I'm just hoping another miracle comes along."

About the Author

Anna McMillan

Journalist

Anna McMillan is a reporter at CBC Edmonton. You can reach her at anna.mcmillan@cbc.ca