"It just blew my mind; it's incredible" Michael Sovyn, Canada

Raised by a single mom, Michael Sovyn always knew that his parents had met in Germany during World War II, but that his mother lost contact with his father before discovering that she was pregnant with him. The only significant clues to his identity were a photograph she had of him, dated July 8, 1945, with an inscription on the back: “To my dear little Maria,” it reads in French, and is signed simply “Lulu.”

Maria searched for Lulu all her life, but when she passed away in 2005, Michael still had no more information about his father. It was a MyHeritage DNA test that finally cracked the case and led Michael to his father’s family — including 3 half-brothers in France who were delighted and astonished to learn that they had a Canadian older brother!

This is their incredible story.

A whirlwind romance in the midst of war

Maria Sovyn, of Ukrainian origin, was serving as a waitress in a restaurant in Germany toward the end of World War II. Lulu — whose full name was Lucien Laurent — was a handsome young French soldier who frequented the establishment.

“[My mother] said there was no other man as good-looking or as nice as he was,” Michael recalled in an interview with the CBC.

Lulu had to come and go because of his work, and the pair even went on two trips together, but eventually the visits stopped and they lost contact. Then, Maria discovered that she was pregnant with Michael.

After the war, Maria and Michael lived in a German camp for foreigners when Maria received a donation of a jacket from Canada. The jacket had a note sewn into the pocket asking the recipient to contact the people who had sent it. Maria did, and the kind family helped her and Michael (who was 3 at the time) immigrate to Canada.

All Maria had from Lulu was the photo he had given her, and the memory that he was from Marseille.

Finding Papa Lulu

Michael went on to have a family of his own. His 3 children were always curious about the identity of their grandfather and wanted to help continue the search.

Michael’s daughter Sherri Hrycay is a successful milliner (hatmaker), owner of Sova Hat Shoppe. Her handmade hats are widely celebrated — they’ve been worn by the likes of Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, wife of the Canadian prime minister, and former lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan Vaughn Solomon Shofield, and have even been gifted to Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. Sherri’s work has taken her to Europe many times, including trips to France.

It was Sherri who made contact with genealogist Murièle Gadaut, and the family hired Murièle to help them solve the mystery.

Murièle suggested that Michael take a DNA test, and when the results came in, they discovered a match: a cousin living in France. With this information, Murièle was able to build a family tree and find contact information for living family members. She sent letters to the family with the photo of Lulu, asking for more information.

This January, she finally got a response: a family member recognized Lulu as her husband’s uncle, Lucien Laurant.

Unfortunately, “Papa Lulu” had passed away in 2000, but he had three living sons. Murièle contacted them and connected the families to each other.

At first, Lulu’s family was skeptical and concerned that it was a scam, but eventually they came to realize that this was the real thing. They were beyond delighted to welcome Michael and his children into the family.

To Sherri’s astonishment, her long-lost uncle revealed to her that her grandfather had worked in a hat factory before the war!

The family has been in constant contact since, and planned to meet in France at the end of March. Their reunion was delayed because of the pandemic, but last week, they finally met in the airport in Nice. Michael will be spending two weeks in the French Riviera getting to know his half-brothers and all his French family members.

And so the love story of Maria and Lulu has come full circle. They may never have had the chance to share the joy of having a child together, but at least now — thanks to MyHeritage DNA — their children can have their happy ever after as a family.

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  • Norma collins

    August 9, 2020

    So good to read a story very similar to mine. At 72yrs I found my growing up family were not as I thought. My mother never told me of her romance with 2 New Zealand brothers, she had my sister with with an RAF aircraft bomber who died in Belgium prior to her birth letters and photos were left when mum died. I took a DNA test and found cousins who linked me to the other brother. My biological father had died but his 2nd wife got in touch when contacted by my cousin. I have been welcomed by her and we phone often, but my siblings a brother and 3 sisters have not yet contacted me as like you said believe it a scam. I am still coming to terms with it myself. So good luck to you and your renewed family. Norma Collins living in Wales UK.

  • Randy J Smith

    August 9, 2020

    This is a wonderful story and it gives me hope in locating my paternal grandfather. He will be one of five sons of David Irving McLeod, my great grandfather, identified by way of three second cousins. My father did not know that he had been adopted at birth in 1927 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I wish all seekers every success in their search for those important family connections. Congratulations to the newly connected family.

  • Donald Lutes

    August 10, 2020

    Great story! This would be an excellent story for the show Long Lost Family!

  • K.F. Clark

    August 11, 2020

    It was an emotional but uplifting story to read of Michael”s re-union with family from DNA testing. Several years ago I was also contacted regarding my DNA being the only result for a man who had spent 40 years searching for a father who had denied paternity to his mother. I was pleased to be able to supply the identity of his father who, with children who would have been half-siblings, had long passed away.

  • Karin Blackstone

    August 11, 2020

    Great Story. I’m 75 years old and found out 2 years ago that my older brother and I are only 1/2 siblings.
    Now I’m building a tree with all the families ( I can identify) and that I share DNA with. It appears that most are from the Saarland, Germany with a twist of German’s that immigrated to Russia during the reign of Catharina the Great. They seem to have left during the Revolution, then scattered in Germany, USA and Canada.
    My conception took place during the early year in 1944 in war torn Germany.
    I pray that someday I will find a close enough match to let me know where my paternal roots come from.

  • Jackie

    August 13, 2020

    I am trying to locate a Bill H Corey (William)who moved to S.C. from Akron Ohio in the mid seventys to finish his 10 years with the BFGoodrich Co in Elgin SC He left the area and I want to find out if he is still living and to see what happened to him. He was very special to me and was a. Try good friend . I would like to tell him that before we get any older . Was not in a good place and that time. Not having any luck with search engines .He graduated high school in Fairfax Virginia andbhe would be about 69 today

  • Victoria Howard

    August 15, 2020

    What a wonderful story! Love wins.

  • Sylvia Konjore

    August 19, 2020

    Very encouraging and motivating, to find your family on that age. Hope i will be able to find the missing piece of my parcel also, one day. I have a name that seem to be my father (James Hatz) in my baptism book, of which there seem to be no any other clue.
    Will do some savings and go for the DNA testing with the hope that it will give me direction on this matter.

  • Bernadet

    August 23, 2020

    Whow, all these life-heartwarming-stories are so promising and hopeful and it gives you a feeling of never giving up.
    it doesn’t matter who you are looking for, just keep searching.

  • Don Baston

    August 30, 2020

    Beautiful story! I wish I could find my grandfathers origins in Canda, Carl Ayler Baston.

  • Paula (Erlandson) Storace

    September 6, 2020

    The stories of those finding loved ones through DNA testing are extremely heartwarming. I have been hoping and praying that my DNA matches would lead me to locating the daughter I placed for adoption when I was just 18 years old. At that time, adoption records were closed, and while I know of specific information of her birth, I have not been able to find her. She turned 40 years old on March 6th this year, and I have hoped she might be looking for me too with DNA testing. Unfortunately, my DNA matches seem to only locate my 3rd – 5th cousins on my Heritage account. I would like to know what more I can do to have better results.

  • Danny Bobowski

    November 21, 2020

    Quite the story Michael. I’m glad the pieces were put together !
    Danny Bobowski