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Faraway friends

Decades later, childhood pen pals reconnect

Map of Croatia
A Croatian woman recently tracked down a childhood pen pal in Chicago who helped to lift her spirits during hard times in the 1990s.

Two people who live 4,700 miles apart were recently reminded of the power of mail to leave lasting impressions.

When Andrew Piotrowski was a child living in Vernon Hills, IL, in the mid-1990s, he penned a letter to Kristina Brunjai, a young refugee who had fled to a safe zone in war-torn Croatia.

Brunjai, who still lives in the Balkans nation, was cleaning her parents’ home recently when she uncovered the note and decided to track down Piotrowski.

“I wanted him to know that he made me smile in those sad times,” Brunjai, 33, told the Chicago Tribune this week.

After finding Piotrowski on Facebook, Brunjai’s husband helped her draft a message that included a photo of the note.

Piotrowski, who is now 30 and lives in Chicago, was surprised to hear from Brunjai after all these years. He remembers writing his childhood letter to her through a church outreach program.

“I just wrote a few lines [and] sent some little gifts,” he said.

Nevertheless, Piotrowski was touched to learn his pen pal kept the note.

“You never know what kind of impact you’re going to have,” he said. “Even if it’s just being nice to somebody you pass on the street or writing somebody a letter.”

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