THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) – A 62-year-old Austrian legislator who found his father decades after he had returned to Greece in the aftermath of World War II arrived Friday for an emotional reunion.

Volkmar Harwanegg’s questions about his father were met with stubborn refusal from his Austrian mother. Only after her death in 1995 did the first clues emerge, and the trail finally led this year to a village in northern Greece.

“I am overwhelmed to see my father again,” Harwanegg told reporters Friday at the airport. “I have been visiting Greece for many years, and it was as if I knew there was something here for me.”

Giorgos Pitenis, now 87, was one of tens of thousands of Greeks forcibly transported to Austria and Germany by Nazi occupation forces between 1941-44.

Selected as a slave laborer in 1941 in punishment for his left-wing politics, Pitenis worked as a car mechanic in Vienna. It was there that he met Harwanegg’s mother.

Harwanegg was born in 1944. Pitenis was repatriated to Greece shortly after the Nazi defeat and the couple never met again.

They corresponded for a few years, but Pitenis’ last letter, dated 1957, never got a response. It was Elizabeth’s unposted answer, found in her affairs after her death, that gave Harwanegg a name to match with his father.

Pitenis, who can only speak with difficulty after undergoing a tracheotomy, was overcome with emotion at the airport meeting – their first since a brief meeting in August.

“I was so nervous I hadn’t eaten since yesterday,” he said.

His sister, Fani Lazaridou, also came to the airport. “We are beside ourselves with joy over all this, it completely changed our life,” she said.

Appeals for help to Interpol and Greek and Austrian embassies initially failed to locate Pitenis. But in August, while on holiday on the northwestern resort island of Corfu, the Vienna local parliament deputy got a call from his secretary – with an address.

Father and son met in a Samarina coffee shop, communicating with the help of the village taxi-driver who spoke some German.

Now, Harwanegg, who was accompanied by his wife, will try fill in the past six decades.

“I will try to find out as much as I can about his life during the three days we will pass together,” he said.


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