“I can say there’s about half of it left, probably,” said Richmond County Public Administrator Edwina Frances Martin, whose office oversees the $40 million estate of Holocaust survivor and Staten Island developer Roman Blum because he died without a will.
The New York Post’s recent article, entitled “Holocaust survivor, Staten Island developer’s $40 million estate still unclaimed,” says the estate has been decreased by taxes and attorney fees.
“Right now there are two parties who are claiming a right to Mr. Blum’s estate and it’s playing out in court,” Martin added.
The most recent potential heir is a Russian resident who thinks he’s the man’s great-grandson. In January, Moscow resident 44-year-old Maxim Shimnyuk became the latest to insist he should inherit Blum’s millions.
Prior to coming to America, Blum married a woman named Ester Lajzerevna in Poland. The couple had a daughter, Hannah, in 1937, according to court documents filed by Shimnyuk. Hannah’s daughter, Tatyana, was born in 1954 and gave birth to Shimnyuk in October 1977. Hannah died in 2001.
Shimnyuk “is the only lineal descendant … of Roman Blum, and would therefore be the only person entitled to inherit from the estate,” according to a genealogy report filed in Staten Island Surrogate Court.
Blum was 26 when he first met Helen Pietrucha in 1938 in Poland, a year before the Nazis invaded. The pair’s plans to wed were ruined by World War II. The young couple hid on Pietrucha’s family farm. When the Russians came, they deported Pietrucha and her family to Siberia in February 1940. Pietrucha was pregnant but had managed to hide Roman in a dugout before they were separated. He survived. Pietrucha miscarried on the harsh journey.
“In my eyes, I have a picture of that horrible night when you were taken to Siberia. In my eyes I have a picture of that last loaf of bread you managed to give me,” Blum wrote to her, years later.
Blum made his fortune as a pioneer in Staten Island real estate shortly after the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was constructed. He spent five years in concentration camps in Poland and Germany before he was freed in 1945. Lovesick for Pietrucha but unable to determine her fate, he married another woman and moved to New York. He later separated from his wife, and they didn’t have any children. Later, Blum found Pietrucha. She had survived, only to marry another man. In his final letter to Pietrucha, Blum allegedly included a will, which stated, “I give all my estate after my death to my beloved Helen Pietrucha.”
The secret will Blum is said to have given to Pietrucha was never filed in Staten Island. The two witnesses who signed the 1987 document have since passed away.
Reference: New York Post (Dec. 17, 2022) “Holocaust survivor, Staten Island developer’s $40 million estate still unclaimed”