Sunday, December 18, 2022

Splitting heirs Holocaust survivor $40M estate still unclaimed


A decade after his death, the $40 million estate of Holocaust survivor and Staten Island developer Roman Blum has yet to be resolved — and the vast fortune is shrinking as his would-be heirs battle for their piece of the pie.

“I can say there’s about half of it left, probably,” said Richmond County Public Administrator Edwina Frances Martin, whose office oversees the estate because Blum died without a will.

The estate has been whittled down 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 latest potential heir is a Russian resident who believes he is the wealthy man’s great-grandson, court records show. In January, Moscow resident Maxim Shimnyuk, 44, became the latest to insist he should inherit Blum’s millions.

Blum, who died in 2012 at age 97, amassed his fortune as a pioneer in Staten Island real estate, building and selling homes in the borough shortly after the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was constructed.

Before immigrating to America, Blum married a woman named Ester Lajzerevna in Poland, and 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, he asserts in legal papers. Hannah died in 2001; Tatyana in 2011, Shimnyuk said.

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.

A far more romantic competing claim maintains Blum was childless, and had a long-lost love in Warsaw, bequeathing everything to her in a secret will.

Blum was 26 when he first met Helen Pietrucha, 20, 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, across the River Bug. Soon the Russians came, deporting Pietrucha and her family to Siberia in February 1940.

Pietrucha, who was pregnant, 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.

Roman 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, who died in 1992. The couple didn’t have kids.

Years 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.”

That’s the story told by Pietrucha’s longtime friend and caregiver Teresa Musial, who inherited the childless widow’s estate when Pietrucha died in 1999 at age 79, and believes she is the rightful recipient of Blum’s riches.

The secret will Blum allegedly gave to Pietrucha was never filed in Staten Island, and the two witnesses who signed the 1987 document have since died.

Lawyers for Shimnyuk declined to comment.



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