Imagine finding out your entire world was a lie. That is exactly what happened to Paul Fronczak recently.
He grew up thinking that Dora and Chester Fronczak were actual his parents, but it turns out that when he was 10 years old he’d seen newspaper clippings that revealed he was taken at just one day old.
It all started on the 26th of April 1964, when Dora gave birth to a healthy baby boy in the Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. However, the next morning, a woman dressed up as a nurse came into her room and told her she was taking the baby for a medical examination, only to never return.
The largest manhunt in Chicago’s history followed this incident, with more than 175,000 postal workers and 200 officers and agents raiding more than 600 homes to find the baby.
There was no sign of him until two years later, when a toddler matching his description surfaced at a shopping centre in Newark, New Jersey, abandoned.
The FBI had little to go on as there was only a picture of the baby at a day old. There was no recorded blood type, fingerprints or footprints. And after testing over 10,000 boys, Paul was the only one they couldn’t fully deny.
The couple took him home to Chicago and he knew nothing about his past until he flipped through the newspapers back in 1974.
However, Paul didn’t always feel like he fit in. Finally in 2012, he decided to do an over-the-counter DNA kit and see what his past was.
Against his parents’ wishes, he sent the samples off and days later he got told there was “no remote possibility” that he was Paul Fronczak, the biological son of Dora and Chester.
“I just felt like my life as I knew it was ended. I felt the colour drain from my face. I couldn’t think. I got all sweaty,” Paul confessed to the BBC, “Everything I thought I knew about myself – my birthday, my medical history, being Polish, being Catholic, even being a Taurus – went out the window, and for a second I didn’t know who I was.”
The results raised two important questions: who were Paul’s biological parents and where his parents? Employing a team of private detectives and genealogists, Paul started the search.
Nearly two years after the search began, in June 2015, his real identity came to light. He was born Jack Rosenthal and his real birthday was 27 October 1963.
The findings revealed some more uncomfortable news: he had a twin sister Jill.
Allegedly their mother, Marie, had been a heavy drinker, and their father, Gilbert, had come back from the Korean War “an angry man”. They had been badly neglected.
Several of his biological family members can recall the twins constantly crying. One cousin actually remembers seeing the twins sitting “in a cage”. Whenever anyone asked about the twins they were told family was looking after them as to not raise suspicion.
Paul believes that “something tragic” must have come over Marie, and this could have prompted the decision to get rid him, since his parents “couldn’t explain just one twin”.
“My real parents were really not very nice people. I’m thankful that they abandoned me because it allowed me to be with the Fronczaks. They saved my life,” Paul defended.
Paul has since written a book about his extraordinary life. And he is currently looking for Dora and Chester’s real son, as well as his own biological twin sister. Best of luck to him.