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B.C. man who once had personal mementos stolen wants to unite family with old photos

Nanaimo’s Michael Suiker salvaged 10 photo albums at estate sale three years ago

A Nanaimo man knows what it means for family mementos to be lost and found.

So he’s determined to do whatever he can to return 10 photo albums to a family he doesn’t know.

Suiker had a truck and U-Haul and all his possessions stolen while moving back to British Columbia from the Prairies in 2015. While the truck was recovered and Abbotsford Police solved the case, Suiker didn’t get back everything that was taken.

“Bits of history and little trinkets and items that were passed on from my grandparents,” he said. “There were a lot of those things that as far as value goes in the marketplace, are worth next to nothing, but they’re priceless when you actually consider what they mean to yourself.”

A couple of years later, a stranger came across more of Suiker’s family’s belongings which had been separately mislaid – photos and letters and documents – and ensured the family got them back. Thanks to that kindness, Suiker was able to hold the ship ticket that his grandmother and aunt had used for passage from the Netherlands to Canada in 1928.

“Somebody made the effort and reached out to somebody in my family to help us retrieve these items and that’s in part why it’s so important that these photos and documents that I recovered get back to the family…” he said. “I may not necessarily know what item or picture or document in particular will have that effect on somebody else because it means something different to everybody.”

Suiker spied the 10 photo albums at an estate sale in Nanaimo in 2018. He was fascinated at the old pictures taken in Latvia at least as far back as the 1930s, and when advised the albums were to be thrown away, he didn’t think twice.

“I said, ‘these are somebody’s and they mean something to somebody. I can’t let them go to the landfill,’” Suiker said.

The albums seem to have belonged to Juris Bergins, who died in 2018, and therefore to his daughters Kristine Bergins and Monika Young, but Suiker hasn’t had success locating family members. He’s made inquiries at a funeral home, followed other leads that fizzled, and even contacted a newspaper in Latvia. Every few months he looks at the albums, he said, and “[looks] into it a little bit more, and unfortunately every avenue that I took led to a dead end.”

More than once he’s considered throwing the albums away, but “morally” can’t bring himself to discard something he says is irreplaceable.

“There’s a story, there’s a history, there’s culture,” Suiker said. “There’s so much that when you look over it, at times it has almost brought me to tears when I’m looking through it because this is somebody’s life in picture form.”

Suiker can be contacted at

READ ALSO: Lost family films returned a decade later in Nanaimo thanks to social media’s reach

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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