Portland photographer helps homeless man reconnect with his only daughter

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's a story that seems almost too good to be true: A Portland photographer helped a homeless man reconnect with his only daughter all the way across the country, and it all unfolded on Facebook.

"He just asked me to take his picture with all the crosses I figured it was a religious thing," said James Unkov.

That request came to Unkov last Thursday from a homeless man named Mark Dobransky in Portland's Southeast industrial area. Unkov snapped the shot, not knowing how that one image would change so many lives.

"Then he came back and asked me if I could post it on Facebook in hopes that his daughter could see it so he could tell her he loved her," Unkov explained.

By Saturday, that Facebook post had been shared thousands of times, and been in front of thousands of eyes. Another photographer, based in Seattle, named Chad Lyons saw it. He had taken photos of Mark Dobransky years ago on the streets of Seattle, and had also recently started a search for the homeless man. He also shared some of his photos.

But for a young woman, the photo Unkov took was a missing link to her past.

"A girl named Tia had left a comment saying 'hey my friend just posted something about a man named Mark Anthony Dobransky looking for his daughter could that be you?' And my jaw dropped," said Felicia Dobransky.

She is Mark Dobransky's only daughter. She lives in Gloucester, Mass., 3,121 miles from Portland. She has no idea how he ended up in Portland. He's originally from Las Vegas. KATU reporter Hillary Lake caught up with her on the phone.

"I was about six months old when my mom split up with him and I never knew him as a child," said Felicia.

She said she saw her dad once when she was eleven, but she hasn't seen him since. She will soon turn 23.

"He was actually a very wealthy construction company owner. He had his own business. He was very, very happy. And the money he was able to buy a lot of alcohol, some drugs. I was like six months old, and my mom didn't think it was safe for him to be around me," explained Felicia.

Even though Mark Dobransky has fought some demons, Felicia believes her father is trying to change. They've been able to talk on the phone this week, once on a stranger's cell phone and another time he called her from a pay phone.

"When I heard his voice for the first time that's when I realized how real the situation was," said Felicia.

It's a situation that involves a rollercoaster of emotions, a situation guided by a lot of love.

"I would definitely like for him to come out here and visit me and meet his grand kids," said Felicia.

Mark Dobransky is a grandfather to Jayden, 2, and Ava, three months. Felicia Dobransky said she hopes to see her father in the New Year, and knows that there are people looking out for him until she does.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off