Saturday, September 27, 2008


My grandparents were born in Moldova and moved to Brazil in 1931. I never met them, never knew much information about them, and so was always involved in this mystique, in this historical puzzle. Every time my dad and I would go to a different country, and that happened several times in the 90’s, we would check the phone book for a person with the “Tolpolar” family name. Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, Prag, Asuncion, Sao Paulo, etc. In New York we once found somebody named “Tolpo”. Could it be a relative? Unfortunately we never called.

My dad doesn’t know a lot about their history, so my infinite questions were never fully satisfied. How was life in Oliscani and Orhei? Why did they move to the South of Brazil? Did they have an accent? How were their voices like? How did they move? Were they nice? Intelligent? Are there any Tolpolars in other countries? What happened with the Tolpolars before living in Moldova? How my life would be affected had I met them?
I can only relate to them through pictures, stories and imagination. It was almost unbelievable and so exciting to think that a Brazilian like me actually belonged to a very recent history of such a distant region of the world. Different culture, language, mind frame. So remote from the Brazilian reality. My reality.

You could compare my grandfathers’ pictures with mines and certify that we came from different planets. They spoke Russian, Romanian and Yiddish. I speak Portuguese and English. They lived in a difficult age of pogroms, persecution, war, no TV. I cannot live without air conditioning.

Going to Moldova to visit their birthplaces was a way to try to connect to them, understand my past and maybe settle my curiosity, anxiety and uneasiness. But this was a distant dream that could only be accomplished after I moved to the USA and after Moldova became an independent democracy.
In 2006 I started to research about a possible trip and getting information about all the operational stuff: visa, plane tickets, country information, accommodations, etc. Because there’s not a lot of information, and mainly firsthand information about Moldova, it took me 2 years to finally get everything together. On May 14th 2008, my father, sister and I were boarding on a plane to Bessarabia, the old land of our ancestors.
I had read a lot about Moldova, and heard many conflicting information about this country in construction, that not many people know about. Myths, stereotypes, urban stories, jokes, everything made me realize I was going in to a place far from my reality and comprehension.

Next week: the trip, the excitement and anxiety, arriving in Frankfurt and boarding Air Moldova.