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.


Luis Panini said...


Welcome to the Blogsphere!

I look forward to learn more about your adventures in Moldova.


Anonymous said...

The origin of your family name is probably TALPALAR.In roumanian TALPA is sole of leg or shoe.

André Luís da Cunha said...

Hey Cassio,

I expect you to shoot this story, I want to see it in a movie theatre!!!!
Good lucky!!
All the best for you in this trip.
Grande abraço do Cunha!

Anonymous said...


Cassio Tolpolar said...

Thank you all for your comments! I knew already of the origin of TALPA. Most likely the Tolpolars were shoemakers a long time ago.

And Cunha, I actually already went there and shot a lot of footage which will be turned into a documentary. I will keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a great blog! My family came from Bessarabia (Costesh) and I am hoping to go next year, so this is helpful and interesting!

Ale Cogan said...

Nice idea! Lucky you that could travel to Moldova...
My father was born in Cernauti (ex Romania) and came to Uruguay in 1931 when he was three years old. He came with his parents and his older brother.
I share your same feelings, hope someday we find more about our families.

sonicboom said...

I was looking for a Moldova map and run across the picture of Mijai Eminescu, "national poet of Moldava and Romania". Well, I just felt in love. A great start for a blog!

Keep as posted when you make new entries.


Marsha Kamish (Houston, TX) said...

Thanks so much for sharing. My father's family were from Tighina (Bendery) in what is now Moldova. I hope to visit one day. Dad (83) immigrated to the US (Chicago) in 1939 and doesn't like to talk about the old country. Our family name was Camasov and is now Kamish. I'll be researching on when I retire - maybe I'll find we're all related! Look forward to your next post....

Yefim Kogan said...

Interesing blog. We could find relatives or/friends of our parents/grandparents on this blog.
I was born in Kishinev and my parents are from Kaushany, which is very close to Bendery. I remember Bendery well. We had many relatives there.

Did you visit Kaushany/Bendery on your trip? I am looking for photos especially from Kaushany.


Oficina de Roteiro said...

cassio, vou escrever em portugues, aceta. curti muito o lance, o detalhe, de tzwi e teu pai procurando TOLPOLARES pelo mundo. meu pai sempre fez isso comigo e acho que é um detalhe muito bonito pro teu filme. nao sei se vais usar, mas notes que começaste teu relato com isso. me parece que é forte. manda bala, abracos, gus

Claire said...

My maternal grandparents came from Kishinev and
seldom said anything about the "old country." It will be so interesting to see the country and get your impressions since I doubt that I will ever get there.

Susan said...

Fascinating photos. Thank you.


doriana said...

my family originally is from bendery, they escaped from the pogroms in 1880 . i am now researching my family roots and planning a trip in theie footsteps. its amasing what you did .i am waiting for the next chapter

Anonymous said...

Oi Cassio,

I didn't know you were a fellow Brazilian Jew. Part of my family also comes from Bessarabia. I look forward to your other postings.

Deborah Calla

Cassio Tolpolar said...

Thank you all again for your comments. It's very inspiring. I just came back from NY where I found a famiy member I had never seen before. I will post later something about it.

Yefim, I did not visit Kaushany/Bendery in this trip, but heard of it while I was there(Moldova is a very small country).

I will have the next posting very soon this week.

Eliza said...

Hi Casio! As you see, we are looking forward to read about your trip!

Kerley said...

It is great to read all the comments. You must know that the success of our trip is Cassio's merit. He started working on that two years before the trip actually took place. Thanks to him and his energy we spend an amazing time in Moldova, enjoying ourselves as a family and discovering our roots.
Thank you.
Kerley (Cassio's sister)
PS: I'm living in Pittsburgh now if any of you are in the area.

Anonymous said...

Sou o Flavio Bitelman que escreveu viagem a terra de meu pai
parabens pelo seu site
pode me contactar pelo e-mail



Antonio Carlos said...

Oi Cássio.
Hoje estivemos com teus pais e soubemos do teu blog. A primeira coisa que fizemos foi acessá-lo ficamos contentes com a maneira como estás contando a busca pelas tuas raizes mais profundas. É um bela história que renderá muitos outros contatos e descobertas. Sucesso para ti, a Lara e a Kerley, que estão longe de nosso convívio. Um grande beijo da Tia Eliane e do Antonio.

dalya said...

it's great to read about the wonderful revisit to your grandparents homeland and sad to hear about how they had to leave and the fate of others. my greatgrandparents Alex Rosenberg and Pessie Lupa were married in Kishinev in 1881. they left in 1904. wonder if their siblings went to Brazil?? is there any way to find out?
all the best

Cassio Tolpolar said...

Hi Dalya,

Has any of your relatives ever said anything about Brazil? I guess that's a way to start, asking around members of the family.

Cassio Tolpolar said...

Hi Dalya,

Has any of your relatives ever said anything about Brazil? I guess that's a way to start, asking around members of the family.

adolfo talpalar said...

I figure out that your family name is a modification of my own (Talpalar), which seemly was widespread in the Romania-Modova-Ukraine-Hungary region some decades ago. It derives indeed either from Magyar talp or Romanian talpa, meaning both sole. As far as I know it meant something like 'saddle-maker' rather than 'shoemaker'. There are many modifications of this surname: Talpalar, Talpalaru, Talpolar, Tolpolar, etc. I found members of these in countries like Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Israel, Germany, USA, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, etc.

Cassio Tolpolar said...

Dear Adolfo,

Do you think "Talpalar" and "Tolpolar" are directly related? Do you recognize anything in my story that might make you think we could be related?

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Profound gratitude for sharing, Nancy, great-great grandaughter of Yedinitzer

Cool Dictator said...

Romanian name Talpalar when written with Cyrillic becomes Tolpolar. This happened a lot in Bessarabia during czarist times when many names have been modified for Russian usage. After the reunification with Romania in 1918 most of the people did not changed back their names. They only switched from Cyrillic to Latin letters. This could be a possible explanation of the Tolpolar variation which could have been originally Talpalar.

And by the way I knew someone in my village with that name but I don't think there are any chances to be related to what you're searching. He was an old man who died long time ago ('80) and was an orthodox priest.