Saturday, November 1, 2008
YEDINITZ - PART I
Little I knew this was going to be the busiest day of our journey in Moldova. We woke up early to drive to Yedinitz, a 3 hour road trip. In Yedinitz, Fima Tolpolar was born, son of Yeshaya Tolpolar, brother of my grandfather. We knew that there was still an old neighbor of Fima living in Yedinitz, who could tell us more about him.
The trip went smooth. I was fascinated by the landscape, full of green hills. Our first appointment was going to be with Efim Akkerman, the head of the Jewish community and the cemetery manager. There are about only 30 Jewish families living there now. Mr. Akkerman is a construction businessman and designated his son, Edik, to guide us through the cemetery before our visit. The cemetery is old and not very well organized. They’re still trying to catalogue all the graves.
We didn’t find anything there, so headed to Mr. Akkerman’s office.
Mr. Akkerman went straight to the point; he wanted to know what we needed and how he could help. We explained our story briefly, and then he started to make phone calls. In between the calls, he affirmed that all Jewish people buried in Oliscani were unburied and buried again in Rezina or Floresti.
After many calls, he arranged two appointments with us, with an elder lady who could tell us more about the Jewish community and with Semion Mikhalovic, Fima’s old neighbor. Edik would take us to the lady, whose name I cannot remember.
She was very nice, not Jewish, but married to a Jewish man, who already passed away. Only I and Natasha went up to her small apartment. It was the first time I was entering a local’s home, it was exciting. She showed me pictures of her family, gave me chocolates and a jar of homemade pickled mushrooms (very popular there). She talked a bit, but couldn’t remember any Tolpolars or Nisenblats.
The 85 year-old lady is an active Math teacher, and it so happens that Semion was one of her students. So she called him and advised we were coming. While I was at the lady’s apartment, my dad and sister waited in front of the building and became friends with some other old ladies. We found out later everybody was so friendly in the villages.
Semion was there with his wife. Energetic and serious, he promptly started to lead us on a walk towards the house where Fima and his brother Sioma were born. Semion told us that Fima and many Jews were evacuated from Yedinitz in 1941 to Ukraine and other countries. He himself went to a concentration camp in Ukraine and met Fima again when he came back to Yedinitz in 1945. In that occasion, Fima said he was coming from Moscow and that his family was dead. He spent 2 days there and then moved to Beltsy. Semion’s father bought Fima’s house. At that time, it was good business, it was cheap. Then they sold to another Fima, who sold to the actual owner. She has a restaurant in front of the house and lives in the back with her family.
The 15 minute walk made us arrive in a big yellow house, a restaurant now. The owner, named Francesca, happily greeted us and Natasha ran to fetch my dad and Sergio, the driver. Once they arrived, we started to tour the house. Francesca explained what she built and what was there originally. There it was. We were inside the house of my great granduncle and his family, which I never met.
Afterwards, Francesca offered us some food. It was already 3PM and we were completely weakened by starvation. While we were waiting on the table, we talked to Semion about the war, what he knew of Fima and so on. We also discovered that his wife was a Nisenblat. She was happy to see some pictures of my grandmother, a Nisenblat as well.
Semion confessed being a communist. He was sent to a concentration camp, but then freed by the soviets. He didn’t think the communism affected the Jews, and that even the first communist leaders were Jews.
They served us soup, placinta, some rolled minced meat, mashed potatoes and beverages. We were so grateful. And later she said it was a present, she didn’t accept any money from us. And that was a restaurant!
Semion said my dad resembled Fima. The both communicated in Yiddish, and it was touching when at the time of saying good-bye, Semion hugged and kissed my dad. I unfortunately lost this great moment on my camera.
Everybody in front of Fima's old house
Next: Driving to Cepleutz, the place where Yeshaya Tolpolar was murdered, and an unbelievable surprise.
(CORRECTION: In the “Getting to know Jewish Chisinau” posting, I wrote a comment from my “stepfather”. I actually meant “father-in-law”! I don’t have a stepfather, and my mom and dad are together. Thanks for my friend Judah, who pointed it out and I promptly corrected it.)