Saturday, August 8, 2009


Before going to Moldova, Shlomi mentioned to me a certain Boris Nusinkis, who was a relative from the Tolpolars. I just didn’t have any time to research about it, but once I came back from the trip, I started to look into it more carefully. Asking my relatives in Brazil, it seems there was a Nusinkis who was married to a Tolpolar and he was supposed to have moved to the USA. But that was all info I could get. So it had to be related to Boris. I then took a very simple and fast route: went on US Search (which does not work out every time) and looked for Boris Nusinkis. It gave me an address and a phone number.
It took me a few weeks to gather courage before I could call the number. On the other side of the line, Irina, Boris’ wife picked it up. She said she would ask him and they would research about it to see if my story made any sense. They were in NY and I was in LA. On Saturday at 5 o’clock in the morning I got a call from a very exciting Irina: it seemed we were really related!
I was already going to New York for a wedding on October 2008, so it all worked out perfectly. We exchanged e-mails and arranged to meet. I sent the Nuskinkis in advance some old pictures I had of Tolpolars in Bessarabia. I was extremely excited to hear more about our connection and the other side of the Tolpolars, not Brazilian or Israeli – but a very recent family history in Ukraine.

Amongst the pictures I sent there was one of my grandfather when he was young. When Boris, Irina and their son Anatoly came to pick me up in Brooklyn, the first thing I saw coming out of the car was Boris with his arm straight up holding a picture of my grandfather – the exact same one I had sent! I don’t remember the exact words, but he came out of the car saying something like “Now I know who this is!!!!!!” Sure, it was my grandfather. In a few seconds, right there in that street in Brooklyn, a Tolpolar family connection which was lost by travels, immigration and language was reunited again.

Boris is the grandson of Nechome Tolpolar and Shlomo Nusinkis, whom married and lived in Chernovitz, now Ukraine. Nechome was the older sister of my grandfather. Shlomo and Nechome had 3 children: Malvina, Wlad (died in 1993) and Isaac (died in 1993). Isaac had Boris and Matviei Nusinkis (who also lives in NY). Wlad Nusinkis had two daughters: Hana (lives in Giessen, Germany) and Galina (lives in Israel). Hana has a 25 year old daughter, Inna. Galina has 2 sons in Israel. Boris married Irina and had Michael and Anatoly. Nechome and Malvina were killed by the Nazis in the woods. Shlomo died in 1936, before the war, and is buried in Sorocca.
Boris’ last connection with the Tolpolars was through Fima, Shlomi’s grandfather and my father’s first cousin. The thing was that Fima was one of the last Tolpolars to leave Russia and was a very important lawyer at the time – a lot of people knew him.
But better than reuniting again, Boris also knew another sister of my grandfather whom we didn’t know much about either: Surke. Surke Tolpolar used to live in Chernovitz too, and had 2 daughters: Frima and Bronya. Boris would see Surke every weekend; she was “Aunt Surke”. She passed away in 1968/1969 at the age of 80 and her grave should be at the Chernovitz old Jewish cemetery, with her husband, Chaim Fishman. Frima and Bronya came to Philadelphia and died there, in a nursing home.
And now Boris and I, two grandsons of the old timers Tolpolars with very different life stories and ages (he is about 50 and I’m 34), were right next to each other. To me it’s just amazing how the world turns and even with all its wars, tragedies and things that make people apart, we are still able to reunite after so many years. Well, I do have to thank the internet!
Boris’ family was extremely kind. Irina was also very excited, taking pictures and explaining life in the old Soviet Union. They took me to Coney Island for a Jewish Russian experience. It was great. I feel the Tolpolar family got bigger – and that makes you feel comfortable.

After a long day of telling stories, remembrances and making lost connections, the Nusinkis dropped me off back to Brooklyn. But before leaving, they demanded one more thing: to see my wife, Lara. So I went to get her and we took a picture.
We are still in touch and met again when I had another opportunity to go to NY (which I will tell later about it). I then met their other son, Michael. And they met my sister too.
Sometimes I think if the Tolpolars in Besarabia would ever imagine this could happen, and if there had been no war, if I would have grown up having Boris and his family next to my family and maybe we would still be in Moldova, Russia or Ukraine and could be neighbors, classmates or work mates. In any case, history was very different and now here we are to continue it.

Next: an unexpected e-mail leading to a surprising discovery.