Saturday, February 6, 2010


When we were visiting the Zonis, Grischa gave me a tip. He said: “If you want to learn more about the murders in Cepeleutz, there is a man in Los Angeles who can tell you. I can’t remember his name now, but I know he is originally from Brichany, used to work in a farm in Cepeleutz and now lives in LA. – if he hasn’t passed yet.” So with this little information, I decided to follow Grischa’s lead, in an effort to know more about Cepeleutz, the place where Sioma Tolpolar and his wife were killed.

In order to make my search easier, I was set to find any survivors or their families who were born in Brichany and lived in Los Angeles. It took me some time.
I took advantage my sister was volunteering at the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance and asked her to see if there was anybody there who could help. She was directed to Adaire Klein, whom after a few e-mails and calls, we set up a meeting with.
Ms. Klein was very nice, we met at the Center’s library and she gave us a lot of books to research on. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. What I thought she could do was to put us in contact with the survivors’ community in Los Angeles. However, the books were interesting. After rummaging through them, we left. She said to get back to her if we didn’t find anything.
After a couple of weeks, we told her we needed more help. She suggested getting in contact with Mark Katrikh, who was said to have contacts at the Builders of Jewish Education. I sent him an e-mail, but no answer. So I decided to contact the BJE myself. I e-mailed them and then called. They were a bit surprised, because at first there was no relation between them and the Russian community (that was what I started to go after), but they said I could leave a message to Alla Feldman.
I went to the internet and found out Alla was from Moldova, and then I became excited. Next day, she returned my call and was very nice. She couldn’t help much, but gave me the contact of the Soviet Jewish Association in LA. I called them right away and left a message.
Next day, a woman named Sabina returned my call. She said she was going to do some research and would call me back. Later the same day she gave me the number of a man named Simon, whom could help me. I called him and, struggling with his Russian accent, arranged to meet. He told me to meet him at his office on Monday morning.
To my surprise, the address he gave me was from Plummer Park. So I entered the building and noticed many people speaking Russian. “It must be a community center”, I thought. I asked a guard about Simon. He said nobody with this name worked there. I insisted, saying a man named Simon had arranged for me to meet him there. He asked me if the man was a Holocaust survivor, I answered positively. He told me to go to a certain room and ask for Semion. Sure: Simon = Semion.
When I entered the room I saw an unusual configuration of tables, chair and people. Three tables were separated. In each of them there was some kind of leader, who was organizing and distributing documents and information. A small line of seniors were waiting to be attended for in each table. Everybody was speaking Russian and reading Russian newspapers. I stood there for a few minutes, trying to understand what as happening and where my man could be.

I then approached a table and asked for Semion. The woman just pointed out to the other table – there was him. He gestured for me to wait a little. I then sat and observed what was happening. I never understood it, but it looked like some kind of survivor community activity, maybe dealing with bureaucracy.
After sometime, Semion approached me and gave me the numbers of two people who were from Brichany, Anna Vanshtein and Polya Kiselynk. I saw him getting the names form a list and asked to take a look at it. It was the list of all the Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet Union who live in LA. Besides their name, there was their ghetto information. I felt I was holding pure gold. I vividly went through the list a couple of times, but could not find anything familiar.
I thanked Semion and left.
Next day I called Anna and Polya. It was not easy to communicate because they could not speak English, only Russian or Yiddish. For Anna, I had to wait for her husband to come and then he helped me translating my questions. For Polya, her son luckily happened to be there and helped me as well. Unfortunately, they didn’t know about the Cepeleutz killings.
Well, at least I tried. Not sure if it’s worth taking more time for this matter. Maybe the man from Brichany has already passed. Or maybe he doesn’t live in LA anymore, who knows? Without a name, it’s difficult.
In any case, just looking for him was worth it. I made valuable connections that I hope to keep.
Next: The naturalization of Mordechai Tolpolar