Friday, May 28, 2010


When my wife Lara told me she was pregnant, I immediately got 2 books from the library: Pregnancy for Dummies and Economics for Dummies. Besides the usual concern for a healthy pregnancy and how we’d be able to support a little one, I was exhilarated.

I have to admit I don’t know exactly how many Tolpolars, direct relatives or not, are out there in the world, but it can’t be many. I’m happy to add it up.

Our baby is due August 29, it’s a little girl and part of the future of the Tolpolars, the continuation of our family and surname. Things like that may seem dumb, but were always in my mind, since I was little. I felt responsible for keeping the family moving on, to kind of honor the struggle of my relatives for survival and searching for a new way of life in the New World.

Now this responsibility became real.

Next: Who is Jankel Tolpolar? (a visit to the library)

Sunday, May 2, 2010


During my research of the man from Briceni, I ended up getting in contact with Fabio Koifman in Brazil through my sister. It happened that his family came from Briceni. He couldn’t help me much in pinpointing who this “mysterious” man could be, but suggested something I had never thought about: looking up in the Brazilian archives for the naturalization papers of my family members who came from Moldova. That for sure would enrich my roots research. Fabio used to work at the Archives and was able to guide me through.

Around October of 2009, I received the notice that they only found one record: the naturalization of Mordechai Tolpolar, brother of my grandfather, my father’s uncle. It was amazing; since the information we had from his daughter was that he never got the Brazilian citizenship.

I promptly ordered the documents. They would be ready in the city of Rio de Janeiro in a couple of months and then would be sent to my father in Porto Alegre and he would send it to me in Los Angeles.

It took some time, but it finally arrived in Porto Alegre. I was very excited to put my hands on it, so my father quickly mailed me the documents. “It’s a bunch of pages” he said. That got me even more excited.

It so happened that the package was sent on November 2009. It was already February 2010 and I hadn’t received anything. To make a long story short, the documents seemed to be lost somewhere and I was only able to finally see them when my aunt came to the States in April and brought it with her. Actually, the post office is still trying to locate the package at the moment I am writing this.

OK, so finally now I have the documents in my possession. I went through them as I was savoring a chocolate cake. It is amazing the amount of work Mordechai had to go through in order to get his papers, similar to my journey to get the American citizenship. But in those years (1934), they didn’t have computer and internet; things probably took much longer and were more laborious.

The document consists of copies of papers that Mordechai had to submit to get his citizenship in 1934: birth certificate, translation of his passport, affidavit of good faith, proof of no criminal antecedents, marriage certificate, pictures and fingerprints. There is also a letter from the local government office, granting him the citizenship.

I must admit the documents do not reveal anything special, but do present some curiosities. Almost everything is hand written and not very easy to read. There are a lot of misspellings and small mistakes, when attesting that Mordechai was born in “Obiscani” (and not Oliscani) in one page, and another saying he was born in Bucharest. He was also son of “Anna” Tolpolar (it should be Ene).

I guess the most interesting fact is in the passport translation. There, it says that Mordechai came to Brazil in 1923, at the age of 26 years old. It is not clear, but it looks like he came through Czechoslovakia and Germany. And lastly, what really amazed me were his pictures, taken when he was very young. My father said it’s the youngest pictures he’s seen of his uncle. I think he even looks a little like me.

It is nice to collect this kind of documents that actually do not reveal any surprise or exciting news, but attest and confirm facts that could be easily lost in time – and in the post office!