Monday, December 12, 2011


We are looking for old pictures from people and shtletls in Moldova/Bessarabia to put in the end of Mamaliga Blues as a way to honor other families with the same origin as ours. Footage from these places are also very welcome. I understand this kind of material may be very emotional/personal, especially when releasing it to third parties. So if you are interested in sharing these and have any questions/concerns on the usage of such, please let me know.

Thank you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


When we were in the village of Oliscani, the birthplace of my grandfather, I bent down and picked up a rock from the middle of the street. Three years after our trip I wanted to make sure this rock was still with me. Today, I opened the little wooden box where I had first placed it. The rock was still there. Unlike the time, it didn't change a bit.

This rock came from the soil where a lot of my relatives originated. I should keep it and protect it.

Friday, November 4, 2011


My father Mauro Tolpolar was invited by the writer Paula Taitelbaum to lecture about our journey to Moldova and the documentary Mamaliga Blues. This free and open event took place at the annual Porto Alegre book fair this November. Some footage of the film, maps and cemetery pictures were shown on a big screen. People that listened and watched it were very interested, asked many questions and even got motivated to search for their own roots. Because Moldova is unknown to most of Brazilians, it is perceived as an exotic and distant country. Mauro was glad to bring to attention a little bit of History in this part of the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Grandma Amalia kindly agreed to show us how to make a mamaliga. You can't miss this!!!

We'll be posting more updates, videos and pics at the link below of our campaign. Check it out!


Distributing flyers around Los Angeles is not an easy task – the city is so spread out. So we had to document it. Special thanks to Lia, Briley, Julie and Erin!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


We'll be passing these around in Los Angeles, putting it on local businesses and so on. Anybody interested in doing the same in your area, let us know, we can send a jpeg for you to print out.


Thursday, October 13, 2011


As you all know, in 2008, my father, sister and I went to Moldova (once part of former Bessarabia) to search for our Jewish roots. My paternal grandparents were born there and immigrated to Brazil in 1931, surviving the World War II. The result of our trip is the documentary Mamaliga Blues, a film about our search for family traces lost during the Holocaust, the history of Bessarabian Jews, and the uniqueness of this fascinating country. We’ve been working passionately on this project for the last 3 years. It is almost done and very little is needed for it to become a reality.

Our film needs support for completion and that is why we are launching the IndieGoGo campaign. Click on the link below to learn all you need to know in order to be a part of this

And also check our official website:

All donations are tax deductible, the site allows you to donate online and you can also send checks. Help us to rescue a little bit of the history of this region. We have many great perks in return to send your way!

"Like" us on Facebook and please spread the word to your friends!

Thanks for joining us on this exciting project. We look forward to hearing from you!

Cassio Tolpolar - Producer/Director

Monday, October 3, 2011


My parents were just in LA to visit their granddaughter - not me, my sister or my wife:) Their stay was wonderful, and talking to my dad, he told me a few more things I didn't know about my grandfather. Moshe Tolpolar traveled back and forth between Bessarabia and Brazil before he settled forever in Porto Alegre, in 1931. However, in the 20's he already started to leave his mark in this Brazilian town. First, he subscribed to the legendary Yiddish-language daily newspaper The Forward, based in New York (

But before that, in 1915, he had been one of the founders of the first Yiddish-language newspaper in Brazil, Di Menscheit, in Porto Alegre.

My dad said that Moshe also subscribed to the Jewish Argentinian newspaper "El Diario Israelita" and the Brazilian magazine "Aonde Vamos?" (both in the 50's). The funny thing was that while The Forward was a left-oriented newspaper, "Aonde Vamos?" was written by right-wing Jews.

While in the Grove/Farmer's Market (if you've been in LA you've been there), we spoke more about philosophical matters. I asked my dad "So now that you're 72 years-old, what life lesson could you give me, is there anything special advice?" He looked and me and promptly replied "I'm still looking for it".

The same day we had dinner at the Kosher restaurant "The Milky Way" owned and hosted by Leah Adler, Steven Spielbeg's mom. The food was just OK. Actually Leah is the real star of the establishment, cheerful and very sharp. Walking around, you can see pictures of her with the famous son and other celebrities. We all had a great time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I had just moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2005 when my dad came to visit me. I was sleeping in a cheap futon, which he then slept on and I moved to the floor, had no job and was feeling horrible. You need at least one year (and a job!) to start getting used to Los Angeles. In any case, having him around for a few weeks cheered me up. I remember when we went to a grocery shop once and found a salami from Moldova. We were very surprised and bought it right away. This was before our trip to Moldova in 2008, and anything from Moldova would trigger our curiosity. We went home and ate it. It was not great, but it was from Moldova.

My parents returned to LA for a 20-day visit a few days ago and my dad and I thought of trying to find the salami again. I looked in a few grocery shops but could not find it. The one we bought it last time was closed.
Then we went to Jon's, a traditional Armenian market where you can find the most interesting produce, beer from Estonia, cookies from Malasia, guarana from Brazil and maybe salami from Moldova.

We went first to the meat/delicatessen produce section, but the attendant had never heard of it. There was salami and sausages from Romania, Russia, Armenia, Germany and Hungary.
But nothing from Moldova.

We walked around the place, got soda from Lithuania and cookies from Poland, saw marmalade from Israel and cheese from Greece. It was then that, all of a sudden, we saw the salami. It was actually the salamiS, as there were 3 distinct kinds.

We picked up one and went back home for dinner - very happy.

This one was different than the one from 2005. Soft and not spicy, an almost delicate taste to it. True that the salami is made in the US - but who cares? It's Moldovan style!

NEXT: More adventures in Los Angeles!

Monday, August 22, 2011


A few weeks ago I got a message on this same blog from Gene Karshenboym. He said “Hi! My father was born in Yedentzi and I spent my childhood summers there… I have many pictures and would love to chat with you about your experience. I reached out to my dad right now over the phone to see if he knows any of the people you are looking for.”

We exchanged a few e-mails, Gene sent me some pics from his latest trip to Edinitz, and then we finally talked over the phone.

His dad Ruvin was the one who knew more about Edinitz. Now living in Atlanta, US, he told me many things, including well known "celebrities" from Beltsy and Edinitz (where he said people were known for being well educated) and wine making in Moldova. He said most Jews who left Edinitz went to New York, Toronto, Germany or Israel. Ruvin said his father was also in South America, in Argentina (he was a "gaucho", he joked). Actually his father, (still alive, in Israel) when questioned if he had heard about any Tolpolar, said “of course, Fima Tolpolar!” Fima, my dad’s first cousin, was a teacher for Ruvin’s mom, and was like part of the family. Ruvin and Gene also know many of the people we met in our 2008 trip, including Semion Furman and Ana Filipona (in the photo below).

We chatted for a while. At last, Ruvin said the old generation, his parents, never talked about their past. For some reason, they didn't want to or feel like it, he wasn't sure if they didn't want to remember the atrocities committed to Jews or just didn't think it was important. Ruvin regretted that, because now he doesn't know as much as he wanted about the past. I thought about my grandparents, who also never said much to my dad.

My in-laws happen to live close to Atlanta, so when I go there, in December, we will meet in person with the Karshenboyms. We'll eat mamaliga and drink wine. As Gene put it in a later e-mail, “Isn't it pretty crazy to think that after everything my dad told us about your family, that we found each other and that a Karshenboym and a Tolpolar are e-mailing each other? Crazy world.”

Crazy world indeed.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Please follow us for quick updates and curiosities at!/tolpolar

See you there!

Monday, August 8, 2011


The wonders of internet and, I must say, Google. Because of the latter I got a surprising e-mail while in Brazil, from Elina Mendeleev. She said “My name is Elina and I live in Luxembourg. My mother lives in Germany. Today, in the morning, I was telling my mum about an Argentinean Jewish friend that recently moved to Luxembourg and suddenly she said: “It looks like I will never find my relatives from Argentina". And I, absolutely out of the blue, googled -”Tolpolar". Imagine our surprise when your story appeared on the screen! My grandmother's name is (Sosl) Sonja Tolpolar. She was born in Oliscani, but during the WWII they were evacuated to Beltsy, a Jewish town in Moldova. My grandmother's family was mostly from Oliscani and was harvesting tobacco. My mum still remembers my granny telling very often a tragic story of how her dear aunt and uncle were murdered by their employees. She says that their store was probably located in the house where they lived and the robbers came at night and knocked at their door, and subsequently killed and robbed them. “

It turned out that Elina is from a part of the Tolpolars we never heard before, from the brother of Meyer Tolpolar, my great-grandfather. Elina is a direct descendant from Avrum Tolpolar, brother of Meyer, both sons of Haim Topolar.

And then I get another e-mail a few days later: “Hi Cassio, I read your blog and I think we are related. My name is Ella Bernstein, I am the daughter of Leonid Bernstein. His mother Hova (Eva) Tolpolar is the daughter of Leib – the youngest brother of Meir Tolpolar from Olishkany – this makes my father a 2nd level cousin of your father Mauro. Can you confirm my findings?"

It so happens that Ella is from the part of another unknown (at least to me) Meyer’s brother: Leib Tolpolar!

In one week, many answers have just risen in front of me. We absolutely never knew anything about Meyer’s siblings and then, all of a sudden, they appear!

Ella, Elina and I are still in touch and I’m sure there will be much more to come.

And to relax a little, after the many exciting news that made the adrenaline in my blood go to higher levels, my grandma, mother of my mom, came to our house in Porto Alegre to make mamaliga. Her recipe traveled many countries and years, as it is just like her mom and grandmother used to make. Good times! I made a video of it and will post sometime. But here are a few pictures in the meantime!

Monday, July 11, 2011


During my latest visit to Brazil I found out, by talking to relatives, that Yeshaya Tolpolar's wife was aunt of Cecilia's Nisemblat. Cecilia is cousin of my dad on his mother's side (Nisemblat). It actually never crossed my mind that besides my grandparents' wedding there was any other relation between a Tolpolar and a Nisemblat. But there was. And much more than this.

Visiting Cecilia at her daughter's apartment, she showed me a bunch of old pictures, letters and documents. These materials are simply amazing, beautiful in the aesthetic side, but also contains a lot of history. Everything is either written in Romanian, Hebrew or Russian, so I could not understand anything, but she would tell me that some letters were from my grandfather to her father, and vice-versa, and even from my grandfather to her grandfather (my grandma's father). There were also some identity documents, postcards and the invitation to my grandparents' wedding in Bessarabia. I selected about 50 of these documents and scanned everything. Hopefully someday I'll have them translated.

But my dad was also keeping a few surprises from me. He had found new documents of his parents, including their ketubah, my grandfather's Brazilian naturalization document and the original picture of the "lost" grave, that now we know it's in Vadul Raskov. I wish I knew Romanian and Russian and Hebrew and Yiddish...

Being in Porto Alegre you see that some old memories are still alive. For example, we were having lunch at a Israeli restaurant (maybe the only one in town), and a friend of my grandmother stopped by to say hi and stared at me: "are you by any chance Mauro Tolpolar's son?" Her name was Berta and said she was a very good friend of my dad when they were children. "We used to play in the street", she said. When I mentioned that to Mauro, he said "Yeah, and I caught pertussis from her". It's things like that that makes every trip back to Porto Alegre a journey into the past as well.

Next: surprising e-mails and grandma makes mamaliga in Brazil!