Thursday, June 23, 2011


I recently came back from a 2-week trip to Brazil, went to visit family and friends. While I was there a few experiences reconnected me to my Moldovan/Bessarabian past.

We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and on Sunday evening I gave a lecture about my trip and documentary on Moldova, Mamaliga Blues. My mom and cousin Estelita Rovinski helped organize the event. Tolpolars, Nisemblats, Pogorelskys, Kretchmans and others met in a small theater room to listen to me. I was actually surprised to see the room full, about 50 people present. It was the first time I was officially talking about the subject in such a formal manner.

I detailed the highlights of the trip and then showed the 2 promos of the documentary. Afterwards there was some time for conversation. It was great. Besides meeting family members I've never met before (strangely Porto Alegre is not a big town...), the audience was curious enough to ask interesting questions and make important remarks: Jaco Zylberstejn, for example, made me realize the deep connection between the infamous Kishinev pogrom in 1903 and my own family history. Jaco pointed out that the incident was the main event that triggered the immigration of many Jews not only to Brazil, but to the SOUTH of Brazil, where I'm from. Currently there is a big Jewish community in Porto Alegre that originates from Bessarabia. I had actually never made the connection: Kishinev pogrom = Jews in Porto Alegre = my grandparents = my father and mother = me and my sister and many others.

Another member in the audience recalled the name of Klara Kielmanowicz, who immigrated from Edinitz to Sao Paulo when she was 10 years old. I spoke to her on the phone a few days later and she mentioned she remembered the surname Tolpolar. "There was a doctor in Edinitz", she said. That was Sioma Tolpolar, Fima's brother, executed in Cepeleutz.

The lecture ended in hugs and kisses, people chatting and greeting each other. I was dead tired. After 13 hours on a plane, your body and mind don’t coordinate much anymore. We headed for some meat sandwiches and then home to get some rest. I was trying to assimilate what happened. But there was more to come, as I would get phone calls of people giving additional information (see next posting). I thought “The past is still present and alive”. Well, at least for now.

Next: News about Moldova - part II: a polemic marriage, old letters and 2 surprising e-mails.