Sunday, January 1, 2012


It was just now in December 2011 that I read only for the second time some of the translation of the letters my father's first cousin from Moldova, Fima, sent to him in Brazil in 1991. The first time I read them I didn't have any notion of family ancestry as I was about 15 years-old. Fima was still alive with much information about the Tolpolars. Some he shared with us, some I believed were buried with him.

Fima was the last direct family member to leave the Soviet Republic of Moldova and move to Israel. Because of that, much of the recent information we find about our ancestors are related to him and his impressive life story. He fought in World War II in the Soviet army, got hurt and was taken to a Moscow hospital, that's how he survived the war. He returned to Moldova to find all of his family killed, and it is said he was set to find some of the killers. We don't know for sure what happened on his journey, but that in the 90's he was exchanging letters with my father. He would write in Hebrew/Yiddish and my dad in English. I'm sure some was lost in the translation on both sides.

What caught my attention was that Fima wrote the 8 Tolpolar brothers and sisters loved and cared about each other. That my grandfather taught him Yiddish, that he had raised a fortune working for 45 years as a high ranking lawyer but had to leave everything to the Russians when he moved to Israel. The letters reveal a sad and nostalgic Fima, but incredibly excited to connect with my father. In his words, he and my dad were the last of the Bessarabian (male) Tolpolars.

These two men finally met in 1994 for a few hours only, in Israel. I dare to say this meeting was historic, a meeting between cousins who never met but were always so close. Unfortunately I was not there. Fima passed in 2000. At that point, Israel, Bessarabia, immigration, and my own ancestry were things I could not completely comprehend. It was beyond my reach.

I never met Fima, but I still have my father's memories and Fima's direct family in Israel. I'm sure that, in different levels, Fima lives in all of us.