Sunday, April 22, 2012

VADUL RASKOV - reminiscences

Our main goal in this trip was to get to Vadul Raskov and see the long lost grave of my great-grandparents Meyer and Ene Tolpolar. After 4 days and 5 planes we couldn't wait any longer. We arrived at Chisinau on April 6th at 5:30PM and the next morning were in our way to the abandoned cemetery. Our guide Natasha coordinated everything, and together with the grave restorer Pavel Tuev we were also accompanied by Marina Shraibman. Marina is the widow of the last Yiddish writer in Moldova, Ihil Shraibman, who was originally from Vadul Raskov. We were glad to have her company not only in this day, but on the next days in Chisinau as well. Marina cherished us with her passion and sympathy. She automatically bonded with Melina as well.

The 3 hour trip was good to catch up with Natasha and coordinate the next 3 days. We have missed 2 days in Frankfurt and now there was a lot to do.

The weather channel showed rain for all days we were in Moldova. Luckily this first day it didn't rain. Had it rained, we would not be able to reach or leave Vadul Raskov (at least for a day). At some point, the paved road gives place to sand, and once we get to the village, there are windy tiny roads made of rocks and gravel, going up and down. The cemetery is a difficult place to get to, but once you see the graves from the distance, it's touching. I felt like we were in the corner of the world, isolated from everything, in the brink of the Dniestr river. The cemetery is indeed completely abandoned. We got off the van and a few goats followed us. We could see horses and cows in the distance, and a few locals.

Natasha could not remember where the grave was, so we started on the top of the slope, going down towards the river. However, from the top, I saw it. It was right there, easy to spot as it is much bigger than the others and the last one before the river.
I cannot express how tough it was to coordinate and shoot the scenes we wanted, plus take care of Melina, plus absorb everything that was happening. I only was able to digest what happened on this day before going to sleep, hours later. It was then I understood it. For the first time I understood a feeling that my grandfather had when his parents died. It's a big grave, where a couple is buried, a rarity at that time. Most graves were for singles only. Being at Vadul Raskov I understood that my grandfather and his siblings loved their parents and tried to honor them the best way they could, and more than that, they wanted this monument to be remembered.
The last Jewish presence in Vadul Raskov was in 1957.

I will save more thoughts about this day for the documentary, but the feeling of being there, knowing that my ancestors had been there as well, was indescribable.

I can't thank enough this wonderful group of people who made this day so unforgettably special. I wanted to acknowledge the police officer from Soldanesti Vladimir Drutsa, who, after Natasha, found the grave as well. And Melina was also fantastic. I think she knew that place was sacred. Before we left, she bowed down and picked up two rocks. As I did it when on Oliscani in 2008, we brought these rocks back with us. They are part of our reminiscences.


Simon said...

Very touching! Congratulations! I am glad that you finally made it to Vadul-Rashkov.

Cassio Tolpolar said...

Thanks, Simon!

Raksha said...

I found your blog while doing a Google search on "Vodul-Rashkov." That town was the home of my maternal grandparents before they emigrated to America in 1909. As with many others, the immediate cause of their decision to emigrate was the Kishinev pogrom of 1903.

I have since learned, to my great sorrow, that the agonies of the Jewish community of Vodul-Rashkov did not end with that pogrom. Just the fact that the town has one of largest Jewish cemeteries in the area, but not a single living Jew, says it all. I'm sure I have relatives buried in that cemetery, but at this point I don't even know their names.

Thank you for posting these pictures. I can well imagine how consoling it was for you to visit that double grave where your great-grandparents are buried together.