Thursday, June 28, 2012

REVELATIONS (The last Jew from Oliscani?)

That's how it works: one person leads you to another person who leads you to another... it goes like that until you reach a very important person who can give you invaluable information. That's how I reached Mr. Rosenthal, who was born in Oliscani, like my grandfather and his family. Mr. Rosenthal, born in 1922, now lives in Israel. He left Oliscani when he was 10 or 11 years-old. He came back in 1954, but there was no Jewish life in there anymore. Like many other villages, Jews either left or were killed during the war. 

Mr. Rosenthal said Oliscani was a large village,
with two churches, about 7-10 thousand people. The Jewish community was small, about 25-30  families, each with a minimum of 3-4 kids, and lived primary in one street with four rows of houses. At the end of the street was a synagogue with a Yiddish Seder. There was no cemetery, people were buried in Rezina. (So why my great-grandparents were buried in Vadul Raskov???)

There was a good tradition in this village kept for years. The land was divided for housing and for agriculture, the main culture being tobacco (my great-grandparents planted tobacco). Outside the village there was reserved land, used for the newly married couples. The whole village would get together for a day of hard work and build them a new house. This helped to keep young people living in the same village, as well as increase the population.

Mr. Rosenthal remembered the Tolpolars, he said that they had a house with a big garden.

One more coincidence: in 1909 three brothers of Mr. Rosenthal's mother left for Brazil, their last name Weksler. They were very poor and all they had with them was a small bag of tobacco seeds. At that time it was possible to get in Brazil a big peace of land (1 hectare) for $1. They planted the tobacco seeds and become very successful. The place of their residence was... Porto Alegre! It so happens that my father is friends with one of the Weksler's grandson in Porto Alegre! Amazing how like has its cyclic turns.

It was hard to fall asleep the day I talked to what is probably the last Jewish living man from Oliscani.

(I would like to acknowledge the great help of Alla Feldman and Diana Gurten who helped with the translation and telling the stories.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I was thinking about it when I posted something on the Mamaliga Blues Facebook page and accidentally wrote "Kishinev". There was an immediate response from a reader: "It is Chisinau, not Kishinev". True, how could I have made such mistake? But it didn't just happened. The Russian name of Moldova's capital is still very much alive in the memory of many who live there and those related to it somehow. Often when I talk to somebody about Chisinau, they refer it as Kishinev.

I think is is because this is still a new country, looking for an identity. A region that belonged to Romania and Russia across History now it's its own nation, but people haven't changed.

Maybe the response I got was telling me "hey, we are now a sovereign republic, please make sure of that". Kishinev belongs to the past. But still intrinsically connected to the present Moldova.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Do we have anything else in common besides genes?

After years researching your genealogical tree, spending a lot of time and effort, you finally find a long lost relative - now what?

You find that you both speak different languages, you were raised in different countries and you have different interests. The only thing in common is family. Is that enough?
If sometimes even direct known relatives in a family are strangers to themselves, what to say of somebody who, after so many years, connects with you? A new family member, who can be so distant but at the same time so close.

To me, it is all a learning experience, about yourself, your family, your community and ultimately, about History. Because families were separated for a reason, because of something that nobody wanted to happen. In many cases it was war, economic difficulties, persecution, etc.

Every reunion is worth it and it represents a little miracle. Because a reunion with a long lost relative is not only about finding a common ground, but also knowing more about life.