Sunday, December 1, 2013


This is not exactly about Moldova, genealogy or History, but about impressions on imigrating to a "new" country. These are my first impressions when I moved back to Brazil coming from Los Angeles, a month ago:

1) I'm now certain Kafka lived in Brazil.
2) Burocrats here love paper, pity on the Brazilian trees.
3) Things are much smaller. Like in Europe.
4) Service is cheaper, products are MUCH more expensive, food can be cheaper too.
5) Medical doctors can hug and kiss you.
6) People are less formal, but not as polite. And smoking is popular, even if you’re pregnant.
7) English language is more practical than Portuguese, whatever that means.
8) I still don’t know when it’s going to rain. And neither does the forecast.
9) J-walking is the law.
10) Happy to have plenty of affordable sparkling water back in my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


After spending 11 years in the US, I have just moved back to my hometown in Brazil with my wife and daughter. Some people said I was coming back to my roots. I was never too sure.

I think once an immigrant, always an immigrant. I was born and raised in the city of Porto Alegre, and now when walking or driving in its streets, talking to people, doing groceries, I see things that are extremely familiar, but foreign. It's a weird, hard to explain feeling, like being in a very vivid dream, that is real and surreal. I am home and I am not home.

My grandparents moved from Bessarabia/Moldova to Porto Alegre, and my grandfather constructed a building himself. Ironically I will be living in an apartment in this same old building, which has our last name on it (mispelled, by the way). And as life itself would have it, the first time we opened the mailbox there was a letter from the City Hall - directed to my grandfather!

Yes, the past is present in Porto Alegre, my own past, my childhood friends' and family's. And like my grandparents, I am an immigrant, but now an immigrant in my own town.
A park in Porto Alegre

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Today I threw in the trash the first map I used in the States, back in 2002: a street map of San Francisco. As I was going over stuff and choosing what I was taking to Brazil with me and what should be thrown away, this map made me think if I made a mistake or not.

Should we keep things that have little significance and at first sight are not important? Will I regret my decision to throw this map away? Will this map have any value many years from now? What if my grandparents had thrown their postcards and other documents away when moving from Europe to Brazil? What would my odds be of ever getting a glimpse of how they were like?

But in today's age, everything is digital and we have the Internet. Things cannot be lost anymore. Maybe anybody could easily rescue this same map years from now. Or not?

I'm not sure. But what I know is that those who have ephemera from ages past, please don't throw them away. They belong to generations that will never exist again.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


 This was probably my parent's last visit to our home in Los Angeles, the last time we went to Canters together and the last time we drank Moldovan wine in LA. So many "last" words, all because on the verge of moving back to Brazil, after 11 years of American life and constituting a family here, many memories come to my mind.

Of course these memories or the anxiety of leaving cannot be compared to what my ancestors experienced when moving from Bessarabia to Brazil. The only common factor is that we are all immigrants, and "leaving/returning" will always be a constant for me.

That makes me think of the last things I'll do in LA.

I won't be able to do all I wanted and could. Grand Canyon may have to happen in another opportunity. It's funny when you live in a place, you don't go to all famous destinations. It's like my relatives who live in NY and never went to the statue of liberty. But one thing I know I'll do: finish the film about our Moldovan roots.

And nothing better than some Moldovan wine I brought back in 2012 to enter the list of "last things" - done.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I think one of the first times I googled "Moldova", the result was Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, the 2002 book by British author Tony Hawks, where he bets with a friend he can beat all eleven members of the Moldovan soccer team at tennis. The book is based on a real story, experienced by Tony.

I never read the book or heard about it until recently, when I found out it was made into a movie, starring the very Tony Hawks as himself. It is a very nice film, with a lot of heart. If you ever been to Moldova, you'll especially enjoy it seeing Chisinau and Orheiul Vechi again. To me, it was a delight to embark on Tony's journey and re-experience the country.

If you've never been to Moldova, here's a glimpse of it from a foreigner's perspective.

But I would be really curious to know what Moldovans think of the film.

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis is available for free streaming, with English, Russian or Romanian subtitles, on Tony's website. Check it out:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


The picture sent to Emil and Dina, the couple I met at the Hanukkah party, revealed many things. Firstly, I must say, it shows a person I thought I would never see so clear: Sioma Tolpolar. Sioma was Fima's brother and he was killed in Cepeleutz by Cuzists in 1941 together with his wife Iza. When we went to Moldova in 2008, we went to the very site where the murder happened.

During my research, I could only find only one picture of Sioma available, in the Yedinitz Yizkor book. And it was not a very good one. Nobody else connected to Sioma seemed to have any other pictures of him. Until we see this photo. Sioma is in his very young years, his face is clear and bright. I was amazed to see it. His past is more alive to me now.

Secondly, on the opposite side of Sioma, stands another surprising revelation. The woman on the far left is nothing but Hanna Davidovich, married to Josef Nisenblat, brother of my grandmother (Rachel Nisenblat, from Orhei)! The world is getting smaller, but in those days, for the Jewish community in Bessarabian villages, it was also very small. So Hanna Davidovich knew Sioma Tolpolar, both related to me and to Emil. Hannah is probably Emil grandmother's sister, as all Davidovich sisters are in the picture.

Ultimately, the Romanian writings behind the letter bewildered me. I asked my dear friend Rachel Fain to translate it:
“This picture was taken with the occasion of the visit of our cousin (male) to Orhei
 And with the occasion that my cousin (female) left for ---------- “baise”. Frieda, Mara, Anushca Sioma “

The male cousin is Sioma. Now who would be the female cousin? Anushca - or better, Hannah? And what is "Baise"?  The name of a place or somebody's? Rachel could not tell. And next to it, something is erased. Could it be that they erased the word because they were afraid of something? Could this word be "Brazil" and the Davidovich and Tolpolar cousins got together in Orhei one last time before Hannah's departure...? We know for sure that she ended up in Brazil.

"Baise" is still a mystery, and my mind creates unconfirmed suppositions and relationships. This picture proves that Emil and I are most likely related through Hannah Davidovich - she is the main link.

Hannah passed away in Israel in 1994. She had three children: Ari, Cecilia and Mario.
Sioma never managed to escape the Holocaust.
This picture could be their last one together. And I'm sure they never imagined someday we would be talking about them.