When the morning of October 31, 2016 finally arrived I couldn’t believe it. I remember that the first thing that came to my mind as I opened my eyes that morning was that I told myself that it was the day when I finally will be in Yedenets. You should have seen the smile in my face. Wow! This fact felt so unreal and confused me a little. You need to understand: I have anticipated to live this day for such a long time as well as waited for so long to tick off this amazing item on my bucket list. Of course I didn’t know what to expect and I couldn’t control what I would encounter that day neither. But I was so excited and extremely happy to know that soon I will be able to finally take a walk on the streets where my grandmother Lise and her parents and siblings strolled by, went to school, shopped, and LIVED. On the other side, I felt somehow empty, emotionless. As my senses began to wake me up, they started to sent me more mixed signals to my attention. These contradictory signs travelling inside my brains baffled me because I was unable to translate or understand them and they bothered me deeply. Why did this happened? I ask myself until today. I don’t know! I asked myself then if it is because I was trying to protect myself against something painful that I could not describe at that moment or maybe because I would be disappointed for not being able to find a trace? A clue? No idea. I guess this insecurity upset me a little.
As I try to stop thinking about it, I turned my head towards the window. All I could see through the curtains in my hotel room was that it will be a sunny day. After telling myself to erase this ideas out of my head and gave a good morning kiss to my husband, I felt definitely better. I must tell you that until today I cannot understand why I felt that way. I am not usually like this. I can only tell you that I was really happy that my husband was there to accompany me. I needed him for sure next to me as well as have somebody who would listen to my excitement and share and understand my emotions and feelings. And he is the right person on my side. I only wished that my children would have been there with me too but unfortunately it was not possible then. I can only suggest you, based on my experience, to never face a back to the roots journey by yourself. You need somebody next to you for sure at this crucial moment.
But Tommy and I were not alone on this day trip to the north of Moldova. I had planned a long itinerary for this day because I wanted to squeeze as much I could in one day (we were based in Chisinau and were told that there were no places where to spend the night in that area). We were supposed to visit not only Yedenets but also Briceni, Lipcani and Briceva. For this reason, my new friend Yefim Chorny accompanied us, as well as Vlad, our driver. Yefim is not only a very famous Yiddish singer in Moldova but also a funny guy. I like his humor and the way he sees the world. He understands me too, as I learned after I got to know him better later. He surprised us on the way there with singing some beautiful old Yiddish songs and this is what made this trip even more than out of this world. Thank you, Yefim, from the bottom of my heart. I guess he felt my inner tension and emotion at the same time.
It took us almost three hours to get from Chisinau to Yedenets. Even though we travelled on the international road M-14 (Cernauti- Chisinau), this drive seemed unreal to me. It looked as if we were crossing a national park. Try to picture this roadway as being somehow narrow, with no rest areas at all on its sides, no gas stations whatsoever where you can fill up your tank, the far away view of farm houses in a vast extension of land or the almost absence of people and no businesses at all along this drive. For hours! This is an incredible and surreal feeling of being lost in space and time. All I could see outside the windshield during this journey was an amazing and partly untouched open landscape of soft hills, a large extension of land with trees carrying leaves in juicy red, brown and shiny yellow colors, black soil mixed with the colorful clean lines of fresh recollected crop fields flowing downward from its hills or placed along the road looking like fresh painted brush strokes on vast areas of land, and finally, stacks of fresh recollected left overs of corn fields gathered neatly and placed next to each other that reminded me of the stacks of wheat fields on the Van Gogh paintings in rural France. I could have stopped every minute of this road just to take a photo. But non of them would have made justice towards the real thing. I just fall in love with this country and its landscape. I felt good and happy.
As we came closer to Yedenets (Edinet in Romanian), I just simply stared outside the window in silence and started to imagine that this is the landscape that was familiar, well-known and in intimate relation with my grandparents when they lived back in Europe.
We were welcomed at the entrance of the town by Mr. Yefim Akkerman, who guided us towards our first stop: the Jewish cemetery. As soon as I crossed the green iron gate with a Star of David painted in white on it, I showed Mr. Akkerman the copy of a photo I have recently got as a loan from my cousin Denise. This is the only photo I have of my dad with his parents and siblings. It shows the wedding picture of my cousin´s parents in 1952. In it you can find my dad on the left side. He is the young man, that according to my calculations, must have been around seventeen or eighteen years old back then. When I showed Mr. Akkerman this family portrait pointing my finger towards my grandmother’s face and mentioned him that she was born there, the first thing that he asked me was what took me so long to come here and why I have decided to come now and not before. This accusatory question bothered my husband but not me. I knew what he meant. On one side I understood his pain and on the other side I felt that he might have thought, “Oh, another one of this people who come on a Sunday to look for descendants and then go back to their lives, forget about us and not contribute to the cemetery maintenance.” But I am not like that. I answered him that I didn’t know until recent years that she was born there, that I only knew she came from Bessarabia and told him my story. He then relaxed, waited patiently in that cold and windy day until I would finally make all my photos and showed me around the cemetery. I asked him if there was any record where I can find any of my relatives and he said that the only records are from 1940’s on. This is the same information I got from JewishGen. So I knew that unless there would be a miracle I would never be able to find one of my relatives in this trip. I imagined myself tripping and then screaming “Oh miracle! I found them”. But this dream didn’t happen. Besides, Mr. Akkerman showed me a large area in the cemetery that used to be filled up with Jewish graves. The cause of this absence was the nazis, the Romanians and the Russians. They just took our “living stones” to build up their houses and roads. So, like Yefim Chorny put it, “the chance of finding your ancestors here is close to 2%”.
To be continued in Feeling Yedenets: My Impressions of this “Shtetl”. Part III