There are different ways of showing and telling one’s impressions of a personal journey or life experience. This expression of ideas and images can be dramatized and communicated in space and time through writing a blog, a poem, a script or a book, by showing this perspective through a road film, or by recording a song or a story. I am sure that there must be other ways out there of encoding this process, but these are the ones that come to my mind at this moment. All in all, it is about communicating a visual story using your own perspective. For example, my friend Cassio Tolpolar described and recorded the search of his family story by filming every detail he felt was important to him in finding the lost grave of his great grandparents in “Mamaliga Blues” (http://www.mamaligablues.com/). I also though of buying a GoPro to film every step I did, but I decided to go against this wish. It was simply too much for me. How could I possibly do everything in one touch at the same time? filming, photographing, and experiencing it all in one? I told myself. Therefore, I decided before travelling to Moldova, to take as many photos as I could to stop and capture the moment I felt important to me and to post daily in my blog of what I saw, felt, ate, absorbed inside me, experienced, etc. Let me tell you, everything I lived was enough overwhelming this way to just do more. I thought I could manage to do everything but it was simply not possible. At the end of everyday I was just too exhausted to do everything what I have planned to do prior to this trip. The one’s who know me know that I wish to have it all done as fast as possible and in a professional manner, but I also really wished to have some of this impressions sealed in my mind for myself and not to share it all with everyone else. I wished to keep part of this personal story just for myself, to enjoy it and help heal my heart. Nevertheless, I am sharing with you as much as I can.
In order for me to prepare for the first visit to my grandparents ancestral towns, I need to tell you, that it was not so simple as it looks or left out to any unpredictable and last-minute resources, decisions or just left out to the destiny. This visit has been really carefully planned, to the minute and like a Swiss clock. For you to understand it, it means that I have done an extensive family research for soooo many years in order for me to find out where do my grandparents exactly come from (previously, this was a vague information and until today I still don’t know the exact place where my grandfather Elias was born), where do their relatives lived, try to understand the political, moral, and cultural situation about the time my grandparents left to Peru, the reasons of their tumultuous and difficult time while living in Europe, the terrible destiny of their relatives, retraced their emigration routes and so on. But even though I have not found all these answers, I dared to take the step of visiting Moldova. On this search, I came across to the Yizkor Book of Yedenets (http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Yedintsy/Yedinits.html), as you know. But I not only found in there the amazing and valuable clue for my family records and could read about old stories that were recorded by Bessarabians that left to Israel, but also found a map of the old Yedenets that shows the locations of the cemetery, synagogue, cheder, hospital and so on. So, as a part of the preparation for this trip, I printed it out and took it with me as well as a copy of a photo where my father and his family were together (I wished to bring them back to where they came from) and a book my friend Eugenia Pogor gave me with old photographs about Jewish ancestral places in Bessarabia (“History in Stones. Monuments of the Jewish Material Culture in Moldova (XVII-XXI Centuries”, E. Goldshmidt, I. Teper, M. Finckel). I wanted to see everything!! Can you understand me? I guess you do. I also hoped to meet people who would remember things too, but it didn’t happen.
So towards the end of our visit at the cemetery, I asked Mr. Akkerman if we could invite him for lunch and if we could take a photo together for me to share. I was glad when he said yes to both wishes and he expressed his need to take this memory photo next to his parent’s graves. They are buried in the new section of the cemetery, right at the entrance. At that moment, I could see from the softer look in his eyes, the way he walked, and through the change in his tone of voice (it became softer), that he became more understanding towards my family story and my personal search. His newly positive attitude made me dare to asked him if it would be possible for him to please show me around Yedenets the places I showed him in the map and book I brought with me. He approved then. I am sure he saw at that moment how my lips pursed up to show the “big thank you” smile I gave him.
Let me confess, that I have never before imagined the geography, buildings, streets, or anything about this village, this shtetl, Jewish town, city or whatever you want to call it, before. It was impossible for me to draw any visual image as I was not told about how it looked. I knew from my friend Brenda that there must have been a lake (a vague information, a myth maybe?) where her relatives skated in winter time as kids. I only hoped, that time would have freezed this place so that I could see something that looked like the way it was when they left it to emigrated to Peru. And so it was. The hour, minute and small seconds hands in the clocks of Yedenits stopped to function since everyone left. This is the sad reality and the lucky one for me to see. There are only ten Jews, a minyan at least, living there and left in this town at this moment. No more no less…and if it would not be for Mr. Yefim Akkerman, the cemetery would not be in the good condition I have found it now.
After Mr. Akkerman invited us first to his home to warm up a little, he took us right away to one of the buildings in the book Eugenia gave me. It was located two minutes walking distance from where he lived. It was one of the former synagogues and in front of it, the former Jewish hospital/pharmacy was located.
After that, we took a small walk around his home and to my surprise I did find the lake that Brenda talked about. I took a picture and send it immediately to her. This stroll felt so unreal that I had to jump a couple of times, like a small kid, to just feel the earth beneath my shoe soles while saying “I’m in Yedenets, I’m in Yedenets!”. To my reaction, Mr. Akkerman just told me, turning his face to show me a big smile, that he saw all kinds of reactions from other descendants, all similar to mine. Wow! I was taking photos of everything I saw, like the one of man schlepping pumpkins home at the back of his bike. it looked really very picturesque.
But I wanted to see more of the town, more of these Jewish homes. So Mr. Akkerman took us to see another former synagogue (the one where inside it many Jews were killed in 1941), the place where the ghetto was located (where all the rest of the Jewish population was brought there to be killed. Mr. Akkerman said that my relatives must have been there because he knows that the Jews living there didn’t even make it to the Transnistrian ghetto. This is the moment when I finally knew what happened to my 90 relatives that might have remained there…), the Holocaust street (a memorial street remembering the absence of the once flourished Jewish population. This is also the place where the entrance of the ghetto was located), and other former Jewish streets. So incredibly sad…
But as horrible as this story is, and there are no words for me to explain you or describe you how I feel about it, I empathized tremendously and try to imagine and feel the horrors all of these people must have felt, but it is impossible for me to feel what they lived. At least I have finally found one of my answers and found the place of its happening. I am immensely sorry that I don’t have a grave to visit them, but at least I have found a place to remember and honor them.
to be continued…Last and final thoughts: Part IV