16 December 2010

First trip

After spending New Year in Berlin, I took the train to Warsaw. It was January 1995. Despite the low temperatures, I decided to go to Lithuania for the first time. The railway to Vilnius pass through the Belarusian city of Grodno. In order to avoid complications with getting another visa, I took a bus Scania towards Lithuania, whose way avoided the Belarusian border. I stayed around 5 days in Vilnius. There I learned how endless are the shades between white and black. I was led by Regina Kopilevich. First, we took a bus to Wilkomir - today Ukmerge - where my great-greatgrandmother Sarah Chaia Papert was born. Out of its 11 synagogues, only a few remained standing, although the buildings are used for other purposes. The Jewish cemetery was destroyed during World War II. From Ukmerge we took a taxi to Poselva - today Zelva - the shtetl of my great-greatgrandfather Leon Klabin, a specialist on the Scriptures and local tax collector, who emigrated with the family to Brazil around 1890. Our taxi was the only car in the village. Based on family stories, according to which the synagogue stood beside the well, I was able to recognize the building in ruins. After taking an unforgettable beetroot soup at a local tavern, I went to the school to seek help. The History teacher guided us to the Jewish cemetery. Wind and snow. Tiny wooden houses. We entered one of them, an old lady told us about the good relations with the Jewish community before the war. I had the impression I would meet at any moment Leon Klabin and his long beard in the next corner. The deep emotion of this personal genealogical trip made me understand what other people may feel in such circumstances. From that moment, I decided that I would like to enable more people to feel the same.

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