Sunday, March 11, 2007
After having spent New Year in Berlin, I took a train to Warsaw. It was January 1995. In spite of the low temperatures, I decided to go to Lithuania for the first time. The railway to Vilnius crosses Belarus through Grodno. In order to avoid difficulties with one more visa, I took a Scania bus to Lithuania, whose way avoided the Belarussian border. I stayed about 5 days in Vilnius. There I learnt how infinite are the tonalities between white and black. I was guided by Regina Kopilevich. First we took a bus to Wilkomir - today's Ukmerge - where my great-greatgrandmother Haia Sarah Papert was born. From the 11 local synagogues, only a couple of them remained, but the buildings are of course used for other purposes. The Jewish cemetery was devastated during WWII. From Ukmerge we took a taxi to Poselva - today's Zelva - the shtetl of my great-greatgrandfather Lev Klabin, Jewish scholar and tax collector, who had emigrated with the whole family to Brazil around 1890. Our taxi was the only car in the village. According to family accounts, the synagogue stood close to the well. I could recognize the building, in ruins. After having eaten an unforgettable borsh soup at the local tavern, we went to the school, looking for help. The teacher of History guided us to the Jewish cemetery. Snow, wind. Tiny wooden houses. We entered one of them, an ancient lady told us about the good relationship with the Jewish community before the War. I expected to meet Lev Klabin and his long beard at any corner, at any moment. The deep impressions of this personal genealogical trip made me understand what other people can feel in such circumstances. From that moment, I decided I wanted to enable more people to feel the same.