To Visit a Song

Made my way to Beltsy today, a place I had only known from a popular American Yiddish theater song I first heard three years ago, never imagining I would ever visit.

Managed to teach Hanukah songs to a small group of local retirees.

Schmoozed in a mongrel Yiddish-Russian-Hebrew with a bunch of old Jewish women and may have accidentally agreed to marry one of their granddaughters.

Between the muddy roads, dilapidated wooden houses, makeshift Orthodox shrines, sheep and cows not far off in the fields, and the sounds of Yiddish, it was the closest I'll ever get to a real shtetl.

And then I met this woman. She's 90 years old, survived WWII and its Stalinist aftermath. Orphaned at a young age, she left school to work and take care of her younger siblings. She lives alone, virtually homebound. Between her saying "spasiba vsyem" (thank you everyone) and tearfully showing us pictures of her siblings' graves, I was fortunate enough to speak with her in Yiddish about her life. At the risk of romanticization, I can't remember the last time I had a human encounter quite like this one.

When people ask me why I came to Moldova, I will tell them about today.

Written By

November 25, 2014 at 1:25 PM



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