26 August 2016

I insisted that we wake up early so that I could have a full day in Vaslui.

My great-great-grandmother, Celia Altman (later ‘Eidex’, affectionately known as ‘Big Mama’) was born in Vaslui in 1885 to Yehudah Hirsch Altman and Sarah Rebecca Goldstein. Family lore has it that, at a young age, Big Mama watched her mother die at the hands of local officials. Big Mama hid in a closet to avoid the anti-semitism that, as we have learned, was once rampant in Romanian society. She was orphaned at age 9, but found refuge in the home of her loving uncle, Harris Goldstein, who eventually sent for her from Birmingham in 1904.

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The drive to Vaslui was beautiful. The landscape lies in stark contrast to that of Moldova or Ukraine. The roads are nicely paved, the fields are wide open, and the hills are rolling.

I found a phone number online for the cemetery caretaker who was needed to unlock the gate. I called as soon as we arrived in Vaslui.

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Ruso Ioan arrived fifteen minutes later. He was probably just a few years older than my parents. Ruso did not speak a word of English and he was fairly incapable with Google Translate. His daughter, however, was relatively fluent.

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She was able to translate over the phone. Ruso surprised us with an old notebook filled with grave locations, names and dates. We spent a good while looking through for family names, but most indexed headstones were from the mid 20th century. The older stones were not legible.

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I said Kaddish for my Altman ancestors.

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We later found out that Ruso was not Jewish, but that his ancestors had been caring for the cemetery ever since the Jewish community left Vaslui. There is one Jew in the city of Vaslui today. Unfortunately, his lawn mower is broken and he lacks the funding to care for the cemetery properly.

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Ruso offered to show us the one surviving synagogue and take us to the city hall to find family records.

The synagogue stood in the corner of parking lot near the center of the city. The gate was locked and the windows were boarded.

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We walked to the city hall, where a wedding was taking place. We found out that the Jewish records were recently transferred to a different municipal building.

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Ruso graciously agreed to direct us there. He sat in our passenger seat while Chase kindly moved to the back seat. Again, we found out that the records had been transferred to a different municipal building. Again, Ruso directed us there. The archives were located in a quaint building. We were able to communicate with a representative in English, but were informed that I would need to write them in order to receive the records I was looking for.

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Nevertheless, it was a nice overview of Vaslui’s municipal buildings.

Chase and I drove to the hotel on the outskirts of town, which hosted a beautiful view of the city from our balcony. We were finally synchronized with the original itinerary.

After settling in we drove back to the city center where we walked aimlessly until we found a place for lunch. As we had at other meals, we used the down time to plan our route. As I read off sights I was interested in visiting, Chase plotted them on the map.

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The city was almost entirely rebuilt by the Soviets, making it difficult to connect with the city emotionally, as I had in Boryslav and Ilnyk.

If statues of Taras Shevchenko were the most popular in Ukraine, Stefan Cel Mar was surely the equivalent in Romania and Moldova. Stefan was one of the first Kings of Moldavia.

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We visited the only museum in the city, which boasted a plethora of historical artifacts. Unfortunately, as in Lviv, we could not read a word of the descriptions.

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We visited a few more remnants of Vaslui’s pre-soviet society.

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We walked a good bit to the city’s prized central park. It was gorgeous, but lacked the view we were hoping for.

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We meandered our way through the city back to our car.Chase directed us back to the hotel, but allowed me to briefly stray in order to find a nice view of the city from the mountains that surrounded it.

Back at the hotel I took the opportunity to call my Aunt Sue, Big Mama’s granddaughter. She was very excited. I also briefly spoke to Dad who encouraged me to update my blog. I informed him that I’d simply not had the time.

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We ate dinner in the luxurious hotel restaurant around 8:00.

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I blogged briefly, but chose to tuck in early for the long drive to Chisinau tomorrow.

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