I wrote recently about visiting Iasi, Romania to pay respects to my extended family on my father’s side.
I was all prepared to make the 8-hour train ride from Bucharest and to spend a few nights in Iasi with a lovely family I met through Couchsurfing.com. The fate of the Jews in Iasi is a terrible one. I knew that even though my own great-grandparents left Romania early in the century, their extended family had been killed in WWII. Reader Bill Baar provided me with further, very important information on how this was “accomplished” by the Romanians without Nazi involvement. I was not savoring the idea of traveling to Iasi.
Then I talked with my uncle. Confusion. My grandfather was born in a small village, he reminded me. The family was wealthy and had an enormous estate. This didn’t square with my knowledge of Iasi as a city. Uncle and I talked for a long time, comparing memories of snippets of conversation and information provided by far-flung relatives, many from Europe. I learned that many of the Romanian relatives emigrated to France, where they were eventually interned in Drancy and then sent to meet their terrible fate in Auschwitz. Others had emigrated to England and anglicized the family name to Winston (I met Norman Winston, my grandfather’s cousin, in the late 1980’s in Cheltenham). I finally began to understand the fuller story of which I had only gathered bits and pieces over the years.
Enter my friend Scott Wells, known to most of you as the blogger of Boy In the Bands. I shared my confusion with Scott and he went to work, using a search engine called (I wouldn’t kid you) Shetl Seeker to locate ANOTHER Iasi in Romania… this one a tiny village located near the Fagaras mountains and about an hour’s drive from my partner church. He sent me a google maps link and I stared at the screen with my mouth hanging open. A tiny, rural Iasi in a beautiful region of Romania. This had to be it.
I confirmed with a cousin who has the ship’s manifest from Hamburg that Sophie and Max Weinstein (who may have, at that point, changed their name from the Romanian “Bacal” to the German/Yiddish “Weinstein” — the names mean the same thing) originated their journey in Iasi. My cousin and I feel quite certain that Scott Wells has found for us the correct Iasi, a tiny (once) Jewish village RIGHT NEAR where I had already planned to be.
The ancestors and I cheer Scott Wells!
It’s so small it’s not even on my detailed map of the region! I’ve been looking all morning with a magnifying glass. [1:30 p.m. update: FOUND IT! Very, very tiny just southeast of Făgăraş! – PB]
Okay, I might as well tell you this, too.
This might all be personal legend, but my understanding is that my parents intended to name me Alexandra. When I was born, though, they decided that wouldn’t do. I believe my mother chose the name Victoria, with the nickname Vicki (she liked the symmetry of the i’s with the two i’s in Weinstein). What’s interesting is that I’ve always felt a spirit connection to my great-grandmother Sophie. I was reminded yesterday that her maiden name was Yaspovici (pronounced Yaspo-vicki). I note that there is a village called Victoria very near Iasi. I don’t know. I just think it’s cool.