High Flying back to the Shtetl

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Somewhere over the Indian Ocean on my 6th visit to the shtetls of Europe.

This is my first live post from an aircraft at 12000 metres, thanks to the $1 wifi service Emirates offers on their A380 Airbus .

Posting from my iPhone 6+

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Lots of entertainment on the 11 hour flight to Dubai, connecting with an 8 hour Qantas flight  to London.

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On Monday, I start my nine day drive around Lithuania. Lots of towns and shtetls to visit!  I will be using Airbnb for the first time.

The following week I am in Kiev and Lviv, my first visit to the Ukraine.

On the final leg, I will be visiting Lublin and Warsaw in Poland before returning to Perth on 18 June.

I look forward to your company and feel free to comment. Let me know if am anywhere near your shtetl.

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25 Replies to “High Flying back to the Shtetl”

  1. Eli,
    Can you tell us where you are planning to visit in Lithuania? My family is from Valkinikai (outside Vilna to the east). Safe travels.
    Marcia Hicks

  2. Have a wonderful trip. I must say, I am a bit envious. Wish I could do the same. Will you be visiting Tavrig (Taurage) or Shavel at all? That is where my family originated from. Safe travels and I look forward to seeing your photos and hearing your news. Carin

    1. Hi Carin
      Thanks.
      Planning to visit Taurage this time. Was in Siauliai the past two visits. There should be some older posts on my blog.
      Regards
      Eli

  3. We visited Vilnius, Alytus, Virbalis, Knyszyn and Glubokoye in October. We’re open to give you tips, or to hear from you.

    Lag (BaOmer) Sameah!

  4. Hi Eli
    Safe travels. I read snippets of your previous findings and am very interested in your latest journey. Love Robin & Pauline

  5. Hello. My husband’s maternal grandparents came from a very small shtetl in Lithuania, not too far from Vilnius. It is called Beckapuriai although they always referred to it as Beckapoorus. I wonder if you will be visiting it on your journey round Lithuania? The grandparents emigrated from Lithuania in the 1890s, settling for about 17 years in London, before moving on to Portland, Maine. My husband’s grandfather left Lithuania first, followed shortly after by his grandmother and their two sons, Mark and Samuel. All three were hidden in a hay cart for part of the journey. I don’t know what path they took to get to London. The family name is Kodis, originally Chodosh, or something similar.
    I don’t know where your journey will take you, but I wish you all the best for the adventure ahead of you.
    Maggie Jacobs

  6. Enjoy your trip Eli. Are you going to Ponevaz? If so my Dad’s shtetl is not far from there….he used to go to the Yeshiva in Ponevaz! The name of his shtetl is Subacius. We were there in ’92 and it was as though the clock stopped in 1925/29? when my Dad left to go to SA.

    I look forward to reading your blogs
    Love, Hannah

  7. As I am sitting here in Brazil my kids are listening to an audiobook of one of the greatest Brazilian female writers, Clarice Lispector. The other day I was reading about the way one of Brazil’s cities, Curitiba, had a sustainability transformation in the 1970s which was completely ahead of its time and possibly never equalled in the world, all envisioned by its then mayor Jaime Lerner. On Saturday afternoon, one of the most popular and innovative TV variety shows in Brazil will be hosted by Luciano Huck.

    These are just three descendants or immigrants from the area you are about to visit – the Duchy which then became the Pale. How did this explosion of contribution come out from the shtetl to so greatly impact the rest of the world? I am quite sure there isnt an equal in these terms and I continue to wonder about this 🙂

    1. I seem to recall the name Charles Nankin, but not sure if I actually knew him. Can you help Charles? Do you live in Brazil? Good Shabbas (it’s Friday here in Sydney). Regards, Vernon Katz.

      1. Unfortunately I am not sure if I can be of much help Vernon. My father is Rick b1950, his father Philip b1925, and his Leonard b1897, all of Cape Town esp. Camps Bay, Sea Point and before that Paarl. All the rest were females or did not have children.

        There is at least one other Nankin family, but who were more from Jhb I think.

        And there are the Nainkins originally of Riversdale, of whom one is a well-known tennis player and coach.

        Ofcourse there are other Nankin families in the US, Aus, Brazil.

        Kind regards,

  8. Have a wonderful trip.

    We’re going in mid-September. Our family was from Dotnuva. We’ll be there as well as the monument at the Krakes forest.

    Trying to get information of what actually happened the day they as well as the Jews of four other towns were killed, September/2/1941.

    1. In 2004 we did a JNF Mission to Lithuania. On my return I sent out a review by email and added “For anyone planning an individual trip to Lithuania I can highly recommend as a guide Chaim Bargman (53) of Kaunas (Kovna) who is able to travel to all parts of Lithuania and take you to your own shtetl. He has an amazing knowledge of Jews who live/d in all parts of the country. He speaks fluent English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Lithuanian. His home phone number is +370 37 779948, and mobile is +370 681 77166.

      Rachel Kostanian-Danzig (in her early 70’s), the curator of the Jewish Museum in Vilnius (Vilna), is also available as a guide in Vilna itself. I am not sure if she would travel to other parts of the country. Her telephone number in Vilnius is 262 4590 (work). Her email address is jmuseum@delfi.lt

      If you email me I can try to give you more info. Regards, Vernon Katz vkatz@tpg.com.au

      1. Thanks Vernon. I can vouch for Chaim, who is most knowledgeable and a very interesting character. There are other guides such as Daniel and Yulik Gurevich, who are professional tour operators and are most reliable. That is certainly required when touring Lithuania these days. I am not sure of the position of Rachel – she has now retired from several roles. I will get an update.
        Eli

          1. Re: GUIDES for Jewish Lithuania: Following our visit with the JNF Mission in 2004 I wrote:

            For anyone planning an individual trip to Lithuania I can highly recommend as a guide Chaim Bargman (53) of Kaunas (Kovna) who is able to travel to all parts of Lithuania and take you to your own shtetl. He has an amazing knowledge of Jews who live/d in all parts of the country. He speaks fluent English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian, and Lithuanian. His home phone number is +370 37 779948, and mobile is +370 681 77166.

            Rachel Kostanian-Danzig (in her early 70’s), the curator of the Jewish Museum in Vilnius (Vilna), is also available as a guide in Vilna itself. I am not sure if she would travel to other parts of the country. Her telephone number in Vilnius is 262 4590 (work). Her email address is jmuseum@delfi.lt

            I know that Chaim is still actively doing guide work. Not sure about Rachel. She may have retired.

            Happy travels,

            Vernon Katz, Sydney, Australia

        1. Thanks to both of you for suggestions.
          We’re planning the trip with Daniel Guravits who runs JeruLita.
          My cousin used them and recommended him.

  9. Just curious if you will be going to or have gone to Leliuny Village, Debeikiai, Svedasai, or Anyksciai, shtetls in the Ukmerge district from where my paternal ancestors all originated. Family Names where Rapoport, Erez, Goldshteyn, Hilsberg, Kagan. Thanks.

  10. Someday….. My ancestors are from Simnas and was told “Martelle” but don’t think Martelle is a place but has to be some place near Simnas because the families “knew each other in the old country”. My great grandfather from Simnas married my great grandmother from “Martelle” in Portland, ME.

    Looking forward to your pictures and descriptions as you travel on this adventure!

  11. Safe travels, Eli! I really look forward to following your travels!

    My family has roots in Butrimonys (Alytus) and Rudamina (the one several miles south of Vilnius) before all ended up living and raising families in Vilnius “proper” at various times from the 1850s to c.1900.

    Best regards,
    Danielle Weiner
    Dallas, TX

  12. Hi Eli,
    I met you at the Jerusalem Jewish gen conference.
    I am going to Shavel and Sveksna on the 23 June. Any special advice and referrals that you can suggest.
    I have just joined your blog and will scan through you previous years too.
    Travel safely.
    Joan Struck

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