Both of our relatives traveling to Zagare met the “only surviving Jew” in the town. Why has he stayed?
Two Blieden distant cousins each travelled to Zagare, Lithuania, in hopes of learning more about the early roots of the Blieden family.
Solly Kantor, May 1993
One was Solly (Solomon) Kantor, uncle of Berry Neumann, who visited there in May of 1993.
The other is Peta Blieden who visited there in either June or July of 2007. Peta’s journey also took her to Bliedene and her entire trip reminded me of parts of the movie “Everything is Illuminated”.
How are they related to us? Remember that Mordekhel had four sons. Solly, and I, are descendents of different sons of Ber, while Peta is a descendent of Rev Zundel.
On their journey, both Peta and Solly met Issac Mendelsohn, the “only Jew in Zagare”.
Issac Mendelsohn, May 1993
Peta said this about her meeting in 2007:
I MET WITH THE SOLE SURVIVING JEW, MR MENDELSOHN, WHO IS 85. HE LIVES
IN ZAGARE AND WON’T LEAVE , NOT EVEN TO VISIT HIS KIDS. HE IS VERY
OLD NOW AND LIVES IN A SMALL APARTMENT WHICH THE MUNCIPALITY PAYS FOR
AND SOMEONE FEEDS HIM 2 X WEEK. HE MARRIED A LITHUANIAN AND HAD
CHILDREN. HE ASKED ME TO TAKE HIM TO THE CHRISTIAN CEMETRY TO VISIT
HIS WIFE GRAVE AS HE CAN’T GET THERE BY HIMSELF. IT WAS VERY MOVING
TO SEE HIM TAKE OFF HIS HAT JUST BEFORE HE ENTERED. SO REPECTUFUL
THIS JEW, WHO IN HIS TIME WORE A YARMIE TO HIS CEMETRY AND HERE HE
TOOK OFF CAP AS HE ENTERED CHRISTIAN ONE. PICS OF HIM AT HIS WIFE’S
GRAVE. NOTE THAT HIS NAME IS NEXT TO HIS WIFE WITH HIS BIRTH DATE IS ON. WHEN HE GOES THEY WILL JUST
SLOT IN HIS DEATH DATE – THIS IS DONE TO SAVE COSTS . HE DOES NOT SPEAK ENGLISH
SO THE TALKING WAS DONE THROUGH MY QUIDE I ASKED HIM WHY HE NEVER LEFT
AFTER ALL THAT HAPPENED THERE AND HIS ANSWER WAS THAT ALL HIS LIFE HE LOVED
ZAGARE SO MUCH IT WAS HIS HOME AND THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWN ACCEPTED HIM AFTER
THE WAR AND HE HAS LIVED THERE QUITE HAPPILY .. HE WAS THE ONLY
SURVIVER OF THE TOWN AS HE WAS AWAY FIGHTING WITH THE RUSSIANS WHEN
THEY KILLED EVERONE. HE LOOKED AFTER THE CEMETRIES (AS THERE WERE TWO) ALL BY HIMSELF AND
BUILT A FENCE AROUND IT WHERE HE WOULD WEED AND KEEP IT CLEAN.THEY ARE
QUITE LARGE AREAS AND HE IS NOW TO OLD TO CARE FOR THEM. THE
MUNCIPALITY IS SUPPOSED TO KEEP IT WEEDED BUT THEIR STANCE IS IF THE
JEWS CAN’T MAINTAIN IT THEMSELVES WHY SHOULD THEY. THECHRISTIAN
CEMETRY OF COURSE IS MAGNIFICENT AS YOU CAN SEE.
For even more on Isaak Mendelsohn’s life, read this. Issak died in 2011.
Peta also mentioned that Zagare was the “most stuningly beautiful area”. She also travelled to Blidene to see the Blieden origins and this is what she had to say about that:
Went to Bliedene – it took 4 hours by car to get there from Lithuania
and there is not much to see. All that remains are ruins of a church, a manor house as well as some
soviet built apartments with storage huts.
Here are a few more photos from Solly Kantor’s 1993 trip.
typical dwelling in Zagare Solly in the Jewish Cemetery in Zagare Solly standing in front of a memorial at the mass grave site
approach to mass grave site