Trapido Family Book

Trapido Family Book

by Israel Trapido z"l

(August 24, 1979)


Israel  Mendel Trapido was born in 1904 in Kupiskis, the son of Yankel Trapido and Pese bat Girsh Katz.  His siblings were Chaim Trapido, born 1907, Traina Trapido, born 1910, Cipe Trapido Jachilevich and Chaia Trapido, born 1913.  He immigrated to South Africa in 1923 and returned to Kupiskis for a visit in 1939.  Eventually, he made aliyah to Israel in 1961 and passed away there in 1980.  He managed to bring his  brother Chaim to Rhodesia before the War and so the two brothers survived the Holocaust.


As a child in Kupishok, Lithuania, before the First World War, I remember the remarks made about the Family Book, or "Pinkas" as it was called, but then I was too young to understand its meaning and value. When the Germans attacked our town in 1915, we fled to Preli, District Dvinsk, where my father owned the Zinman Beer Distillery. I remember that the first thing my father worried about was the family book, and during our stay in Preli, it was carefully looked after and cherished.

We stayed in Preli for about a year, but when the Germans started to advance on Dvinsk, we were forced to move again. This time we went to Priluki, Ukraine where my father's cousin Zalman had gone a year earlier when he and his family had left Kupishok. Zalman and my father were good friends and so father was ready to accept Zalman's advice to join him there.

I grew up in Prilucki and the family lived there until 1922. Although the Bolsheviks had taken over Russia in 1917, Prilucki remained under the rule of the White Russians, the Cossacks, under the leadership of General Petlura. Many pogroms were carried out by Petlura's forces and thousands of Jews were killed. Among them was Zalman's son, Reuven. The Cossacks were fighting a losing battle with the Communists. And as they retreated they purged their anger on the Jewish community. The last few days before the Cossacks retreated they killed hundreds of Jews in the town, and they robbed practically every Jewish home.

When they entered our house, they found the "Pinkas". Probably they had never seen such a thickly bound book before. They must have thought that there was money in the leather cover so they cut the book to pieces. I remember that my father did not speak about our belongings that had been taken, but till this day, I can recall how he cried at the loss of the "Pinkas." To him it was of much greater value than the material goods that the Cossacks had robbed us of.

My father never forgot the "Pinkas", and as I grew older, he told me stories about it. I don't remember everything but I wish to record those things that I do remember.

The first few pages could not be read as the ink must have faded. The pages that could be partially read were about our family during their sojourns in Holland. It was generally understood that the family had found refuge in Holland after having left Spain during the Inquisition.

At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the Trapidos went to Lithuania to look after the interests of the family business, which apparently had to do with importing goods, perhaps geese or geese feathers, from Lithuania. The newcomer settled around the town of Kupishok, which was a fertile district for flax. The information about this first settler and his family is not very clear and all definite information which I have is from the third generation which lived in Lithuania.

My great-grandfather established his oldest son Shlomo in a Beer Hall in Zunta, a suburb of Kupishok. The beer-hall in a village was a place where the peasants came to drink and to bring their produce to be sold. As the beer-hall business proved successful, great-grandfather established his second son Leiba (my grandfather) in Payodepa, his third son Moishe Kasriel in the village of Nvi and his fourth son, Yoel in the village of Derlanche. Payodepa, Nvi, and Derlanche were all near Kupishok.

[Spellings as per Israel Trapido. We cannot locate all of these towns on modern maps.   However, with the help of the present mayor of Kupiskis, L. Apsega (Feb. 3, 1999), we have identified Zunta, which today is represented by Zunts Street in Kupiskis and Payodepa, as modern Pajuodupis, once the administrative center of 19th century Kupiskis.]

As the children grew up and their parents wanted them to have a Jewish education, it was more convenient to move to Kupishok, and so between 1860 and 1880, all the families moved to Kupishok.

At that time in Kupishok, great-grandfather's youngest child, a daughter, Leah, had married Zundel Ber Ginsburg, and they had an "Aptekarski magazine" which was a place that had the right to sell all kinds of medicine but not to make up prescriptions. Besides being a Talmudist, Zundel was a highly educated man in worldly affairs.

During the second half of the 19th century, the political situation for Jews had worsened and laws had been passed which restricted Jews and prevented them from owning land. Jews were forced to live in towns. Many started to immigrate to the new world. Because the Trapido family was well established in the town and their financial position was relatively good, they did not begin emigrating before the beginning of this century. A number of them went to the United States and Uncle Noach was the first of the family to go to South Africa. He returned to Kupishok after a few years because he felt unable to live without his religious principles. In South Africa he would have been forced to work on the Sabbath and his religious principles were more precious to him than South African Pounds Sterling.

Until the First World War, there were quite a number of Trapido families in Lithuania. The majority of them lived in Kupishok but the rest were scattered in many other towns. After the First World War, the majority of the younger members left either for the United States or for South Africa. Those that remained till the Second World War were wiped out by the Nazis.

Many members of the family that were killed by the Nazis were prominent people in business and in the professions and one person whom I would like to mention especially was Chaim Trapido, the son of Noach of Washki. He was an advocate, editor of the "Yiddishe Shtime" and a born leader. I had the pleasure of meeting him when I visited Lithuania in May-June 1939. Chaim is mentioned in a few books published after the war about the Ghettos.

Our special thanks to Israel's daughter, Fay Morris, for permission to print these memoirs. We can only imagine what we might have known if that "pinkas" had survived.

Take a look at some of the Trapido family members in our Photograph Album.

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