Kupiskis Wall of Memory 
Holocaust Memorial 

Kupiskis Trip Participants at Kupiskis City Entrance

Kupiskis Wall of Memory Holocaust Memorial Dedication Trip

by Ann Rabinowitz

Many thoughts pass through my mind as I sit now contemplating my most memorable trip to Kupiskis, Lithuania on July 9-14, 2004. It was a lifelong dream to go to the shtetl where my ancestors lived and also where they died. Part of the need to write something down is based on transmitting the feelings I have had during and after the trip which was such an emotional and spiritual journey for me.

After much preparation for the trip with Norman Meyer and the others on the Board of Directors, the reality of going was upon me and I took off for London, the first stop on my trip. After chatting with numerous Kupishokers in London and some who were also going on the trip, it began to feel like the trip was really happening. I arrived at Gatwick Airport and met Kenny Sachar, his daughter Cassie, Dina Serra, her daughter Mia and grandchild Cleo, who were flying with me on Lithuanian Air for the final leg of the journey to Lithuania.

We were all nervous and expectant about what we were to see.

Arrival – Friday, July 9, 2004

The verdant, green and thickly forested land dotted with what looked like small cottages, cathedrals, castles, the tiled roofs of homes as we got closer to the City and blocks of Soviet-era flats rose to greet us as we landed in Vilnius. As I viewed Vilnius from the air, I thought how rural and beautiful it was and how the highways were so lightly traveled unlike America where cars and trucks are chock a block on each and every road.

We were met by Regina Kopilevich, our guide, who handed each of us some beautiful purple summer flowers in welcome. I had been in touch with Regina for many years and this was the first time we had met. We waited about fifteen minutes until the Israeli contingent of our trip arrived and off we went to our hotel on a large comfortable bus. As we went along, the streets, the places and all the surroundings had names that were so familiar to me from history and from my readings of the Holocaust. So this is where this happened and this is what this really looked like I thought as we motored through the city of Vilnius. The reality of the city began to take shape in my mind.

Radisson SAS Hotel, Vilnius, Lithuania

Once settled in the hotel, the spacious SAS Radisson in downtown Vilnius, we prepared for Shabbat. The main table was set with special candles brought by Regina from her home, a challah cloth made especially in Cape Town by an artist there was courtesy of Debby Myers, a siddur in English/Hebrew was donated by Helen Katz and family in Cape Town, a glass etched tray by an Israeli artist for the candles, donated by myself, an Israeli kiddish cup donated by Fay Trapido Morris, and challah and wine, courtesy of the Israeli contingent on the trip. The tables in our dining room were each given one of the challah cloths that people had donated along with the challah and wine brought by the participants from Israel. The room was a beautiful and welcoming sight.

The davening, the blessings over the bread and wine conducted by Rabbi Michael Mayersohn and Sami Ymar, our cantor, as well as several of the participants and the meal so beautifully served which followed was truly memorable, particularly since it was a first time for all of us to be together. The zimrot or songs welcoming the Queen of the Sabbath rang throughout the room as the many voice of the 48 participants joyfully sang together.

After our dinner, a number of the group shared with us their thoughts on why they were making this trip and a bit about their families. Much of what we heard and would hear again and again was that the pain of the loss of families during the Holocaust had prevented parents, grandparents and great grandparents from transmitting information about their families to their children. Many had not known about their family histories or branches of their families that had survived. This trip was to change all that for many.

A special reunion took place that night for Holocaust survivors Gary Bodas and his sister Zelda Bodaite Krupnikas with their first cousin, Yann Meirowitz. Yann and his family had traveled from Copenhagen, Denmark, where they now live to meet their relatives. They had not seen each other since the War when they had parted. It was a very special time for them. Yann spoke to us of his experiences during the War.  He told us that he felt that the Nazis were evil and had wanted to kill Hashem and that even though many Jews had died as a result, he and others had survived to be living testimony that evil could not triumph in the world and the Jews could not be destroyed.

Therefore, the meaning of sharing one’s story was very important to Yann and he decided to organize a means whereby as many participants as wanted to could be interviewed about their experiences. This was done and a total of twenty-three participants were videotaped, with each interview unique from all the rest. These interviews will become part of the official video of the trip.

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