In fact, my great-grandfather’s name was Velvl Zeltser. He was born in 1885 in the settlement of Vadul Rashkov, was orphaned early and was hired to graze goats and sheep of local wealthy peasants. On this very leaven of early hardships, fresh crystal clear air of the picturesque banks of the Dniester, delicious and wholesome autochthonous milk and cheese, an amazing indomitable nature and incredible physical strength have grown. No, his height was no more than 5 feet 3 inches, though with a naturally magnificent build and prominent muscles until his old age.
I know about my great-grandfather from the stories of my mom and uncles, who found him already a post-war pensioner. In their stories, he appears as a man of a truly biblical character, an unconditionally and deeply religious Jew who devoutly observed all traditions and prescriptions, was exceptionally moderate in food, did not drink alcohol and never smoked.
From a young age he possessed extraordinary qualities and the whole area was afraid of him – hence the name Mosh Lupu (in Romanian – wolf), which combined the name Wolf and character traits that, according to my mother, made him related to the famous hero of Jack London – Wolf Larsen.
First of all, he was not afraid of anyone or anything, nor the same wolves that attacked flocks and shepherds in those days, nor the most vicious dogs, nor aggressive people. He was only afraid to remain immobilized, from what he died in the end after a stroke. In his youth, on a bet, he stayed overnight in abandoned buildings on the outskirts of villages, where, according to legends, spirits lived, but in reality wolves, wild dogs, or simply bandits and thieves wandered. Never provoking fights, with one blow, he could lay down an attacker much bigger than him, or even several. Initially calm, he could fall into an indescribable bestial rage that swept away and overwhelmed opponents. Already in his old years, he easily demonstrated to his admiring grandchildren (and there were many of them from eight kids he had) almost all famous circus power tricks – bending coins, tying a poker, lifting a heavy chair on a straight arm handling it by one leg.
About 70 years old, he somehow came to the lake beach, where young people were engaged in lifting weights and barbells. Being very reckless and unable to lose even in children’s games, he looked closely, and then modestly asked to give him a try. “Come on, grandfather, where are you going?” the athletes asked laughing. Imagine their surprise when the grandfather, naturally, not mastering the technique of weightlifters, with one hand began to raise the barbell over and over again, which not each of them could pull with two.
My grandfather was fluent in Russian and Yiddish, after 1918, he mastered Romanian, and of course, he knew all the prayers and religious texts in Hebrew. In his youth, he started his own flock of sheep, produced brynza (feta cheese) and delivered it to the surrounding villages and towns. During the war, he and his wife – my great-grandmother Golda – were evacuated to Uzbekistan. Two sons – David and Boris – fought and returned home. In the 1920s, after their first-born son died, the grandfather said that before his death, none of their children would die again … And so it happened. In general, to a certain extent, he possessed the gift of foresight and hypnosis.
Mom recalls how, as a child, she was afraid to go through the yard, where on the way in the kennel a specially trained shepherd dog lived on a chain, which, with frenzied growls, rushed at everyone passing by. The grandfather took her by the hand, led to the dog, and when the animal jumped out, he began to stare at it until it set its tail between the legs, whined and hid into the kennel. When a boil popped up on his hand, he gathered his grandchildren and gave a demonstrative lesson on how not to be afraid of a useful pain – he tempered the knife, opened the boil, carefully squeezed out the pus, and treated the wound without even frowning.
After he suffered a stroke, he was immobilized on one side and unable to speak. He did not want to live in such a state and refused to eat, and no one could force him to do something against his will. A few days before his death, he tried with his good hand to move a heavy oak cabinet, which had previously been easy to move, but it did not give in. The grandfather cried.
Exactly 20 years later, his daughter, my grandmother Fradi, died of exactly the same stroke. When my mother found out that a stroke had happened to her, she ran headlong down to the parents’ home at Andreevskaya street, when she suddenly clearly saw her grandfather, who said: “No need, you won’t do anything, I take her away.”
Now his descendants are scattered all over the world, not everyone even knows about each other. Some of his sons and daughters inherited his strength and character, one of his grandchildren, Daniel, possessed incredible strength, easily dragging a bag of potatoes under his armpits.
Well, Mosh Lupu found peace at the long-suffering Jewish cemetery in Chisinau, where from a photo a stern, but full of wisdom, direct gaze of black burning eyes looks at you into which few people could bear to look during his lifetime.
Michael Finkel, Chisinau Moldova