Many roads lead to Šeduva! Kevin Musikanth reminded us of this. He is the trainer of Israel's national rugby team, who hopes his team will someday compete at the global level. His grandfather was Shapsel Muzikant, born and raised in Šeduva.
Last week Kevin and his team came to Lithuania to play a friendly match with Lithuanians. His trip was not purely for work, though. He contacted us asking to show him around the shtetl where his ancestors once lived, their native Šeduva. We met him there.
Most members of the Muzikant family successfully immigrated to South Africa before World War II. Among them was Kevin's grandfather Shapsel who took to Africa his passion for sport and healthy living with him. In old photographs made in Šeduva before the war, we see Shapsel mostly in sportswear. In the group photographs, it is easy to pick him out: he was the tallest player on the Šeduva Jewish soccer team. It seems that Kevin inherited his passion for contact sports from his grandfather.
As we walked around Šeduva together, we showed Kevin a number of sites associated with the Muzikant family. The house where Kevin's grandfather Shapsel grew up is still standing. We went to take a look at it. We visited the old Jewish cemetery where Kevin's great-grandfather Tuviya is buried. We went to the mass murder sites and paid our respects to the murdered Jews of Šeduva. They include Kevin's great-grandmother Khana, her daughter Yenta and two grandchildren (they were the only members of the entire family who perished).
During the tour of Šeduva Kevin called his brother in Australia and showed him, via phone, the graves where their great-grandparents were buried. They were glad to learn that a museum was being built to preserve the memory of their ancestors. Kevin also called his father in the Republic of South Africa to share his impressions about their ancestral hometown. As Kevin put it, he spent the entire day after Šeduva "running around happy," having visited the town where his family roots lay.
"I thought of my Oupa (grandfather) a lot while walking in Šeduva. I often think of him and his lessons, which at the time of growing up I should have appreciated more. I could sense him and his siblings walking to their school, helping their mom and dad, enjoying their Shabbat evenings... And of course once taken to the killing fields, I couldn't help but feel the sheer desperation of that time period. I felt humbled that I got to experience, through my sport, the opportunity to visit the birthplace of my Oupa."