Kopelis (Costa) Belas was born in Vilnius in 1954 to a Lithuanian Jewish woman married to a Ukrainian Jewish man.

Trained in applied mathematics, Costa (as he is often called) has a special interest in the theory of chaos. He said, "Chance or the deterministic, and how can you connect them together? There is a problem of connecting random events, but it is good to put order into the existing chaos, stabilizing the situation. If we put order in the Jewish community, we can stabilize it."

Previously, Costa belonged to the union of Zionist of USSR. He said that they had an educational purpose and printed things in Russian. In addition, Costa has helped to organize the Janusz Korczak Club and has established a Friends of Lithuania Club to promote culture, health, and prosperity for the people of Lithuania. Costa is very concerned with the ownership of Jewish property, especially property that was taken from the people killed by Lithuanians during the war. He is often heard saying, "Justice will be done." What he means is that eventually the Lithuanian state will have to concede that it illegally took control of many Jewish properties and must now return them to their rightful owners.

According to Costa, Lithuania is experiencing a "wild cowboy" where almost anything goes. CostaÔs sense of humor and ideas donÔt endear him to everyone, and some are unsure about where his serious side begins and ends.

Costa was very anxious for me to see old Vilnius and the many previously owned Jewish properties that are found there. On one property we found an inscription in Yiddish indicaticating that the building had been a candy factory. Would it ever be returned to its rightful owner? That was a question that Costa could not answer.

Photos © 1998 Laurence Salzmann

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