The famous US actor Sean Penn, two-time Oscar winner, appears to have Lithuanian roots with his Litvak (Lithuanian Jewish) grandfather born in Lithuania in 1879.
Sean Penn
© AFP/Scanpix

Penn's grandfather was at that time not called Penn, but Pinon, and was born in 1897 on October 12 in the picturesque town of Merkinė in the south of Lithuania.

Merkinė is a town in the Dzūkija National Park, located at the confluence of the Merkys and Neman Rivers. The town is the location of The Mount of Queen Bona, a mound which was the site of an ancient hill-fort overlooking the rivers.

The PBS show in the United States, the History Detectives, helped Penn discover his Lithuanian roots but the investigators were not able to find the exact house where his grandfather lived in the southern Lithuanian town.

Merkinė had a large Jewish (Litvak) population before World War II but most were killed in the Holocaust in Lithuania. Penn’s grandfather escaped that fate by moving to the United States.

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