Excerpts

When the wave of terror and destruction passed and the neighborhood was quiet, Meir and his children returned to their house. As they passed through the shattered front door, they saw that the home was trashed and what was not taken was broken. They rushed to the bedroom to seek Rifka and found her swimming in a pool of blood, her throat slit and her body mutilated. Then, from under the bed came the faint sobbing of little Samir. Fahima ran across the room to pull him out, and as she did, she was horrified to see that some of his mother’s blood had dripped on him through the mattress. But Samir could not answer her questions about what had happened. He had become mute because what he had witnessed was unspeakable. He had seen his invalid mother repeatedly raped and stabbed by savages. Samir remained mute for weeks. With unstinting kindness Fahima fed him, bathed him, dressed him, and talked to him. When the matchmaker later brought the names of suitors for Fahima to her father, she refused to consider them. “I have a sick brother to take care of. He is without a mother, you know. There is nobody else to talk to him.” One day, Samir was sitting nearby as a matchmaker sang the praises of a very attractive candidate to Meir and Fahima. “You are almost eighteen, Fahima, don’t let this opportunity pass,” the matchmaker pleaded. Fahima pointed to Samir and asked, “And who will take care of him?” At that time, like the call of the first bird at dawn, a small voice came from Samir’s direction: “Can I be a flower bearer in your wedding party?” (chapter IX, p. 84)
 
The night before boarding the plane, I went to the dance club and told my teacher, “I cannot take any more lessons.” “Why?” “Because I will leave the country tomorrow.” “Will you come back some day?” “I doubt it very much.” “You mean this is your last dance lesson?” “Yes, Madame, this is my Last Tango in Baghdad.” I left the classroom and went to sit on a bench in front of the Tigris river on Al-Saadoon Street. The water was calm. The weather was dry and hot, and not a single breeze was felt. The night was moonless, the sky studded with so many stars. Few lights were reflected from the other side of the river on the water. I knew that I would not see such a spectacular sight again… (chapter XII, p.117)
 
The weather was chilly, and I saw a boy about ten years old barefoot. He was watching other children buying ice cream. I asked him if he would like a cone. He said yes. When I handed the cone to him, he smiled and said, “You are good and kind, just like God.” “I am one of His children,” I replied. “I knew that you must have some kind of a family relationship with Him!” (chapter XVI, p. 142)
 
My daughter, Anna, later revealed to me how difficult their stay in Vienna was for them. Being only twelve years old, with a younger brother she felt responsible for, in a foreign country for the first time in her life with no family and friends, Anna wrote some words in her notebook at that time. “Getting on the airplane with my brother, whom I had to take care of, was beyond my ability. Is this really happening to us? I am now responsible for my little brother. My dad is in the United States. I am leaving my mom behind in Iran and I am going to Austria, not knowing German, but with enough English to communicate.” “I was sitting in the airplane before takeoff and waiting for a guard to come by and announce there had been a mistake and we would not be able to fly. This had occurred before in any given flight after the revolution. Once the plane took off, I thought to myself … they can’t bring us back now, we are up in the air.” “…I may never see my house, my room and belongings, and I will never see my childhood friends again. I knew I would leave all those memories behind and it was very difficult. I did not even bring my childhood yearbooks, memory books, and all the childish collections that did not mean much to me at that time of uncertainty and worry, yet seem so precious today.” (p.185)
 
“We were going to an adventure park. It was free to get in but you had to pay for the rides. So of course the host family would always take us….They never ever paid for a ride or even an ice cream. As Charlie and I were walking and looking at the rides above, I looked at Charlie and said, ‘Do you want an icecream?’ He turned to me and said, ‘Do you?’ We both looked at each other and moved on. Both of us knew we wanted it, but we couldn’t have it under the current circumstances. We also did not want to admit it to each other, so we each denied it to make the other feel better. I will never forget that!” (p.188)
 
On that treacherous trip through the brisk mountainous blackness on camelback and on foot, they usually rested and ate during the day and continued riding the camels or walking during the night.…Doret, her sister, who has diabetes, foolishly took two diabetic tablets as usual, one in the morning and one in the evening, not realizing how little they would be eating for many days. She started to shake, sweat profusely, and could hardly talk. She almost passed out. Yvonne immediately informed one of the smugglers, who gave her two sugar cubes and some bread and water. Fortunately she came back to herself soon. She never took diabetic tablets again during the rest of journey. (p.193)
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