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Sara’s Story: Chapter 10

“Welcome to Europe, Farah,” the woman said kindly


The motel in Frankfurt, Germany, was far more modern than the motels that we stayed at in Iran and Pakistan during our final week in the Middle East. The rooms were all squeaky clean and fragrant smelling, and the general atmosphere was one of calm and tranquility.

The proprietor seemed truly happy to host us. “You know,” she said, on the first morning after our arrival, holding out a tray of freshly squeezed orange juice and bread as she spoke, “you aren’t the first Jews to stay in my motel. Forty years ago, dozens of Jews passed through here. But I was the only one who knew that they were Jewish. No one else was allowed to know.”

Forty years ago… in the year 1940. The Holocaust.

This woman had allowed Jews to stay in her motel without revealing their identities. That meant that she had saved their lives.

“In Israel there’s a museum called Yad Vashem. It commemorates the Jews’ World War II experiences, and my name is on one of the walls there.”

Wow.  So this woman was one of the Righteous Among the Nations, and we, a family of Iranian refugees, were fortunate enough to find our way to her house.

Talk about history repeating itself.

The motel landlady continued to extend herself in kindness toward us during our stay. She helped us figure out our way around, providing us with instructions and directions on how to get to the government offices that we needed.

In Pakistan, all that we had needed to leave the country and board a plane to Germany had been a bit of “baksheesh” (bribery). My brother Yosef had taken every riyal that he, Yitzchok, and Dovid had saved up, using it to bribe people as necessary. We’d been able to make it onto the old, unsophisticated airplane from Pakistan to Germany without any trouble.

In Germany, however, things were different. We needed proper refugee identity certificates if we were to immigrate to London and be granted asylum there.

“What is your name?” the woman at the immigrations office asked me on our first visit.

“Farah.” The word came out as a whisper, and I realized that I was trembling.

“Welcome to Europe, Farah,” the woman said kindly. “Germany is a free country. England is a free country. There’s nothing for you to fear here.”

I shivered. How did the woman know? How did she realize how frightened I’d felt for so long? Even I barely realized how all-consuming the fear was.

“I’m Iranian too,” the woman said, as though explaining. But really, the Farsi that she spoke was a dead giveaway. “My memories of Iran are probably different from yours. Iran used to be such a wonderful place to live.”

I covered my eyes. I had memories of better days in Tehran, too. My memories, however, were eclipsed by the recent reign of terror that I had just escaped from.

“Don’t worry, Farah, everything will work out just fine.”

Indeed, I thought, as I signed the documents that the woman thrust toward me. Hashem, please make it so that things work out well….

Four days after our arrival in Germany, we boarded a plane to London, England.

My oldest brother, Yitzchok, came to Heathrow Airport to greet us all.

“You’re going to really like it here,” he said, after we’d all squeezed and shaken hands as duly required following a yearlong separation from a beloved family member. “England is a wonderful country. The people here are very polite.”

Yitzchok was right. The people at the refugee center that we’d be staying in were polite and well-mannered almost to a fault.

“This is your room,” said the woman who greeted us at the refugee center, leading us to a room with five beds in it. “I hope everything is nice and comfortable. If anything is amiss, you’re welcome to come into the main office at any time.”

The room, the beds, and the refugee center in general all beckoned warmly. I couldn’t imagine having any complaints to register.

But fears, wonder, a sense of worry as to the future — of that I had plenty.

What would my future in England look like?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 912)

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