| Teen Diary Serial |

Sara’s Story: Chapter 11

Would I ever adjust? Would I ever become a regular girl on the block?


IT was summertime when we arrived in London, which meant that schools were closed for summer vacation. It was the ideal time of year to arrive in a new country, because there was plenty of time to tour and weather conditions were optimal.

Or as optimal as they can ever be in London, where it rains at least 11 days every month.

“See that tower?” My brother Yitzchok pointed at the large and iconic clock tower in Westminster, London, on one of our numerous tours of the city. “It’s called Big Ben and it’s over 120 years old.”

Yitzchok, who’d come to London a year before us, was like a walking fount of English knowledge. It was nice to have my older brother as a guide, but his knowledge made me wonder if I would ever learn the ins and outs of British society.

Would I ever adjust? Would I ever become a regular girl on the block?

Our first home in London was a tiny, one-room, refugee apartment in a large compound of similar apartments. Nothing fit into that apartment except beds. Which was fine, since we owned almost nothing else.

There was no kitchen and dining room in our home. Meals were eaten in the public dining room together with the refugees living in the other apartments. Our cook was a British woman who seemed to think it was her job to educate us all as to the finer side of British society.

“Tea time,” she’d call out at four o’clock every afternoon. “Fresh tea and biscuits, coming right up. Smile one and all and come and eat up.”

We, the Iranian Jewish refugees, were a cohesive group. But I was one of the youngest members of that group and I knew that my days as a free bird were about to end. Come September, I would once again be a student. I hoped that in London, unlike in Iran, my dream of attending a Jewish school would finally come true.

At first it seemed as though my dream really might be realized.

“We’ve been granted an apartment in Hendon, London,” my brother Yitzchok said one night.

“A proper apartment with bedrooms and a kitchen, and a Jewish school in the area for Sara.”

A Jewish school! At long last! My heart soared as Yitzchok told me that he planned to speak to the headmaster of the school about my attending his institution.

Two days later we packed out of the refugee center. As we rode the London Tube toward North West London, I dreamed of befriending Jewish girls and finding my place in my new country.

My dreams almost all seemed to come together in our new home. “Look, Sara,” my mother called out. “There are two bedrooms here. You and I will share a room without the boys.”

Our new bedroom had peeling wallpaper and dusty windows. But even the cheerless décor couldn’t diminish my feelings of hope. The school year was about to begin. Yitzchok had a meeting with the headmaster scheduled for the very next morning.

The next day, Yitzchok set out to the school. He reassured me before he left the house that my chances of being accepted were high since the school had taken in a high percentage of Iranian girls for the previous school year. He set out in high spirits.

When Yitzchok returned home two hours later, his shoulders were slumped.

“What happened?” I cried.

“The headmaster said that he isn’t accepting Iranian girls this year,” Yitzchok sighed. “They had a bad experience with girls wearing pants after school hours last year and decided not to take on any refugees.”

Pants? I’d wear three dresses, if need be, and had indeed worn something very close to that in Iran after the radical Muslim takeover. Was I really being denied the right to attend a Jewish school because of a dress code?

Reality hit hard over the next few days, but there was precious little time for me to mope.

The school year was starting, and my mother and brother were afraid of the truant officers.

They quickly enrolled me into the closest available school in the area and, as usual, it was a school with hardly any Jews in it.

Once again, I was the outsider looking in. The girl hoping and praying that she would one day finally belong.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 913)

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