| Teen Diary Serial |

Sara’s Story: Chapter 6 

“My mother, sister, brother, and I would like to leave the country, but there is no way out. Can you help us?”


Tehran, Iran 1978


wasn’t difficult for my brother, Yitzchok, to find the home of Ahmed*, the villager who had promised to help him in his hour of need.

Ahmed was more than just a simple villager. He was a smuggler who dealt in contraband.

Though the name of his profession wasn’t written across his forehead, Yitzchok intuited it during their conversation in Yitzchok’s shop three years earlier.

Dredging up the address that Ahmed had given him from the depths of his memory, Yitzchok arrived on the doorstep of Ahmed’s home. If Ahmed was surprised to see him, he didn’t show it.

“Come in,” Ahmed told my brother. “Have a drink. Sharbat-e zaferan, on me.”

Iranians are extremely hospitable people. It’s considered impolite for a guest to turn down his Iranian host’s offer for food and drink. Yitzchok drank some of the grassy-flavored saffron syrup and after a bit of small talk he got down to the purpose of his visit.

“My mother, sister, brother, and I would like to leave the country, but there is no way out. Can you help us?”

“I can’t,” Ahmed said. “But Masud, my son, is in the business. I will speak to him, and he will contact you. He will take you and your relatives out of the country, but you mustn’t tell anyone. Rooye chechmam.

Rooye chechmam” is an Iranian idiom which literally means “on my eyes.” The less literal translation is, “I will do my very best.” Ahmed promised that he and his son would do everything they could to bring my family to safety.

Yitzchok returned from his visit to Ahmed and quietly told my mother, Dovid, and me what had happened. “I met someone today whose son will take us out of the country. His son will call our phone as soon as he is available to smuggle us across the border. We need to be prepared to leave the country at a moment’s notice; but we’re not allowed to tell anyone about our plans.”

I went to sleep that night with bated breath. I hoped that the next morning the phone would ring and that I’d finally be able to leave Iran for freedom.

Two cockroaches crawled across my pillow and walked along my forehead. The bugs in the attic took a similar walk almost every night, but this time, when I brushed them away, I did so with a smile.

Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow I might be set free. Tomorrow may be the day when I will finally break free of the cycle of poverty and living in homes that never really have everything we need.

Downstairs, the landlady turned her sink on. Conditions in her attic were admittedly better than they’d been in any of our previous apartments, but there were still far too many cockroaches around.

And far too much lack.

When would the phone call come?

Yitzchok had told my mother and brother about his plan, but he hadn’t told my father yet.

Since Abi didn’t live with us, he wasn’t automatically informed of our family plans.

Though Ahmed had warned Yitzchok not to tell anyone about our planned escape, Yitzchok decided that Abi wasn’t a part of the prohibition. Our father needed to know where our family was or he’d grow distraught when he heard that we had disappeared.

Yitzchok and Abi worked together in a shop, and the next day Yitzchok told Abi about our planned escape.

“Goodbye!” Abi told Yitzchok. “Farewell and travel safely.”

For us to be able to travel safely, Abi was not allowed to tell anyone about our plans.

We were not allowed to tell anyone. The news was at the tip of my tongue. It took all my strength not to let the words escape.

Fortunately, I wasn’t attending school at the time so there weren’t too many people who I could have told, anyhow.

Eight whole days passed. And then, finally, the phone call arrived.

Masud, the smuggler, was on the line. “Tomorrow night is the night,” he said. “Be ready.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 908)

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