Sunday, July 24, 2011



    Bandar-e-Anzali is a port town on the Caspian Sea. When I was a child my father would tell me stories about the kind and caring people of Pahlevi. For years I could not find on the map the town my father loved so much. Pahlevi became to me some kind of a fairy tale I understood as little as One Thousand and One Nights that my father would read to me as a bedtime story. The story book was beautifully illustrated with full-page Persian miniatures. I loved the miniatures. I loved their colours. I loved their richness. I was never bored with them. Each time I opened the book I would find something new in the picture I had already seen hundreds of times. When I was examining them carefully my father would say, ‘Persians are very kind people. They were very good to me. They were very gentle. They were very polite. They opened their heart to me at the time when I was starved to death. They fed me.’

    Bandar-e-Anzali gave shelter to Polish refugees, survivors of Soviet forced labour camps, victims of modern slavery. 118,000 Polish soldiers and 44,000 Polish civilians, women and orphans, landed on the beach of Bandar-e-Anzali in the summer of 1942. 639 Polish refugees who died of starvation will stay there forever in the local Polish graveyard. They died free under the Persian sun.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Downtown, Toronto, July 10, 2009

    In the morning the men would line up on the street at the entrance to the refugee camp. Employers would come and hire them for the day. The pay was fixed, five dollars for a day of hard work. The men would send the money home to their families. One day's pay was equal to a month's pay in their country far away.
    Mark’s eyes were deep, dark and feverish when he talked to me. He had been offered a job, a single day of work at a nearby nuclear plant. The pay was one-hundred-fifty dollars; the job was disposal of radioactive waste in a quarry.
    Mark was twenty-seven then and he had just learned that his girlfriend had taken her life back in his small home town. He decided to take the job as a punishment for having left her.

The Horseshoe

Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, "Infinitum"

    It is three o’clock in the morning and there are very few people at the airport. I am very sleepy and the young border officer who is scanning my luggage is also very sleepy. ‘You have a horseshoe in your suitcase,’ he is looking at me with a spark of curiosity in his eye. ‘Has it brought you good luck?’ How can I tell him what I am looking for? How can I tell him who I am looking for? How can I tell him my story? I am very tired. I am very tired with my hopeless search.
    I tell him about the horseshoe I found on top of a pile of garbage in the communal gardens. I scrubbed it clean and I tied a piece of red ribbon on it. When my mother’s friend saw the horseshoe, he examined it very thoroughly. ‘A lame horse was wearing it,' was his verdict.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, 2011

    Sometimes Duda’s mother would get lucky. She would get a piece of chocolate-covered candy from a customer in the bank she worked at. She would smile thankfully at the customer thinking about the joy in her children’s eyes when she would come back home with the candy.
    At three-thirty she would stand in the door and say, ‘Children, slice the candy into three pieces, so that all of you can get some.’ Duda’s eyes would cloud over with that stern look of disapproval then. ‘I will slice it into five pieces. There are five of us here. The candy is for mother, father and for ourselves.’
    Duda would drag her artificial leg, pick up the sharpest knife in the kichen and slice the candy very thin into five identical pieces as her mother was watching her little girl not to hurt herself should she suddenly have an epileptic seizure. ‘I am blessed with just children,' she laughed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Grain of Rice

Victoria Day, Dundas Square, Toronto, May 23, 2011. Celebrating Victoria Day.

   I am like a Christmas stocking. I am short, I am skinny, but I have a huge stomach. My stomach starts at my feet and goes up to the head. All my body is stomach.
   Last night I went to an eat-what-you-can restaurant. The owner is an Asian man. He has one simple rule: if you do not eat up, you pay a 30-dollar penalty. I ate a lot. The owner came up to my table and congratulated me. I did not have to pay.
   I remember what my grandmother used to teach me when I was a little boy: ‘Do not throw away food. To grow a grain of rice is a lot of work.’ When we have leftovers, we offer them to our relatives, neighbours, or to the poor who knock on the back door of our house. People here put food in the garbage. They should work in the fields to grow rice and learn how to respect every grain.

Of Mice and People

Ballet Raices de Colombia, Harbourfront, Toronto

    ‘Did you hear about the people who eat mice? I ate mice.
    When I was on the way to the factory for the night shift, I would put mouse traps in the field. When I was coming back home from work in the morning, I would pick up the mice that got caught in the traps while I was working. I would cook the mice for breakfast. They were delicious. They tasted like chicken. I was very happy then.
    Mice in the countryside are good for eating. Mice in the city are not good for eating.’