Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – CXIV. Alexandria – My Maternal Family (5 of 5)

Nonna Gamila

A third grandmother? Not exactly. Gamila (which means beautiful) was aunt Renee’s mother and therefore the grandmother of Micho, Gasti, and Viviane. However, throughout my childhood, I did consider her as an additional grandmother; it was never just a case of calling her nonna out of respect.

Gamila has been widowed at a relatively young age (yes, the same story seems to repeat itself) and was left to care for her six children. Her children were (not in the precise order of their birth): Albert, Margot, Leon, Beba, Renee, and Isaac. I don’t know much about Renee’s siblings, i.e. who they married, how many children they had, etc. Even if I knew, my story, of necessity, must be restricted to the immediate family; otherwise my recitation of those past events will be interminable. However, for reasons which will quickly become apparent, I do make an exception for Margot.

The family was of a Halabi origin. You may remember that I previously told you  that Halabi make good businessmen. Gamila’s sons were no exception. Early on, Albert, Leon, and Isaac started their own business; and, yes, you guessed right, it was in the schmati business. In time, Albert left to go to Israel, and Leon and Isaac carried on with a business which, as time went on, proved to be more and more profitable. Their business activities were not confined to Egypt; I understand that they had business relations with Europe, notably Italy, Switzerland, and England.

Gamila’s sons supported her; and she had her own apartment on Rue Zankaloun. Gamila lived with Margot and her family, namely, her husband Maurice (you probably clued in by now that this was a popular name among Egyptian Jews), and their two sons, Roger and Claude. Maurice was British and, of course, spoke an impeccable English.

I refer to this day to Roger as my cousin, although technically he was only a cousin by marriage. But no matter, for me Roger was a brother, a cousin, and above all a friend the like of whom you only meet once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.

Roger was intelligent, witty, steadfast, and honest to a fault. When my other cousins abandoned me for the fair sex, Roger was always there for me. With few exceptions, I could count on finding him in his apartment on Rue Zankaloun; and from there we went for long walks in the Ramleh and Ibrahimia area. And while we walked, we talked, and talked, and talked some more.

Although later he became a chemist, in my opinion, he could have made a good psychologist. He managed to extirpate from my mind the notion that girls were a menace!

When my cousins had a party, it took place in the apartment on Rue Zankaloun. Gamila, Margot, Maurice, and Claude reluctantly vacated the premises for a few hours. Uncles, aunts, and above all my cousins, urged me to go to one of those parties, but they proved unsuccessful. Roger though managed to get me into the lion’s den! He said: “Come to the party on your own terms. Dance, eat, and drink only if you wish. Interact with the rest of the crowd or ignore them. The choice is yours.” As we shall see in the next section, I did go to parties, and did live to tell the tale.

When they left Egypt, nonna Gamila went to Switzerland to rejoin her two sons, Leon and Isaac. Maurice, Margot, and their two children went to England. There Roger studied to be a chemist. In time, Roger married a fine Jewish Egyptian young lady, Mireille.

Life takes its own twists and turns; and as it happened, Mireille and Roger immigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal where my wife Norma and myself were living. Of course, when time permitted it, we got together; and our two children loved to play with their three children. Eventually, though, we moved to Ottawa and lost touch.

The years have gone by and all of Gamila’s children have now passed away.

In 2001, I had the privilege of having in my home, for 6 months, the youngest of Roger’s children, Esther. She used this opportunity to talk to me at length, and reconstruct the early years of her dad, and the vaunted life Jews had in Alexandria. I also inquired about her family’s life after I had left Montreal.

I wish this story had a happy ending. But we don’t decree the events of our lives, much less the ending. Roger was stricken with cancer and passed away in June 2001. He was only 64. I still grieve over the loss of such a dear friend.


Dale Carnegie

Comments are closed.