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 – Italy – CCXII. Our Immigration Options (2 of 10)

One of our neighbors on Rue Khantaret Ghamra was the Ovadia family. Elie and Rachel Ovadia, and their two young children were the nicest people you could hope to meet. Elie was a Civil Engineer and he helped me at times with my math homework. But of all their attributes, the one dad valued the most was their ability to organize a poker game at a moment’s notice. Elie had two brothers who never needed to have their arm twisted for them to sit down to a poker game!

When Nisso was playing poker, he was at peace with the world, and, therefore easier to deal with. “Bless the Ovadia,” my mother and grandmother would often say. But the time would come that we would bless this family for more than poker games.

A few years before the Suez Canal Crisis, Elie, for a variety of reasons, wanted to emigrate from Egypt. He had a friend in Australia who couldn’t praise this country enough. Would Elie be interested? Very much so. Would that friend be willing to sponsor him? He would be glad to, and the task would be easy for Australia suffered from a severe labor shortage, and engineers were at a premium.

Before 1956, the Ovadias were out of Egypt; thus they escaped the galut (exile) other Jews had to confront after The Suez Canal War.

Since it was obvious that, in turn, we sooner or later had to leave Egypt, we extracted from the Ovadia family a promise to sponsor us once they settled in Australia. And they were more than willing to do so. And that is when my dream to live in this amazing land began.

Our first priority when we arrived in Genoa was to write to the Ovadias and remind them of their promise. The Ovadias were willing to sponsor us and indeed couldn’t wait to see us.

And so, we went to the Australian consulate in Genoa and began our immigration formalities.

While we were waiting for our visa, Rachel wrote to us regularly.

They had bought a house there, a villa (that is how we called a detached house) with their own garden. Her favorite place was the lemon tree and that is where she wrote her letters.

Australia was starved for labor. Most people found a job a week after their arrival.

In the meantime, we were on the lookout for any Australian who came to La Veloce; but Australians were few and far between because their country was so far away from Europe. One day, Domenico came to us and very excitedly told us that a young Australian couple had just come in for lunch.

They were in Italy to study. They were just as eager to talk to us as we were to talk to them. However, we insisted that they finished their lunch first.

Their English was like a foreign tongue, very far removed from the British accent to which we were accustomed. Through their efforts to speak a “normal” English, and the fact that our ears were beginning to get accustomed to their English, we succeeded in communicating with each other.

They were so enthusiastic about their native country, they brought tears to our eyes.

Australia is a wide open country, you felt unfettered there; while they loved Italy they couldn’t wait to get back home. They sounded like inmates that couldn’t wait for the end of their sentence. And as they talked, they painted a vivid picture of their land. “Australia has thousands of kilometers of beaches. People are always out sunning themselves, swimming, or playing sports. If sports hadn’t been invented by the rest of the world, Australians would surely have come up with the basic concept!”

Only when they came up for air, were we able to ask questions. And their replies confirmed many of the facts Rachel had provided us with.

But they were not finished. “Australians are very friendly, they love to eat well and drink, with beer being their favorite beverage. They get excited quickly and calm down just as fast. An Australian will rarely hurt you if you know how to deal with him; and they hold their liquor very well.”

“During the summer many people do not cook. They put their food on the barbecue, be it meat, chicken, fish and other seafood, potatoes, and vegetables. The barbecue are on the beach itself and are provided by the municipality. You only need to bring your charcoal, food, and condiments. But no worry mate, if you forget to do so, rest assured that other people will demand that you share their meal.”

“Barbecue? What on earth is that?” we asked. After recovering from their surprise that there were humans who were not aware of the existence of barbecues, they patiently explained what it was.

After hearing them out, we had to ask if anybody worked there, and contributed to society! Apparently, they did; Australians are unmatched in their talent to enjoy life to the fullest, but they also worked hard.

They told us that the seasons were reversed there (that we knew). That people drive on the left. What does that mean? When they explained it, we exclaimed, “oh, they drive on the wrong side of the road!” “No, it is the right side, the normal way to drive,” they countered. I no longer remember if that particular argument was ever settled!

Sadly, days after they put stars in our eyes, we received a letter from the Australian consulate saying, “We regret to inform you that …” What happened here?

First of all, Elie was sponsoring his brothers and his father. That was too much for one sponsor. The fact that we were a young family would have played in our favor, but there was another major problem.

1956 was the year of the Hungarian revolution. Many Hungarians have left their country in a big panic. They were terrified refugees running from the Soviet tanks that had invaded the streets of Budapest. Immigration countries, Australia included, had little choice in the matter. And so Australia had no other option but to forego immigrants with many skills and already speaking English for the Hungarian refugees. We understood the dilemma faced by Australia, all of that was explained to us. “Perhaps in the future we were told.” But there would be no tomorrow for us, we would never see Australia, not even as tourists.

There is to this day a sad corner in my heart about what I so strongly desired and never came to pass. I have done well, and now, in my later years, I can look with pride at my accomplishments. But Australia, is like a first love that was denied.

You never put all your eggs in one basket. While we were waiting for the Australian visa, just in case, we looked at other countries. So let us go there and look at these options.

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