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 – CXCIV. Our Daily Life (3 of 19)

So what did I do in Livorno after the official business was over?

Livorno at the time had a magnificent corniche that run all along the Mediterranean sea. Parallel to the sea were gardens with benches facing the sea. Sitting there was like being in the Garden of Eden. All your cares are sure to fly away. I wished I would have had a chance to sit there by myself; but there were always other Egyptians who again and again talked to me about the good old days of Egypt. Which of Cairo or Alexandria was a superior city? What did my father do for a living? When I mentioned his name, many recognized him, or at least have heard about him. “Enta ibn Nisso Ezri, wa salam!” (You’re Nisso’s son, how wonderful!)

In the evening we sat on a large veranda overlooking a well-manicured garden belonging to the hotel. Don’t ask me why, but the conversation was more serious at that time. Where do we go from here? What do you think of this or that country? Since, I didn’t as yet know where we were going, I got endless advice. Egyptian advice comes in the form of an order! Sentences started with “lazem …” (You have to …). At the beginning I told them that it was up to my father. But they didn’t buy that. “you’re 20 years old, surely, you must have your say.” “Nisso is not that kind of man.” Eventually I ended the argument by saying: “La nuit porte conseil.” (Approximately: I’ll sleep on it).

Optimism reigned supreme. You would have thought we were in a resort hotel enjoying our vacation. The hotel staff was totally befuddled: Were these people really refugees? How did they know so many languages? Most of them could communicate in Italian, and some of them spoke it fluently; how was that possible? One day a waitress asked me how many languages I spoke? I understood her Italian and responded, “tre” (three). The Egyptian next to me corrected me, “tre e mezzo” (three and half). Why? So he countered: “French, Arabic, English, and very soon you will speak Italian zayel belbel (more or less like a native).” And within a month his prophecy was beginning to come true.

The HIAS didn’t know what to make of us (and not only in Genoa and Livorno). “We can speak many languages. We can quickly learn any language.” “We have many skills; or can quickly acquire a skill.” “Don’t worry about us.” But the HIAS was very worried. Egyptians were going to be a handful. They thought too much of themselves. And their worries were not misplaced. In time, however, Egyptians realized that skills needed to be acquired and new languages could not be learned overnight, no matter how many languages you already knew.

There are exceptions, of course, but, today, decades later, Egyptians, wherever they went, did well.

But I digressed. So let me come back to Livorno.

Livorno has a lot to offer to tourists besides the seashore and gardens. They had museums. The Sanctuary of Montenero, which is dedicated to our Lady of Graces, the patron saint of Tuscany. The house of the great opera composer, Pietro Mascagni. And a dense network of Canals. But, since I am by nature totally besotted by water and gardens, I devoted most of my time to them. Besides, I had a personal mission to complete.

I have been told many times by members of the Ezri family that in Livorno we had a street bearing our name. Now that I was here, it was time to verify that claim.

Of course, I can’t walk through the streets and ask people where was the Ezri street (assuming it even existed)! The solution, needless to say, was to enquire at City Hall. One of the Egyptians in the hotel who spoke a fluent Italian volunteered to take me.

The scene at the Municipio (Municipality) had it been filmed would have attracted a record number of hits on YouTube.

The municipal clerk responsible for the street registers managed to keep a straight face, when a perfect stranger asked her if there was in Livorno a street with his name on!

After a careful search, she assumed a regretful expression: “Ci dispiace Signor Ezri, ma non abiamo una strada con quel nome.” (We are sorry Mr. Ezri, but we do not have a street by that name).

Before giving up, I asked if perhaps it was a small road, a crescent, or even a cul-de-sac? After all, I didn’t expect an Ezri Boulevard! She shook her head and informed me that she had checked everything. As we were ready to leave, her face lit up: “Forse nel registro storico.” (Perhaps in the old register). She disappeared for a while, and came back with old and dusty registers. After a laborious search, she shook her head again and informed me that that street has never existed. She pointed at the registers and said that they went back to the 19th century!

I have looked for immortality, but, alas, it has eluded me!

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