Tuesday, March 01, 2005
My grandmother and her younger sister ended up in a German orphanage in Beirut in 1910, after her father was killed in the massacres around Adana in 1909 and her family was driven from their farm. Nana liked Beirut very much. She left the orphanage to be a nurse on Marshal Foch's staff in 1917 (she said) and managed to stay in Beirut through the end of the war. Though she lived in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, for four years and met her husband there, and lived in America from 1922 on, she always considered Beirut her place.
When the war in the 1970s began to blow up Beirut in slow motion, I was a college student and driving down to visit Nana from time to time, as my first wife and I loved talking to her. She watched the news on TV but would talk over it -- until the pictures of Beirut came on. "How terrible," she would say, "for this to happen to the most wonderful city in the Mediterranean." She had seen Cairo and Alex, Damascus and Athens, but none could compare to Beirut. "There were Europeans of all kinds there after the war," she would tell us, "and it was like living in Paris." And Beirut in the post-WW2 era was indeed very multicultural. Nana would watch the TV with pictures of blown-out buildings in Beirut, and she would cry.
If Rose were here, there's little doubt where she'd be.