‘My refugee grandparents never played victim’

Moving reflections by Philippe Assouline, a Canadian Jew, on the trials and  tribulations endured by his Moroccan-born grandparents. Never once did they complain as they rebuilt their lives from discomfort and destitution.

parents and amazing grand parents never even told me they FLED Morocco
out of fear (how serious the danger was in Morocco is another matter,
but it was serious enough, with Nasserist fascism rising) to exile –  an
entire, large, 2,600 year-old community within 20 years). They never
complained or informed us — not even once amid thousands of often
nostalgic, always very talkative and boisterous shabbat and holiday
meals — that they had to suddenly leave all of their friends, memories,
culture, references and belongings behind — to save their lives and

I found out only at the age of 24 that they came to Canada
destitute, supported by charity and optimism, and had to start over with
many kids in tow.

 To see video by Hen Mazzig, click here.

My grandfather z””l, a light unto mankind, lost
a coffee making business and became a door to door salesman in the
great Canadian north (imagine an African in -30 degree weather, smiling
door to door while carrying encyclopedias). My grandmother — a legend
of a woman who made her home feel like the Temple in Jerusalem, z”l –
became a seamstress, gathering what she could in extreme elegance. My
other grandfather z”l, with his consummate warmth and charm, a heart on each of
his sleeves to go with his endless smile, worked into the late night as a
tailor, while my dad and others shared a living room as a bedroom,
supported by the endless courage of my grandmother z”l, a pillar of
knowledge and values, who pushed the entire family to focus on
education, self -improvement and dignity.

Never did they whine,
play victim or complain. It was unimaginable to even resort to social
services in times of need, let alone make the world carry us. Never was I
raised to believe that my misfortunes were caused by others or that the
world owed me anything. I was raised to believe that I had no
misfortunes, BH and that I owed the world to be good and happy. To look
forward, be a good CITIZEN, be a good person, and enjoy life and family.

That blessed attitude is why we, ACTUAL refugees, entirely
blameless and exiled by Arab regimes and a war we had no hand in
starting or contact to, never got redress. This, while the people who
chose to wage genocidal war and lost, have appropriated the “refugee”
mantle while fitting neither its moral nor legal definition.

is high time that our story be recognized, and even more than that, the
incredible dignity and honor and class of our elders who suffered and
kept moving forward with a smile.

And we’re just getting started.

One Comment

  • Because they didn’t ‘play’ victim, they were able to take the difficult steps necessary to save their families, and take root in a strange country that offered safety and opportunities to those who worked for it.


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