[15:30:26] Interviewer: We're going to take a picture and then I'm going to read this. [15:30:36] It's 21st of August, 2017 in Toronto. This interview is with Flo Orbach born Farah Dahoud. And uh, the interviewer is Lisa Newman, the cameraman is Jeff Ridout, the interview is in English.
[15:31:35] Interviewer: And you are?
[15:31:35] Flo: I'm Flo Orbach, this is my name in Toronto, Canada but I was born in Baghdad and there I had, I was named Farah Dahoud. Dahoud was not my family name, it's the first name of my father. We didn't have families there and we all followed the name of our father. So that's how I was known, as Farah Dahoud.
[15:32:01] Interviewer: Dahoud is...
[15:32:02] Flo: David. My father's name was David. His name was David Ezekiel because his father's name was Ezekiel.
[15:32:11] Interviewer: And where were you born?
[15:32:13] Flo: I was born in Baghdad.
[15:32:15] Interviewer: At home?
[15:32:16] Flo: Yes. I am one of five. One of the births was in hospital, my mother told us. I was the fifth of a family of five, definitely I was at home. Yes.
[15:32:30] Interviewer: And when were you born?
[15:32:32] Flo: I was born on the exact day 27th of April, 1937. I am exactly 80 years old now. I left when I was ten years old.
[15:32:45] Interviewer: What are your early memories that [someone clears throat] you have?
[15:32:49] Flo: My early memories was with my family. I'm, as I say, I'm the youngest of five, spoiled by everybody. Um...my early memories is my home. Our house was not like a home here. It was an open concept. There was no roof. You just walked in and there is a courtyard and then sort of, that probably was the basement, the first level. [15:33:17] It was cool in the summer. We used to have one big room and we'd sit there in the summer. And there we had a kitchen, what you could call a kitchen, you would never think it's a kitchen because there's nothing there like a stove or a sink or anything like that.
[15:33:32] Interviewer: What was in the kitchen?
[15:33:35] Flo: Well, my mother always cooked as, on her haunches like, I think there was a counter and she had a kerosene lamp, like a flame to cook with. All...most meals were stews, or maybe a fry pan where you could make fried eggs I remember. Um...[15:33:56] And everything was just prepared. There was no stove. We had no fridge of course, no fridge. The, the only, our means of coolness was we used to get blocks of ice used to be delivered every morning and they used to come in and they used to put them in there. Our food was mainly purchased on that day, bought on the day, cooked on the day, eaten on the day. There's nothing left over. The only thing we prepared for the day after is Shabbat. [15:34:23] And we used to make whatever we make it, we call it the uh, uh, in Bombay they call it hamin. We call it t'bit, it's sort of, it's chicken dish with rice and then they put eggs on top and end up with brown eggs so all our - we don't, there's no cooking on Shabbat but every day the food is bought, cooked, eaten, thrown out. That's is.
[15:34:46] Interviewer: Tell me about the dairy man.
[15:34:49] Flo: Oh yeah, the milkman. Oh that was my favourite. As, being, being the youngest in the child, the milkman used to come in with the cow outside. Used to come into every house, stop, ring his bell and it was my job, being the youngest, I used to go out with the bucket and I used to give it to him and I still, that I vividly remember as he was milking the cow and uh, the odd time my mother would say, oh the milk was a little bit diluted so she would go out and tell him that he gave the cow a little bit too much water that day. I don't know how she knew. [15:35:24] But there's always uh, dialogue between the milkman and the family.
[15:35:30] Interviewer: Did you ever get to milk the cow?
[15:35:32] Flo: No. No, I was scared. All my job was just to hand him the bucket and keep - as I say there is no refrigeration so whatever milk we got it was fresh, obviously it was not pasteurized but we survived. We drank it that day and then whatever wasn't drank was thrown out.
[15:35:49] Interviewer: Where did you get eggs?
[15:35:52] Flo: I don't know. My mother, well, being one of five, even then we used to have, it's not a maid but like a caregiver. She would come in every day; she would do the shopping. She would bring the eggs, the meat, the vegetables. She would come in my, and she would help my mother cook it and then leave. She did most of the cooking. My mother, I think, had a pattern like, every day it was the same, I remember, Friday of course we ate chicken and the rice. [15:36:26] Sunday we ate, I think dairy. Thursday was fish. Sunday was dairy and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday it was basically stews. Most of our meals were stews. Um, and it goes with a vegetable, like if you do a carrot stew, it would be carrotia kind of a stew or if you would use a bamya, our favourite vegetable was okra, I don't know if you have that here. [15:36:51] That, the stew would take the name of that, of the vegetable. It's never just the stew by itself. It always had a vegetable in it. Um, potatoes was a delicacy, was a treat. No question, oh yeah. We used to serve it on a plate with lemon juice, lemon, salt and pepper, it was an absolute delicacy. Our main food is rice, was rice. Everything had rice in it. Our bread was round. I like the laffas in Israel like, now, I don't know if you've been to, this was our normal bread. [15:37:26] I remember, just before we left, we left in '48 and I think around '46, '47 they introduced the loaves of bread and we were so excited. We thought, oh, we were eating cake. It was just unbelievable. It tasted so good.
[15:37:41] Interviewer: Where would you get the laffa? Who baked it?
[15:37:45] Flo: I think whoever, the lady that bought everything would bring it. The only thing we ever baked was the matzos.
[15:37:54] Interviewer: Tell me about that.
[15:37:55] Flo: We used to, we used to get a tanoor, whatever they call it. Is it tanoor? And that would be heated with the wood I think from inside and it had a hole in it and you basically, you made the dough and you flattened it and then we used to put it, you, I mean, it wasn't me, used to put your head in the tanoor and put the, the dough right on the walls. [15:38:22] It's a round thing you put on the tanoor and then it take, after five minutes it bakes. I think it was here with Doctor, Doctor Laffa, they had a tanoor here. And the fellow there was from Baghdad and I used to talk to him in Arabic in there and he used to do it the way it was done. [15:38:41] But we only baked it on uh, on Pessah. Otherwise we just bought it. They must have had kosher uh...Jewish people did not shop at the Arab stores, at the - no butchers, no nothing. Everything we had our own people, our own uh, wherever we got the meat, the milk and everything else. It was, it was, we lived together in one country but yet they lived separate. [15:39:13] I mean, it's hard to say, "Are you kosher?" There was no way not to be kosher and to be Jewish. You had to have your kitchen your chickens came [sounds] from a kosher butcher whoever slaughtered them. Your vegetables, maybe your vegetables were bought in the market but everything else there was no other way. Everything was cooked at home and everything was kosher. [15:39:39] It's very hard to understand what is really kosher or not, the word kosher. I don't think we ever used it because we didn't have anything else to compare it to. We definitely did not mix with the Arabs. We lived with them. We, we had neighbours in my own house, we had Arab neighbours, we could speak to them but never really communicate with them. Just...just say hello and goodbye I think we were always...[15:40:08] Personally, I was always fearful of them.
[15:40:11] Interviewer: Why?
[15:40:13] Flo: Well because they can spit at you and they can...well let me go through it. There were three classes of people. The Muslims are the class one. The Christians were number two, the Jews were number three. So we always knew we were in - sort of inferior. Even our dialects were different. The Muslims spoke Arabic with a certain dialect, the Christians with another one and the Jews with a third one, what they called Judeo-Arabic. [15:40:42] Now this is my theory, I might be right, I might be wrong, I don't know. But by the age of five, all Jewish children knew the three dialects and could converse in the three dialects. And we knew, within two seconds, when we spoke to an adult, or anybody else which dialect they were and he had to speak to them in that dialect. [15:41:05] So by the age of five I knew what was the Muslim and the Christian. The Christians, when we spoke to a Christian we had to speak in the Christian dialect. When we spoke to a Muslim we had to speak in the Muslim dialect. The Christians only had to learn two. The Muslims. I always felt to sorry for the Muslim children because they really never heard any other dialect but their own. [15:41:28] And I feel, I don't know, my theory, it sharpened our ears and our brains so by the age of four or five we knew the difference and you know what to say and to whom. At the moment I really, I forgotten all my Christian and Muslim dialects and I still feel embarrassed now when I meet a Muslim socially. And I really, 'till this day I feel very embarrassed to come out with my Judeo-Arabic and they usually relax me and say, no, no, it's okay, it's okay. I understand. [15:42:01] You can talk that way. They definitely have different words and like, uh, whatever and uh, I mean, those feelings are with you all your life. You can't get away from them. It's that embara - maybe it's embarrassment of being Jewish? That's why I, I feel embarrassed to speak with my Judeo-Arabic to a Muslim person? I don't know.
[15:42:26] Interviewer: Were there Hebrew word in Judeo-Arabic?
[15:42:29] Flo: Oh I'm sure there was. Arabic and Hebrew are very similar. Like, Arad, Ehad in Hebrew is We had in Arabic. The only thing is the [??] and the [??] Till this day I, actually, I asked my rabbi to look into it, why is the shin is sin and sim the shin. Like shalom we have salam. Um, oh yeah, very similar. The words are very quite similar.
[15:42:54] Interviewer: You didn't have friends as a child who were not Jewish?
[15:42:59] Flo: ...well that's very interesting. No, I am one of five. We have no friends. My family was my friends. Like we ate together, we learned together, we, did have friends at school but we didn't visit like here. Because- you know what? No one has ever asked me that. We, we, there was no way we could go to other people or nobody lived around me. We just met at school, we became friends and then we walked home. [15:43:29] We all walked home. I remember I used to walk behind my sister. My sister was responsible for me to take me home and we just played with our brothers and sisters. Our parents never went out, there is no such thing as going out and getting a babysitter. If they ever went anywhere they would take us all with them. It's a different kind of life and uh...that's about it. [15:43:54] Like our house was, was quite small. As I said, it was an open concept. We had this courtyard. Upstairs we just had two bedrooms and one, what do you call, a family room? The family room was everything. It had a table on it where we could eat, do our homework afterwards, play ping-pong when we wanted. [15:44:14] And uh, I remember we used to have one big wall and we used to colour it and write on it and once a year my parents would paint it white and then we can start again. And, and uh, our main pastime was, we studied quite hard. At school, because I went to a French school it was uh, France Alliance so we, French was the first language we had to learn at school. [15:44:38] And then by the age of six or seven they introduced Arabic and then just before I felt, at the age of eight, they introduced English.
[15:44:48] Interviewer: Were you taught in French?
[15:44:49] Flo: We were taught in French. It was basically a French immersion school.
[15:44:56] Interviewer: And 'till today, are you fluent?
[15:44:57] Flo: No. I don't. The only thing is when I - when I speak French un petit peu or whatever the few words I know, everybody said, "Oh, that's not Montreal French." So obviously, it may have been, it probably was the Parisian French. And I think there' s a big difference between the Parisian French and the...Quebecers and everybody is saying, whatever few words that I do know, they say, "Oh no, that's a good French accent." so I don't know any more than that.
[15:45:25] Interviewer: Tell me about synagogue.
[15:45:28] Flo: Oh yeah, we did not have a regular synagogue. What we did, our school converted into a synagogue. Um...and I remember it was, obviously it was a Jewish school so all the synagogue was there, they would bring in all the chairs and the services and everything. Synagogues, as my mother would tell me, only men used to go. Like around our neighbourhood well the men who were religious, I guess the word was observant, they would go and pray on Fridays and Saturdays. [15:46:00] And that's about it. Most families did not go to shuul on Shabbas, we called it Shabbat, every week. All the time we ever went was Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pessah. And that was it.
[15:46:16] Interviewer: And what was that like?
[15:46:17] Flo: It was fun. We used to have new clothes and we used to go and, I think it was the only time we really met our friends from school and our families. Everybody was there and it was fun. Um, I left when I was ten so I really...um, like my brothers and sisters left a lot older than me, like my sister was 20 when she left. [15:46:41] And she, her memories would be much more vivid but I think my memories are just fun. I mean a child until the age of ten, everything is fun. Nothing was serious.
[15:46:53] Interviewer: What happened at Rosh Hashanah?
[15:46:57] Flo: Rosh Hashanah was okay. We just got new clothes, went to the synagogue, prayed, came back. The fun part was Pessah. Pessah, I mean, my gosh, my mother's favourite night of the year. It was like a wedding. We would have our - first of all the preparation is unbelievable. Everything had to be baked and cooked. We definitely had different dishes. [15:47:21] And I'm sure she had different pots and the way she used to love it. My, my father wasn't as much because he was born in Bombay. He was a little more sophisticated. But my mother had that Baghdad upbringing where she would sing all the songs, she knew them all by heart and she made sure that we all knew how to sing them and read them and she was the main influence in our family as far as Arabic was concerned. [15:47:49] My father never learned to read or write Arabic. He wanted to keep himself the Englishman, always wore suits and a hat. He worked in a British company.
[15:48:01] Interviewer: We'll come back to your father but meanwhile about Pessah, you mentioned that you still remember [overlap]
[15:48:09] Flo: Oh yes I still remember yeah. If you'd like I could read it to you.
[15:48:13] Interviewer: Would you?
[15:48:13] Flo: Not a problem. I hope I can remember it. Where is it? Okay? I'll, I'll record it for you in the way I think I remember how my mother taught it to me. [reads]
[15:49:26] Interviewer: Thank you. What about Avadim haim [ph]?
[15:49:31] Flo: You know, I only know the first lines. I really...
[15:49:35] Interviewer: Okay, well I guess as much as you know.
[15:49:36] Flo: I can tell you something about our ways with the maneshtana [ph]. We had uh, what we used to do, we used to get all the children, had to leave the room and they used to put on us scarves, like big, huge scarves behind us as if we were slaves and then we would walk in, knock at the door and my father would say, "Where are you coming from?" And we'd say, "Mitsriam [ph]" and he would say, "Where are you going?" And we said, "Yerushaleim" and he would say, "Well what do you have to tell us? Do you want to tell us anything?" [15:50:08] And that's how we said the maneshtana. It's quite a nice ritual. I tried to teach it to my children and grandchildren and sometimes I will, they go with it. They, they enjoy it too. Definitely the Seder was a kids night. It was - we participated and we had fun and we enjoyed it.
[15:50:31] Interviewer: Tell me about your dad. You were starting to say...
[15:50:34] Flo: Okay my father's family were from Iraq, his parents, I think not sure, yeah I think they were married in Baghdad. There was a big, quite a big exodus form Baghdad to Bombay in the, I would say 1880's, I'm guessing that because my father was born in 1896, so obviously his parents had been established in Bombay. [15:50:56] And the Jews in Bagh - Bombay did very well. They established a lot of schools and synagogues and this and there was very little anti-Semitism, if any, in Bombay. They had a much happier life because my cousins, now that I've met them, who were brought up in Bombay and [I notice?] big difference. [15:51:16] We always lived in fear, we never went out at night. We never had fun, but they did. They used to go to movies, go dances, do whatever teenagers do. Now, my father, as I've just discovered, he, since he was born in 1896, the first World War was established in 1914, he was 18 years old, exactly he was supposed to go to the army so his parents did not want him to go into the war. [15:51:49] So they decided they want to send him to the country, back to their country with his brother. So he took his younger brother with him and he went to Baghdad. I it must have been 1915. He had a job there in a British, it was a British accountancy firm and he met my mother.
[15:52:10] Interviewer: Who did he live with?
[15:52:11] Flo: With his brother. I think he had uncles and aunts. He had relatives who did not go to Bombay. He lived with them until he met my mother. His brother did no meet anybody in Baghdad, went to the states and became American and...[15:52:30] But my father stayed in Baghdad, never went back to Bombay again. It's very hard to travel in those days. And he stayed until we left in 1948.
[15:52:41] Interviewer: Did he speak languages other than Arabic?
[15:52:45] Flo: He, his first language in Bombay is English. He did know Arabic because his parents were from Baghdad so they made sure he speaks Arabic. He spoke Arabic, he did not know how to read or write Arabic and he refused to learn. He says no. He's English, that's it.
[15:53:02] Interviewer: And he didn't have English, Indian languages?
[15:53:06] Flo: No, in Bombay they only spoke, they spoke English. That's the mother tongue. I think he probably knew Indian language but since he didn't need it in Baghdad there was nobody he could speak with so that was forgotten.
[15:53:20] Interviewer: And what was his work? What did he do?
[15:53:22] Flo: He was an accountant. I remember he loo- we worked for an insurance company - C-streak [ph?] somebody, I don't know, it was a British. He lived with British people, he spoke English all the time and uh, and he really not, not communicated too much.
[15:53:42] Interviewer: Did he study accountancy?
[15:53:43] Flo: I think so. He must have. In Bombay. No, because I think by the time he came to...you know what? I never asked him too many questions. But I know he always used to work. Our day, in Baghdad it's different, it's not like here. You don't go from 9 till 4. You always come home for siesta in the afternoon. [15:54:05] He always used to come home at 12 o'clock for lunch and sleep and then you go back at two and then you come home again at six o'clock. And uh...that's about - mean...I don't know too much about him. It was maistly, I was mostly, it was my mother's family, her brothers and her sisters we, if we went anywhere it was always with them. [15:54:30] I really have no, I didn't meet any of my father's relatives at all.
[15:54:35] Interviewer: So what was your father's surname then?
[15:54:38] Flo: Well he was a, against, we don't have family names but this, his father had two names: Ezekiel Ephram [ph]. And my father picked Ezekiel. I have another cousin, they picked Ephram and she's Ephram and I'm Ezekiel but nobody knows that we're first cousins. It's, I don't know when the theory of - it's just like in the bible, you know they never tell you the name of a family. It's always uh, Isaac ben Abraham or Jacob ben Israel and this is how we were as well. [15:55:08] Farah Dahoud, that's how it is. When people were friendly they, oh yeah, let me try and get this straight. [15:55:19] Like here you can call Mister so-and-so and Mrs. so-and-so. There you don't. You call them the father of so-and-so and the mother of so-and-so. So that's how you get to know, like my father wasn't - once you have an - and it always goes by the son's name. Your firstborn son. So like my oldest brother was Freddy so my father's name would be known by his friends Abouf Freddy. Of my mother would be known Ama Freddy. And that's how it was. [15:55:47] It's the mother of so-and-so. And also before like, the son of so-and-so. I honestly don't know when the family surname ever...became the, the in thing.
[15:56:02] Interviewer: How did your parents meet?
[15:56:04] Flo: Well, actually my mother probably was taken as a mixed marriage. Most marriages were done by the Shadchan. Everything was a Shadchan. Everything had to be introduced. Now, with my mother's story, actually, it was quite sad. Her father died when she was two and she was, again, she was the youngest of her family and her mother struggled raising her. [15:56:29] She had two sisters and one brother and in my family, with, with the girls you always had to produce a dowry so because they were, as orphans, they didn't have too much dowries. Um...her sister, this is interesting, the oldest sister they found, she went to a Shadchan then they found this lovely young man who was very religious, wanted to be a rabbi. [15:56:56] Now, in those days no wanted to marry a rabbi because they, their earning wasn't that good so because the family was not that well financially off they said, good idea. So they married her off to this rabbi. That fellow later became the chief rabbi of Baghdad. Now he is my uncle, he is - the other sister, they, the Shadchan found her a young man who was very [Hebrew?] and wanted to leave and go to Israel, very [haludsic-minded?]. [15:57:26] OF course, nobody wanted to give him his daughter but, again, my mother's family were a little desperate, they said, go ahead. So they went to Israel, in the 1920's. So I have a lot of cousins who were born in Israel and they did very well in Israel Like, but my cousins there became, like one of them was very instrumental in the development of the Hebrew language, the modern Hebrew language. Because after the establishment of the state of Israel, they had to come up with a Hebrew language and he was very involved in that. [15:57:59] Now with my mother being the youngest, also they had a thing. The boys cannot marry unless all the girls are get married. So my mother had one other brother so he had to wait till my mother got married before he could get married. So I guess my mother gave them a bit of a problem because they, the Shadchan would come along and they'd have a look, they do a report, how pretty she is, how much dowry she has and this and that and they came up with this fellow. [15:58:29] And there was a big production, the Shadchan come along with the parents of the fellow and with my mother and her family and to look at them. Now I don't know what happened. According to my mother she told me she took one look at this fellow, there was no chemistry there, she didn't like him and she ran away. Well, after that...
[15:58:50] Interviewer: How old would she have been?
[15:58:53] Flo: I don't know but she got married quite late. She got married in '26 at the age of 24. She - so I guess that was when she was 18, 19 so after that her name was blacklisted. Not one Shadchan would have anything to do her. They - she was no game. So she was left behind...until somebody said, "Oh there this fellow who came from Bombay." Well, obviously he knows nothing from nothing. The Shadchan didn't want to touch him either, they don't have his history, they don't have his background so it was uh, a fluke. [15:59:30] Anyway, they met, they fell in love, they got married and they had us off [?] and the rest is history. But I think my mother was quite older at the age of probably 24 and it's quite sad because her brother did not marry even though he was older than her until she was married and it was really sad because when he got married he could never have children. And that was sad because he always felt he sacrificed his life and his future because you had to wait till all your sisters were married. [16:00:08] I don't know they say um, they couldn’t have children and my mother was having - as I told you before I'm the fifth, and they said like, um, oh yeah, that's right. His wife...had an - aborted, had a miscarriage at the same time that my mother was pregnant with me. And I remember my mother telling me she felt so bad that she wanted to give me to them because why would god give her a fifth child and not give it to them? But that deal didn't go through and I stayed with my family. But I was told that um...[16:00:46] I mean, my birth was a both pleasure and sad because it's hard when your sister-in-law had a miscarriage and you go through with your fifth child. That's what I was told.
[16:00:59] Interviewer: For you, growing up, did you spend a lot of time with cousins and...
[16:01:05] Flo: Not really. Only, the only cousins we had is the rabbi's children and they were sort of...I wouldn't say, they were more sophisticated then us. I don't know why, I guess because my father wasn't from Baghdad and we were a little bit more segregated. We just met them on weddings and, and stuff like that but we really didn't mix too much.
[16:01:28] Interviewer: Do you remember being at a wedding?
[16:01:30] Flo: Well the only wedding I had was the chief Rabbi's daughter, yes, I remember that -
[16:01:34] Interviewer: [overlap] What do you remember?
[16:01:35] Flo: Well I remember it was done in their house. It was a big house, it had a garden, well I mean, it's [not] something we never had and I remember we all got dressed up, we went in and we were in awe of the bride and the groom, my gosh everything was uh...and I remember we were very impressed. They had lots of food and I think it was in the garden and lots of white tablecloths and flowers. It was a very...pleasant, very nice thing to have but I think that was about the one and only weddings I ever went to...that I remember.
[16:02:12] Interviewer: Did you ever go to a bar mitzvah?
[16:02:14] Flo: No. I don't think, no we didn't have bar mitzvahs. Actually, now that you've asked, my brother who emigrated to the States he had a bar mitzvah in, a few years ago, when he was 83. And they advertised it and they published it. He never had a bar mitzvah. We did not have bar mitzvahs like we have now. [16:02:36] Maybe they just said a prayer or something but nothing, no parties, no nothing, nothing of that. But he definitely had his...
[16:02:44] Interviewer: No calling up to the torah?
[16:02:47] Flo: Well we didn't have Shuul on a regular basis so why would you have a bar mitzvah? The Shuul was only set up Rosh Hashanah and Pessah so where would you go? And I think whoever went praying, as my mother would say, the observant people, they prayed in houses, in a little room in a house. Maybe they just had ten men, twelve men and they prayed and that was it. [16:03:10] They said their prayers, there was no nothing like a bar mitzvah, that we knew of.
[16:03:16] Interviewer: Do you remember as a young girl what your ambitions and hopes were for your own future? For your life?
[16:03:24] Flo: I...I think I knew that we had to leave. I think the history of the - the Babylonian Jews and the Jews went to Baghdad, I don't know. I'm sure my family was there from the Babylonian age. My mother told us they never left and I would say we're probably some of the Jews from the bible. We never went to Europe or anything like that. [16:03:46] In 1941 there was the big Farhoud and that was the beginning of the end of the Jew, the Jews living pleasantly in Baghdad, in Iraq. Because I don't know if you know, they sent um, there was something with the Mufti and the, and Hitler and they, there was big riots for about six months. We were, we escaped that because my father was British, all the British people evacuated their wives and children. [16:04:18] So they sent us to the nearest place which was Bombay. Which was very nice. We had a chance to meet my cousins for the first time. I really don't remember them. I was only four but my older sister, who was 14, they remembered, we met them there. [16:04:35] Then after we came back, when the Mufit and Hitler they could not make it, he was not successful, the Jews came back and we lived. But we knew one day we are going to be leaving. I mean, I, I lived, I knew that with my own thing. Which year is it going to be? They never taught us Hebrew at school. The only way they could teach us Hebrew, my parents would hire, would get a, um, a fellow, a teacher and he would teach the whole five of us Hebrew. [16:05:06] I learned...I'm not sure if I learned to read. All I know is I remember he came, he taught us the hatikvah. That was maybe a year or two before we left. And till this day I feel very emotional when I hear the hatkivah I remember the hope that one day we will have a country of our own. That's what really...I feel it in my heart. It's not the same when I sing the hatkivah now but whenever I hear it I remember how we were taught and that one day that we will have a country of ourselves. [16:05:46] Of our own. Um...that's about the - thing um...as I say, like, I didn't learn much Hebrew. All the Hebrew that I really remember from Baghdad is from seder night. We knew how to read it. I basically, we learned it by heart. I don't think, I don't think we read it. For fun, what we had for fun in the summer, this was the fun things, we used to have to river Tigris, that goes right though Baghdad. [16:06:17] My parents would rent the same fellow we, they had a, somebody who had a boat. I remember his name was Jassim. We would go somewhere to the river and we would go up on the boat and he would take us to some island and on the way he would fish. He would catch a fish and he would go to the island, cut the fish, barbeque it. [16:06:42] I still remember, he used to put the sticks on and put each half of the fish on it and we would eat barbequed fish and, of course, my mother would bring some parties and stuff and then we would come back home.
[16:06:55] [technical adjustment]
[16:07:18] Flo: That was my favourite fish. I used to love it and I - try and make it again here, what we used to call it samak masgouf [ph] it was barbequed fish but I can never get that same flavour. He used to put butter and curry on it and lemon juice and I don't know what but it was, I still remember it, it was delicious. [16:07:38] We learned to swim, again, on our way we would lean to swim in the river. And, of course, my big, older brother would make sure that he, he knew how to swim so he would put us in the water and, and try to swim, try to float. I think I remember being ducked in but that's about all. I don't think I ever mastered swimming.
[16:08:02] Interviewer: Did you ever have a summer camp or...summer activity?
[16:08:07] Flo: No. We had no fun. We just...I remember summer was very, very hot. No there's not such thing as camp. We just had the school and we just stayed home. Our main thing was drawing and watching on the, watching the window, watching the people go by and we studied. Our main thing was study. We had to study, I mean, we learned a few languages. I mean, by the age of ten I could learn everything in French, I knew Arabic, I knew, we started with Hebrew, with English and uh....
[16:08:47] Interviewer: What about music?
[16:08:51] Flo: No. We didn't, we had a radio, our only thing was a radio. It wasn't the in thing. It's like, my father again, being British he was very anti...Baghdadi things. And I think there was a lot of people maybe some of the men would go to what you may call nightclubs and then they have dancers come in or strippers and then they get excited and they put money on their chests and whatever. [16:09:21] But my father was anti-so - I think he was anti-social. He would never do anything like that. So I never heard of anybody going to anything like that. But that was their fun. [16:09:34] Most of these songs and the signers were in Arabic.
[16:09:38] Interviewer: Did you father had other English friends?
[16:09:42] Flo: No, he was quite lonely. I think he was quite lonely. It's uh, mainly it was the whole family was family oriented and work...and work and uh...
[16:09:56] Interviewer: So you lived with the knowledge or expectation that you would have to leave but...
[16:10:01] Flo: One day we were gonna leave.
[16:10:02] Interviewer: How did that affect your life day to day?
[16:10:06] Flo: I don't know you just, you live in hope. Because we knew we weren't happy. We knew we were third-class citizens. We knew that after 1941 they came after us and the hatred was building up. Why we left in 1948, as soon as there was, Israel was, might be a reality so like everything else the Muslims pick in the Jews. And I remember in the year 1948 they started, we had maybe about three or four demonstrations. [16:10:41] One time we ere at school, we couldn't get home. We had to spend the night at the school, which was very scary, very fearful and then my father kept on saying, "We gotta go, we gotta go." And um, I think they said that Jews cannot leave. I think at the beginning of 1948 but because of my father, and because he is British, he was a British subject by birth so we were all British. [16:11:10] So we could leave with regular flights and regular passports. And we did leave actually on the 5th of April and war was the 15th of May. And I remember when half the community came to see us and the big fellow was the chief rabbi was there. I still remember, there was a circle of all our family saying goodbye to us and we didn't know where we were going. We were going to England, we knew nobody there, just, just leaving but they all came to say goodbye. [16:11:41] I remember that big circle with the rabbi in the middle holding hands. And it was quite a day and I think they were scared too because they knew they couldn't leave. We had a choice of three countries. It was Australia, South Africa and England, the three British countries. Of course we chose England because it was the nearest and the only one we could afford the fares. [16:12:04] We did not, of course we did not sell our house, we just left it, we just went out with our suitcases and I think my uncle, my mother's brother, he took care of that. If anything. Because after that there was the establishment of the State of Israel and life started to get a lot rougher and lot miserable. It was pretty miserable.
[16:12:26] Interviewer: Do you remember anything you took with you from home?
[16:12:31] Flo: Maybe just a couple of bracelets. I don't know, we have this, we have carpets I think...I don't know, maybe they arranged that they would be sent later. Honestly, I don't know. But I remember just going with our suitcases, that's all. We arrive in England, we had no hotel, no hotel reservation. That I'll never forget. We arrived, it was the 5th of April, it was a dark, rainy night and then you can imagine five of us, no, there was just five, there was only four of us because one brother was in the states and my parents - we got into one of these black cabbies in England and the fellow says, "Where to, guv?" to my father. [16:13:13] And my father said, "Find me a hotel." He said, "You don't have a hotel? You don't know where you're going." He said, "No." He said bl - and I'll still remember the, the cab driver said, "Blimey Charly[?], why did I have to get you people?" And I remember him knocking at three of four hotels and they said they had no vacancies and then finally they found one in Houston station and that's where we stayed.
[16:13:37] Interviewer: How long did you stay there?
[16:13:38] Flo: At the hotel? Well, we had ideas we were going to go to Manchester because my mother had relatives in Manchester. That's the only person we know. So we just stayed there for a few days and then went to Manchester. My, went to Manchester, I don't know if you know anything about Manchester but in, in the '40's it was very dark, very foggy, very miserable. My mother took one look and she said no. [16:14:00] She had to have sunshine in her life. She remembered, when we were in London we had a few sunny days so we went back to London there again. We left. We didn't know very many people. I think we just managed to find a Jewish community in Hendon by some luck and we decided to buy a house. I think we had a down payment for the house. Because we managed to...
[16:14:24] Interviewer: Your father found work?
[16:14:26] Flo: No. It was hard for my father. My father was very hard to find work. Actually, my sisters, my older sister then was, I guess I was ten, she was 20. Yeah, she found work. My 15 year-old sister, she found a job and my mother went to work. She could sew and then she went to, she became a seamstress. [16:14:50] My father tried but it was very hard for him. He found it very hard. He was in his 50's and, I mean this is not Baghdad but London was dismal, it was just after the war, it was very depressing, they were just coming out of the war. And he could not find work. It was a struggle but we made it.
[16:15:12] Interviewer: So he never did work in London?
[16:15:13] Flo: No. He retired. My mother did most of our work. And it was another story. My sister married an Australian, she went to Australia. Then the whole family went to Australia after that. So we shifted again.
[16:15:29] Interviewer: Did you go to Australia?
[16:15:30] Flo: Yeah. I left, yeah. I went to - well my parents, I don't know, my brothers and sisters disappeared. One sister emigrated, one, one of my sister actually emigrated to Israel. She, and then one brother I had in the states. My other sister married the Australian and um...I was the youngest and I think I was in my twenties, early twenties and I got very depressed. [16:15:55] I couldn't handle taking care of my parents in England so my sister said, "Why don't you come over to Australia and I'll help you and they can spend their retirement years there." So I said okay. So we went to Australia. At that time the Australians were looking for immigrants from England, British immigrants so we went as immigrants to Australia and I spent five years there. But that's another story. [16:16:22] I had a few...I lived in a few countries and in every country that I lived I had a different name, different personality, different age group, different experience until I came to Canada. Actually, I came to Canada by accident.
[16:16:40] Interviewer: How so?
[16:16:42] Flo: Well, from Australia, I was in Australia for five years and I don't know, I had the urge to see the states. I'd never skied in my life, I don't know, I was a little bit mixed up. I don't know I wanted to ski so my - I had two brothers in Boston so I decided maybe I'll and I'll, then I was an Australian and you know, Australians they travel, when they travel they try like for two years. [16:17:06] And I knew I could work in Canada but not in the sates. So I came, I visited the states. I went all over the states and then I came to Canada, I came - I tried to get, I was a pharmacist, I learn pharmacy in England, I went to Montreal, couldn't get a job in Montreal because the pharmacy association was done with the French society and they were not very...I would say very...
[16:17:32] Interviewer: Welcoming?
[16:17:34] Flo: Welcoming to a British subject. So someone told me there, said, "Go to Ontario". Never heard of Toronto in my life. I took a bus, I came to Toronto and my gosh, I got a job within the first day, at the hospital [overlap]
[16:17:47] Interviewer: Where did you work?
[16:17:48] Flo: Toronto General Hospital. I couldn't believe it. Like, I just went, I asked, you know, I'm a British pharmacist I would like to uh, come to Canada and the fellow said, "Ah, here's the application from." I'm not looking for a job I just wanted to know how much you're gonna pay me so I know that I can come and live here. And they said, no, no, we gave, we give you 15 dollars less than a Canadian pharmacist. [16:18:12] I said, okay, that's fine. So he gave me, I think it was like 500 dollars a month or a week, I'm not sure. I think that, that was enough to live on so I brought my bag and I came. Made friends and I skied and met my husband and stayed here. That was [overlap] 52 years...
[16:18:28] Interviewer: How did you meet your husband?
[16:18:29] Flo: A Shadchan again. We're back to Shadchan [?]. Actually once I came to Toronto I um, I was by myself. I really knew nobody. It was, I was an adventurer like I'm, didn't think I was gonna live here the rest of my life, I just wanted to ski, get a job and look at the states and, and go back to Australia. Then I looked up my friends from England, I met lots of my friends from England whom I hadn’t seen because I was in Australia and uh, they were newly married and we just settled here and they decided, ah, we'll have to fix you up and...[16:19:06] One of them knew my one of my husband's family and they...they introduced us and then we met and that was it. The rest is history. And I became a Canadian.
[16:19:18] Interviewer: In all those travels to different countries, did you ever find the local Jewish community helpful?
[16:19:25] Flo: Always. Always, always, always, always. In Australia, in England oh yeah, this is interesting. In England when we first came they put me in a local public school. Hated it. They laughed at me, they'd never seen anybody from the Middle-East. I had braids and they used to pull them and they would come up. [16:19:47] I couldn't speak English, I used to come home every day and cry. Then by, which is something I'm always very grateful for, there was a Hebrew school. They got my brother. My brother was two years older than me. He hated the public school too. It was the Hasmaniam [ph] grammar school so they had, and then my brother got in. [16:20:10] I don't know, because he's boy or a girl, I don't know, they took him. With me they said, they just had a very small Hebrew school for girls but I had, I think we could only afford for my brother, they couldn't afford my fees. But then they gave me a test and apparently I won a scholarship, don't ask me why. I don't know how. But I won a scholarship and then I was taken into the Hasmaniam school for girls. [16:20:37] And uh, I loved it there. I thrived. They were all Jewish, they were Jewish girls, learned Hebrew, nobody laughed at me. Actually they were mostly foreigners as well so they couldn’t speak English either. It wasn't like me against the English. They were all families of immigrants.
[16:20:58] Interviewer: Other Iraqis?
[16:20:59] Flo: No. Actually when we first to England they couldn't even believe we were Jewish. We had that problem everywhere. We didn't speak Yiddish, we, my mother, we all spoke Arabic and I think we were one of the few in '48, one of the first to come out from the Middle-East. And uh...[16:21:19] But then I think after a year, once we got into the Hebrew school they, they believed us but at the beginning they weren't sure that we were actually Jewish. We were just maybe Arabs trying to be, pretending to be Jewish.
[16:21:33] Interviewer: What was that like for your parents?
[16:21:34] Flo: I don't think it was very nice. It wasn't nice at all. But in London had, even then they were still on rations. Life was very difficult in London. We had very dark, very dismal, like I remember we used to have ration books, maybe one egg per person per week, maybe one...and it was a big, very big difficult. I think the whole brunt of our responsibility on my mother's shoulders. [16:21:58] She had to learn to cook differently, she obviously had a kitchen with a stove and counter and she had to learn how to use that. Um…she went to work herself and it was difficult. It was difficult. I think she lost a lot of her culture and background because she was by herself but she came through with flying colours. [16:22:21] I mean we're all raised, we all developed. We went to school and uh, we managed.
[16:22:28] Interviewer: And your parents did move to Australia?
[16:22:30] Flo: They did. I, well, because all my other siblings were out of the [inaudible] and we took them but it was very sad. My father passed away on the way to Australia. That was a bit sad. I mean, the whole idea was to take them so that they can retire in Australia. He had high blood-pressure and stuff and he had medical problems but it was sad but whatever it is, you know what? You cope. [16:22:55] You have, you have to move forward in life.
[16:23:01] Interviewer: You're the youngest, are your siblings alive?
[16:23:06] Flo: Well two have passed away. My oldest sister, god bless her, she is 90. She is the one in Australia who took me, who brought us to Australia. I call her every day. Her husband is 93, had his 93rd birthday yesterday and they’re functioning well. She had dementia a little bit but uh, he's functioning, he's driving and they, they're living on their own with a little bit of help and uh, I pull her leg every day. I try to speak Arabic with her. [16:23:35] It's funny, now she's remembering her French. She, many times she'll tell me au revoir, bonjour and this. Because I think she has dementia and her early uh, childhood memories are coming back. Um, I have one brother in Boston, in the states. He emigrated, he stayed here, he did well and then my middle sister and my younger brother passed away. One last year, one the year before. [16:24:02] So...I've always been alone here so it's, it's quite news to me. It's, I'm used to being alone now. I mean, I have my own family, my husband. I used to go to Australia almost every other year. And, but I stopped about a few years ago. The journey was getting to me. But I used to go for a week every year just to visit my sisters and see my nephews and nieces and be together.
[16:24:26] Interviewer: Have you ever wanted to go back to Iraq?
[16:24:28] Flo: You're joking. No. There's no way. There's nobody there. And I believe the area that we lived in, I mean, the only place I would go to is to see where we lived and that was demolished. Because it was, there was no roads there, there was no cars. It was little lanes where the main thing was the donkey, you know? Basically, it's very similar to old Jerusalem, exactly I would say.
[16:24:58] Interviewer: What part of Baghdad was that?
[16:24:59] Flo: I was the old part of Baghdad. We were in - just like in Jerusalem, you have the old Jerusalem, the city where you have the gates and no more cars. That's exactly where I lived. Little stores and uh, and that's about it. There was like the market in there but then...just before we left, I would say five years before, like maybe '44 people would start moving out in to houses away where there's roads and there's cars. [16:25:29] But where we were there was just the donkey. You had to walk. There was no...
[16:25:35] Interviewer: Did you have donkey at home?
[16:25:36] Flo: No. No pets, we don't have pets. Funny, in the Middle-East we don't have pets. Like dog, to have a dog is unheard of. I remember once there was a flood, there was heavy rain and my father couldn't walk and him the Englishman, of course, he wouldn't always had suits, he couldn't put them up so they brought him home on a donkey. They got him on a donkey, he rode on the donkey and they brought him home. I don't know how he got on the donkey and got off the donkey. [16:26:05] But our main means of transportation were the arabana [ph] the carriage, the horse and carriage? that was quite, that was the normal thing, wherever we went. I don't know how but seven of us would get into one horse and carriage and uh, and go around the streets. Um...I don't know, I do have vivid memories but mostly I don't know if they're real vivid or what the people have told me. [16:26:33] And I lived through them. I still, I enjoy the food. Like at the moment I'm trying to find my mother's recipe for shifta, for kebabs and uh, and this thing. Um, as I say, I lost my...my ways because it was hard for my mother. We were separated for Baghdad. The rest of her family who went to Israel was different there because they still had their community, they could get the spices and they could speak to each other. It must have been awful for my mother because there was no one she could speak Arabic with. [16:27:09] She knew very little English and she had to struggle and buy different foods, different meat, different this. So my, sort of my culture got separated. We had to be anglicized a little bit. But my, most of my Iraqi friends who went to...to Israel they, they could keep up. Like, when I see here, I love to hear- they still cook the food our kebabs [?] and this and [inaudible] something, I 8. don't know how to do. [16:27:42] Because I never was brought up with that. It's sad. I mean, there is, it's the end of the Jewish life in Baghdad. That's finished now, there's not, there's absolutely nobody. And it's end. It's all, but you have to move on. We have Israel, thank god...and we look forward to that.
[16:28:10] Interviewer: I want to thank you very much.
[16:28:12] Flo: My pleasure.
[16:28:13] Interviewer: Agreeing to do this. And we’re going to look at a carpet of yours.
[16:28:17] Flo: Lovely. Yep. This is it.
[16:28:25] Interviewer: How do you want to do this?
[16:28:27] [technical discussion]
[16:28:47] Flo: Can I just tell you something about carpets? Look at the back. When you see the pattern through the back, that means it was hand-woven. You see how the thread, see, let me show you this one. Well that's pretty good too. But if you look at carpets, if you don't see the pattern in the back...
[16:29:07] It means it's not.
-[16:29:08] Flo: It's not...well that's what I was told anyway.
[16:29:15] Girl: When you see the pattern on the back, it means it's hand-woven.
[16:29:18] Flo: That means it' hand-woven. So you can see the whole thing.
[16:29:22] Interviewer: Oh it's gorgeous. Oh my. Wow.
[16:29:33] Camera: So that's from ...
[16:29:32] Flo: That was from Baghdad. My parents made sure that each one of us has one. This was mine. It was the smallest of course.
[16:29:45] Interviewer: Beautiful.
[16:29:53] [technical discussion]
[16:30:04] Flo: It's probably dirty. I'm scared to even to send it to the cleaners.
[16:30:16] [light adjustment]
[16:30:29] Interviewer: So when would this have been made?
[16:30:34] Flo: A long time ago. As I say, I'm 80 and we had it in my house. Well it wasn't in the dining room because that was a big room. Um.., honestly I don't remember, probably in the bedroom? Like it was rugs and rugs and one here, one here and one here. We had two bedrooms so it was probably one of them. [16:31:04] I think the name was Kashan [ph]. They used to be two makes. It was Kashan was the number one and Tabriz was the second. Secondary. I think, I'm not sure if this is Kashan or Tabriz.
[16:31:18] Interviewer: So would it have been made in Baghdad?
[16:31:22] Flo: Probably Persia, because they called them Persian carpets. Probably Persian.
[16:31:32] Interviewer: Very beautiful.
[16:31:37] Flo: Yeah, once I had a carpet fellow, we were buying carpets and my kids were playing on this with toys. He says, oh, the heirloom [inaudible] and I would take care of the uh...of the carpets.
[16:31:55] Flo: MD, she was May, her name was May. That's my sister's and David. And this is typical. The Iraqi Jews went into jewellery making. Let's, we need something navy. I can't open it.
[16:32:10] Interviewer: You could...
[16:32:17] Flo: Want to put it on here? I'd like to open it. Maybe you can do it. It's a little stuck. I don't have the strength, if you could just pull this thing...then we can open it.
[16:32:38] [technical adjustment]
[16:33:16] Interviewer: Then you're going to describe it to me, or tell us about it.
[16:33:21] Flo: I don't know. It's bracelet.
[16:33:30] Interviewer: So this bracelet belonged to your sister.
[16:33:31] Flo: To my sister.
[16:33:33] Interviewer: Which sister?
[16:33:35] Flo: This is my middle sister, my oldest sister had the very thick bracelet but she never parted. My...there were three sisters. There was the older, middle and the youngest. This was the middle. Her name was May. [overlap]
[16:33:58] [technical adjustments]
[16:33:59] Flo: Actually it's quite small so she must have been quite young when they, she was 15 when we left Baghdad so they must have made it for her...
[16:34:13] Interviewer: So you think that it was made for her.
[16:34:16] Flo: It was definitely made for her, yes. Before we left. And they carved her initials on it, MD.
[16:34:26] Interviewer: And it's a typical...[overlap]
[16:34:28] Flo: [overlap] It's typical work of uh, Jewish, Jewish was of, of jewellery, of doing...
[16:34:36] Interviewer: Ah.
[16:34:36] Flo: You can see, if you can see the colour, the blues and the reds, I think in Israel there's a lot of them went to Israel and they are still making it there. [overlap] But that's real...Iraqi.
[16:34:54] Flo: Last year I meant to return it to her, every time I go but we never found it. See if you can look at the work. This is typical Iraqi...
[16:35:04] Interviewer: Oh I see...
[16:35:06] Flo: Yeah it's opened and they used [inaudible]
[16:35:12] Interviewer: It's very delicate.