A Storyville documentary: an eccentric Jewish family is thrown into turmoil when two stolen children reappear after 40 years.
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This programme contains some strong language
Do I look presentable?
-You know, I'm quite an old lady now.
Thanks for getting the Mini Bites, Mum.
How many have you had?
-Can I have one, too?
Of course you can.
I'm just going to make Dad a cup of tea, then we're going to start.
Another cup of tea?
My God, it's a wonder he doesn't look like a cup of tea, that man!
Oh, go away, for goodness' sake.
Joe, can you just set up that camera, please?
Oh? Thank you. Well, I'm actually sitting down,
waiting to be interviewed.
-Mum, we want to start.
-We've got to go, doll.
Oh, have you got a list of questions for me?
I do. Um...
-Are you ready?
Shall we start at the beginning?
Oh, do you think you can?
I think the best place to start my mum's story is here,
in the Lithuanian shtetl of Dusetos.
This is the street where my grandmother, my Bubbe, lived.
Bubbe was lucky. She left for London in the '30s before the rest of our
family ended up in a death pit,
courtesy of the Nazis and their Lithuanian allies.
In the East End of London, Bubbe did what migrants do, start a new life,
with her son Manny and her daughter Lillian, my mum.
In the '50s, Mum had two children of her own, Michelle and Andrew.
Growing up, I discovered that, one day,
they disappeared and she never saw them again.
The horror of what happened to my mum only really hit home when I was
living in Australia and had children of my own.
It then dawned on me that I and so many others were living in
the shadow of that fateful day.
The time has come to find out what really happened to my mum
and her lost children.
It seems all roads lead to London.
Ah. Here we are, then,
better late than never.
All right. Thanks so much.
You dressed up for me!
How are you?
-Just for a change.
-Yes, but all the better for seeing...
-This is a nice cuddly outfit.
-What's the number?
-Oh, I don't remember.
-Oh, we're trapped outside.
-Is Dad there?
Ring him, Dan.
And then call.
-Please wait while your call is connected.
Why does it have, like, a Russian in there?
I don't know.
-He's got to answer, Mum.
Why doesn't he answer the phone?
We're trapped outside.
-We're trapped outside.
No, one more time.
Oh, H, for God's sake, get up!
What's the number?
Never a dull moment, Daniel.
I don't know how I've survived, to tell you the truth.
I really do not know.
If you would let me go...
Come in, H, come in, join the club.
-Welcome, it's a party.
-Oh, dear, dear me.
-Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay.
-Did I take all the pills?
So all those pills are for your memory?
Memory business, yes.
-But she's not taking them in regular doses.
Oh, I am. I take them twice a day, Henry.
-So, why do I have to remind you?
Well, you reminding me makes me take it a bit earlier.
All right, Mum, let's just focus on the story, please?
What story are we doing?
I found an old photograph of him.
Come on, you old bugger, wherever you are.
I know he's here somewhere.
But I will find it for you.
Here he is. This is Raymond.
This is the old bugger when he was young and handsome.
Raymond came from a wealthy Iranian Jewish family.
He came to London to study.
He was 20 years old.
There was this Christmas party, kiss under the mistletoe.
I rang him, and I started seeing him quite frequently.
Can you imagine being 14 or 15, growing up the way I did?
I didn't have a clue.
So I was there for the pickings, as you might say.
I then got a job in a fashion shop in Regent Street.
He's obviously very taken with me.
I remember one of the older girls was saying,
"This kid is having a better time than I am,"
cos of this dark, handsome guy outside, waiting for me.
And the next best step is a necking session became
into the real thing.
And I did not have a clue, Daniel.
We were not given sex education then.
..on the first time that I was intimate, I became pregnant.
That was it.
-How old were you?
-I was about 15 and a half, I would think.
I was still pregnant with Andrew when we went to a registry office
and we were married. But I was no more ready to be a mother
than you are ready to go to the moon.
I didn't feel like a mother.
I was still a child myself.
I wasn't very happy, so Raymond said, "We can go to Iran."
It was like going to another world.
It was so different.
And, by this time, I was pregnant with Michelle.
Again, I wasn't very happy.
So, we came back to London.
You look like quite a young, happy family.
Well, I suppose...
You have a photo taken and you smile, and so all the crap,
for the want of a better expression, that doesn't show, Daniel.
You pose for a photograph, and who knows what's behind that photograph?
What was behind the photograph?
Poverty, I would say.
We lived with Bubbe in Ainsworth Road.
It was such a shame for my mum because she had remarried this older
gentlemen. Here he was, taking in her daughter with her husband,
with two children.
He was a bit acrimonious towards Raymond.
You know, "If you can't find a job, put some money on the table."
And, unfortunately, my stepfather asked him to leave.
But did you want him to go?
-Raymond to go?
-I don't think I really wanted him to go.
I and the children stayed there.
We're living with Bubbe.
I've got to get a drink, do you mind?
I'll get you a drink. No, stay, stay, stay. I'll get you a drink.
When you say "we", just again be clear who you're talking about?
I've got to get a pill at the same time.
I'm getting all emotional.
-Are you OK, darling?
It's not a pretty story.
I should have a tissue somewhere.
It's just very emotional, Daniel.
Right. Next question.
Right, so, I need to eject this...
I wouldn't do this for anybody else.
You know that, don't you?
Yes. But is it something you want to do?
Oh, no, I could do without it.
-So, why are we doing it?
-Because you asked me to do it.
Yeah, but I wouldn't do it if you didn't want to do it.
I know, but I know you wanted to do it.
Yeah, but I still wouldn't do it if you didn't want to do it.
I didn't want to say no to you, Daniel.
-You could have said no to me.
-I could have said,
but it wouldn't have been right, doll.
And this is the road that Michelle and Andrew played in.
I can't believe it, Daniel.
Oh, look how different it all is.
Oh, my God.
I'm living with Bubbe, and the two children...
..and Raymond comes to visit.
One particular day, he comes, knocks on the door,
he's going to take the children to the park, I give him the children,
and he doesn't come back with them.
So, Raymond walked up these steps one day?
Came inside? Or the kids were brought outside?
No, he rang on the bell, I came down the stairs,
I opened the door for him.
He said, "I want to take the children to the park."
And that was it.
The last time I saw them,
Andrew was three, Michelle was two.
And you went to the police?
I didn't go to the police, no.
How come you didn't go to the police?
Because, in those days, Daniel, if you had a problem,
you went to the Jewish Board of Guardians,
you didn't go to the police, doll.
I thought that he'd gone back to Iran with them.
I remember sitting there and crying so much.
I've never forgotten it.
I thought, "I'll never be able to cry again."
Well, well, well, look who's here!
Good to see you again.
-How are you doing?
Come inside, come in.
Can you talk me through that fateful day when the kids were taken?
I went to work, they were there.
I came back from work, they were gone.
What did the family do?
Nothing we could do.
What was there to do?
Very, very easily said.
First of all, we didn't know where they were.
Lillian was in a state.
Um, and I don't remember too much else about it.
At the end of the day, I think...
..in view of the overall circumstance in which we were living,
it became a fait accompli.
That, what, it was just...?
That that was it.
-That was it.
-Why did no-one go to the police?
It wouldn't have occurred to us.
It was a father taking his children.
Where's the crime?
..yeah, sure, missed the children.
It was traumatic,
and felt it enough to shut it out of my mind.
I didn't know when I'd see them again.
I didn't know if I'd see them again.
You can't make them appear again.
But, because I was still so young, and very immature,
I carried on with my life the best way I could.
I got a job.
I bought a dress.
And I went to a dance hall eventually.
And that's how I met Dad.
-So, give us a kiss, H.
-Don't forget to take the water, take the pills.
-I've taken the pills.
-Take more of the water, though.
Lillian, I met originally in a disco in Little Newport Street.
And, at the time, everyone did cha-cha,
and I remember she was wearing a sailor suit.
I was physically attracted to her.
How did you find out about the fact that she was previously married,
and also had children?
I think, after the second date, she told me.
She said, "Look, if you're going out with me, I'd better tell you."
It often went into my mind,
what would happen if they suddenly turn up?
I asked her, "Did you try and find them?"
She said she had.
And everyone had dissuaded her, you know, no real point.
It includes her mother, and included her brother,
they all more or less told her, "Look, you're wasting your time,
"get on with your life," sort of thing,
now that they've met me and we were going to be a couple, and I think,
particularly once children were on the way.
And there comes a time when you've got to let sleeping dogs lie, doll.
I am so grateful for Dad marrying me, for having Ira, for having you,
and for all the good things.
One, two, three!
ALL: Sheva brachot.
This is our yearly Halloween event, this is, I think, our fourth year
as Halloween has become more popular.
So it is a fundraising event for All Dogs Matter,
which is a charity which I run.
We do a walk.
This is pub is, um, Spaniards Inn, it's meant to be haunted.
I remember Mum telling us she had kids and they had been taken away
from her, and she didn't know where they were,
but she always thought about them.
But we were too young to really understand, I think,
the full meaning of what had happened.
But then it kind of just went on as normal life.
It was never a plan of, "Oh, I've got these children,
"how are we going to work out finding them?"
Do you think Mum did enough to find Michelle and Andrew?
Probably not really, no.
Well, she didn't really do anything.
Well, you know, not really.
We should've come round this way.
Oh, sorry, Abs.
-This sounds like a ridiculous analogy,
but if someone came along and took Abby...
I'd have to kill them.
-So, you'd move heaven and earth to find your dog?
We grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb,
in a nice family home.
We had a relatively nice life, I guess.
But I do remember spending quite a bit of time on our own.
Mum wasn't a particularly kind of proactive mum that would pick us up
from school and take us out here, there and everywhere.
Yeah, I remember even the dog collecting us from school,
hence my affinity.
So we were kind of farmed out, quite a bit.
Have you and Ira always been kind of a bit of a clash of energy?
It's not a clash.
I wouldn't call it a clash of energy because I don't have energy to waste
But I think it's...
..a lack of a connection.
When Ira was born in November, I had to go to work for Christmas.
So Ira was neglected in her formative years.
Whatever it is, I thank Hashem that she is married to Philip,
because I don't think she could be married to anybody else.
Guys, I've just arrived home from Coventry.
It's my wife's my birthday tomorrow.
I'm surprising her with Tesco's Finest!
# Happy birthday to you
# Happy birthday... #
Sorry, is this flat 18?
You look so much like the woman I married.
Good evening, baby.
Look, it's just me and a film crew.
Sit! That's it.
I was talking to Ira. See, this is what I come home to.
Obviously it's upsetting for me to leave my other wife.
I mean, but look...
This is a lovely thing to come home too.
Very nice indeed.
I'm not exactly certain what we should be...
Is there anything more? Oh, you want to see a normal homecoming?
Right. So, do you want to go and have intercourse now.
Come on. Come on, let's go. Let's just get it over with.
Ira was never farmed out.
You've got to get this straight, that story is completely wrong.
Here's the record - a few weeks ago, on a Friday night,
we sat down and the dynamic between Ira and your mum and your dad began.
And it was, as usual, it was confrontational,
it was all irritating and there was a row and more rows,
-as it normally happens.
-It's not a row, it's a discussion.
-A discussion is not a row.
-No, all right, I know.
A difference of opinion is not a row.
Ira then left the table and you, Henry and Lillian,
asked me why Ira is unable to sit down with Lillian and display love
for her. And what was my response?
-Cos she was abandoned as a child.
-No, that is not what I said.
I did not say she was abandoned.
I said to you that in my opinion she was damaged.
She is a damage... She is damaged.
And the damage would have occurred...
I haven't damaged her. Damage...
In my view, she was damaged in childhood.
I didn't have a bad childhood and I do remember you leaving home
and going to the other side of the world and leaving me to deal with it on my own.
Were you farmed out?
-No, but after school and stuff...
-This expression of "farmed out"...
But after school and stuff, yes, I didn't...
There were people that I used to stay with that took me out more so than Mum.
40 years after the children were taken,
out of the blue I got a call from Mum, saying Michelle was looking for her.
I told Mum she better prepare herself.
She could be a druggie, a pauper, on death row, anything.
I was way off the mark.
It's not the first time I've met Michelle, but now she also wants
to get to the bottom of the story.
All of this happened a long time ago but there are some missing pieces
here that it would be nice if we piece them together
because I think that the truth will set us all free.
When you were growing up, where did you believe your mother was?
I was told, by my father, that my mother could not take care of us...
..and she didn't want us.
We were told that we were going to be given up for adoption.
And when this is what you're told as a child,
you...have no value for yourself.
If your mother doesn't want you, then...
..who wants you?
I didn't have the maturity to ask more questions.
Maybe I was scared, I'm not sure.
This is Lillian, this is when she was married to my father.
Check that out!
-She gave that to me.
This is probably the one she went to Iran less.
So she would have been there...
And then you know what my father says?
He says that Bubbe would send Lillian pills
so she could have an abortion.
Where would Bubbe get pills from to send you, to have an abortion?
She had no money, she had no English.
Unless there was a Yiddish black market for abortion pills.
-Hi, Andrew. You're on speakerphone.
I was just thinking about you one second ago, and then you called.
Yes. Well, Danny is here...
-..with his camera crew.
It's his opportunity to...
..have a cathartic experience, you know,
to say what he has to say because he went through hell.
I was diagnosed about two and a half years ago with leukaemia.
I am taking this new medication,
I sell gourmet chips, kosher potato chips,
and I enjoy my business.
Whatever happened in the past, is the past.
I look ahead.
I do not disrespect my biological mother because she was young.
If she had an opportunity to find us, she could have found us.
She could have gone to the Iranian Embassy in London,
they could have found us in half an hour.
Lillian, what did she know?
She was 17, 18 years old.
She said... I said, "If you thought they were in Iran,
"you knew where the house was, why didn't you go round?"
She says, "Firstly, how will I have the money to go to Iran?"
-"Secondly, how would I...
"If he's there in Iran with everything,
"how would I possibly get the children back?"
-She could have easily gone to the police.
In those days we had international police.
She could also have filled an application out.
It was very, very easy.
I lean towards...she could have and should have done more,
but I'm not sure about what advice she was being given.
At the end of the day, it's your dad who took you.
If somebody said, "Andrew, did your mother leave you for somebody else,
"she just didn't want you any more?
"What happened to you?"
I want to know what you're going to say to them.
I wouldn't even answer the question.
I wouldn't answer the question.
So can I ask you, do you think...
..Mum didn't want you?
I can't really answer...
It's very difficult to answer this question because...
..I don't know.
I think, you know, I have a better relationship with Uncle Manny
than our mother.
I get along with Uncle Manny better.
Have you ever discussed any of this with Mum?
The moment of truth has arrived -
I'm going to have to talk to Raymond.
He lives in Iran, so at least we won't come any closer
than our respective computer screens.
I have hired an Iranian crew to film the man who started it all.
I can see you.
In England, the children will go to mother.
But...I took my own children.
I would not give them to anybody.
My father was a royal tailor
to three royalties.
We have eight children in the family and we went to a good school.
When you marry, you marry...
You must marry your level.
Unfortunately, Lillian was not my level.
I had not the brain at the time
to understand this sort of thing.
I was 21 years old.
-And I love her.
-I don't understand how you could love her and then do
-what you did to her.
-Danny, your mother was not a bad woman.
The witch, the bitch, was your grandmother!
I would not comply with her request.
She wanted me to give my child for adoption.
I never heard of this in my life.
Do you really think that after losing all her family she would want
to give away her grandchildren?
Yes. She told me many times.
Now, she went to hell.
Danny, has your mother grown up?
I want to know if your mother has grown up.
She is now a 76-year-old lady.
He took Michelle and Andrew from her when she was 18.
What does he think?
That she's a 16-year-old girl that he got together with?
It's a ridiculous question.
I'm sorry, but it's a ridiculous question.
We had a neighbour and she knew our situation,
so she said that she knew these people
that was interested in adopting.
She asked, we said no.
It never went further than that.
I can remember leaving England and going to live in Israel.
We were living with my grandmother and grandfather.
He was more a father than my own father was.
I really believed, and my grandmother would tell me a story
that she had this many children,
and the last child was Andrew and myself.
So I really believed that my grandmother gave birth to us.
I remember my grandmother holding me and loving me,
but I was taken away from that too.
When my grandfather passed away, we were sent back to England.
You know, nobody said at that time, "Here are two small children.
"You're the only mother they know."
They just threw us... Just sent us back to England.
My father really couldn't take care of two small children and we were
dropped off in a boarding school.
I think I must have been about maybe seven, eight.
I don't remember my father really visiting us.
I do remember one day specifically standing,
looking outside and saying to myself, "This is it.
"You're never going to see him again."
That boarding school was like a prison to us.
We were in a cage.
What am I doing here? Who do I have?
I had Michelle.
What's so tragic is that while Mum thought the children were
out of reach, thousands of miles away in Iran,
their boarding school was just an hour down the road
from where she lived.
And here you're having your birthday party.
You've got to realise, Daniel,
I didn't particularly need them back into my life.
If she's happy as she was, and she's got two children,
a similar sort of thing, a boy and a girl,
and everyone was quite happy and there wasn't...
We were doing very well at the time.
Certainly didn't need to disturb things and throw things up.
In 1966, I had the first ladies' boutique in Carnaby Street,
called Lady Jane,
and it was very, very successful.
It was fantastic because it was full of life,
it was all different colours.
We had girls changing their clothes in the window,
it was the biggest publicity stunt ever in this country.
It was fantastic.
I was arrested, charged with obstruction of the highway.
A £2 fine.
Was there any discussion...
..in the '60s,
particularly when you were sort of in this Carnaby Street world,
-about Michelle and Andrew?
Not as far as I was concerned, not really.
Was there ever any thought given to you like, for example,
hiring a private detective?
No. It was never discussed as far as I was concerned.
-You could've done.
-We could've done.
Why do you think something like that didn't happen?
It wasn't my affair, was it?
-It wasn't... At least be honest about it, Daniel,
they are not my children and never will be my children.
They will be your mother's children.
She's a person that gives up easily.
Even if she's got a problem, she will bury her head under the sand.
I have always said that.
Life is good, right? You got married, the money is coming in,
buy a nice big house in Hampstead Garden Suburb.
You have got two kids, again.
Yes, I was very blessed.
Hashem was very good to me.
But, Daniel, the problem was that when I was on my own originally...
Oh, I am getting a need for a cigarette again.
Since when do you smoke?!
Only under pressure, doll.
It's that or Ativan and if I have too many Ativans,
I will go off altogether.
Ativans are antidepressants?
They've saved my sanity.
Giving birth to another child, it's only now I understand it,
it must have triggered off a lot in my subconscious.
Because after having Ira, I got a depression.
I don't ever recall anyone saying to me,
"Lillian, your illness is because of what happened to you."
Right, so no-one put two and two together.
When you say, what's... What two and two together?
Your severe depression
and the fact that you had your two children stolen from you.
Well, that's what happened, Dan. I can't say different.
No, it's not your fault!
I know it's not my fault.
But, God, did I pay the price.
But I was so bad, Daniel, I was taken into hospital.
I don't remember being suicidal, but I was really...
..how can I say it? - I was really out of it.
I was very bad.
So what was the nadir, what was the lowest point of her ill health?
I don't know whether you would need this on camera.
But you might.
They wanted her to have this
electric shock treatment.
-And I stopped it.
-Electric shock treatment?
-Electric shock treatment?
-Yeah. You obviously didn't know.
They once spoke about it.
And I said, "No, she's not having that."
I remember going to that hospital for a long time after school,
but I've got no idea how long and I cannot remember anything
from inside the hospital.
Here we are.
Because Mr Moss always complains that I never make enough
of these potatoes.
So I've put as many as I could into the pan.
Hello, Lillian! I've returned.
I'm always pleased to see you.
-How are you, Lillian?
Are you still off the booze, Manny?
-Still off the booze.
-I sincerely hope you are on the booze because,
quite frankly, I prefer you drunk.
Can we have no un-politically correct discussions tonight?
And maybe we could also have, while we're about it,
you taking a little bit of a...
..you know, just a little bit?
It won't do you any harm, doll.
-The police came?
Mum has no recollection.
She used to phone me so often when I was in...
Where are my little side plates?
-We thought we would make more room on the table, Lillian.
But Henry wants them.
We're coming in one second.
-She used to phone me up...
..so many times in the day and say,
"Pat, I want to...
"..I want to kill myself."
Those were her words.
"I want to kill myself.
And it was during that time that she did take...
SHE RECITES A PRAYER
HE RECITES A PRAYER
Oh, sorry, Henry!
I can't... Do you mind being quiet for a minute?
Mum doesn't even know that I'm talking to you now,
it's more for me than for her.
Mum's life was completely devastated...
..by what happened...
..of not having Michelle and Andrew.
It is her own fault.
You know why?
-She was devastated because she couldn't see them.
Anybody stopped her?
Anybody stopped Lillian to go and see Andrew and Michelle?
Did I stop her?
Didn't she know where they lived?
-But she didn't know when they were in boarding school.
If she didn't know their address,
how could she send me a letter to go and give her a divorce?
They weren't really in Iran,
they were in boarding school in England.
But I didn't know!
That bastard never let me know.
He never said...
I didn't know they were in England.
I... How would I know?
And then how long was the period of time between taking the kids and the
-Till they found him, till they got it organised,
till it happened, I would say two and a half years.
Jewish Board of Guardians got him there...
It was done and I never saw him again.
I must be honest with you,
I don't remember asking him about the children.
Maybe I did, maybe I didn't,
but I cannot put my hand on the good book
cos I really don't remember, Daniel.
Do you think that might have been an opportunity lost?
I felt almost like an orphan until Amanda came into our lives.
I was 22 when I met Raymond in London.
He was very good-looking, I absolutely fell for him
hook, line and sinker.
He was ten years my senior.
We went to meet Andrew and Michelle when they were in school.
I could see, you know, how he cared about them.
They were very happy to see him
and I could see that there was love there.
Immediately, Andrew ran and took hold of his father's hand.
He took me out one evening and he said, "Will you be my wife?"
And I said, "On one condition -
"that I can be a mother to Andrew and Michelle."
And he said, "Of course."
I went with Raymond to Iran when I was three months pregnant
and Andrew and Michelle were in boarding school.
They were not very happy and they wrote many letters to us
which I still have.
But I have to look for them,
I'm not exactly sure where they are because I'm a hoarder.
Here we go. Here we go.
Here are the letters.
"Dear Mummy and Daddy, I hope you're well and happy.
"We're both very well at school and missing you very much.
"Are we going to Tehran on the 23rd of July when school ends?"
You can feel the stress.
"Please write soon and tell us when we are going home."
I couldn't take it.
Why shouldn't they be with us?
I'd discussed this with Raymond, so Raymond,
he signed up the children to go to school in Tehran.
-I think Amanda treated us like her own kids.
She was like a mother and a father to me.
-Amanda loved me and cared about me.
When I told her of a pain, she addressed it.
# Soldier, soldier, won't you marry me
# With your musket, fife and drum
# Oh, no, sweet maid... #
Before I came into Andrew and Michelle's lives,
I'm quite sure nobody sang nursery rhymes to them.
Michelle used to dream sometimes that I would leave her.
See, that was something that really frightened her.
And I used to say to her, "Even if Papa and I don't stay together,
"you will always be with me.
"Don't worry, I'll never leave you, never."
I wasn't free.
Everything was done through Raymond -
if I could visit this one or couldn't, or if I could go shopping.
Michelle, she would see things and she'd point them out to me and she
said, "Mum, you know, why do you take it?
"Why don't you say anything?"
Raymond never told me that he had a mistress by the name of Rosetta.
Raymond never told me that he had two children.
They were living in Israel at that time.
I've got here Michelle and Andrew's half-brother who's come to Israel
and he'd like to talk to you, is that all right?
-Yes, why not?
So, I'll let you talk.
You forgot to mention the documentary part!
-No, no, I didn't, I left it up to you.
-No, I know.
-On purpose, on purpose.
Hi, my name is Danny.
As I've been delving more and more into the story,
trying to work out how could such a thing happen to my mum and my
half-siblings, the name of your mum has come up on several occasions.
Eli! If you were interested and if you were available,
I'd love to come and have a chat with you on camera.
Wow. It's amazing.
Your mother was Rosetta.
-Your father was Raymond.
-Do you know if your mum knew about Raymond taking...?
-Yes. I know the whole story.
-And you heard it from who?
From my mother.
-And most people that...
You know my aunts and...
They told me that your mother...
..got up one day and she left.
-For no reason.
-My mum left?
She ran away.
-That's what your mum said?
-About my mum?
-You're kidding me?
She got up one day and she just left.
And she left the two kids by Raymond.
What happens is...they were divorced or formally separated.
One day he came, he took Michelle and Andrew to the park
and he never came back.
And that was the last time my mother saw her children for 40 years.
HE CHOKES UP
If I tell you a story...
..you won't believe it.
You won't believe it.
I never knew my father until I was...
..seven, maybe six.
He took us, he bought us a ticket.
Took me and Ora, who lived in Israel,
and he asked us to come and visit him in Iran.
We went to Iran for the summer...
..and he did the same thing a different way
that he didn't want us to come back to Israel.
He had our passports and everything and he said,
"By Persian law they're Persian
"and I cannot let you take the kids back."
You know, Daniel...
..the memories that I had in Iran, it wasn't very pleasant.
He took...he took a stick...
..and he tied me to the tree.
Oh, my God. What?!
He tied you to a tree?!
He tied me to a tree in Damavand...
..because I was making pee-pee in the bed.
Yes, he's right, I gave him a good hiding. I nearly killed him.
At the age of 13, 14, he used to piss in bed.
Why did Rosetta come...
..by surprise, why did she do that?
Because I wanted to keep them in Iran.
I wanted to keep Eli and Ora in Iran.
Because I knew that she couldn't look after them.
I... When they were in Iran, I took them to school,
I put them in a school, I look after them, I got teacher for them.
But she was stupid.
"What about me?"
"Go to hell!
"These are children, they have future in front of them.
"I have to think about them, not about you."
Were you...? Were you married to Rosetta or you just had the children
-I never marry everybody I sleep with.
One night, all of a sudden there was this tremendous bashing at the door,
downstairs - boom, boom!
The front door. Rosetta came running up the stairs.
She went over to a tray and she took
the very, very sharp butcher's knife.
She pulled her children to her, held the knife in front of her and said,
"Nobody's going to take my children away from me."
Amanda came up and said, "No, don't kill him, don't kill him!"
My mother would go - pfft - slit his throat.
-It's how tough she is.
-Rosetta was there and had a knife -
"I want my kids back." So I can remember that she fought and then he
made this scene, you know, "These are my kids." She said,
"No, I'm going to take my kids back."
And she took her kids back, she took Eli and Ora back.
So she fought and she got them back.
I know Andrew was very upset that Lillian didn't come to look for him,
he resented it for a long time. He told me that.
I went to an American school when I was in Iran.
This school prepared you to go to college in America and I had gotten
a scholarship and I had told my father that I had a scholarship
and that I needed to answer them at a certain amount of time.
Michelle said to her father, "Papa, when are you going to give me
"the registration fee for the university?"
And her father said,
"Can you tell me, if I send you to America
"if you will behave properly?"
And Michelle said to him, "Papa, you brought me up.
"Don't you trust in your upbringing?"
He just turned around
and he slapped her across the face as hard as he could.
She had this red mark on her face and he broke his hand, actually.
-At that time I realised that I couldn't live in his home.
I just knew that I had to run away.
I was 17 years old.
I travelled from Afghanistan into Pakistan,
and from Pakistan into India, and from India I flew to London.
Then from England, I flew to America.
I had no idea where she was. I was beside myself.
She didn't leave me a note or anything.
It's kind of ironic, isn't it?
Because Michelle was taken from her mother and then she leaves the woman
who's become her mother.
No, she wasn't leaving me.
She was leaving a situation.
It was very painful for me to leave her.
I loved her so much.
I remember when I...
..got her first letter when I ran away
and I don't think I've ever cried like that.
-When revolution started, Mandy left Iran, came to Israel.
I always want to run away, but I wasn't able to leave Iran,
but when Khomeini came I was able to save enough money...
..to come to the States.
We were sitting on the couch in the living room, watching the news.
The Ayatollah coming into Iran with the revolution.
-And you know, everyone in black and he was being carried -
I even remember that image - and it was like that old-style television -
big, thick wood...
And I remember my dad turning to my mum and saying,
"There's no chance you'll see Michelle and Andrew again now."
-OK, when I was, like,
10 or 11 years old and the Iranian revolution is going on, you go,
-"Oh, right. I'm never going to see them again."
But then, when you hit 20 or 30,
I actually never did anything to try and find them.
-I was depressed...
..probably my whole life, but you don't know it.
It's only when you're not depressed any more that you look back and say,
"You know what? I wasn't so happy."
And when I had my son, Nisan,
I always feel that a monster came alive in me.
Something moved me inside, everything woke up.
All the sadness and pain...
..just came out,
but I would say that this all came up when my son was becoming
bar mitzvahed, it was a very painful time for me.
I remember crying and...
..wondering, "Where is she?"
And how come, as much as I loved my stepmother Amanda and adored her...
..it really came about - "Where is she?"
And she could be here and she could...
..be in this joyous, very...
My first joyous occasion.
I wrote a letter to the Salvation Army,
just saying that I had been searching for my birth mother, Lillian.
I had no fear that Lillian would not want to connect with me,
but I remember holding back
and knowing that anything could be possible.
Lillian and Henry lived across the road.
We were very friendly.
Sadly, they lost the house and after that either my husband or myself
used to pick up the post regularly and keep it here till they were
ready to pick it up.
And there was this large pile of post,
and while I was making the tea in the kitchen,
Lillian was going through the post,
and I suddenly heard the most awful sound...
The way she said it, I thought,
"God knows what's happening."
And I came in the room and she was absolutely
white as a sheet and trembling.
And her hand was shaking and she held the letter out to me.
It was unbelievable, we just couldn't speak.
You know, we just sat there.
My immediate instinct was to get in touch immediately with the
Salvation Army, Lillian's was not.
She said, no, she's got to think about it and speak to Henry.
She said, "I've got a letter, I've got to show it to you."
And what was your response?
"Well, it's happened, so good for you.
"Let them come or you go there, wherever it is."
KNOCK AT DOOR
Bubbe said to me, "One day there will be a knock at the door.
"You will answer the door,
"Michelle and Andrew will come and find Lillian and Uncle Manny."
They did come in the form of a letter.
I haven't discussed this yet with Manny, it has come up in conversation...
I'm wary to say anything about that.
Talk to Manny first.
..I didn't know that I wasn't the only one to get the letter
for a long, long time.
It might have been mentioned that Manny got a letter as well,
but very pie in the sky, nothing concrete.
They could have found Lillian a year or two earlier.
I think they had corresponded before,
but Manny made ash and pash of the letter and he didn't want it shown.
There are things that are difficult and dark.
-How do I go to my uncle...
-..and say, "Hold on.
"My half-sister was looking for my mum and you kind of sent her away?"
That's pretty awkward.
Well, I mean...
I'm just trying to think - where to begin, where to begin,
where to begin...? Um...
When Mum got the Salvation Army letter, what was it like?
-Manny got a letter at the same time.
-I got a letter as well, you see.
-There were two letters.
-I had a letter as well
and I hung onto my letter for a while because I thought,
Lillian being in the state she's in,
if I suddenly produce this letter,
what's it going to do to her?
And that's why I sat on it. I make no bones about it.
Um, could this have been the last straw?
Do you know, I can remember, you put it back in the envelope.
What was the period of time between you getting the letter and then
finding out that Mum had got a letter?
Oh, it could have been up to a year.
-It could have been, it could have been.
It was certainly months rather than weeks.
And so you didn't think at...
You were just going to...? You weren't going to...?
I'd put it to one side.
What I would have subsequently done, I don't know.
Fortunately, Betty dealt with the letter,
opened that up, and then from that moment on,
I don't think I've even let on until now that we also had a letter.
Well, that must have been quite a lot of pressure, sitting on that letter.
..you a lot to think about.
A lot to think about.
When I heard that Lillian had been found,
I really thought it was a miracle.
I was so excited and so happy and, of course,
we couldn't connect right away,
we had to write a letter and get permission.
Then we just started writing all the time and calling,
and after a very short time,
I told Lillian that I would like to come and visit her in London.
I wanted her to come...
..and I wanted to see her, but I had no idea what she would be like.
I mean, she could have been one of these bitter,
screwed-up girls that wanted to come and give me...
..if you know what I mean.
And I say to Ira...
"Ira, you've got to go and meet her at the airport
"cos I can't handle that."
I went to Heathrow to pick her up without knowing who she was or what
she looked like, and as soon as she came through arrivals, I knew
immediately she was my half-sister because there was a resemblance.
When Ira picked me up, I was in a daze, not because of jet lag
or anything, but just because it felt so surreal
that Lillian's daughter was picking me up.
It wasn't tears or anything for me, cos I had no emotional bond.
I knew she was my sister, but I didn't know...
I've never met this person before.
She brings Michelle here, we embrace, we both cry, as women do...
..and we just clicked immediately.
There was no, "Why, who, where?"
And then I just saw Lillian standing there in her apron
and just holding me
and nothing else mattered after that.
Suddenly, this beautiful, charming young woman was my little girl.
After Michelle came to London,
I then went to visit Andrew in America.
When Raymond took Michelle away, she was 18 months.
I had Andrew for a much longer time.
I don't know that the loss of him was more painful,
but he had such an unfortunate time.
What, and you think Michelle had less of an unfortunate time?
I think so.
Because when Raymond met another woman...
..and took Andrew away - this was Rosa, he married her, I think...
She said that Andrew would get up in the night and sort of be
looking for me.
Have you ever told Andrew your side of the story before?
I don't think so.
-So what have you discussed with him?
To tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure.
-You never had that conversation with Andrew?
You've had lots of these conversations with Michelle.
-So surely you've got to have at least one with Andrew?
Yes. That's what I've got to do.
No-one in our family was going to miss out on Mum's big trip to LA.
You look good, David.
Thank you. Thank you, so do you, you look beautiful.
As always. As always.
These Persian men always go for me in a big way!
This is the Beverly Hills Soup Kitchen we're in right now.
That people over there, they're my family.
I married into them.
WHISPERS: They're mad.
It's so good to see you, Michelle.
It's so good to see you.
I doubt if you'll be able to do it here, Mich.
Mm! You did it. Well done. I'll puff.
Michelle, what do you think of my shoes?
-Aren't they the business?
I bought these for our party.
-I went shopping...
-And are you comfortable in them?
Do you know, I love palm trees.
They're very, very thin.
From a distance, it would look like the wind would break it.
Are they the ones that grow the dates?
Do you know how painful it is when your child is no longer there
-and you have their toys?
-How do you know that?
Because I look at my grandson's toys and...
..I've given them away.
The same thing that happened to my grandmother has happened to me.
After my son's separation from his partner,
she and my grandson,
they moved to Europe.
-So your son has no idea where his son is?
Listen, I'm his grandmother and I am...
..thinking about him...
'My baby.' ..all the time.
That's why I moved Bubbe's picture up,
because I don't want my story to be the same as...
-Yeah, I don't want...
I put it away, I said, "This is not going to happen."
There's Miranda, Andrew's daughter.
That's his daughter from his first marriage?
-Where's she now?
Who knows? She came,
we had such a good time and then she just disappeared.
So, what, he got divorced?
Yes. He came home and they were gone.
You didn't know? Yeah.
One day, Andrew comes home and he says...
He sees that everything is packed and gone, money's gone.
-And she's left.
-His wife and daughter, just gone?
Yes. The child was just a baby.
-At the tone, please record your message.
Hey, Andrew, it's Danny.
We're on our way, we'll be at you more like 11.30,
but could you just text me, please, your address?
Thanks very much. Cheers, bye.
So, I think it's important today if you could tell him your...
-..your story about your perspective.
-And what would be even better
is if I had remembered to bring my Ativan with me.
There's Andrew's truck.
What, Kettle Chips?
Yeah, look, "Distributed by..."
Why I put tights on, I don't know.
I can't tell you.
Hello, Andrew, hello!
So, it's only me and you today.
-Nobody else here.
-Where is Diane?
Hospital and the doctor's.
And David's at school.
-So, how are you?
I'm all right. Are you?
I'm good. Just go and sit down, I'm going to put the...
Isn't that lovely?
It brings you back memories?
-Yes, it does, Andrew.
Yes, it does.
What can you do? There's nothing clever to say, Andrew.
Because you had each other, you were not alone.
-If you had been an only child, it would have been worse.
At least you had each other.
So, Andrew, in this family saga,
I've found out from Michelle that you've lost contact
with your own daughter.
I wasn't close to Miranda.
How old is she now?
She must be 30.
So are you not in contact?
No, I don't have contact.
I would say, the door is open.
You know, I haven't moved all these years.
My telephone number is the same number after all these years.
So if she ever wants to get in touch, you know, it's easy to find me.
-The door is open.
-Yeah, the door is open.
-I'm dying for a cup of tea, Andrew.
You've never really told Andrew...
..your experience of what happened on that day.
So I don't know if you're interested, Andrew, but I thought...
If you want, it's no big deal, Andrew.
It's just I was living with my mother, it wasn't easy...
..and your father came and we lived near a very nice park,
and your father came and he said to me he wanted to take the children to
the park. And I never thought anything, and I said, "Fine."
And he never brought you back.
I think this is something that...
..the way that my father thinks,
this is something that I think it is possible.
This film is going to get me into trouble, but I don't care.
Somebody has to tell the truth.
Everybody's kissing up to my father's rear end because they think...
Here's what I think. They think when he sells his property in Iran or
something that he has left, that they get a share of it.
I don't care about my share.
If he wants to give it, give it, he's never given it when I needed it.
Has anyone said to you that you shouldn't do the film?
If they said, I don't... Bullshit!
You know, Danny, when I got the cancer...
-When I got the cancer...
..nobody fucking in my family helped me. Nobody!
Isn't it terrible?
I just need to relax a bit.
When I first got diagnosed with this cancer...
..I couldn't get insurance.
Nobody helped me one penny, not one penny, till, thank God,
Obama came and changed the insurance thing,
the insurance for pre-existing conditions,
that I was able to get out of that hospital.
As soon as I got into that hospital, the first thing the doctor
came and told me - "You've got six months to live."
That's the first thing she came into my room and told me.
And instead of giving you hope, come and tell you you've got six months
to live and you're going to die, and you've got a young kid at home...
Yeah. And this is with my family.
So I know my family.
I think Uncle Manny did more for me than my father.
-In what way?
-I don't want to mention,
but I'm just going to say this... But he helped me.
Really, I didn't know that.
So, how come your uncle that you haven't seen for all these years
helps you and nobody else helps you?
I didn't know, I didn't know.
You know, Andrew, I'm sitting here...
..and when I think of what I've gone through,
it's absolutely nothing
in comparison to what you've gone through.
It's quite a story.
But, Andrew, we live to tell the tale, that's the only thing to say.
Don't film me in my bikini.
You finished the only...
That's what he wanted to do and he did it...
He's filming you. Have you got the top part on?
-Right, we play them on Saturday.
However far you go on the road, there's still a long way to go.
We are waiting for Danny?
We're waiting for Danny?
-He's going to ring?
Did you ever love Mum? Lillian?
Did you ever love her?
Of course I loved her, otherwise I wouldn't...
I wouldn't marry her!
I loved all the women I've been with.
This is the truth. I loved her.
And I loved many women.
No, but what I'm asking is whether you loved her as a person.
You know, this was someone you wanted to spend the rest of your life with.
What you ask about love and this sort of thing...
..you have to talk to...
I'm not a writer.
Look, Danny, what happened in the past is the past.
You cannot bring the past back.
It's not just the history of what happened on that day,
but the consequences that people are living with today.
I understand what you're saying.
What can we do?
What can we do?!
What do you want to do?
If you could do it all over again,
is there anything you would want to say to Mum?
Can I change it?
Danny, how is your mother?
She's all right.
Danny, it was a pleasure to talk to you.
I'm sorry for the hard life you had...
..with your mother.
If you see Lily...
..give her my regards...
..and say, "Lily.
"You're not a bad girl.
"You're all right."
Do you have any recollections...?
What have we got?
Let me go and just have a look, excuse me a second.
We're almost done, Mum, we've got, like, two tiny little things to do.
Don't worry. Don't worry! Anything else is of no relevance.
OK. I'll just keep going.
This is true.
Hi, sorry, is something... a machine on?
-I think yes.
-OK, do you mind turning it off, please?
-You must turn it off.
Thank you very much.
-It's going to be reset.
My problem is, I never know what I'm letting myself in for.
You say, "Mum, I want to do a doc..."
Do I think? Do I want to do it?
No, my first response is, "Yes."
And before everybody sees this, I want to see it myself.
I wish I could have done more, but, you know,
I've just got this feeling of Bubbe looking down on us.
But Bubbe would be very happy, Mum.
-Do you think so?
-Of course she would be!
What happened here was the Holocaust by bullets.
They gathered the Jews up,
brought them somewhere into the local forest,
and killed them there.
What happened is what happened to our family, our great-grandparents.
PRAYER IS SAID
An eccentric Jewish family is thrown into turmoil when two stolen children reappear after 40 years.