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I lived in Paris till I was nine. My parents both worked and until I started school at six, this Polish nanny would take me to the park near where we lived. Nothing special, not even the shadow of a playground or anything child friendly. The nanny made herself comfortable on a bench, chain smoking. I usually ran around an old tree or collected stuff my mother would throw out that same evening. Pretty boring, that’s how I remember it, until a group of strange men started coming to the park. They had beards and fire in their eyes. Some wore long clothes, others dressed elegantly. They spoke a language I did not understand among them. The guy who was always in the centre called me in French and gave me sweets. Much better than those dreadful Krowki (little cows) the Polish nanny would give me. But apart from offering me nougat, these men were friendly. The nanny didn’t care and sat smoking.

When I asked my dad why these men in the park wore strange clothes and talked funny, he told me they were foreigners. They couldn’t go back to the land where they were born, although they really wanted to. That is why I grew fond of them. Me too, I told them; I was living here for a short time. My mum and dad promised me we’d be going back to my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins soon. So the bearded guys would ask me if I had any news on going back home, and I asked them the same question. And then, without even saying goodbye they stopped coming to the park. The nanny said she had no idea, my dad said they went home.

Years later, watching the news I saw my bearded friends back. The guy who used to give me candy was now severe and clearly unhappy.

Sure, Khomeini could not be the same guy who gave me sweets in the park. Right? My dad joked around my friends that I was a furious fool and I hated him for that. The Polish nanny said — between nasty coughs — she had known it all the way. My mom would say people change. And point at my dad.

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