Late last year I received a call from a delightful Iranian anthropologist, Pedram Khosronejad.
He had been doing some work that was similar to what my niece Monica van der Haagen-Wulff was teaching at Cologne University. As they talked he asked if she knew of my father’s book “The Traditional Crafts of Persia” which he had used for his Ph.D. previously, and she said, yes he was my grandfather. She then learned that Pedram lived in Sydney and so she told him to get in touch with her father, my brother John who lives in the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney.
Both men clicked immediately and Pedram told him of a project that he was working on about the German civilians who had lived in Iran before the Second World War. It gave my brother a new lease of life sorting out old diaries, photographs, letters etc. An incredible resource of information that would have been lost to society except for Pedram’s initiative and encouragement.
My father had been working for many years in Iran setting up technical colleges before the war and Pedram was very interested in our story.
I had always known that my parents were friends with other Europeans during their life in Iran, but I had no idea how huge the German population was in the country. I knew that Reza Shah was interested in modernizing his country from a story my father told when he came to open the first technical school my father had built in Shiraz.
Pedram has suggested that the children of these families, now in their seventies and eighties should write their stories as an historical record which shouldn’t be forgotten.
Many of my friends had tried to encourage me to write my life story whenever I spoke of my father’s life in Iran, how we built our house and other childhood events so different to theirs, but I am a great procrastinator. So it is wonderful that Pedram has persuaded and encouraged me to do so.
Pedram has gathered other “children” of families interned in Australia to write their memories and publish their parent’s letters, photographs and diaries. We have fortnightly zoom meetings to discuss progress and hopefully will meet in person once Corona has ceased and we can travel again.
I have learned so much and I am deeply grateful. I think it is a great job for humanity that he is bringing a very important part of history to light and look forward to reading the book when it gets published, hopefully next year (2021).