|"Man proposes, God disposes" Latin American proverb|
I was born in 1912 in Braila, Romania, on the banks of the Danube. The town is as beautiful, cosmopolitan and romantic as its Turkish name suggests. Once a fortified outpost of the Ottoman Empire, the “Fortress” continues to be inhabited amongst the larger population, by some few Turks who remain of the once powerful occupiers.
For me these were carefree, hard and adventurous times. Nearly
everybody had to be content with the simple pleasures of life. However, at
the age of two, I suffered a fall on the head. The resulting change in my
brain chemistry may explain why I have always had the urge to attempt the
At the age of six, my family was forced to move to cheaper rooms, in the Boulevard Carol. At times, mother would complain about the lack of money and there was an undertone of reproach that father had been unwilling to travel abroad where we might have enjoyed greater prosperity.
began my studies at a Jewish primary school. The teaching was good and the
pupils responded with a keen desire to learn. At the end of each year, I
would just manage to scrape through, by sheer application, in to the upper
class. My Hebrew teacher was very strict and formidable. He was given to
serving out punishments with a cane for every little mistake. Once, I was
marched in to a room and given a good hiding that I never was to forget.
During this time there were the daily skirmishes between the faith schools.
Many youths I had grown up with chose to join the fascist extreme groups. My involvement was limited to fighting with them. From the age of eleven, my days were long. During the day I worked in an office job and in the evening attended a commercial college. When I fell asleep in class, a very sarcastic teacher made me the subject of ridicule
|I was constantly in search of adventure, swimming and boating on the Danube. On one occasion a fishing trip almost ended in disaster when I was rescued from drowning by another solitary angler. My major personal pastime was daydreaming. I would look at the ships in the harbour and identify their countries of origin, tonnages and the lines to which they belonged. I so much wanted to live the life of a seafarer. This burning desire was taking hold of me more and more. One day, I took the decision to run away from home using the money I had collected in the course of my duties for my employers. I made for the port of Constanta in the Black Sea.|
I made many unsuccessful attempts to find a ship that would engage me as a crewmember. In the end, I was forced to trudge back home to Braila.
This was out of hunger and despair. For the next two years, I was dogged by unemployment and difficult circumstances.