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the fugitive


paul muni: september 22 1895 – august 25 1967.

Paul Muni – fugitive from a chaing gang; jewish scarface – fell into the world on September 22nd, 1895. Haunted by pogroms. Hiding on the streets of Lwow, Poland. Beset by boys with sticks. A Hollywood grail of bullets. He faded in the Summer of Love. My great-grandfather – on my mother\’s side – was also from Lwow. Before it was swallowed by Ukraine. His wife was one of the first road fatalities in Poland. Just as the motor car made its appearance. My own grandfather journeyed half way round the globe via the Black Sea and the Suez Canal. Bartering with arabs. Trading dry goods purchased here and there with rubles from the Soviet army. He fled Lwow in a hurry. At seventeen he saw no future in it. Presently, he stepped foot on British soil. I am unclear on the detail. He is no longer here to corroborate or embroider on it, but it was certainly here that he met my grandmother. He was enlisted into the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade in Scotland. They lent him a gun and dropped him out of an aeroplane over Arnhem. He was not keen on that either, but he knew better than to argue. By outrageous good fortune, he made it back to his adopted home. His elder brother, Stanislaw, fared less well. A dapper wit, skillful with pencil and sable brush, he perished in the extermination camps. A younger brother, I believe, was spirited away to a Gulag in Siberia. Of course. My grandfather remained unacquainted with the facts until much later. Years of hopeful correspondence turning cold; slowing to a dutiful trickle as letter after letter disappeared in the void. He grew weary and forgetful. Outwardly, at least. And so. When word came at last, slipping through the letterbox with no more than a whisper, he found he was no longer on close terms with the script marching across each page. Or the launguage of loss. After persevering, he carefully laid down his reading glasses and settled back in his chair. Tuning the dial without expression as a young Paul Muni danced onto the screen and bailed out under fire.

#2010

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