Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Laszi batchi, a friend of my Magyar husband, who had arrived in this country months earlier, was waving at us from the landing pier as we disembarked the SS Neptunia in 1956. He took us to his apartment and suggested we walk up the street and find ourselves a room to rent until we know in which area of town we want to settle. I had never met this man nor his German speaking wife who I later learned had left her husband and Russia some time ago with the extremely huge diamond which she wore on her finger, hidden in some part of her body. Magyar translated the conversations between his friend and him for me occasionally. Although we all spoke German, the two men liked to speak Hungarian with each other.... and who was I to stop them. Apparently the area here was inviting because a young couple from Austria were living across the street and further down a Hungarian couple had moved in not long ago. We found a room the same day not far.
Alois, our next door room-neighbour with whom we shared bathroom and kitchen facilities babysat little Pisha aka Pasha or La Puce the day I decided to get my hair cut. I walked down our street past rooming houses, duplexes, the hole in the wall known as Chinaman's laundromat, the butcher who carried no European cold cuts, the tavern where Magyar liked to stop for a cold one but where no women were allowed to show their face.
We lived one street over to the east from the street known as the Main which divides east side from west side Montreal. I did not know that then nor was I aware of the fact that we had settled down in the red light district. Yes we had. I was a naive 21 year old who had no idea why men gave a second look when I strolled down the street or when I sat on the benches in Carré St.Louis around the corner or on the steps of the rooming house with baby on lap nor did I know what I was doing when I walked into a barber shop asking for a hair cut. I think he was Italian. I know he was handsome and polite the one that lead me to a back room, cut my hair, asked to be paid and escorted me back to the front door.