Gollar: Sasson never liked life in Switzerland. After this talk with my father, his father-in-law, he decided to move to America. I, on the other hand, was extremely attached to my family, the very thought of being away from them was unbearably painful. In order to solve this problem, Sasson ﬁrst left for New York on his own.
Sasson: I went to New York, opened an office and a warehouse in Manhattan, and bought a luxurious villa on the beach in Long Island. I returned to Zürich, and informed the family. Agha Youssef convinced Gollar she must go with her husband, and Gollar, tears in her eyes, accepted.
Gollar: And so, with a thousand promises and assurances, Sasson brought us — our two younger children and me — to a new life in America.
Sasson: Because Gollar’s well-being and peace of mind were the most important things for me, I hired a woman to drive her around, and we commenced our life in New York.
Gollar didn’t like this life at all. She cried secretly, hiding her tears from me, but her depressed expression gave away the pain of being apart from her family. Mingling with local Iranian families did not help, and Gollar sank deeper into depression every day. Our relatives and acquaintances suggested I reconsider my decision to stay in the States.
Gollar: One night, in the middle of the night, while Sasson was away on one of his business trips, someone knocked on the door. I was new in the States. In Switzerland we didn’t even lock the doors, and I was half asleep so I didn’t think twice before I got up of bed and opened the door. What a mistake! I don’t remember exactly what the man looked and smelled like (he was not black, that much I do remember), but I remember how scary he was. Allon, who woke up when I left the bed, started screaming at his sight, the girl we had brought from Germany to take care of Allon was also screaming, and I shut the door immediately, locked it with the key, locked it with the deadbolt, and called the police.
The police practically laughed at me: “You’re not in Switzerland, Ma’am, here we don’t open doors to strangers!”
At that time in New York, fuel for cars was also limited, because of the situation with Iran: After the Islamic Revolution on February 1979, the USA was marked as Iran’s greatest enemy “the Great Satan.” Iran was the main exporter of petroleum in those days, and the crisis with Iran meant less fuel in gas stations. Sometimes we would wait on line for gas for up to 4 hours. And when you live on Long Island, you can’t get anywhere without a car. Even to the nearest subway station you had to drive.
On 9 May 1979, the Iranian Mollas executed the Jewish leader Habib Elghanian. It was a great shock to the Jewish Iranian community inside Iran and in the diaspora. His brother, Jean — Parviz’ father-in-law — was living in New York, so we went to the Shiva. Linda and Parviz came from Zürich, but I couldn’t ﬁnd happiness in seeing my brother in this gloomy and depressing setting, during such unstable and uncertain times.
Habib Elghanian HY”D (1912–1979)
Habib (Habibollah) Elghanian was one of the most prominent members of the Jewish community in pre-revolutionary Iran: a major philanthropist and entrepreneur, who also served as chairman of the Jewish Association of Iran for two decades. Like many Iranian Jews of the day, he was loyal both to Iran and to Israel, which was not considered a contradiction. Shortly before the revolution he managed to ﬂee with his family to the USA, but insisted on going back to help other members of the community, and try to sell some of his property. Believing that staying out of politics would protect him from the revolutionaries, he couldn’t fathom that he would be put to trial on the charge of being “a Zionist spy” and “a corrupter on earth,” “making war against God and his Prophet,” being “a friend of God’s foes and a foe of God’s friends,” and meeting with Israeli leaders, “the most merciless enemies of God and the Palestinian people.” He was executed on 9 May 1979. Elghanian was deeply mourned and is fondly remembered.
The last straw
Gollar: I didn’t want to stay in New York, but we did. Until one day I wrote a check for $11,000, and a few days later the bank called Sasson to say that we didn’t have enough money in our account for a $110,000 check! I knew to whom I had given the check. It was an absolutely honest person. I guess it was someone from the bank who tampered with the check, and changed the sum and probably the name.
The modiﬁed check was cancelled but there was no investigation. We just gave a new check for the $11,000, and the whole incident was forgotten. By everyone except me.
This incident was added to the list of things that scared me, and made me want to go back to Europe even more.
On top of it, during our stay in the New York, Sasson kept his routine of monthly ﬂights to Russia. Sasson only had an Iranian passport, and with the new US immigration and border control regulations, I was never sure he would be able to return home, and I dreaded the thought of remaining alone with our children in a strange country away from my family.
And then all visas for Iranians were cancelled. You could either stay in the States, or leave and never return. That was the ultimate reason we decided to move back to Switzerland.
And so it was.
Sasson: We lived in New York for less than one year, from March to August 1979. We had a gorgeous house and comfortable life in Long Island, the prestigious office on Fifth Avenue with loyal workers, and good friends like Fred and Shula Moheban and some other families — but Gollar did not want to stay in New York. She constantly worried about her parents and sisters, and our son Isaac, who stayed with his grandparents.
Looking back, I still think that had we stayed in the US, our children Isaac and Nannette would no doubt have had a better chance of meeting and marrying Jewish partners, but Gollar’s happiness was the most important thing, and I now know that returning to Zürich was the right decision.
Gollar: Had we stayed in the US, I might have had a better chance at self-development, an interesting life and greater business success, but being close to my family was more important than all of this. I, my mother, and my sisters were best friends, and what’s more important than being with the people you love? They enriched my life more than any business or educational success could.