Sometimes on Sunday afternoons I entertain myself with the free movies shown in the auditorium here. Such was the case last Sunday as I sought to entertain my visiting cousin Ed from Vancouver, BC. The preview blurb said MY FATHER'S GLORY by a best-selling French novelist, Marcel Pagnol, a captivating recollection of a young boy's life in pre-World War I southern France.
The film turned out to be charming, but the highlight was the dapper gentleman sitting next to me.
In the five minutes before the film started I asked him if he knew anything about the film. "Indeed I do" he replied in an interesting accent I couldn't place, "for Pagnol is one of my favorite writers, not well known in this country because it is written in a patois of the Provence countryside not well translatable into English."
After he explained that he was raised in that part of France, I probed some more and learned he was really Russian and that his parents had fled Russia following the revolution because they were on the wrong side. They made it to Yugoslavia, where he was born, but later had to flee again, this time to France. He grew up and became an electrical engineer, but later had to flee France, making it back to Yugoslavia, where he married, became the father of twins, and applied to immigrate to the U.S. The waiting list was long, so he opted first for Canada. In Montreal his third child was born. Six years later he was granted admittance to the US, where he has lived ever since. Now his wife and son are deceased and he has made his home in Oakmont for 16 years. "Now," he said, " you know more about me in five minutes than most people know in a lifetime."
"Yours is a fascinating story" I said, "and I'd love to write about it."
"Oh there are already books written," he confided, "but no one can read them for they are in Russian."
I felt like I had only chipped the top of the iceberg and planned to ask his name and if I could interview him more, but the movie started. About fifteen minutes later, in the dark, he slipped out. Alas, I may never learn more. Oh, I forgot to mention, when I asked his age he said 93.