Adjia, My Mystery Grandmother
Photographs and the other ways we hold onto the family members we never knew as people.
Photo courtesy Sami Aknine
Almost everyone who’s been in my apartment has asked me about that striking ethnic-looking woman hanging on the wall.
That woman is Adjia, my mother’s mother. That photo was taken in the early ’60s in Kabylia, northern Algeria. It was towards the end of the Independence War, when the French Army was losing Algeria to the independence movement. It was pretty much over, the French army knew it all too well, and that’s when they got really mean. At one point, they raided my mother’s village and rounded up the villagers. People would be shoved into vans and taken god knows where. Then the van stopped, and people would get thrown out. “A bit like the Auschwitz showers,” my mother would tell me. “Were you going to get gas or water?” When Adjia was taken out of the van, she wasn’t pushed against a wall and shot in the head for having hidden and fed “war resistants.” She just got a mugshot taken as part of a census. Still, it’s no wonder she looks apprehensive in that…
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