Their Algeria (Leur Algérie)
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After 62 years of living together, Aïcha and Mabrouk, my grandparents, are separating. They now live in two separate buildings, facing each other. I didn’t understand their separation. No one explained it to me. I don’t know their story. No one told it to me. Their silence troubled me. Aïcha and Mabrouk got married in 1952, in the village of Laouamer in Algeria, without knowing each other. Two years later, they settled in Thiers, a medieval French town where they have been living for over 60 years. Mabrouk worked his entire life as a polisher in a knife-making factory. Aïcha followed a husband she did not know and started a family with him. As I try to understand their separation, it leads me back to Algeria and to the silence that exile has imposed on two generations, my father’s and mine. I discover the persistent suffering of their uprooting. An uprooting they can’t describe. With them, and with the help of my father Zinedine, I’m off to search for this story of exile, of bonds that are unmade, of suffering and pride—which profoundly affected my grandparents and an entire generation of Algerians who immigrated to France.