Frank is a regular at the Saturday Kitchen and has been coming for almost four years. He is often the first to arrive for breakfast at 8.45am, even though he lives in Broadmeadows.
Frank was born in Baghdad, in Iraq in 1954. His parents were both Christian (Chaldean Catholic) and as a two year old, he was baptized into this faith. He sometimes goes to the Chaldean church in Campbellfield, but goes more regularly to St Francis Catholic church in the city.
From the age of 19, Frank worked in the Iraqi Army, serving his country for 18 years and participating in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and the first Gulf War (1991). He achieved the rank of Sergeant. Most of his work in the army was as a boiler mechanic in power stations, a key military asset. Once he was hit by a bomb and injured his arm, and had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital. He still has a scar to show where he was patched up. Since many of his fellow Iraqis lost their lives in these wars, he considers himself fortunate that he survived with no permanent disability.
After leaving the army, in 1994 he married an Iraqi girl called Salwa and worked in civilian roles in power stations until he left Iraq in 1999. Frank came to Australia as a refugee and was granted residency three years later. One of the reasons for leaving was that he was fearful that he would be re-drafted back into the army and face retribution if he did not comply. He first came to Australia by himself, and only later brought out his wife and daughter. He has very happy memories of the day (Valentine’s day) when he was told that he was granted permanent residency and that he could apply to bring his family out. He is very grateful to Australia: ‘Very good, beautiful country, people. Can find job, all family here’.
Frank is very proud of his daughter, who is now 21. She lives with her mum (Frank and his wife are separated) but she visits Frank every week. His daughter works at the airport and has plans to study business. He enjoys the Saturday Kitchen and all the people he meets there. He also likes the fact that we are able to share about Jesus Christ which he sees as ‘the most important thing’. Frank hopes that things might improve in his old country of origin: ‘I hope and pray it will come up good. We need love. I know war – no one wins with war. Iran-Iraq – who won? I hope not more war’.
Interview done with Jim Davison with assistance of Arabic translation by Moussa Saad