In Never the Last Journey, Felix Zandman describes his experience as a teenager during World War II spending 1 1/2 years under a Polish farmer's bedroom floor in a living grave. No one who reads this account of his hiding from the Nazis can forget it. And now comes the (unposted) account of Jawad Amir Sayyid of Karada (90 miles south-east of Baghdad) in the Daily Telegraph. In trouble with the Saddam Hussein regime, he went into a cell below his family's kitchen on December 2, 1981 and did not once emerge for over 21 years - until one day after the toppling of the dictator's statue, on April 10, 2003.
By day he had access to a well of no more than 3in in diameter dug into the floor on the left and a book-sized toilet on the right. By night the floor became his bed, the sealed well his pillow, the toilet his footrest. "I have everything I need," he insists, pointing to the walls that are extraordinarily well-organized with hooks from which hang an array of implements, including a small scythe, a bamboo fan, a mirror, kettle, homemade stove, toothbrush and clock. His only glimpse of sunlight in more than two decades came from a tiny hole in the top left-hand corner of the cell. Through it, he was able to see some greenery and part of the reed-roof of the family home.
(May 21, 2003)