Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

The Woman That Keeps on Giving


When I returned home from a weekend family trip, I checked my mailbox and found an envelope from Nidhal Garmo, a pharmacist known for her incredible humanitarian work in Iraq and neighboring countries. I opened the envelope and found a three-hundred dollar check. I asked Nidhal what this check was for, and she said, “You have been supportive of my work for many years. I wanted to do the same for you.”

I didn’t know what to say. Nidhal’s generosity took me by surprise, even though she is well known as “a giver.” In one of my books, The War Generation, I titled the chapter about her “The Woman That Keeps on Giving.” Yet the last time someone from the Iraqi American community was that generous was over ten years ago. At my book launch party, a Muslim man I had never met donated two-hundred dollars, because he said he was proud of my achievement.

While the Iraqi American community is established economically and generous in general, when it comes to supporting the arts – well, let’s just say that compared to the rest of the world, they have some catching up to do. But I guess that’s not the case with Nidhal. She has given me a gift as a token of appreciation for my consistent desire to dispel stereotypes by telling true life stories. She knows the enormous time, money and energy I’ve invested into these projects, and her gracious gift says to me, “Keep going.”

Thank you Nidhal!

The Dog Called Hitler – A Kresge Fellowship Winner!

Walerian Domanski

Since the spring of this year, when my friend and poetry editor Elisabeth Khan returned from India and we began to meet more frequently, we have been talking about Walerian Domanski, who is a member of our Rochester writers group.

In her beautiful Flemish accent, Elisabeth told me that she’d been editing Walerian’s second short story book collection, called The Calf. His first book, The Dog Called Hitler, was originally published in Poland. The Dog Called Hitler is about life and problems of common people, mostly very poor people in Communism Poland. But the book is universal, showing the heroism and weakness of people.

Elisabeth found his stories delightful, full of good writing, humor and satire. I told her that last year, for the first time I had listened to him read a poem, a poem that was very beautiful and touching.

Our discussions about his work was inspiring, leading me to write a poem based on his short story title: Kiss My Ass. Then one day, Elisabeth said to me, excitedly, “Our friend Walerian has won the Kresge Fellowship!”

“I suddenly became famous,” Walerian said to us as Elisabeth and I took a stroll with him by Lake St. Clair. “Even my wife, who did not used to read my work, suddenly started reading it.”

We asked him what he was going to do with the fellowship money and he said, “Buy good liquor.” We laughed.

Walerian continued to make us laugh with his sense of humor last Friday evening at Dr. John Telford’s home in St. Claire Shores. The beautiful house is on Lake St. Clair, and Dr. John Telford is the author of A Life on the Run, a memoir about his life and times as a Detroit educator and activist. He hosted, as he has done for some years now, the summer potluck writer’s group meeting.

Later on, we gathered in the backyard and various writers read their works. Walerian read one of his short stories, which was short, sweet, and funny. We have so much talent in our community!

Born in Russia, Walerian went to Poland with his parents in 1946. In Poland, he finished elementary school and high school, received a master’s degree in civil engineering and worked for state owned construction companies. Having joined an anti-communist movement, he was jailed by communists in December 1981. In 1987, he came to the United States as a political refugee.

From the beginning he loved the United States. He found a job in a geotechnical company and in 1994 he received a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from Wayne State University. In 2008, he retired from the City of Detroit and started cartooning again, and soon switched to writing. He’s truly a man with many talents. Check out his book by visiting this link: