Phillipa and Tewfik Mishlawi moved my belongings into my new studio near the American University of Beirut (AUB). When Phillipa returned, I made an effort to keep up conversation while suppressing the cramping pain in my abdomen. Somehow we started talking about her experience coming to Beirut and marrying Tewfik.
“I sometimes wonder what I would be doing be if I hadn’t married Tewfik and the Middle East Reporter” she mused. “I wanted to be a chef, but my parents couldn’t afford the classes so I ended up at “Mrs. Bishop’s Academy for Young Ladies” and majored in secretarial sciences.” She told me how she had worked in the advertising department for a newspaper in London, but hated it. When the editorial department announced an opening she applied.
“I was the number two choice, since the other girl spoke a second language.” But for some reason the girl didn’t take the job and Phillipa began a long career in journalism on the foreign desk editorial position. Tewfik was the Beirut “stringer” and they would often telex (aahh, the precursor to email relationships!). They met in person after Tewfik was shot by a sniper and came to England for medical treatment. Six months later Phillipa traveled to Beirut.
“My parents were in Jamaica so I flew there for Christmas to tell them that I wanted to go and live in Beirut. They weren’t too thrilled at the idea but by the beginning of 1977 it looked as though the war had stopped, so I moved to Beirut.”
Tewfik and his partner Hjazi started the Middle East Reporter in April 1977. “Tewfik was also stringing for many newspapers and financially we were doing well,” said Phillipa, which was a good thing because later in the war the currency devaluation ruined many Lebanese. One day in 1983 their house was shelled. Bullets pierced the outer wall and ricocheted around the sitting room. They entered the sideboard and shattered every piece of china. Phillipa, Tewfik and their son Nadim crawled out of the house on their bellies and stayed in the stairwell to avoid being killed. “I couldn’t bear to go back into the sitting room — it was too painful. You can still see the holes in the house,” she confided. (It’s true – I stepped out onto their balcony and saw the holes that testify to years of violent conflict).
It was not the shelling that made the Mishlawis leave in 1985, but the fear of being kidnapped.
In 1985 Phillipa went to visit her mother in England. She received a call from Tewfik telling her to stay there. He had accepted a position in America and would stop in England in December and they could all travel together. They spent seven years in Virginia where Tewfik was the director of training at the International Center for Foreign Journalists in Washington D.C., until finally they returned home in 1992 to a Beirut still devastated by the effects of a civil war.
Posted By Courtney Radsch (Lebanon)
Posted Jun 10th, 2003