Iran Davar Ardalan, whose grandfather traveled from Iran to Ellis Island in 1919, has been honored with the Ellis Island Award of Honor in New York earlier in May this year. Iran, now a public media journalist, received the annual award which is presented to those Americans who have "distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life."
She is making an impact as an Iranian-American in today's society, but her grandparents also lived quite amazing lives.
Ardalan's grandmother, Helen Jeffreys met her Grandfather, Abol Ghassem Bakhtiar, in 1927 while they were both working at Harlem Hospital. There, Helen was a nursing student, and Abol worked as a doctor.
The two went on dates to Coney Island, and Abol would just mesmerize her with poetry as he read the works of the Persian poet, Ferdowski. Helen just adored the poetry and fell in love with it. While Abol would read to her, she too began to fall in love with him, his resilience and his resolve and fortitude.
Abol had traveled all the way to America from a remote village nearby his tribe. He faced a daunting journey to make it to our shores to fulfill his lifelong dream to become a physician.
Abol and Helen were married by a New York judge, who initially felt that the union between them should not take place due to their age difference. At that time, Helen was only 22, while Abol was already aged 50. He did, however, eventually agree to marry them, but only once Helen produced her Idaho birth certificate.
The couple then moved to Iran where they helped to open a private hospital. After five years in Iran, Helen returned to the U.S. with her children. As the years passed, and World War II continued, Helen and Abol lived separate lives and this was most unfortunate for them as they divorced after so many years apart. Abol remarried a Persian woman from the Bakhtiari tribe, and they had ten children together.
Despite the circumstances, Helen still loved the Persian culture. As time went on, she longed to return to Iran and did so as a volunteer. She was involved in a rural improvement project in which American professionals in the fields of agriculture, health, and education were sent over to work in villages in underdeveloped nations. By this stage, Helen had earned a degree in public health and along with her interest in the culture, she fitted the volunteer profile perfectly.
Helen had a jeep of her own, and she used it to travel to remote mountain regions, such as the one where the Bakhtiari tribe lived. There she helped women to learn about health care.
The people she worked with loved her so, and even dedicated one of their regions to her, and named it Helen's mountain. The area has been designated by the United Nations, as home to a number of animal species, making it a protected region.
The love story of Abol and Helen doesn't end there. In 1973, while in her final days, Helen asked that she be buried alongside Abol in Tus, Iran. After so many years, they were once again united.