Letter: That’s My Mom!

A reader spots a familiar face in a 1962 photograph republished by The Atlantic.

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Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET on December 20, 2018.

Afghanistan in the 1950s and ’60s

In 2013, Alan Taylor published photos taken in Afghanistan in the 1950s and ’60s, a period of modernization and liberalization in the country.*

In one photo from 1962, students at the Faculty of Medicine in Kabul examine a plaster cast showing a part of the human body. Recently, Taylor heard from a woman who recognized two of the people in that photo.

I’m writing to you because I was struck by a photo you published a few years back of my mother!

I thought you might like to know that the person on the left is Massuma Kazemi. She is not only alive but also still a practicing physician (a pediatrician) in Dallas, Texas. I think she’s likely to retire soon, but she’s 75 now and in great shape. (The woman on the far right is actually her sister, Feroza Bittner, a retired ob-gyn who practiced in Munich, Germany.)

Of course, because she is my mother, I consider her amazing. But most people find her quite extraordinary in her own right. She was in the first class that admitted women (your photo is evidence!), she graduated first in her class (no evidence, but I take her word for it), and she moved to Montreal, Canada, to complete her medical training. In Montreal, she also established her practice before continuing her career in Dallas. Along the way, she married a Catholic Polish man and had me and my brother. Today she runs a solo practice and somehow manages to make a go of it in a place that, if you consider only the context of your original photo, you probably would have never imagined she would end up!

Here are a few more photos for you.

This one is from her 75th birthday, with her granddaughter. The two others are from Kabul.

Courtesy of Anissa Kalinowski
Courtesy of Anissa Kalinowski
Courtesy of Anissa Kalinowski

Anissa Kalinowski
San Francisco, Calif.

* This article originally quoted a statistic about life expectancy in Afghanistan from the 2013 photo collection. That statistic was incorrect, and has been removed.