Me and my school photo

Daily Mail
Me and my school photo: Uri Geller remembers bombs, curfews and shootings in Cyprus
2010-02-15 5:59

By Yvonne Swann

Mystifyer, writer and designer, Uri Geller, 63, famous for his spoon-bending, lives in Berkshire with his wife, Hanna. They have two grown-up children – Daniel, a criminal lawyer, and Natalie, an actress – who live in California.

Here I am, aged about 11, at the American Academy in Larnaca, just after I’d moved from Israel to Cyprus. Before I was born, my Hungarian-Jewish parents fled the Nazis and settled in Jaffa, where I was conceived, and then moved to Tel Aviv.

My father, who had been a soldier in Budapest, joined the British army and fought in North Africa, and then the Israeli army, fighting for the country’s independence. My mother worked very hard, because we had no money and lived in utter poverty. She was a seamstress and, later, a waitress.

I had no siblings. It’s a tragic story. My father did not want children and, later in life, my mother sadly told me that I was her ninth child, which meant that my father had actually forced my mother to go through eight terminations. She fought for her last pregnancy and I was born on 20 December 1946.

Uri Geller aged 11, at the American Academy in Larnaca, just after he had moved from Israel to Cyprus

My unusual abilities began after I was enveloped by a sphere of light in the garden when I was five. It was incredible and soon after that my spoon bent while I was eating soup. My mother was related to Sigmund Freud, and always believed I’d inherited some heightened sensitivity from him.

When I was six I went to Ahad Haam school in Tel Aviv. The other children didn’t know how to accept me because of my strange ability. Some thought I was a freak – moving the clocks on the wall, reading minds, bending keys.

I couldn’t explain the things I did,and the kids didn’t understand. But, though I was never a great scholar, I was good at sport, painting and writing futuristic stories.

My father was a womaniser and when my mother could stand it no longer, she started divorce proceedings. I was ten and she sent me away to a kibbutz for a year while she sorted things out. It was very hard for me. I was seen as an outsider, and teased and sneered at. I was heartbroken. I missed my mother and my beloved dog.

Then my mother became engaged to a Hungarian Jew called Ladislas Gero – a lovely, gentle man – and we moved to Cyprus, where he had a small pension in Nicosia.

We landed in Larnaca and the immigration officer looked at my name and said, ‘Uri? What’s that? From today you will be George.’ So I was called George Geller during my six years in Cyprus.

Because I didn’t speak English, I was sent to the American Academy, which was a culture shock. I was in a new place, speaking a new language, but what hit me hardest was the war.

The Greeks, the Turks and the British were fighting, and I witnessed killings on more than one occasion. There was a hospital next to our school, and I saw a Greek fighter being treated by doctors.

They couldn’t stop the bleeding and I jumped over the fence to help him – he died in my arms. These experiences – bombs, curfews, shootings – affected me hugely.

I didn’t stay at the school in Larnaca very long before I was moved to Terra Santa College, a Catholic boarding school, in Nicosia. That was a shock because my mother, being Jewish, had told me never to look at a Christian cross.

On my first day something very sensitive happened. The Father superior – Fr Camillo – dressed in his monk’s robes, called me into his office.

As I stood there trembling he opened the top of his tunic and pulled out a chain full of trinkets – a cross, medals, and then I saw a Star of David.

I asked, ‘Why are you wearing a Jewish star?’ and he said, ‘Because we pray to one God.’ That melted all my fears about religion. I realised that, if you believe in God, it’s universal.

Tragically, after two years my stepfather died of a heart attack. Because my mother needed me to help with the B&B, I became a day boy at Terra Santa. Finally, some happiness came into my life. I made some lasting friends, played basketball, and won prizes for my paintings.

Life was hard for my mother. She had lost the man she loved and also, because of the war in Cyprus, there were fewer guests at our B&B. My stepfather also had a small music shop, but that failed too, and in the end we went bankrupt.

When I was 16, we sold up and returned to Israel – to a life of poverty and hardship. I would tell my mother that one day I’d be rich and famous and she would no longer have to work. She died five years ago, aged 91, and she lived with me all her life.

I became a male model and was soon making money for the first time. At last, I could buy my mother a TV. One day, I bent a key for a photographer and he said, ‘I’m giving a party, come and show your powers.’ So I did, and I realised that I could entertain people with demonstrations of my mind power.

I was soon invited to more prestigious parties, and at one of these I read the mind of the then Prime Minister, Golda Meir. I sent her to the loo to draw a secret picture and I guessed it right – the Star of David.

The next day she was being interviewed on the radio and the presenter asked her to predict the future of Israel. She said, ‘Don’t ask me, ask Uri Geller!’ Thirty seconds later, my phone started ringing and, from then on, I was booked into theatres in Israel.


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