Monday, November 30, 2009


Saranda blinked in the sun. Where am I? She tried to get the world into focus. The magpies carolled in the tall eucalyptus trees scattered along the barracks' garden. A group of refugee's boys looked almost happy, sitting under one of them, having lunch and chattering. It would be good for Dardon to join them...
     " You're new, are you?" A girl with a ponytail came to sit next to her on the bench. " We have already been here for a week."

     " Where do you come from? From Pristina?" Saranda smiled at her. " My aunties live in Pristina or they used to live there...and you have the same accent."

    "Hm." After a little pause the new girl added: "Forget the past, here is fine, you will see. Did you hear that school starts tomorrow, my English is not that great, I don't know how I will do..."

    I don't know how I will eat." Saranda looked down at the salad and tuna sandwich in her hand and added slowly: " This bread is too soft and it's too hot for lunch."

    " And ist's the start of autumn here they told us, imagine, it's spring at home." Suddenly the girl with the pnytail stopped as she noticed a plump figure coming towards them. " Look, Lisa is coming," she jumped for joy and her ponytail danced on her head. " I love these frozen frit sticks she always bring us, what they are called here?"

    " Icy poles, " Lisa approached them. " Whould you like some?" She wiped perspiration off her brows:
" My goodness, the heat has come late this year."

    "You're welcome, oh, Saranda is here." Lisa's cheerful face with freckles turned to her. " Your brother is flooking for yo everywhere...and your Mum, she seems to be sick and a bit upset, I've tried to cheer her up...but you know, I can't speak your language very well."

Saranda watched her and felt uncomfortable. " Oh, I know, she will be all right, she is only...she scratched her forehead trying to find the right expression: "homesick."

Sunday, November 22, 2009


" It is locked, honey." Someone gently touched her arm. "You've come a long way, you are safe now." Saranda looked up at the kind woman's face. She was one of the barracks staff who served them in the dinning room. The round woman stared at her until Saranda could stand it no longer and looked away. How could she possibly could she explain about Granny and everything?

" Oh sorry, you can't speak English." She sighed slowly trying Albanian greeting: " Mer-ha-ba, er oh sorry, I mean...emri im asht Lisa, Li-sa." Lisa pointed her finger to the samll card on her huge chest with hen name on it.

Saranda chuckled and Lisa wiped perspiration off her brows" " Mare-harbor, emree-
imarsht Saranda and don't worry I speak English."

" Oh, nice to meet you, Saranda," She put her arm around her: "How old are you?"

" I am twelve and my brother is ten."

Lisa sighed and went back to the barracks, halfway there she stopped to make sure Saranda is following her. " I wanted to explain to yhour that I am here for you and by the way, your hair are really beautiful, so long and thick, you are lucky you don't need to wear shawl like some of the Muslims' girls I saw."

" My Grandmum wears a scarf and she can tell wondefull stories from our past."

" Can she?" Lisa waited until Saranda entered the barracks, then she locked the front door. " I would love to hear about your family, we could sit here, if you like." She pointed on some chairs in the hall.

" No, thank you...I mean, I'd like to go bakc to my family."

Saranda made her way to their rooms without anyone meeting. All was still and hushed on the corridor like in prayer time. She entered her parents' room. Her Mum was standing next to one of the empty shelves.

" Where is Dad ?" Saranda asked.

" Where have you been?" Mum looked white and tired. " He went to talk to other men. You know, he does not like you to go off without telling us.

" Mum, I have been only outside to get some fresh air." Saranda touched the empty self. " Are we real muslims, mum?"

" To be Muslim means to be God consious, whether inprayer, fasting or charity. That is what my Mother-in-law has taught me and I teach you. All of your Father's family are Muslims by tradition. I was orphan form Coratia. But as you know, because your father was a teacher he was forbidden to practise his religion."

" We never talked about Islam at school."

" All religion were forbidden at home, although people followed Islamic traditions at home and we all lived peasefully together," she sighed: " I don't know what happened to us."

" We never prayed at home too much either."

" Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Your father had chosen to teach so I respected his wish. He always preferred to take his own responsibility for his life, don't rely on God too much, he always used to say for that he was often called Non-believer by your Grandmum."

" But why has he been working as a farmer now?" Saranda interrupted.

" The Serbs took over and destroyed everything, your father was not good any more as a communist teacher from previous regime and later he was not good as a Kosovo Albanian." Mum sighed heavily again. " It is God's will to turn his back on us as we have turned our back on him."

" No, it is not." Said Dad entering the room. " There is nevws from home about ethnic cleansing not only of Albanians but also Croats, Gypsies, Turks, Montenegrins. Where are their God?"

" Go to sleep, Saranda," Mum ushered her into the adjoining room and closed quietly door while Dad was taling about the government violence against Albanian civilians.

Saranda stood quietly between her and Dardon's beds looking at some empty shelves and thinking of Grandmum. Dardon was sleeping soundly. She gently touched his head.

" I've tried to find you but you just disappeard." He snifed once or twice like a little child and truned back to sleep.

Saranda moved the makeshift curtain her Mum put there to divide her private space and stretched her body in the comfortable hend hugging her welcome teddy bear. " Good night, Grandmum, wherever you are!"

Friday, November 13, 2009


Finally their family and four hundred other refugees began their interim new life in Australia.Saranda closed her eyes when hot shower touched her skin. She had dreamt about this moment the whole month. A look in a mirror frightened her: what a pale face with big scarred eyes, her long brown hair had lost its shine...only her tiny golden sun shone like a star on her bare skin.

"Come on, Saranda, you are next." Mum openend the door dressed in a new dress with a pure white bandage on her left arm.

"And what about you?" Saranda dressed quickly into clean pants and loose shirt:
"Are you O.K. ?" She asked concerned.

" Im O.K. as you say in English, I am ingood health. A lady who translated for me sent you this to make you feel more welcome." Mum handed her a small teddy bear as she pushed Saranda through the white door with the sign in their language: Medical Check-ups.

Saranda was holding her teddy bear tightly as they approached the barbed wire fence of thier temporary home. The night was peaceful and warm. She looked up to the sky but none of the stars looked familiar. Someone from the back pushed her to move.

" Aar-my Bar-racks." Her brother was standing near the big entrance. "You see, I can read in English."

" Can you read the first word?" Mum approached him: "I think, it's the name of this town, I have no idea, where we are."

" It's called Fremantle, Mum." Saranda followed them inside.

The following night passed quickly. After checking their family unit, Dardon ran through the long corridor with the same family units on both sides. Saranda followed him thinking about this strange country.

" I thought we would have a real army room." Dardon peered in to a room, which was similar to theirs. Kosovar families, which were more fortunate than them were unpacking their luggage. They made piles of spare clothing to share with others.

" I love our room with its bright blinds and comfy beds," Saranda said following the noise from the end of the corridor.

They entered the communal lounge with TV and chairs. It was full ofyoung Albanians watching 'Simpsons'. The smell of cooked halal meat, which floated out from the opposite kitchen made them hungry.

"Come on, Mum and Dad are witing for us in the dining room." dardon ran out. The big room had already been prepared. Mum waved to them from one of the big tables laden with chicken and lamb dishes.

" Try the thick soup, it's similar to what we make at home." Dad was smiling, his mouth full as they approached.

" I love chicken." Dardon took up a knife and cut the first delicious piece. Soon warm meat was pushed into his mouth. Some drebbled down his chin as he grinned at his sister: " I bet I cna eat more than you."

"I bet you can't." she took some chicken form his plate. Saranda felt warm and secure for the first time in a long while. Having eaten their meals, small groups of refugees around their table stood up. Men went outside to smoke. Dad went to join them. Saranda looked at her Mum. The happy, satisfied smile on her face hid the horrors of the past, which were still very close to the surface. Saranda's stomach ached, not knowing what proper food had menat for so long. She pushed the plate back. Ignoring the tempting secure atmosphere, she went out. She passed some men on the open verandah. Fortunatelly her Dad was nowhere to be seen.
Following the path they came in she listened intently. All was still and quiet. Suddenly she touched something cold. Saradna tried to open the gate of her new home, wondering what was behind it.



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