Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So close and yet so far apart...


When the school finished, Saranda saw the familiar car waiting outside her school.

    "Mrs Hysa," she screamed in panic and sat inside the car thinking something is wrong.

    "There you are," Mrs Hysa looked at her closely: "Nothing is wrong, only your Mum wants me to talk to .."

    "I have to pick up Dardon from the Upper Primary," Saranda quickly said.

    "Yes, I know, let's go," Mrs Hysa started the car and continued: "I would like you to be more considerated of your Mum's condition and also understand that you Dad is now extremely busy with his school's religious position, you have to be more helpful..."

    "More helpful!" Saranda shouted in dismay: "I have to help with all domestic chores, cooking and also Dardon with his homework, every day, while Dardon is playing soccer and enjoying himself..."

    "Everyone has different place and responsibilities in one's family," Mrs Hysa smiled at her gently: "And what about your mysterious disappearances from home?"

    "Everyone has right to breathe and find out about life, it's not fair that Dad pushing me to live up to his recent religious ideal, it's not me, I was not brought up that way!"

    "It's the religion of our forbearers, of your Grandmother," Mrs Hysa sighed, "My family left Kosove before the Communists shut all the Mosques and I grew up here, where you can take it easy and forget where you come from." Mrs Hysa turned to Saranda and then quickly checked the lights at the crossroads: "Is this Dardon's Muslim school?"

    "Yep, just turn left after the intersection," Saranda pointed her hand on the left and continued: "I know all of that, Mrs Hysa, I only feel that Mum and Dad are not like they used to be, I wish sometimes to be back in Kosove and be little again, my Mum she is so..."

    "Your Mum is really worried, that something awful may happen to you and she promised to God to tell Dad if you once more leave the house without telling her where you go," Mrs Hysa shook her head in disagreement: "Dardon mentioned a friend of yours, a homeless kid?"

    "Fine." Saranda clenched her teeth and looked out of the window thinking about her little dobbing brother.

    "Look, I can see Dardon," Mrs Hysa stopped the car and waived to the boy, then she turned to Saranda: "Try to understand, Saranda, your family clings to Islam, because there is only thing they got left," Mrs Hysa pulled at her scarf: "Your origin, your religion makes you who you are...oh, hi Dardon, how was school today?" She smiled when Dardon entered the car.

   "Gross, what's happening?" Dardon looked at Mrs Hysa hoping she takes them to some exciting place and he missed Saranda's hateful glare.

    "I'm only dropping you off home today, my little girl finishes her dancing lesson soon...but," Mrs Hysa winked at him: "Do you remember what George, your swimming instructor promised about visiting his parents in York and spending weekend there?"

    "Yeep, but that was a few monts ago."

    "So he finally asked me to arrange this long weekend's trip with your parents, unfortunatelly you Mum feels too sick, and there is Victor...your Father is too busy..."

    "But, I want to go," Dardon exclaimed.

    "Who cares, what you want," Saranda said sharply.

    "Saranda," Mrs Hysa sighed impatiently: "Your parents gave me permission to take you ont the trip, both of you of course."

Saranda nodded and looked out of the window. She thought about George missing his boy terribly and Jack, his boy, roaming streets aimlessly and sleeping rough under the bridge just few yards from his Father's flat. She imagined George looking out of the window on the dark bridge in disapearing light never realizing how close to home his son actually is. They are so close and so far apart.

Monday, September 13, 2010


    Saranda closely watched the girl sitting next to her. She was also new, in this country, in this Islamic College. Doha was her name. She was quiet and shy always hiding behind her white scarf. Sharp featured and dark-haired, Doha was aware of her fragile features and tine figure and liked to keep to herself, hiding behind other girls in their study group. Although it was well accepted in their College that girls didn't voice thier opinios only if asked, Doha avoided any opportunity to be noticed. In contrary Saranda had to often bite her lip not to shout her disagreement with her teachers.
She was often criticised to be too wordy and other girls whispered behind her back that her confidence had boosted ever since her father was appointed a Deputy Principal at the College. It surprised Saranda enormously to see Doha join her to accompany the studetns from the Lower Primary school nearby to the Perth Museum. Saranda saw it as oportunity to escape the dully routine of prays and learning and worndered why Doha had joined her. Before she had a chance to ask their bus stopped in front the Thornlie Lower Primary Islamic College. Two groups of boys and two groups of girls have been already lined up waiting excitedly and as soon as the door opened the boys came rushing inside. Saranda was asked by their Islamic teacher to show them their seats on the right side.

    "Hi, Saranda, we are going to the museum in Perth, imagine we will go to see a real skyscraper..." One of the boys shouted excitedly in her ear. Saranda smiled at him and pushed him on the the back seat. Suddenly she heard a giggling from the left side where the girls had been seated. Doha was seated among them and her face was unusually bright.

    "Now, let's go," another teacher, an English lady came last: "I'll hope we haven't forgotten anyone." She smiled and quickly hid the loose strand of her hair under her scarf.

She had to be new one, Saranda thought to herself, not used to wearing a scarf, like me. She felt a sudden empathy with the teacher, who was already walking through the bus pointing to the boys telling them to behave themselves. The bus moved and the boys yelled with excitement.

    "Come on everyone, look carefully in front of you, I wonder who will be the first one to spot a skyscraper?" She said in the microphone as the bus ran smoothly along the highway passing many suburbs with thousands of identical homes with shiny green lawns at the front.

    "I can see them, look." Once boy pointed through the front window where the three skyscrapers shone in the blue sky in the distance.

    "Huaaah, that's fantastic, look at the bright boats." Another boy exlaimed as they drove over the Swan River. White two story buildings lined the shore surrounded by fresh lush parks.

Soon they reached the city centre and every kid in the bus pressed an excited face to the glass to catch a glimpse of the sleepy capital city of Western Australia. The bus stopped at a huge car park and the teachers guided the children through the glassed in walkway, which ran over the quiet colonial streets and the bustling shopping alleys. The boys stopped every minute and looked through the glass under their feet at the passing cars and colourful shops.The English teacher counted her children all the time with a worried look on her face.

    "Saranda, please, watch out for these boys on the back," she said and then turned to Doha surrounded by the girls.

    "Don't worry Ms Page," Doha smiled at her confidently and stopped to be the last one pushing the giggling girls in front of her: "Come on you."

As they walked through a colonial train station, the boys begged Ms Page to come on the platform to see the city train. Ms Page soon realised the danger when some of the boys ran to the moving stairways blocking the way so people couldn't pass.

    "Come back at once!" Ms Page screamed in panic and rushed to bring them back leaving the girls with the other Islamic teacher. Saranda and Doha stood patiently nearby. They watched a group of teenagers gathering on the station, drinking, riding skateboards and laughing. Their clothes were fancy but dirty. Most of the teenagers were black, some whiter but with the same hair like Kathy. Suddenly two of them noticed them and started to skateboard in their direction. Saranda quickly moved in opposite direction to avoid them but Doha stood there watching them with a stone face. They circled around her pointing at her dress and scarf when the Islamic teacher approached them. They skated back, pulling faces and screaming something.

    "What did they say?" Doha asked the Islamic teacher when they joined back the group. Ms Kawa was standing there watching the leaving skate boys with a stern look. Saranda joined them and felt embarrassed at moving away.

    "I thought I could understand anything, I have been learning English for 8 years..."

    "Don't take notice of those unbelievers," the Islamic teacher patted her arm looking closely at her: "Our god always protects you."

    "I know that," Doha answered seriously: "He always did."

    "Now quickly to the museum and back to school, I think I've had enough for today."

They had recess near the small fountain outside the museum. Then the museum staff took them inside. Saranda couldn't concentrate very much on the long list of information and pictures about the discovery of Australia becuase the group of boys hanged on her asking millions of questions. Later on, while the whole group admired the replica of the first ship, she slipped quietly to the other room, where their teachers decided not to take them because of some explicit pictures unsuitable for children.
In the centre stood statues of a group of naked slim, dark people with kind, smiling faces. They looked like they were on a walk. The women were holding children and sticks in their hands. The men proudly held their spears and one of them was showing a lizard he had killed. She was struck with the statues. She slowly spelled the information under it: Native Australians.
They looked similar to the people in Kathy's family, this older one could be Uncle Tom, but the statues looked much happier.

   "Now we enter the old way of life of Aboirginals before the white people came. They were peaceful people who shared everything and travelled a long distance to survive in this harsh empty land. We still admire their art and special ways of dealing with people and nature..." The group of people entered the room and the deep voice of their museum curator echoed on the walls.

   "Oh, look a cave man," the couple of boys from their group had sneaked after her.

   "Come on, we have to go back," she pushed them in front of her out of the forbidden room and together they ran through the museum to find their class.

She was tired after the excursion and annoyed by the endless chatter of the children around her. Doha seemed to enjoy their company and looked more relaxed than ever. The kids touched everything excitedly in the museum shop until their teachers ushered them outside. Doha in one corner was looking at some T-shirts.

   "I wish I could buy one." Saranda stood next to her looking at one with the small painting of an Emu like from Uncle's Tom dotting picture.

    "I want to buy one for my brother, who is still in Iraq, missing, only God knows what happened to him..."
Doha sighed and looked at Saranda's choice: "Impressive, these strange paintings, but our pictures back home are more colourful and joyful."

   "I like them, they reminds me of our old legends..." Saranda touched the empty spot on her neck and reminded herself to find Kathy. Suddenly someone grabbed her hand. It was one of the lower school's boys.

   "Come on, Saranda, we are leaving, the bus is here," he pushed her long school dress impatiently: "Come on you two or you will be in trouble."

Saranda looked at Doha, who smiled at her mysteriously: "I will be there in a sec, just make some excuse for me, will you?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Just as the first light appeared in the morning, they heard a scream.
   "That was Mum!" Saranda cried, jumping up from bed. "Something's wrong!" She ran to the door.

   "It's one of her bad dreams," Dad noticed her in the doorway of their bedroom.
He was bending over Mum, who lay stretched out on the bed talking fast: "They are all dead, the village is on the fire...heelp!"  Her eyes were closed, and she fell asleep. Before leaving Saranda checked Victor in his cot. He snored peacefully.

   "What's going on?" Dardon's figure in long pyjamas appeared in the corridor.

   "It was only a nightmare," Saranda pushed him back to his room: "Go back to sleep, today Mrs Hysa will take us to the museum."

Saranda went back to her room and sat on her bed looking around. The dawn made everything misty and unreal. Her small room with a built-in-wardrobe, a simple desk and a tiny side table was full of shades. Suddenly she remembered the place, Jack had told her about. It took her only a minute to pull on her pants, long sleeve shirt and sneakers. She picked up her scarf and thought for a while. Finally she let it drop on the bed and tiptoed out of her room.
Passing the main bedroom, she could hear Mum's quiet weeping. She hurried up to the front door. Outside a balck cat was crossing her path. It made her shiver. Saranda watched from their doorsteps as the edge of morning was beginning to break in the East. For a second or two she stood there sniffing the fresh air. She could tell that it was going to be a warm day. The front gate squeaked, so she turned back and listened. The simple white house was quiet in the dark.

When she entered the deserted station, the first train had already been there. The view from the fast train gave her a sweaping picture of the old sleepy port ahead and the dark ocean beyond it.
Saranda enjoyed being out in Fremantle alone. It made her feel part of real Australian life, and she started to wish secretly that she'd been born here. But then she touched her golden sun and felt guilty. Approaching the centre of town she felt like a ghost. The fancy apartments and colourful shops were dark and quiet as was the whole city.
Only a few joggers passed her by. Saranda left the main street and swung onto a small side street. It was all a bit vague and hazy. Slowly she passed through it and found herself near the ocean. Saranda felt a sense of gentle peace under the rising sun. She sat down on the deserted beach. Nothing could have been more peaceful that the gentle waves of the Indian Ocean under that huge wakening Australian sky.

    "Lucky, come back, Lucky!" A big dog came dashing across the sand and leaped around her legs. Saranda froze looking into his huge curious face.

    "I don't know whether she is scared or not...what do you think, Lucky?" Kathy chuckled behind Saranda's back and hugged the dog tightly.

   "He gave me the creeps." Saranda smiled and patted his huge hairy back.

   "That's the point." Jack came and scratched the dog's ear gently. "He is our new guard dog, we found him a week ago, and he was starving and lucky to meet us."

   "Let's have breakfast." Kathy flopped next to Saranda and handed everyone hamburgers, including Lucky, who finished his in one bite. "There was good deal at Mac's today, one 'buck' only, she tried to explain with her mouth full.

   "You had no money." Jack pointed out.

   "So what, I pinched it from a tray," she winked at Saranda and then burst out laughing, her curly hair danced around her round, dark face.

The breakfast was gobbled in bites between bursts of exciting talk. Saranda hadn't  felt so free and happy for a long time. She touched her neck but the golden chain was not there. She rubbed her forehead with a worried hand.

    "Where is my chain, where is it?" Saranda burst out and jumped to her feet. Then as if she regretted the outburst, her voice became calmer. "It must be somewhere here..." They watched curiously as Saranda was digging in the sand.

   "I know who this golden thing belongs to?" Kathy started to laugh holding the chain above the dog's nose.

In sudden anxiety Saranda turned and rushed at Kathy: "You are a thief, give it back," she grabbed the chain.
"It's broken, my Granny, I have broken my promise." Her voice dropped to a whisper.

They looked puzzled. Kathy sat next to Saranda and hugged her. A single sob welled up from somewhere deep down and shook Kathy's shoulders: "Sorry, don't have anything so..." A big lump rose in her throat: "So  posh, I wanted only to try..."

   "It's supposed to bring me good luck," Saranda sobbed.

   "Luck," Jack said, "only helps people who knows how to use it." He took the chain form her hand and looked at the golden sun closely.

   "The golden sun has been bringing life to the people of Kosovo for hundreds of years. When winter ends over there and spring is coming, the golden sun brings warmth, good spirit and life back to the mountain villages. It's a special sun. Magical." To her own surprise Saranda found herself telling them the old Albanian legend about the golden sun.

   "It's like one of the Kathy's Aboriginal stories," Jack said  handing her back the broken chain: "I can't fix it."

   "Come on." Kathy said abruptly pulling Jack's back. "Maybe uncle Toby can fix it, come on, Lucky, let's go home."

After they left the beach, Jack shot up another street and fetched four cream buns from a shop and they munched them siting on the pavement near the Fremantle Market. The entrance filled up with first people looking for some fresh fish and vegetables.
After a while the first families appeared, strolling by in the sunshine, stopping occasionally to chat to some friendly faces enjoying their breakfast on the cafe strip.

   "I hate these Sundays, can you imagine, me as a boy, doing the same with my Dad and Mum, when she was alive..." Jack spat on the pavement and chucked his half finished bun in a nearby bin.

   "I think I can see my cousin playing the Didgeridoo inside," Kathy jumped out and Lucky waved his tail ready to follow her. "You stay here!" Kathy pointed at him and ran inside the market.

Jack and Saranda turned around to see playing dark figure in the middle of the shopping hall surrounded by a few tourists. He was blowing into a long wooden tube making strange deep music. Some of the shoppers stopped and put some coins into his old hat.
Kathy bent next to his ear and he made some signs with his fingers without stopping to play.
Soon she was back and waved them to follow her. When they reached the bus station a group of Aboriginal women and children were sitting and chattering on the benches aside. the little ones had round cheeks and curly hair and they could never keep still. Kathy and Jack joined them but Saranda stayed aside watching them with open curiosity.

Suddenly an old yellow sedan stopped next to them. A driver, an old man in tattered T-shirt, started to shout at the group. She heard hurrying footsteps and someone grabbed her hand. They all managed to climb in and the vehicle took off with a roar. Saranda found herself squished between two jolly women, one had a restless baby who jumped on her knees. The car echoed with singing and laughter. She couldn't understand their strange English, but she didn't feel uncomfortable.
The car suddenly stopped and the women hurried out picking up their shopping bags and babies. The rented house was surrounded by ground overgrown with weeds. There were some old men sitting on the shabby verandah. Their boisterous noise and laughter knew no end.

   "Now, let's go in." Kathy said after she hugged half of the family. The inside was as crowded and noisy as the outside of the moderate house. Saranda tried to follow Kathy through the living room full of smiling children and surprisingly found Jack and Lucky playing with them happily.

   "Uncle Toby, uncle Toby," Kathy screamed as they entered the small backyard. The old, dark man was painting something on the ground.

   "Hullo, Miajna Kadi, your uncle is happy to see you." He turned around and smiled so brad that they could see his missing teeth. he held a small stick in his hand as he raised his dark arm in greeting.

    "What does it mean...let's me guess, a myall on some walkabout and there...there he found a waterbird's egg." Kathy pointed excitedly to a colourful picture full of white dots.

    "He lived a long time ago on his tribal land, before the white fellow came and started to live on this land that didn't belong to him..." the old man sat with his legs crossed, his eyes closed and started to talk in broken English.

In some way Saranda found the story similar to the tales from her homeland, which she had lost. Suddenly the kids came screaming outside chased by Jack and Lucky. realising that it was the Dreamtime story time, they sat down around Uncle Toby and stayed quiet until he finished.
Jack found a place on the doorstep. Soon a tall boy about his age joined in with a didgeridoo: "Come on, Tajurra, you haven't practised it for a long time," he handed the instrument laughingly to Jack.

Jack tried to blow it and managed a couple of deep sounds. When the boy started to play, a powerful and strange music filled the whole area. The children started to move with the rhythm of the music pretending to be an Emu picking some seeds and a hopping Kangaroo. Saranda kept sitting next to Uncle Toby, who was starring now curiously at her jeans. She smiled shyly and noticed that a piece of her long-forgotten scarf popped out from her pocket. He gestured to her to give it to him.

    "Interesting," he exclaimed studying closely the details of the Islamic design on the scarf: "Made in Pakistan, hmm," Uncle Toby looked at her again with a broad smile: "I think, I will take it."

    "Fine," Saranda shook her head in disbelief, what in earth he could see on this piece of head cover, "I have plenty of them at home."

    "Tajurra, Miajna Kadi and your friend, if you need a lift, I'm leaving now," someone yelled next to the outside door. Kathy jumped and took the golden chain from Saranda's hand.

    "Oh, Uncle Toby I need you to fix this, I'll come back to pick it up later, thanks." She put the chain in front of him. He put it in his pocket and continued to paint.

    "Let's go." She pulled a surprised Saranda and they ran until they saw the moving car and Jack trying to jump in.

   "Wait, waait for us." Kathy waved and soon they squished into the crowded car. saranda was sweating and the heat outside reminded her that it was almost lunchtime.

   "Thornlie, could you please tell the driver to take me there," she shouted in Kathy's ear over the noise.

Soon she saw familiar train station and one of the streets close to her house: "Hey, stop here." Saranda shouted from the back and turned to Kathy: "My house is on the next street, thanks for the trip and..."

    "See you next time 'somewhere in the great outdoors', " Kathy winked at her as she jumped from the  moving car. Saranda waved until the Aboriginal singing and laughing disappeared with the car and she suddenly felt very lonely.

She entered their front yard. There was no one there. The clinking of the cutlery inside reminded her of lunch and their prayer time. Saranda entered the house in a sudden panic and ran through the corridor as fast as she could. At the end she bumped into Mrs hysa, who was holding Victor in her arm: "Where've you been, you're lucky your Dad huried to Morque early morning and didn't find out..."

   "Saranda, we were supposed to go to the museum and because of YOU..." Dardon peeped out of his room at her but Mrs Hysa patted his hair: "It's OK, Dardon, we can go next time, anyway, your Mum doesn't feel very well," she looked back at Saranda: "You better go and help you Mum with lunch, you Dad will be here any minute."

Thursday, July 8, 2010


   The sky was dull and grey with black and purple tingles. Saranda felt along their low spiky fence with her hand till she found the gate. The front litghts from Mrs Hysa's car outlined the path to their house. They had moved
one week ago to Thornlie, closer to Perth and the Muslim College, where Dad was teaching. They were part of
Muslim community now, but Saranda still missed Mrs Hysa's house on the outskirt of Fremantle.

    "Saranda," Mrs Hysa's whisper was uncertain in the darkness of the car. Saranda craned around, trying to see
her. Suddenly Dardon got out off the car. He almost fell over her. It was still pitch black. The moon had not yet risen. "Watch out, that's my foot!"

    "Did you find it?" His voice sounded sleepy.

    "I think, I did," she muttered touching th smooth cold handle and pushed it. Mrs Hysa's car smoothly passed
them inside and they both closed the gate behind it.

Saranda had persuaded Dad to allow them to visit Mrs Hysa in Fremantle on the weekend. They had intended
to go shopping together, but Joyce was sick, so Mrs Hysa let them to go by themselves. Saranda found Kathy and Jack on their usual weekend spot in the park opposite the Esplanade hotel and together they went out to spend Saranda's shopping money.

    "It was the most irresponsible thing to do, leave Mrs Hysa to worry about you and cause her troubles by your late arrival," Dad's sharp voice hammered at them from the lighten verandah.

     "Look, just take it easy for a sec, they are safely back," Mrs Hysa got off her car and patted his arm.

     "It's my responsibility to be sure they don't do it again." Dad's said with a stone face. Mrs Hysa blinked in surprise and looked at them doubtfully.

Saranda blushed fiercely as they followed them acorss the front room full of Muslim men, their neighbours. Dardon stubled as he entered. She took his arm to steady him as they greeted the visitors with little bow and pray: "Salama Lejkum..."

Mum looked up quickly as she entered the room with a pot of tea. Saranda's tongue felt thick and dry in her mouth, as she looked desperately around the room at all the silent and unproachable faces.

    Mrs Hysa waved to them from the corridor to follow Dad into his Study. Saranda hoped she would stay with them, but she disappeared inside the kitchen.

    "You know very well how to behave when you are somewhere on a visit and even more if you are supposed to look after your younger brother." Dad shook his head and turned his back to them. Saranda bit her lips, willing her father to hug and forgive her.

    "Did you buy what you were asked to?" He turned back and looked at her sternly.

    "We have been at 'Quazar' and the Ice-creamery shop, it was so exciting...all these laser machines...boom, boom and we have real big friends..." Dardon tried to explain, but Saranda put her finger on her lips and he suddenly stopped.

     "No, I forgot all about school stuff, I am sorry." She looked at Dad who didn't seem to notice Dardon's talking. He pointed him to leave the room. Dardon bowed his head and quietly closed door behind him.

    "Give me my money back!" Dad opened the palm of his hand in front of her.

    "I don't have it any more. It's entirely your fault. Why can't you, just once, help with shopping, Mum can't speak English and ...it's unfair always ask Mrs Hysa for help," Saranda shouted back noticing too late the anger in his eyes.

He hit her hard with his fist. She stumbled and landed on the sofa.
    "Don't talk to me like that ever again!" The tone of his voice told Saranda that was the end of the matter. He left to join his guests.

Disappointment sobbed inside her as she picked up the torn golden chain. It was almost impossible to fix the part with her shaking hands. She hastily put it on and touched the golden sun. If only she could ask Granny. She would know what to do. She always did.

That night Sarnada had a strange dream. She watched herself, Mum and Dad walk along their path to a road. Then they parted and went their separate ways. Dardon sreamed, took Victor into his arm and run from one to the other, then he followed her. She could hear his crying closer and closer so she started to run. FDinally she lost them. She was there all by herself, all on her lonesome. It was a terrible feeling. The world was dark, shadowless and cold.

She turned back and run as fast as she could...back.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


During the final months of the Bosnian War, nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically killed in the fallen U.N enclave of Sebrenica - the worst European massacre since WWII. On June 10, 2010 tow high ranking Bosnian Serbe were convicted for those 1995 killings. Their Judge said: "In the context of human history, these events are arrestive in their scale and brutality. These acts were committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial and religious group."

Many high ranking officers responsible for massacres in previous Yugoslavia are still in hiding and many will never be caught. Justice will never be served as it always happens. Writing Saranda's story I realized it. She survived and grew up to help her people and her nations.

IGNORANCE IS HUMANITY'S GREATEST ENEMY. Therefore it is important to remember these modern day attrocities which are happening now as well in different parts of our ustable world, we live in.

YOUR CHARACTER IS YOUR FATE. I have an urge to remind people about attrocities so we can together work on more peaceful and stable world.

Thank you for listening to me...next chapter of Saranda's story will continue next week:)

Friday, June 25, 2010

LOST June 2000

     It's still too hot, Saranda thought as she walked next to Mum and Mrs Hysa through the narrow crowded South Terrace and listening to their conversation about Islam. She was mad at Mum, who didn't allow her to leave the house without a scarf and a long sleeve shirt any more. Mum, pushing the pram with Victor, was apprehensive about meeting another Muslim women in a nearby Tea room. She pulled nervously her scarf and asked Saranda to be nice and polite when meeting the ladies.

Saranda looked at her pale face and suddenly felt sorry for her Mum. She was lost just like her. Islam was just a safety net, thrown to her by her husband, something to hold on to. Still boys have it so much easier. Saranda looked behind to see Dardon running and bumping into people.

     " And what about him," she pointed at Dardon: " he wants to go to 'Time Zone."

     " But, please Mum, I want Saranda to go with me, instead of Mrs Hysa," he caught up with Mum and pulled at her sleeve pleadingly.

     " I thought you go with me, Dad would be pleased and Mrs Hysa is not really interested in Islam, you know..."

     " Me neither," Saranda interrupted Mum: " I have already learnt a lot at College and anyway I need to go shopping first...I need some stuff for school tomorow..."

     " Let's go shopping then," Mum turned and pushed the pram back to Wolwoorth store, leaving them catching up.

Inside the Shopping Centre it was cool and noisy. Mum dragged them behind Mrs Hysa caught in a shopping spree. Mrs Hysa loved bargain. As they waited patiently until she chose what she wanted, Saranda noticed some girls in shiny minidresses, who seemed familiar. These awful girls from her previous High School!

    " Quick, have a go, there is the exit," she grabbed Dardon's hand and they ran out into the full car park.

    " Are we going to run away?" Dardon asked excitedly as he noticed the free map of Fremantle in her hand from the shopl

    " Of course not, you silly," she turned her head resolutely, " go back and tell Mum, that we meet her in the Tea room, tell her I know the way and ask for some money to Time Zone, " Saranda watched him to leave and shouted behind him: " She always gives you, what YOU want, you spoiled brat."

She took her scarf and folded up her sleeves. Suddenly she felt much better. Dardon came back and blinked but Saranda stopped him before he could ask: " If you open your mouth, it's last time I take you somewhere, you dobby, dobby," she looked at him and then back at the map: " I can't find the 'Time Zone".

Dardon lowered his head in disappointment.

    " Don't worry, we'll find the way."

It was a hot day. A crowd of strangers walked nearby as they reached another and another street.

    " Saranda, I am thirsty, are we lost?" Dardon sat down on a bench in front of one of the old houses with a broken white picked fence.

    " Stop whinging..." Saranda clutched the map in her hand: " Wait, what's the name of this one, L-i-lly Street."
She looked around. Lilly Street was dotted with old residents of all origins leaning outside their brightly painted houses. Saranda spotted a dirty vacant land between two properties. Another home for Kathy and Jack, she suddenly thought.

    An old lady was watching Dardon from her flowered tiny verandah: " Poor boy, you look thirsty, wait right here," she turned back and murmured something on her way inside. In a little while Dardon held in his hand a cold glass frull of icy water.

    " Thank you," Saranda said joining Dardon on the bench, but the lady shuffled back. The tiny door banged behind her. They left the empty glass on the bench and moved on.

At the far end of the street they were stuck in the middle of traffic noise and rushing people. Among the strangers Saranda recognised a boy.

    " Jaack, Jack...!" Saranda rushed after him leaving Dardon behind.

    " Hey, kid," he was starring at her now and she felt stupid.

    " I don't know, if you remember me, we met about a month ago and you lend me some money..and you said I could stick with you and Kathy..you know...to survive."

    " Survive," Jack repeated in his absent minded voice and his blue eyes looked somehow darker: " In fact you could survive almost anything if you put your mind to it, I've tried to explain this to Kathy...anyway do you know where she is?"

    " No, me and my brother, where is he?" Saranda turned aroudn in panic: " He wanted to go to 'Time Zone' and..." She searched the crowd behind her when Jack suddenly caught her arm.

    " Hey, that's look like him..." he pointed at a scared boy standing on the opposite road to them. He caught their eyes and Saranda waved at him. Jack stared at them when she introduced Dardon. For a long time he was silent as he forgot the world around him.

Saranda took the note from Dardon's pocket and gave him warning look to stop his complaining: " Jack, that's yours, thanks."

    " 'Quazar' is better than 'Time Zone', I haven't been there for ages," he suddenly cheered up: " Let's go, now we have some money to spend."
He left and they had to run to catch up with him.

It was fun. Jack often burst at laugh watching Dardon's play: " He is so scared, I love it!"

    " Dardon, stop acting like idiot," Saranda felt ashamed for her younger brothe, who patted himself proudly on the chest after he hit Jack, but he didn't mind.

They nearly missed Mum and Mrs Hysa, who waited impatiently in front of the already closed 'Tea Room' for their return. Saranda in a hurry put beck her scarf and warned Dardon not to open his mouth. Approaching them, she saw Mrs Hysa's frightened look and she met Mum's tired eyes as she took the screaming hungry Victor from her arms. Saranda knew that Dad would be again mad at her, but it didn't matter at all. She had found Jack!

Friday, June 11, 2010

ALBANIANS AND AUSTRALIANS - What do they have in common?

     Next Sunday morning they went to visit George. Mrs Hysa offered to take them there in her big, white Holden as Dad's old car broke down. Slowly moving through the inner city they passed many restaurants and evening entertainment places. All which were now closed and quiet. They passed a couple of bar girls walking home from their niht shifts.

    " Oh, I don't know how these girls can dress so immodestly," said her Mum watching them from the corner of her scarf. After that she gave her full attention to Victor, who woke up in his 'child safety seat' and demanded his bottle.

    " Here we are," Mrs Hysa stopped the car in front of  a inner Fremantle apartment: " It used to be a warehouse here and now look..."

     " Very interesting.," her Dad looked up at the two-storey iron-and-glass building: " You can sqeeze a hundred people here."

     " I don't think so," laughed Mrs Hysa: " Australians like their space, mostly singles live here, just like George."

When George saw their car from his glassed first floor, he came rushing down the sairs and opened his sliding door: " Hello, nice to see you," he squeezed Dad's hand and turned to Saranda: " My sweetheart, translate to your Mum that I am very happy to see her."

    " Gee, you live in a submarine," Dardon screamed in excitement as they entered the down-stairs living area made of black steel and glass. He examined for a while a big shell and then stopped in front of a huge aquarium.
There was a colourful wall painting of the sea above it: " Look, Saranda, what do they call these in the English?...Merr...

    " Mermaids, you silly billy and stop shouting," Saranda pushed him forward and they followed the others upstairs.

The family was standing at the massive iron windows admiring the panoramic views of the city. Dardon, in the meantime touched the mirror and..." Look, Saranda it's a sliding mirror door, let's see, what is behind." He had already disappeared behind it.

    " Wait, Dardon, you can't go in there..." She pushed the mirrror and entered a big main bedroom:
" Dardoon, where are you?"

    " Come here, it's a boy's room, gee, he is surely lucky to have all this stuff..auch." Something hit the ground with a big bang.

    " Dardon, what are you doing?" Saranda followed the noise through a luxurious bathroom. Finally she had found Dardon in the end room behind a huge surfboard.

    " Saranda, please help me out, it's really heavy, I don't know how they use it. Oh, that's better ugh..."

    " Are you O.K.?" Saranda asked as she looked around. It was surely a boy's room filled with stuff that any boy would long for...at least any boy in Kosovo.

    " Look, a new skateboard and computer...have a look, there is a TV with Nintendo, could we play, please?"

    " No, we have to go back, come on..." Saranda turned around to leave the room, when she noticed a big photograph of a blond boy on a surf beach. He had a gold medal around his neck. There  was something familiar about his face. She went closer. It was Jack.

    " Saraaanda, Daaardon, where are you?" Mum's worried voice echoed in the room. Saranda quickly grabbed Dardon's hand and rushed out through the bathroom and bedroom.

    " There you are, you cheeky monkeys!" Mrs. Hysa met them near the mirror's door.

    " Sorry, Mrs. Hysa..." Saranda was too tongue-tied to say anything else.

    " Where have you been?" Dad looked sternly at Saranda.

    " We, wee have been looking for toilet, yes, Dardon needed to to, so..."

    " No, I didn't," protested Dardon at once and Saranda slapped his hand secretly.  Why her brother never gets anything, she thought angrily, while Dad kept watching her sternly under his dark thick eyebrows.

    " To tell you the truth, Saranda, I don't believe you any more..." Dad pointed to the corner of the sofa:
" You will sit there for the rest of this visit and don't you dare move."

    " There is always trouble with you kids, oh, may god help us." Mum added sadly and patted gently Victor's head, who fall asleep in her arm.

    " We forgot about our religion, about our tradition..." Dad stormed at Mum: " We forgot how to raise them properly, like Granny wanted us to do, according to the Koran."

    " It's not late, we can still do it," protested Mum weakly.

Dad looked up at Saranda coldly: " And we will, be sure of that."

George asked Mrs. Hysa to translate to him what all the fuss was about. All he could do was take another beer from an esky on the bar and scratch his head: " You know, Mrs Hysa, I have lost my wife in a car accident two years ago, which was caused by me. My son ran away from home and I barely noticed, too depresssed to care about anything anymore..."

    " I'm sorry, George, really sorry," said Mrs Hysa and then she turned around to translate it to Mum.

They looked at him in amazement. Finally Dad said: " That's horrible, George, but it's not your fault, maybe it was God's will, but in our culture children have to obey their parents no matter what."

George passed the kids some icy orange juice looking at them with deep understanding: " Everyone has something new to learn, doesn't matter which country they come from, agreed, mates?" He winked at them. But Saranda kept her eyes on the carpet, where Victor, freshly awake, was crawling following its geometrical pattern.

Then George turned to their parents with a full plate of chicken rolls: " My perents were strict with me too. I had to work hard on the farm in York, do you know where that is?"

    " I have no idea, I haven't been anywhere yet, but I'd love to see some farming here, we have..no, we had a small farm back home." Dad nodded.

    " Oh, it's a pity, I'll take you there, my parents still live there in an original Australian farm house."

    " That's great, George, you and farmer?" laughed Mrs Hysa taking another roll from the plate: " If I put on weight, George, it will be all your fault."

    " I am a fifth-generation Australian. My family started farming in York in the 1880. Unbelievable, and you see I am obsessed with the ocean."

    " The Albanians in Kosovo have a long tradition of farming too, but the conditions are very, very poor there," Dad suddenly added.

Joyce twirled around the room singing a catchy song in Albanian.

Mrs Hysa clasped her hands happily: " My daughter can speak Albanian now."

    " I taught her this song." Dardon joined her proud as a peacock and they swirled fast around the room. Suddenly Joyce lost her footing and fell down crying.

George picked her up quickly and handed her a big lolypop. For that he was rewarded by a big smile.

   " That's better Joyce," he laughed and sat her down on the couch next to Saranda, then he turned to Dad and handed him another Coca-Cola: " I bet the country, you come from has some pretty long history, not like here.."

    " You bet, George," Mrs Hysa said proudly: " We are the direct descendents of the Illyrians who held vast territories covering all of the Westeren Balkans in 2000 B.C."

    " That's true," added Dad: " The name 'Albania' comes from the name of the ancient Illyrian tirbe who lived in Albania and Kosovo in 200 AD and now Serbs tell us we have no right to live there."

    " English is..." Mum had no idea what they had been taling about and tried to join in.

George noticed her embarrassment and quickly joined in to save her: " ...terrible language to learn, I totally agree," he winked at her: " I have been always bad i nspelling, I can tell you that."

    " I can help you to learn Albanian, George," Mrs Hysa laughed: " if you teach me how to do these amazing chicken rolls."

George spread his arms laughing: " One language is more than enough for me, I am still not very good at it anyway."

Everyone cheered up. The little Victor giggled happily when Joyce handed him a bag of chips. Saranda sipped a little bit of juice and started to feel better.

    " Saranda, ded yhou hear, George is a farmer and he has problems with spelling, just like me." Dardon whispered to her ear but she turned her back to him.

It was all his fault anyway. She was alswyas the scapegoat because she was the eldest, and a girl. It was not fair. But neither was it that Jack ran away from home and left geroge grieving alon. Saranda couldn't stop thinking about Jack for the whole week.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



    Saranda peeping out the widnow and touching her golden chain whispered to the darkness: " If I were a golden ray of ligth I could see you Granny up in the sky..."
Then she turned to Mum lyaing the table in the dining room: " I wonder what she is doing there?"

    " Poor Mrs Hysa is trying to prepare tradtional feast, you know, she is so bighearted for allowing us to stay
for so long in her hours..." her Mum muttered assuming that she asked about their hostess: " Where is Dardon
so long, he went to find Dad and ...?" she peeped into the coridor, where Joyce was pushing Victor in his pram.

    " Our Dad is no the verandah like always talking about Islam and doing nothing..."

    " Saranda, watch your mouth, who are you to be making judgment on your Father?" Mum eyed her sternly:
" It is so hard to find a proper work here."

Saranda opened her mouth as though to answer back, suddenly shut it again to smell the fresh baked cake from the kitchen opposite.

    Mrs Hysa peeped into the dining room: " Come on, girls, our guests will be here in a minute." She put more plates on the traditionally set table, where Mum was standing lost in thoughts: " I know you feel you can't cope, but it's not going to get easier if you don't start to learn English, your husband speaks pretty well..."

     " You know what my husband thinks now: " Muslims have religion always uppermost in their minds."

    " God help me, but sometimes I am relieved that my husband is in heaven," Mrs Hysa shook her head: " You can still help me in my cleaning business, you know extra hands are always needed, but..."

    " You helped me a lot already," Mum touched Mrs. Hysa arm: " My husband has been offered a teaching position at the Islamic College so we are going to look for a house to rent somewhere close by..."

    " So therefore he is so absorbed in our religion, now, hm.." Mrs Hysa laid the bowls full of nibbles on the table: " It's good for me and Joyce to have your company, we miss you, you know?"

Mum smiled and nodded sadly.

     " But still, you should go out more...you know visit the Play Group near us with little Victor, he needs to play with other kids and you need friends too..." Mrs Hysa refused to give on the matter, but Mum shook her head and wiped the sweat from her neck.

     " Oh, I can not stand this hot weather," she changed the subject quickly: " Saranda do you remember the freezing, snowy winter in Kosovo?"

    " What is the point of being cold?" Saranda interrupted her and turned back to the window. It was pitch black outside.

Joyce came to sit next to her. The car's headlights shone on their driveway like two small stars. " The first visitor is coming! " She jumped from the sofa.

    " It's good to be here. Oh, and that smell from the kitchen, what it is...a national surprise?" Their Australian neighbours and friends came in holding the esky full of beer and beef sausages fro a barbie. Then others kept coming, the Kosovo's migrants holding plates full of meat dishes and their kids...a lot of new people Saranda could not recognise. Among them she noticed some Islamic teachers in headscarves and long sleeve dresses from her new College.

     " Boy, I am sick of so much food..." The pale Serbian boy with big curious blue eyes grinned across the table. Saranda smile back.

    " Don't at him, he is our enemy, you remember back home...Serbs..." Dardon's usually dark face was pale with anger.

    " What's the matter with you?" Lisa approached them. " I want to meet you Ilja Iljovic, the son of friends of mine. He could not wait to meet you Dardon and he has something for you."

Dardon's face was expressionless, when the boy handed him a model of a sport car. Saranda just sat around watching and listening. People mingled and talked to each other in three different languages but no one seems to mind. She could hear Arabic from the teachers' corner, where her Dad passionately discussed his new knowledge of religion. Dad has changed so much from their Kosovo years that she barely recognized him anymore. She had no chance to sneak out and return money to Jack. Now she attended the Islamic College instead of that awful High School. But she felt alienated even more, unable to speak Arabic and forced to wear a scarf at school?

Saranda went outside where the night breeze was mixing with the smell of grilled beef and lamb. Suddenly she thought about her Granny again and her special dish, she used to prepare for them on special family occasions. Maybe Dad was right, maybe it's the best way to remember Granny by following her Islamic traditions. She always wanted them to believe, but not this way...Granny's religion was different.

     " Come on sweetheart, you have to try the real Aussie barbie,"  Dardon's swimming instructor with the unshaved sunburnt face winked at her as he handed her a plate.

She nodded gratefully and took it when suddenly Mum was standing next to her, holding the screaming Victor in her arm: " I can't make the special Granny's desert, it looks so different, what a shame, she would not be pleased with me..."

     " Come on, Mum, Granny would not care...sorry, my Mum can't speak English," Saranda turned back to George, who was standing there not understanding a word.

He took Victor on his strong arm,  who stopped crying and look at him with big, scarred eyes: " It's all right." George smiled and Saranda was not sure if he talks to Victor or to her.

    " She worries all the time, my Mum," Saranda said in a matter of explanation.

    " Tell her to take it easy, she in Australia and you know what, " George's eyes suddenly twinkled:
" Tell her to come over next weekend to my place, she needs to get out of this house..."

     " Thanks George, but Dad will come along as well, he will not let her to go by herself, you know ..."

George waved his hand and laughed: " Fine, Saranda bring them all along..."

While Saranda turned back to Mum and translated what George said the window opened above their heads and Dardon's voice broke through the chatter: " Saranda, Ilja taught me new Aussie words: ' Do you wanna play footy, mate?'.."

Saranda laughed and everyone started to giggle, even Victor cheered up and started to pull George's nose. Only her Mum stood there confused and lost in her thoughts. Saranda knew she is back in her freezing and cold Kosovo at least in her head.

Saranda shrugged her shoulders and put the juicy hot meat in her mouth. It tasted delicious. Then she grimaced at her brother: " Sure, mate."

Thursday, May 13, 2010


    Mrs Hysa jumpped from her white Holden and hugged her tightly: " Sweetheart, we have been thinking
about calling the police."

    Saranda smiled at her apologetically: " I only wanted to see the city, I mean Perth, we haven't ben there yet."

They made their way to the house without meeting anyone. All was still and hushed when she dared to go inside after Mrs Hysa opened the front door.

    " Where have you been?" Mum looked up and continued to change Victor: " Your Dad is very upset and look at your dirty clothes!"

    Joyce was standing next to her holding a baby bottle: " Is it warm enough?"

    Mum looked at her blankly and then pointed at the bottle: " Try to say it in Albanian, it is your native language."

    " You say, bottle, bottle," Joyce shouted in her ear and handed the bottle to Victor, who stretched his arms to catch it and missed. The milk spilled all around him.

    Mum quickly caught the bottle and pretended to be cross: " Look what you have done you little princess. "
Joyce sat in her lap and Mum showed her how to hold the bottle so Victor could drink.

Saranda watched them and remembered the time when she was so close to Mum. What had happened to them? Mrs Hysa disturbed her thoughts as she ushered her to Study room: " Go to see your dad, he is helping Dardon with his homework."

Dad didn't say anything, when she entered, but she could tell he head been worried. There was an open telephone book on the table next to a pile of Islamic books. He had returned to Islam after Granny died and he kept studying it all the time.

   " You just disappeared," her brother sniffed once or twice like a child looking up from his maths sheet.

    " Saranda!" She saw the sudden fear in Dad's eyes. " It's time for you to grow up as a proper Islamic girl, "
he paused looking at her closely: " We will talk about it tomorrow, you have already missed our dinner time, so now come and help Dardon with his homework, I will call you for pray when the time comes."

When Dad left, Saranda stretched and opened her mouth in a great wide yawn. Dardon disappeared too and soon was back with some biscuits from the kitchen. She took some and pulled a face at her brother: " It's so good to be with you, little goody, goody..."

    " Of course, it is." Dardon grinned so sure of himself that she burst out laughing, then he asked her quietly:
" Have you really been in the city?"

    " Yep, in Northbridge, it's an really exiting place....but kids, you know, we don't have a whole lot in common, but, well, you sort of know them...."

    " Oh, I want to go to TIme Zone in Fremantle, could you take me?"

    " Sure, but now check this mistake...I'm so tired."

    But that night she couldn't sleep for thinking about Kathy, Jack and her own life. She couldn't walk out and leave her Brother, Mother and also her Father, like they had done. She touched her tiny golden sunflower and fell asleep.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


   The sun went down, the stars came out. She touched her tiny golden sun. Which one is her Grandmother's star? Her heart thumped from the effort of running so long and her legs ached too. There was one more street to pass. Further along stood the newly built house of their Australian friends.

A car suddenly stopped along her and a kind woman's face appeared in the window: " You are the girl living in Mrs Hysa's place, would you like a lift?"

Saranda suddenly realized just how much she wanted her mum to learn to drive, to learn English and that she didn't want to go back to Mrs Hysa's place...not now. After a short persuasion the kind neighbour took her to the train station and she was free to go. Where?

Saranda waited until the car drove off. The noisy dark station surrounded her. It was a wonderful feeling to be treated with respect. Saranda hesitated for a while and then got in the train. She sat next to a window. The coloured lights outside were vivid, fresh, as if the paint had just dried. Oh, if she could just remember which part of Perth was the most exciting...the popular girls from school had always boasted about having being there.
Suddenly she noticed a man in blue uniform checking some tickets. In panic she jumped out in the last minute before the door slammed behind her. She looked around. The city was much bigger and noisier than their quiet suburb. Beep! Beep! The big headlights illuminated her figure and she jumped frightened back on the path.

The loud music from open bars and cafeterias mixed with laughter and talk of hundreds of people. Happy people. Saranda felt lost in this alien crowd parying carelessly around her.
Passing by she noticed a loud group of teenagers about her age drinking and hanging around one of the small street. The picture reminded her those awful girls from her school and she quickly turned back.

    " Hey love, try this stuff, it's good but expensive..." One of the boys jumped in front of her with a small parcel in his hand.

Saranda ran off. She ran and ran. Finally she reached a small dark road and sat down on a path, totally exhausted.

    " Hey, he kicked you out too...no money, no honey..." Someone whispered behind her.

Saranda was almost too tired to talk in English but managed to turn around and see a dark girl: "What is the name of this place?"

    " What you meaaan?" The big smile with snow white teeth lits up her black face: " You hear this, Jack?" The girl chuckled: " She is so doped, she doesn't even know where she is?"

     " Northbridge," Jack loomed up tall and solid against the night sky-line: " The only place in this damn backwater where you can hang around with your friends."

Saranda sat still, not moving even an eylid as she starred into the the bright blue eyes of a boy about fifteen years old.

     " And this is Kathy, the Abo, the wicked girl from the edge of city." He pointed at the dark tiny girl.

    " Welcome to my home." Kathy laughed as her dusty coloured hair danced on her head.

    " Home?" Saranda looked around at the mess lying everywhere on the piece of no-man land behind her.
She picked up the old screwed can and ...a needle?

     " Got yah, " Kathy laughed triumphantly dancing around the shiny sign with 'Vacant Land' written on it:
" It's our hide-out for a while."

     " You hide, from what?" Saranda asked confused if she understood properly this pidgeon English.

     " This whole crappy world full of grown ups trying to put things over ya," Jack sat next to Saranda offering her his can of beer: " So the only thing to do is run away and enjoy life with your mates."

     " This stuff has really made me tired..." Saranda watched as Kathy's face suddenly relaxed in a heavy sleep.

     " What's happened to her?" Saranda looked back at Jack.

     " What do you think?" He had a peculiar look on his face: " What are you hanging round here for?" Jack looked annoyed and upset.

     " Me?" Saranda paused, " I just want to go ...home!"

     " You reckon?" His eyes were full of sadness. " Your folks probably wouldn't even notice you'd gone...."
Jack just sat, shoulders hunched not knowing what to do. " Gosh, I feel so crook," he stood up and dropped a couple of coins.

      " Could I borrow some?" saranda picked them up: " your know for a train ticket to get back."

      " Whaaat?" He looked down at her: " Yeep, here you have some more, " Jack pulled out some dirty notes and let them to drop around him. " Go to find your sweet home."

      " No, that's enough," Saranda stood up holding the coins in her hands: " I will return them, soon, I promise."

       " Just piss off, will you?"

       " Bye-ee, " Saranda said, but she continued to stand there, gazing at him trying to understand what he said.

        " Nick off and leave us alone." Jack whispered savagely.

Saranda looked at him sadly for a moment, then turned and walked off. A brisk, little wind scurried along the empty side street. Saranda had a feeling as if something was creeping up on her in the dark, while she hurried along. At last the train came to the empty Fremantle train station. There was only one thing she could do.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


    The siren went and all the students rushed to their lockers. Saranda kept gazing at the book. She couldn't
understand it. All the work and the effort turned out to be no more effective than doing nothing. She spent
all her spare time doing her essay all over again.

    "Are you all right, Saranda?" her English teacher peeped inside: " I can go over the lesson again, slowly with you, if you like?"

    " No, thank you, Ms Shine, I am OK," Saranda hastily packed up her things.

    " The modified English class will help you, don't worry, you'll soon get it right."

    " Yes, Ms Shine," Saranda nodded and left the classroom.

The school was quiet and empty except for one little group of girls waiting outside the entrance. They all wore incredibly reveling outfits and were incredibly popular, especially among boys. But they were always in trouble with teachers. Her new school friend, her only friend told her about them just today during the Recess time.

    They stared at Saranda: " Look at the goody, goody...." one of the girls with a pierced nose copied her talk
and others burst out laughing: " Oh, plese, Ms Shine I don't understand 'anyting' and I want to learn 'eeeverything', another mouth pierced girl jumped in front of her and shouted in her face: " What about f........g,
would you like to learn that too?"

Saranda pushed her away and start running towards the carpark.

    " I'll teach you, for freee..." She heard them laughing behind her back.

Saranda blushed. That was odd. It had never occurred to her before that they laughed at her because of 'HER'. She had only thought that her name was funny to them. Suddenly she looked up. Her dad was leaning against the old car he bought from their allowance. She noticed his disaproving and horrified expression eyeing the girls in the background.

She reached the car, sat down and urged him to go.

    He caught sight of her face and muttered in their language: " What happened to you?"

She did not say anything just looked down at her sweaty palms.

   He continued putting his seatbelt on: " Just remember, God is here, even in this strange land and watching you, judging you..."

   " Just shut up and drive," she blurted out in English without thinking.

They found themselves just looking at each other for a second. Dad looked as if he didn't believe what she had just said. Saranda thought he would probably feel better if she apologized.

   " I am really sorry," she whispered.

Looking very angry he leaned forward and opened her door. Saranda felt Dad's hand on her shoulder pushing her out of the car: "Out!"

He drove off. Saranda stood there. The girls were gone. She looked expectantly around the empty carpark and imagined that he might come back and she could explain everything. But could she? After a while, she began to feel foolish for even emagining that and decided to move on. It took her a good two hours to walk back to Mrs Hysa's house.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


     THE CALL TO PRAYER /February 2000/

    The waves washed in and out, people slopped and slapped on the shore. The air smelt of salt and fish. Saranda could feel the sea breeze tickling her wet skin. She laid down onthe hot sand to warm up. Dardon was running towards her, carefully not to spill the water scooped in his hand. With a cunning smile he bent down and...

    "Ouch," the cold drips caught the light as they dribbled on Saranda's T-shirt. She set up and grimaced angrily: " You idiot..."

    Dardon quickly stood up with a laugh. " Do't be a chicken, it's only.." he stopped and waved to the approaching boys from his ESL Primary School.

    " Hey, Dardon, come and have a dip with us," they called and jumped in: " If you not scared ..."

   Dardon stared at them for a while. " Me scared?" with a big scream he jumped in next to them.

    " Dardon, please come back, you can't swim!" Saranda was running against the waves which were now higher, washing over the swimming boys more often. She could hardly find Dardon in big whirls of bubbling water.

    " Heelp!" Dardon was trying to stay on the surface hitting the water hard with his fists, but another big wave came and swamped him.

Oh, here you are. She was trying to get close to Dardon when his fist hit her on the forehead. The water grabbed her like a paper doll, whirling her out deep. She wanted to scream. The water filled her mouth, her eyes and her lungs.

     " Saranda, are you OK?" She could hear Dardon's voice full of anxiety.

    " She will be all right, only needs to get over this watery vomiting, that's what I reckon." A man with a cheerful face, in a lifesaving jacket was holding her. He was watching Saranda so closely that she could feel his unshaved face on her cheek. She breathed deeply with exhaustion and fell down again.

    " You need to learn to swim properly." The man was talking to someone. Saranda turned her head curiously to the left.

    Dardon's face was full of guilt: " I swam once in...in how to say in English ...small creek, back in Kosovo." He wiped his nose on his sleeve.

The lifesaver burst out laughing and looking straight at Dardon he added: " Young fellow, this is the ocean, you should ask your mum to enrol you in the swimming lessons."

   " What do you reckon, sweetheart?" he bent over Saranda, who still felt too weak and sick to sit up. " I have a boy about your age, he left home ...I don't know where he is...what he is up to." The lifesaver whispered and suddenly his kind face was full of sadness.

Saranda did not know what to say. Finally she burst out: " Thanks for saving us."

    " No worries, it is my job, I mean weekend job anyway, we have a young ' Lifesaving Club' here."
He put his arm around Dardon's shoulders: " You can join in, I mean once you learn to swim, we are looking for boys your age, you know what, bring your parents here tomorow to see the practice."

Dardon helped Saranda to stand up and the lifesaver turned to leave: " So tomorow guys, just ask for George."

Saturday, February 20, 2010


     Next morning some strange men waited for Mum and Dad in the entrance hall. They had tired looks on their faces and held many forms.
Mum quickly ushered Dardon and Saranda outside to play with Victor. After they saw the men leaving in a
shiny car, Dad found them under their favourite Eucalyptus tree.

He hugged them all tightly and said: " My Mother always taught me that the most important thing is the peace
and security for ones' family."

    " Do you have some news from Albania about Grandmother?" Dardon asked eagerly.

Dad looked absent-mindedly at the golden sun around Saranda's neck. Then he picked up Victor from her lap saying: " She has found her peace, you can always remember her in the prayers she taught you."

     " Is she really dead?" Dardon asked. " And what about our cousins" I haven't found the beg shell for them yet."

Dad gently touched his head: " It's an opportunity for you to remember that our brief existence, here on earth is not of great importance."

Another few weeks past, the barracks were nearly empty except for few families waiting for  their Permanent Residency applications to be considered. Saranda felt lonelier than ever before. The English Classes stopped. Most of the staff left. Sometimes she helped Lisa to clean up empty rooms or helped in the canteen to make herself busy. Now she hated the empty lounge room and preferrred to push Victor outside in a pram. Suddenly a small bus appeared from the corner and stopped at the front. she rushed to the porch to meet little dark woman approaching her.

     " Saranda, nice to see you, do you remember me?" the Albanian lady asked in Australian English.

Saranda looked blank.

    " Saranda, this is the kind lady, she gave me a welcome teddy bear for you, do you remember, ou our first day?" Mum apeared behind her back talking Albanian.

    " Mrs Hysa from Western Australian Albanian Club, I come here to welcome you." The lady smiled at her.

     " I am sorry, Mrs Hysa," Saranda felt embarrassed, she could remember the people welcoming them on the airport, coming to their barracks occasionally to cheer them up, but she had hardly talked to anyone.

    " And if God helps us, I soon welcome you in my home," Mrs Hysa continued, when she suddenly turned back. A little dark girl was hiding behind her back: " This is my daughter, Joyce, she doesn't speak Albanian very well, but she understands."

    " Hi, I am Saranda, " Saranda knelt down holding Victor in her arm.

Joyce handed her a funny banana in pyjamas: " It's for Victor, I don't need it any more. His name is B2."

Saranda hugged her hard. She was a real Australian, speaking in English without thinking. She had nothing to do with the war and her old home.

How Saranda wished to be the same.

Monday, January 18, 2010


     A few weeks past, Saranda was doing her everyday praying, English studying and looking after Victor with absent-minded care. Her thoughts were back in Kosovo. There was a talk that NATO had launched an air campaign and that the war would be soon over. Some families had already started to pack some clothes while other families were hesitant to go back at all. Every night the dining room was full of disagreements about what would happen next. There was a notice on a board in their language from the Australian Government saying that soon it would be safe to go back.
Finally, one warm pleasant day at the end of April, all the children were awarded an excursion to the beach for their effort in their English lessons. There was not one big enough shell to be found, in which one can hear the ocean. Saranda and Dardon sadly brushed the sand from their feet and followed everyone back to the barracks.

    Saranda's lettter came back, torn apart; Dardon's colourful shell could be seen through the hole. The short notice stated: ' The house was bombed. No one at this address survived.'
Saranda felt numbed. She stopped praying, there was no point in it, whatever Mum said. There was no God's will what happened to her Granny and her cousins. Dardon asked questions, which no one could answer. Then he stopped thinking about it, it was too confusing for him. Mum seemed more content, busy with her regular prayers and looking after Victor. Dad started to sit alone, further from others, lost in his thoughts. Finally he asked the barracks staff for help to look for his remaining family through the Red Cross agency. They were willing to help and Dad kept his mind busy with the filling of requested forms.

One night in June the busy talk in dining room was disturbed by an announcement from the barrack staff that serbia had finally agreed to sign an UN-approved peace agreement with NATO and the refugees were free to return home. In spite of the noisy celebration outside, the atmosphere in their rooms was quiet. Dad received the series of letters from the Red Cross Agency. It was stated in every one of them that at this stage, unfortunately, none of his relatives were accounted for. Mum could not understand what 'accounted for' meant. She was angry, after all people are not bricks to be counted and it was God's will for them to be found safe. She hated the Red Cross, the Australia...the formal letters...

     " It was not God's will, accoding to Islam to marry you, a Croatian non-believer in the first place, but my Mum always trusted you and she was right," Dad said and then looked at Mum sternly: " But now you have to trust me, I know what is good for my family, the only one I have left."

After this discussion Mum never complained again nor she asked what Dad was planning to do.

Next few weeks the barracks were buzzing with people's energy. Some families, especially those without children and those, whose relatives had survived, had already left leaving empty rooms and unanswered questions. Others had complained that it was too early and unsafe to go back. One day Saranda met the girl with the ponytail near the entrance, the first one she had met after her arrival to the barracks.

She showed her airline ticket and smile shyly: " Good bye, I hope we can stay in touch."

Saranda hugged her, feeling tightness in her chest: " Me too, I can write Pristina, if you give me your address."

She shook her head sadly: " Pristina doesn't exist any more, my Father has told me," then she looked up with expectation in her eyes: " But maybe I can write you here, how long are you staying?"

    " I don't really know, but we are not allowed to stay here any longer. Lisa told my Dad yesterday, that everyone has to leave. Only people with the exemptions can stay here, but not for very long. Saranda looked at her not knowing what else to say. She hugged her one more time and quickly ran upstairs.

The group of the kids giggled as she passed them. Dardon was running opposite her screaming: " We are allowed to stay."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A picture of a colourful shell to send home

Sarnda burst into her Mum's room. Mum was reading a lettter and two more were lying on her knee. Victor had already grabbed one and put it straight into his mouth.
Saranda, twisting the lock of her brown hair painfully, asked: " How is Granny, is she all right and the others?"
Suddenly she fetl guilty that she hadn't thought about her Granny for so long.

    " What?" Asked Mum, looking up with delight, a far-away look on her face. " Oh, yes, there is a letter for you and Dardon. She took gently the letter from the Victor's mouth. " There is God's will in everything."

Saranda fingered the envelope happily. The stamp was dated only one month ago. She walked out of the Mum's room. In the privacy of the empty living quarters she tore open the flap.

Dear Dardon and Saranda,

     We'l hope you are happy. Although you are so far away from us, we still talk about you. What's it like to swim in the ocean and sunbath in the hot sand? It must be fantastic! Don't forget to bring us some shells, you know, a big one so we can hear the ocean in it. Granny's told us that the war will sooon be over and you are coming home..and we will go home too. She is looking after us now because Mum has gone to find our Father and Uncles. No one knows where they are. We live in a Macedonian village, in an old house, which we have to share with a lot of people. There are plenty of kids to play with but not much space. Some of them you know from school. There is no school here so we have nothing to do. We are not allowed to leave the house, because there are plenty of Macedonians who don't like us. She still watches us and locks the doors and windows when it is dark. She prays a lot and repeats: " God has no mercy on one who has no mercy for others." What means 'mercy', Saranda? We bet you know, you knew everything at school.

    Nothing has happened yet, only some foreign soldiers passsed to go and help us fight in Kosovo. Outside it's freezing cold and muddy and Granny gets really mad when we get dirty, as we have no spare clothes. So we usually sit on the log and at the boarder to Kosovo or talk about food.

    When we complain that we are hungry or too cold, Granny only repeats: " God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances but He scans your hearts and looks into your deeds."  But we think, God is not here with us, is he? Otherwise if he is so kind, he would bring us something to eat.

    We don't know if you will get this letter. We haven't got any message from you but someone told Granny that it was on TV that you were all right. We don't know how long we stay here, Granny's told us that we have to move somewhere else soon. Hope it will be warmer there and more food. Maybe we'll go to Albania. 

Love from all your cousins. Petrushka is writing.

Saranda stared at the letter for a long time. THen she replaced it in it's envelope, smoothed it thoughtfully and put it carefully away in her shelf next to the picture of Granny and her Australian Welcome Teddy Bear.
She took the pen and tore one spare page from her schoolbook. As soon as she wrote first word on the paper her thoughts an dfeeling of last year rushed out to fill the whole page: Dear cousins, we miss you so much. Although I am not sure if this letter can catch you in Macedonia, I want you to know that we haven't forgotten you and home. We wish you and Granny were here...we are not allowed to go out but I see ocean from my window and I have new brother and...

Dardon entered the living quarters quietly and watched her writing for a minute. He took the letter from her shelf and kept reading it, over and over for some time. When she finished writing, he handed her a picture of a colourful shell without any words.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

OUR WAR IS OVER. /March 1999 - June 1999/

     Saranda felt awful. She lowered herself into the beanbag in the empty communal room and absent-mindedly watched 'Neighbours'. She always came here at this time when other kids were engaged in sports and craft activities. She couldn't concentrate on anything except her English classes. She really didn't like studying English but Dad was strict and checked all her progress.

She needed time to think alone.

    One year had past and they were still waiting for something to happen. They had joined others to pray five times a day on Mum's request and she and dardon entered their first fast in the month of ramadan in December 1999 of thier own free will, so they could be together with those who were hungry at home.

She supposed she was happy because she had another brother, who was now four months old.

Mum had cheered up and their room was now full of refugee women fussing around the baby. Dad celebrated that he had an Australian son who he had named Victor in the hope that one day soon there would be a victory in Kosovo and Kosovo will win it's independence.

He studied every day to improve his English and spent the rest of his time discussing with the other refugee men the situation in Kosovo.

In spite of her few lucky escapes from the barracks to visit her Mum and Victor at the hospital in Fremantle, there were only a few occasions where they had been allowed to go out. Last week some of the refugee's women got the permission to go shopping. Saranda persuade Lisa to take her with them.

What a trip that had been!  It was like taking a fresh breath after being in a dark room.

She repated to herself the sentences from her English schoolbook: " For most West Australians, Fremantle is a city to which they can share and relate. Its multicultural population, vivid history and colourful architecture has made it a tourist heaven," while she followed Lisa through the bustling streets. There were never ending questions on her return from the kids and Dardon, who had not been so lucky to go out: " Were you really outside and did you go to Time Zone it must be really weird there ? Could you take me next time, could you?
She smiled at the thought of that and looked back at the TV screen.

Dardon came in and disturbed her thinking like always. He looked sweaty and stank a little.
    " Whew!" He said. "It's still hot." Then he added: " We have won 3:6, that is one advantage of this place, that is always enough boys to play Soccer with."

     " So, why don't you play and leave me alone." She hissed from her spot.

    " If you are so grumpy, I won't tell you about the letters Mum got from home..."

    " Which letters ?" Saranda jumped from her seat but her brother was gone. The door shut behind him with a big bang and she was alone. Again.


Site Info

Bittersweet Life Stories from Australia Copyright © 2009 BeMagazine Blogger Template is Designed by Blogger Template
In Collaboration with fifa