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