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."