A Land to Be Loved, a People to Be Hated
Kosovo, March 1998
The weather changed suddenly.
Thunder grumbled somewhere beyond the horizon, or was it sound of many guns? Saranda felt her heart beating wildly.
“Keep quiet and don’t move,” her brother whispered into her left ear.
They had been gathering wood in the bushes near their house when they saw a couple of Serbian soldiers passing by. Suddenly Saranda noticed her mother walking through the paddock towards the men with guns.
“Mum! Stop!” Saranda jumped from the bushes In a panic stricken reaction, Dardon pulled her back down: “Hey, watch out!”
One of the soldiers stopped and lifted up his gun. He was coming towards their hiding place. Saranda had a feeling that he was looking straight at her. Her legs were heavy, she couldn’t run, she couldn’t move. Then the man turned towards the approaching woman.
“Oh, that was close, “ Dardon whispered. “I thought we were dead for sure.”
The soldier ordered their Mum back into the house. She hesitated for a while, looking for them. He shot. Mum knelt on the ground, touching her injured arm. They caught sight of her face, which was pale with shock and surprise. Terror held Saranda still. Suddenly there was silence. An early spring shrub brushed against her face as she jumped to her feet. A few fresh green leaves caught in her long brown hair. She could smell its sweetish scent as she ran in front of the soldiers.
“Mum.” Saranda leaned over her.
She was trying to use a piece of cloth to stop the bleeding.
Saranda felt sick looking at the thousands of red drops which now colored her mother’s grey jumper. Someone was behind her. She quickly turned around. Her younger brother was shivering, his big dark eyes wide open as if in a nightmare. Only this was real.
“Don’t worry my darlings,” Mum was breathing hard. “Come on Dardon, help me to my feet.”
She looked at Saranda who started to sob: “Go and fetch some water, will you my sweet one?”
As she slowly moved towards the well, she heard the soldiers’ laughter echoing on the other side of the paddock. Saranda looked on the remnants of water at the bottom when suddenly in front of her, a fork of flame shot up.
“Our house is on fire.” Saranda heard her brother’s screams but only from distance as she felt a sudden push at her back. She was falling into the deep dark empty well.
Western Australia, March 2019
Saranda pushed her wheelchair up to their new renting place.
She heard Nadir closing door on his old Nissan: “Hey, don’t forget my travel documents,” she tried to turn her head: “on the back seat.”
“Everything for you my princess,” he kissed her gently and placed the documents in her lap while pushing her the rest of the way: “If someone deserves this scholarship is you, you are our modern Erin Brockovich.”
“Zuzana Caputova is, not me you silly”, Saranda laughed at his blank face. “An environmental activist and anti-corruption candidate to become the first Slovakia’s female president, I wrote an article about her do you remember?”
“You won the journalist award for that article, how can I forget, but no one knows where Slovakia is and no one cares.” Nadin pushed the door open for her.
“Just like no one cares about the Jammu,” Nadin’s father hurried from the kitchen with the painting brush in his hand: “Be careful my love birds, the corridor is freshly painted.”
“Omair you spilling the color all over the carpet,” Saranda sighed, “They evict us again, they don’t like us here.”
“Don’t be silly Saranda, it was coincidence, we are not even religious, except Omair’s stopping in his Mosque on Sunday and you don’t even cover your hair any more,” he kissed her again and quickly took the mop to clean the fresh spilled paint: “You are a modern Aussie girl, my new wife and we will be just fine.”
Saranda let the men continue with their painting while she opened her laptop to finish her latest article for the West Australian: 'As a nation, Australia must urgently confront the climate of racism and hate that we have allowed to grow and fester. The terrorist who took the lives of at least 51 people from New Zealand's Muslim community and injured many more, was Australian...'
“Saranda, if you want to be published do not call him a terrorist, you know you write for the far right newspaper.” Her husband came back with a pot of tea.
“Even the New Zealand’s Prime minister called him that,” Saranda looked up to see the tears in his eyes: “Anyway don’t write about it at all, they just tore you in pieces and..” he looked at the approaching Omair, “Dad’s best friend was shot there, just leave it Saranda, please.” He squeezed her arm and she nodded and closed the computer.
When they sipped the tea in silence all lost in their own thoughts, Saranda suddenly asked Omair to tell her about his homeland.
“It is like with your Kosovo and Serbs, my beautiful daughter in law, the Indian right has always seen our Kashmir valley as your Kosovo, a land to be loved, a people to be hated.”
Saranda opened her laptop again and Nadir laughed: “The love of my life never misses an opportunity hey?”
Omair took a letter out from his pocket and put his glasses on: “Let me read to you what my brother wrote about Jammu, well here: ‘there are extra troops rounding up everyone even non violent passer byes, there are curfews and internet shut’, he advised me not to visit them this year and they are not allowed to travel to visit me.” Omair took off his glasses and looked sadly at Saranda: “He said senior officials talk about the need to instill India in locals. It is the same old story, your mum, your brother even your dad are dead because they were not Serbs but Muslims, I guess my brother is better become Hindu otherwise he may end up the same.”
Nadir approached Saranda and hugged her tightly while with one hand closing her laptop gently: “No more, sad stories, ok, tell us who you are meeting overseas?
“I have a picture,” Saranda said and opened her laptop: “They will be my mentors, they are very smart.”
Both men looked at the two confident young women in the picture and smiled: “Hope they are as kind as they are beautiful, it is much more important to be kind than smart.”
Saranda drank little bit of tea and sighed: “I hope so too, the one on the left is Caroline Marcus, a journalist for News Corp. Last year 56% of her stories were directed against Muslims. The one on the right is Lauren Southern. In 2017 she raised £50,000 from the far-right to hire a boat to interfere with the rescue of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean, so they would drown.”