By Avdulla Kënaçi
-The miraculous miracle of the stone taken from the holy place in Saint Ndout Church in Laç i Kurbin, for the family of Albanian immigrants-
Memorie.al / Dalin Mirakaj suddenly remembered that small, smooth stone he had brought with him when he first landed in Canada. He tried to remember where he had hidden that precious, lucky thing. It had been a while since his only daughter, Bora, left to begin her studies at the University of Ottawa. He had brought that stone hidden in his inside jacket pocket when he had arrived here sixteen years ago. According to him, it was not an object at all, but a blessed, holy, wonder-working stone. His life so far had proven that. According to him, it is worth more than gold. It comes from the blessed place, in the heart of Albania, from the Church of Shna Ndout, in the hills of Laç.
Continues from last issue
– “How come, we don’t know a single word of English”, – she told him.
– “There are lotteries, but we have to enter a course. We must learn, as much as we can, to break the ear”. – “I know an English teacher. I have done him some honors with the children, when he was not having fun, maybe he comes to our house”. – “Yes, he agreed, we will pay him to come once, twice, but not more than that,” he suggested and she nodded her head in confirmation.
And they both started to learn. Selimeja was doing better, maybe because she was a few years younger than Dalini. “Language is remembered and learned faster when you practice it, don’t speak Albanian in the family, but English”, the teacher told them one day. He was right.
They tried to continue like this and the improvement in knowledge was evident. In the newspaper they read an announcement that in Canada, nurses under the age of forty were wanted, but they had to fill out a form and send it to the Canadian embassy in Rome. They asked the help of the English teacher to fill it. She was told that within six months, the request would be reviewed by the Canadian government; if qualified, an embassy employee would take the main applicant to the language test. – “It’s a long way”, – said Selimeja.
– “We have been waiting forty years, let’s not wait six months,” Dalini answered with a smile, “you are the main applicant, Selime.” “This time the woman in front, and I behind her. O Church of Laçi, help us, we have no help on this path we have entered, except faith in God”! That night Dalin carefully took out the stone from the suitcase and put it under the pillow. Had a restless sleep. Surprisingly, he dreamed that they landed in New York and not in Canada.
The Canadian embassy employee who interviewed them shot a good woman. She had temporarily opened the office in “Blok”, in Tirana. Without much ceremony, he called the Albanian applicants, one by one. After lunch, it was Selime’s turn. Dalin led him to the door of the office, leaving the stone of the Laçi Church in his hand. As soon as he touched her, her heart stopped and she took the steps to the table confidently. The conversation was without an interpreter, in English. Selimeja herself was surprised, how the words came to her mind like that. He didn’t get stuck on a single phrase. He clutched the stone tightly in his hand.
It was as if he was her heart, beating there in the palm of her hand. “Make Canada happy”, the clerk told him at the end of the interview, very simply without any ceremony. That was all. He wanted to hug the official, but he felt as if the stone in his hand told him to hold back, the official was at the service of his country, represented the state, she was not just a colleague. Dalin realized that she had passed the test when he met her smiling eyes at the exit. Without saying a word, he took the stone from her palm and brought it to his lips. The miracle had happened.
Fulfilling the desire to emigrate with regular documents to the West changed their lives. Here’s Canada, here’s America! It was as if they were spiritually lifted several meters above the ground. Snow had grown up and started talking. Dalin, every time he entered and left the house, took her in his hands, lifted her up and said: “For you, my daughter, for you sweet Bora, we are making this sacrifice, for you to grow up and be educated like a princess, to win the lost time, of socialist nonsense”!
All this was remembered by Dalin while anxiously waiting for his wife to return from work. Surely she knew where the stone from the Laçi Church had ended up. As in a movie, the life he had led in Albania, his marriage and the birth of their daughter, Bora, unfolded. Selimeja, whom everyone in Canada called Selma without exception, worked as a midwife in a hospital in Toronto, twenty minutes away from home. According to emergencies, sometimes it was delayed more than usual, but these delays had become common over time and no one noticed. This time it was different.
He glanced at the electronic clock on the wall. The great scorpion had gone thirty minutes ahead of schedule. He was waiting for his wife with anxiety and impatience. He got up, went to the window, moved the curtain and took a look at the parking lot of the house. It was empty. The sky was blackened by clouds moving rapidly to the west. The air was thick with moisture. If the wind would stop, surely the rain would be emptied on the ground, but the wind continued as if furious, rising from the ground shards, pieces of paper and dry leaves, which wandered like fog from the four sides of the horizon. The fertile flocks of clouds were unpredictable, never knowing where they would dump the rain. The door of the house creaked and Selma suddenly appeared, hastily pushing the door handle.
– “Thank goodness I arrived before the rain started”, – he said in vain, as if talking to him out loud. Dalin heard him and got up to greet him. He had a dead face and a confused look, but Selma didn’t notice. He didn’t ask him as usual how he spent the day, but told him in a voice that didn’t belong to him: – “Where is the stone from the Church of Laçi?” Where didn’t I look for it, but I didn’t find it”?! – “Stone? How, I didn’t tell you that Bora took it in Ottawa”?!
– “I will always be the last to learn the events of this house?! How long is it That stone was not taken out of the door of the house, what if he loses it? You know I hold it sacred. That stone is our destiny”! – “Luckily, she got it too.”
– “Let’s get it laid, don’t come sit here next to me, tell me everything in turn. There’s something wrong here, there’s something you’re hiding from me, it smells like infidelity, why? Where did I go wrong with you, where did I misbehave”?! – Dalini asked several questions in a row. The wife regretted that she had not informed her about the problems that had opened up for her daughter and decided to tell her everything: – “Bora has fallen in love with a boy, but she has not decided to marry him without thinking ours. It’s been a few months.” – “And you didn’t tell me?” Did you bring this girl with you or did we give birth to her together? I have no right to know about my daughter’s fate”?! – He raised his voice as rarely.
– “The problem is more subtle than that, that boy has a little black skin”, – answered Selma through tears. – “What’s wrong with having a little black skin? That’s how my maternal grandfather was.” – “No, he is black”, – she said in a tepid voice. Dalin went numb; he felt that his heartbeat was fading. He was about to faint. He had never expected this news. “How come Bora?! – Black at all”?
“Where is he from”?! – “American”. – “At all, at all black? – At all”. This news was like a bolt from the blue for him. It had never occurred to him that his beloved daughter, the clever and sweet Snow, would be associated with a black man! Oh God, why did you choose Canada to immigrate?! But what Albanian boy would not prefer his beautiful, smart daughter?! He felt that at any moment, he might fall to the ground. He didn’t have the strength to speak or shout at his friend.
Not that he had any prejudice against races, colors and nationalities, but he could not swallow being the father-in-law of an African-American. Why, when Canada has a lot of young guys from Europe or even Turkey, he thought. How the hell is Bora so enchanted? And why didn’t he confess to me and kept it a secret? – Why, why didn’t he tell me”?! – He returned to his friend. – Because she knew that you would not accept her choice. “What about you, do you know how wrong it is in Canada to be racist, you are punished by law?! Let us also walk with the world, – she wanted to comfort him”.
– “Now, after you have done the trick, tell me both the culture and the law. It’s Selima’s fault, you became an accomplice in her mistake, and you knew it and you didn’t spoil it for Bora. No, the mother must guide her daughter.” – “There are a lot of white girls who marry black men, it’s not just ours,” Selma told him and got up to take off her work clothes. Dalin was left alone. He put his head between his palms and was trying to find the reason, where he had gone wrong with his daughter.
It brought to mind her life. He had never spoken loudly to her; never had he removed any palm from her. She is his princess, the queen of his boundless love. Surprisingly, she had never brought home any classmates, never been late to a party or night out, never alcohol. He had never taken narcotics, so there was no reason to reproach him, a model and example in every direction. He thought she looked exactly like himself.
“As if you took it out of your nose” my wife kept repeating. Even when Bora started her studies in Ottawa, Selma told her:
– “We shouldn’t be afraid of him, when he didn’t make a mistake in college, he can’t make a mistake now.” Dalinin Mirakaj was neither given food nor drink. He hadn’t put anything in his mouth since morning. My wife was saying something through her teeth, doing the housework, but he didn’t hear anything.
His whole being was focused on his daughter. Wasn’t he put in a difficult position by this black man?! He tried several times to call him, but he was afraid that it would be out of character and he might yell at him. He knew that Selimeja would tell him everything and maybe Bora could make a phone call and tell him that the black man’s work is nothing.
All this matter happened, when he had taken a new job: with a salary double that of the first one. He was accepted to work for the maintenance of motor vehicles, at a golf course. He was surprised when he was told that the canteen, both for him and for all customers, was paid for. They could eat at any time and they could choose anything. There were wonderful dishes, like for kings, and caviar. To join the golf club, you had to pay a large annual fee, almost three times his salary, for a year.
The members of the golf club were all wealthy and white, mostly of English descent. Most millionaires. Thanks to his correctness and conscientiousness at work, Dalini had won everyone’s sympathy. The motor vehicles were as shiny as ever and were all in full efficiency. The change seemed obvious, as never before.
But even he himself had never dreamed of such a job and such a large salary, he didn’t even imagine that this kind of work existed. And it is known whose credit it was. His fate was hidden exactly in that small stone brought from the Church of Laçi. He had Shna Ndou’s blessing, so he thought. Maybe the daughter changed her mind, she just needed luck. The future belonged to her. He should not have asked for the stone. It is enough that she was good. After all, like him, like Selimeja, they worked for him, saved almost a month’s salary for him.
It was time for her to start her own family. Even when it was dawn and the light of the new day was coming in from the window, he did not fall asleep. He got up from the bed, slowly saw the noise. He was drinking a cup of coffee. He turned to the morning light that was falling blindly from the window and prayed: “Stop, God, stop, O Church of Laçi and save my daughter”! And groaned from the depths of his soul. He waited until his wife opened her eyes and told her, syllabifying the words.
– “Snow is our heart, our soul; it must call to mind, put a lid on this story. Who doesn’t get her with that beauty, degree and wisdom she has. I bring the best boy here from Albania. Anyway, I never want to meet the ass. Bora has the door of the house open and you can be sure that I won’t say a word to him, but that Afro-American, if he fell from the sky, I will never bring him home.”
– “What you said to me, don’t tell anyone, you will be punished as a racist, they will take the newspapers, we are in a democratic state”, – Selma replied.
– “Yes, my yes, but on the golf courses, I haven’t seen any black people”, – he told her with a smile. – “Blacks are like us, they don’t have the power to pay the quota of 250 thousand dollars a year, just like their millionaire friends, but in other sports and in music, they are making a name for themselves, all over the world. Red blood like ours flowed from his mouth.” – “That’s all I can say and you know my head well, what I say, I do”, – he ended the conversation and got ready to go to work. Selma knew his habits well; nothing could turn his mind, except the Church of Laçi. But that church was far away.
Bora graduated in computer science, found a job, but did not leave the African-American. He didn’t even bring it to his parents’ house. They rented an apartment in the ‘Etobiko’ neighborhood of Toronto. Come out with his savings, he bought his daughter a gift, a new Japanese car, from the latest, new ice. – “What kind of man are you, this father of yours,” said her husband to Bora, “buys you a brand new car and refuses to recognize the son-in-law, with whom you share your bed and life.” – “Daddy, don’t say anything to me anymore,” she replied, and a stream of tears flowed down her cheeks, “let it be the last time, it’s our internal affairs.”
Even when Bora had a son, Dalini refused to recognize and meet the groom. Just asked who the grandson looks like. – “Mulat, a little brown and cute, with curly hair, – answered Selimeja happily – but he leans more towards us”. Dalin put his lip on the gas a little. The birth of a child became a bone of contention between the young couple. Not even forty days after his birth, Jason, that’s what the African-American was called, gave his wife an ultimatum. – “Since the father-in-law does not want to meet me, I do not allow him to meet my son either. Your father is a racist; he doesn’t even call me black, but ‘ass’. This is an offensive word for me”, he said with long-accumulated anger. Snow got nervous.
– “Did you forget, who paid the room rent at the university for four years, because your parents had no income?! It was my father. You don’t even have the face to put it in your mouth and what will I do, or even ask you at all. Don’t think I’m your slave. He is my father, not yours”, he said, raising his voice. She did not go any further, but took her son in the carriage and left for her parents.
Dalin became much attached to his nephew and begged him to bring him as often as possible, especially on weekends. But Bora had not told her parents something else. Jason was jealous and every time she met an old friend, especially Albanians, he would get nervous, argue pointlessly and one day he told her bluntly:
– “I don’t want to meet Albanian boys. It takes a long time to talk with them, then, what are those espresso coffees that you like so much”.
– “Neither have I prevented you from talking to any black woman”, – she told him sarcastically. He became a beast, he raised his hand to slap her, but at the last moment he pulled back. Bora’s eyes sparkled and she stayed at her parents’ house that whole week, but she didn’t tell them anything about the quarrel and conflicts with her husband. The couple’s relationship was shaken. Jason did not submit any paychecks.
It was justified that he was helping his parents in New York, who were very poor and their pension was not enough. During the argument, Bora told him to choose either him or his parents. Each of them had equal obligations for the rent of the house, food and well-being of the child, but he continued on the same path, not to hand over any income. He had learned well that Albanian parents are devoted to their children and never leave them alone.
The real reason they eventually broke up was something else. Bora met a childhood friend in the supermarket, he was an Albanian lawyer. She was late and Jason waited for her in a shopping mall for a long time, also taking care of her son. The fights continued until the car in the parking lot. They were getting ready to get into the car, but Jason couldn’t bear it, but said cynically:
– “Did you forgive this Albanian friend your virginity when you were seventeen”? – “Where did you get this from, you ass”?! – “Since you kissed for a long time in separation, here I have filmed you with a cell phone,” he said. – “I mean, you’re chasing me, you had a blacker soul than your face”! – She shouted. Jason couldn’t stand it. His eyes fell on the trunk of the car, a long-tailed brush with which they cleaned the snow from the windows in the morning.
He grabbed it quickly and hit Bora with all his might. Instinctively she raised her hand to protect her head and the broomstick slammed into her left arm. He felt that a bone in his forearm gave him a “crack”. He must have broken it because he could no longer move either his hand or his arm. He neither screamed nor cried. He clutched the stone from Laçi Church tightly in the palm of his right hand. Surprisingly, the stone gave him unprecedented strength and courage. He didn’t even know how he arrived together with his son at his parents’ house, holding the steering wheel with only his right hand! He was worried about his son. Motherhood gave her strength.
When he braked in front of the house, he almost fainted. She closed her eyes; she and her son were in safe hands. The mother took the child from the pram, Dalini wrapped him in her breast, as when he was a child, lifted him in his arms and carried him inside the house with caress. He told him to calm down and tell what happened to him. “It hit me in the ass, I have the stone from Laçi Church in my bag”, she replied. Dalin didn’t reach for it, his eyes flashed fire. He called 911. His voice trembled and a tangle of tears stuck in his throat. While waiting for the police to arrive, she gave her daughter a glass of water, along with two Tylenol tablets. The wife took care of calming and feeding the child.
Within eleven minutes, two policemen arrived along with the ambulance and three nurses. The policemen, after hearing the incident, demanded to know the place where the car was parked. Bora indicated that the incident had taken place in block 7 of the parking lot. The policemen looked each other in the eye. “There are security cameras there, the incident is filmed, you’re lucky, they don’t need witnesses,” said one of them. As it turned out later, Jason had been arrested that same night. He was sentenced to three years in prison. There was another record of violence that Bora had never shown. Memorie.al