By Avdulla Kënaçi
The first part
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.
Fuming, he rummaged through two or three drawers, but couldn’t find it. He checked in the wardrobe, but did not find it there either. He did not leave a hole in the house without seeing, but nothing. As if the earth had swallowed him. He felt his gall beating. Beads of cold sweat filled his forehead. This forgetfulness was not forgiven; this confusion. As if through a mist, he remembered the time when he had first placed the stone in that wooden box, engraved with pyrography. Then later, along with the stone, he had put some dollar savings in there. This box was also brought from Albania.
Instinctively, with a faint hope, he returned to the search for the second time. No, no, it wasn’t there. He counted the dollars thread by thread and they were fixed, 5,120, as many as he had left. No one in Canada keeps hidden money at home, but this ritual has become a habit for Dalin since his birth. He inherited that “huq” from his father, who always said that at home, a secret deposit should be kept “for black days”. Apparently in Canada, “this black day” had not come and would not come. What happened to the stone?! If someone had stolen it before, they would have taken the dollars and not the stone. How did he disappear from home like that?! Ters. He was filled with the idea that that stone had brought him luck in life.
He thought that the prosperity of his family was hidden in that small thing, in the shape of a bird. They rode in shivers. It should be inside the house, but you can find it, he thought. The soil didn’t swallow it! He stopped his search when he thought of his wife, Selma, who had not yet returned from work. Had she given it to Bora for good luck since she left in September to continue her third year of law school in Ottawa? A little patience, he said in a low voice, giving himself courage, let’s wait for Selma. And little by little, he started to calm down.
Dallin, with “ll”, that’s how they call him in Canada, is a model Albanian-Canadian citizen; pays taxes properly and has no penalties, no fines, no misdemeanors. Even in Albania, this has been the case. In his youth, he worked as a mechanic on the farm in Fushë-Kruja, he just finished technical high school. Accurate, punctual at work and in society, like a Swiss watch, so much so that his friends asked him more about difficulties and defects than the office engineer. Whenever they lacked a work tool or spare part, they asked him for help and he was always ready. Just in case, there was an answer. He would find that he does not make a solution. Few words, much work. “Hands of gold”, the engineer used to say about him. The director repeated again and again, that he was; “vanguard of the working class”.
One day, when Dalini was looking for a spare part in the warehouse, among the scrap metal, he came across the body of a motorcycle, used by the German army, abandoned since the Second World War. Good lubrication had saved the vehicle from corrosion and moisture. His eyes laughed. He took it apart, cleaned it, sanded it and painted it green. Filled with joy, he raised the tool to his feet. He had spent a lot of free time dealing with it. Everyone was surprised when he resurrected that “squirrel” and brought him back to life. He pressed the ignition lever hard with his foot, tried it several times, but nothing. It was very embarrassing. He rested for a while to collect himself. He was stressed. He started hitting the lever again, more insistently. It went on like this for several minutes.
Just when he was about to give up and thought that he had “tarred” nothing, a loud “cough” was heard, like the crack of a machine gun. Finally the engine started and he didn’t see it until it burned all the fuel in the tank. Without even realizing it, his coworkers had surrounded him in a circle. They had gathered one by one and he had not noticed them. When the vehicle started, they drowned it out with cheers and applause. “This one has a mind for everything,” they said, looking at him with admiration. That tool was almost half a century old, it didn’t breathe. It was considered junk. Get out with your hands, had the right to use. No one else could claim to take it off his hands, the workers said in unison.
It was called his personal property, although the state and society at that time was against private property. With that motorcycle, he went back and forth, from home to work. However, one of the communists of the party organization of the guild made a problem in the collective, because he was carrying a personal motor vehicle. The person in charge of the office was irritated by the communist’s remark and confronted him, telling him that indeed according to the papers that tool was common property, but the state had not spent a single ALL on it. It was up to Dalin alone to have it in his possession, because he created it and resurrected it from the scrapyard graveyard. “As for use, it is known, he made it available to the collective more than for himself”, said the brief and clear responsibility.
That’s how the malicious voices were shut down, but this happened more, because Dalin was everyone’s friend, honey with everyone. So to speak, he had no enemies; his friends loved and respected him, not only as a good specialist, but also as a good man and father. He had done each one honor and favors without any benefit or prejudice. That’s how he was, generous and golden-hearted. He had taken someone to the ambulance, after some minor injury, with someone he had rushed to Tirana, for some machine spare parts, somewhere else, for five minutes he was in the field, repairing the defect of a tractor. So to speak, he was the emergency, the quick help, for the whole basin, so the collective loved and respected him.
– “He stayed helping others and didn’t even remember to marry himself”, – said his mother, when they praised her son. – “Eh, my mother,” he replied kindly, caressing his calloused hand over his bleached hair, “I haven’t turned thirty yet, once I’m round, I’ll bring the bride to the door on a motorcycle.” of the house”. And he kept his word. One day, the mother saw that a white girl with a long braid, which went to the middle of the shoulders, got off the motorcycle in the backyard. It was the nurse from the neighboring village.
– “This will be my daughter-in-law,” he said happily, introducing her to the old mother, “you no longer need to go to Tirana to buy rheumatism medicines.” Don’t forget her name, her name is Selime”. – “The girl is as beautiful as a fairy, but from the name she looks like a Muslim to me, couldn’t you find any part of our religion”? – “It’s over,” Dalini said laughing, “that’s not how the Party teaches us, mom, then who’s going to take me, at my age!” Praise God that I caught this too, because someone else would have snatched it from me”. – “After the auspicious foot”! – the mother wished and kissed the girl on the forehead.
Even in Albania, the wind of democracy had started to blow. None of the governors gave an order to open the Church of Laçi, but every day more and more, especially on Sundays and holy days, the visits there became more frequent. They were people of all religions and ages. In herds, the millets went on foot, on bicycles, in occasional cars, vans, tractors or trucks. The Church of Laçi was the first to be repaired and reopened, as early as 1990. The communist Cultural Revolution, in 1967, completely leveled it. After the reopening, the pilgrimages of the people continued like a river, which did not stop neither winter nor summer.
Visits were no longer made secretly, but during the day. Fear was killed. People sought salvation, praying and lighting candles to Saint Mary. It was said that there were also simple communists who went secretly, especially at night, to pray for themselves and their families. Dalin had been married for two years and still had no children. “As the great God has commanded”, said Selimeja humbly, when it came to children.
– “Run away from the Church of Laçi, you mother, pray to have a child. As long as I have hands and feet, I will raise them, – the mother told them in a weak voice – Shna Ndou accepts the prayers of Muslims as well”.
– “No, mother, – the young woman answered – I don’t have a problem, I’m not the obstacle. More Muslims go there than from other religions, I have seen them with my own eyes, talk to him son, he decides”.
Ahead was the feast of June 13, the day when on that date in 1231, the Portuguese priest, Saint Anthony, “Shna Ndou i Padova”, was called in Albanian, whose name this church had taken. Dalin finally had the mind to spend that night together with his wife, in the Church of Laç. It was the day and night when most prayers were accepted. He cleaned the motorcycle, oiled it, fueled it and was ready to go. – “But how to fill their minds like this suddenly”? – asked Selimeja with a sigh.
– “Will you know the truth? A week ago, two people from Tirana asked me to fix a defect in the engine of their ‘Benz’. In fact, they are known as dirty bags. I noticed that one of the back seats of their vehicle was covered in fresh blood. “What did you do, you slaughtered cattle inside the car?” I asked worriedly. “It could have been a man, they told me, boasting and scowling, as long as you prepare the engine, we will go straight to the Church of Laçi, to forgive our sins.” I thought they were joking, but when I shut off the engine, they really took the direction towards Laçi Street. Then I learned from the police that while going uphill, near the Church, the engine burst into flames and the car doors would not open! Extraordinary case that the engine starts while running. They both burned alive inside the car. Their shrill roar could be heard as far as Laç. Easy death. There was no mother husband to save them. Strange, but why didn’t the doors open?! Go and answer these questions”.
– “Korba,” said Selimeja with a twinkle, “don’t let them put you in jail, because you didn’t fix their car’s fault properly”?! – “Forget it, they paid for the crimes they committed, they were police contingent, Shna Ndou did not accept them in her bosom, did not accept their forgiveness, did not even allow them to approach the church. This completely convinced me to believe in the Church of Laçi” – Dalini answered briefly and decisively. – “And I say that God closed the car doors, who knows what crime they have paid for”, – Selimeja said thoughtfully. – “It is said that they executed a hostage, they took him in exchange for money. And they say there is no God. Everything here, in this world, is paid”, he said cutting the steering wheel to the right, towards Laçi Street.
Thousands of people, believers and non-believers, had arrived before them. They lit candles, prayed and begged. Here, oak fly. They were moving in an orderly and calm manner. Peace and goodness spread over them. “How is it possible that my compatriots are so kind, so loving and respectful towards each other, in this holy place?! What light and radiation has poured into their souls, the great God”?! These were some of the questions that came to Dali’s mind and he was giving the answer himself. “How many virtues we have lost, during all these years of communism”, he almost said in a loud voice.
The weather was mild and warm. In the sky, through that deep blue space, the stars twinkled with a special light. Millions of sparklers in the firmament, millions of candle flames in the valley. Silently, without being felt or seen, the mother earth nourished with her vital lymph, the grass and the leaves of the trees, dressing and coloring everything with green color. June is the most life-giving month in Albania, the month that decides the prosperity and abundance of autumn. And the month of that year was auspicious. – “Like tonight, I have never seen so many people down there, with burning candles and twinkling stars above in the sky”, – said Selimeja, shaking his hand tightly.
– “There are no vapors, the air is transparent and the gaze goes very far, that’s why you see so many stars”, – he answered. – “Pray in silence, Dalin, let’s both pray and then tell each other”, – suggested Selimeja. He nodded his head in confirmation, but she did not notice him, because she had turned her face to the sky. A comet broke away, making a long trajectory in the sky and it seemed as if it would fall into their laps, but the comet continued on its way and disappeared behind the church bell tower. After a moment of silence, his wife said: – “I prayed that we would have a child as soon as possible and be healthy.”
– “Yes, we have a child and God willing a job abroad”, – he added. – “Abroad? Where did we get this from? “You never told me,” she whispered close to his ear we gain the lost time”.
– “I heard that here in the church, they brought a mute boy and after five minutes of prayer, he opened his mouth and started to speak”, – said Selimeja, to support the idea of making wishes come true after visiting prayers. – “You know, this is a place of miracles, the herd returned to its home”, – he ended the conversation. They did not feel at all how that sleepless night was wasted. A sense of peace and tranquility pervaded their bodies.
They felt lighter and happier, chaste, subdued, filled with faith and incredible worship. How well their prayers were united, with the prayers of these thousands of known and unknown people, who came from every corner of the homeland. They looked so good and peaceful. Sunrise found them praying to Saint Mary. On the horizon, from the sea side, heaven and earth were united through a silver crown. The green of grass and trees on the mountainside had carefully hidden the flock of gray and white stones spread across the valley.
June is the month when the vital fluid of plants, lymph, circulates in nature as much as possible. The river, at the foot of the hill, like hundreds and hundreds of centuries, continued to flow in the same bed with patience and persistence, going towards the sea, over there on the horizon. The water returned from where it was born. This was the cycle of nature, like the cycle of life. Dalin put his hand on a rock and felt that the stone was smoothed by the kisses and touches of the devotees. He felt a piece of him move under the cheekbones of his fingers. He squeezed it harder and the piece of stone came off. He was surprised when the stone remained inside the palm of his hand.
– “Look, – he said to Selime with surprise – look at what shape he has”.
She was mentioned by haunting and dreaming. He looked at her with a smile. What was that thing inside the palm of his hand?! It was a small, white stone with some reddish streaks like blood capillaries. – “Wow, it has the shape of a bird, what a strange and rare thing”, – she told him. – “It has the shape of a dove,” answered Dalin happily – I will keep it for luck. This is our fate, dear Selime.” They felt light and happy. A new light had entered between them and forgiveness and kindness had brought them closer. Their souls had become one. On the way back, they did not hear the sound of the motorcycle, it seemed to them that it did not walk, but flew. They don’t say for nothing that the eye does not see and the ear hears, but the mind does. They had almost forgotten about the pilgrimage to Laçi Church, when Selimeja entered the house one day happy: – “Sihariq, – she called from the door – I took the pregnancy test, we will have children”!
Dallin said not a word, but got up, opened the closet, found the small stone, held it up to look at it better through a ray of sunlight coming in from the window, then brought it to his lips and kissed it adoringly. He also extended it to his wife. She kissed him too. The girl was named Sibora, because she was white as snow and had blue eyes. – “I have never seen a child with such white skin and such beautiful eyes”, – said the midwife who received the girl in her arms.
After a while she went out of the room and the couple was left alone.
– “May we have a long life wife”, – wished Dalini and kissed his wife on the forehead, between the eyebrows. He approached her ear and told her that this girl was the miracle of that stone, which they took from the Church of Laçi. She smiled happily and added: – “When you do good, you find good.” We have not harmed anyone, nor have we spied for politics, nor have we killed anyone. We gave more than we received. God sees everything.”
– “This girl deserves to be raised, educated and educated in the West, dear woman”, – he said, looking her straight in the eyes. He wanted to say something else, but instantly regretted it and remained silent.
Albania had emerged from isolation, but not from poverty. The democratic order had brought freedom of speech, but not welfare. The bravest, groups escaped by attacking the border, but not all arrived at their destination. There were those who paid for fishing boats and rafts, but often the “middlemen” along with the money, disappeared without a trace.
Everywhere there was talk of failure and loss of life. Dalin didn’t like either of these routes. Maybe one day, legal emigration could be organized, like in Kosovo. He could not risk the life of the family, entering unknown roads and adventures. And waited. Even little Snow would make up for it. – “I dream of America,” he said to his wife one evening in bed, before going to sleep. Memorie.al
The next issue follows