FROM SARANDA'S DIARY - MARCH 1998
The weather changed suddenly. Thunder grumbled somewhere beyond the horizon, or was it the sound of many guns. Saranda felt her heart beating wildly.
" Keep quiet and don't move, " her brother shouted next to her left ear.
They had been gathering wood in the bushes near their house when they saw a couple of Serbian soldiers passing by. Suddelny Saranda noticed thier mother walking through their paddock towards the men with guns.
" Mum stop..." In her panic stricken reaction Saranda jumped from the bushes, but Dardon pulled her back down: Hey, watch out! Or they will shoot all of us."
One of the soldiers stopped an dlifted 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 any more. Then the man turned left to 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 teh ground, touching her injured arm. They caught sight of her face, which was pale with shock and sruprise. 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 were 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 mother. She was trying to use a piece of cloth to stop the bleeding. Saranda felt sick looking at thousands of red drops which now coloured her mother's grey jumper. Someone was behind her. she quickly turned around. Her younger brother was shivering; his big, dark eyes wide open like in a nightmare. Only this was real.
" Don't worry, my darlings, " Mum was breathing hard. " Help me to my feet, will you?"
As they slowly moved, they heard the soldiers' laughter echo on the other side of the padddock. Suddenly, ahead of them, a fork of flame shot up. The three of them looked at each other dazed.
" Our house is on fire." Dardon gasped almost sobbing.
" Come on, quick." Mum urged, clutching her teeth together from the pain. " I must get some things, I must get them...auch, out."
As they came to the door, several men with guns stepped forward. Saranda knew them all by sight. There are two of their closest neighbours and the shopkeeper, who used to give her a candy...Serbs. There were great flames shooting from the top window. Her room. Through the smoke she tried to find some kindness in the eyes of her neighbours. But they dind't recognize her anymore. She was only an enemy. The little group stood for a moment, an injured woman and two kids. Confused, helpless...Trapped in the centre of a civil war.
They took flight and ran out of the sight of the gunmen when suddenly Saranda saw the family truck behind tha barn. The back was low with the weight of the household goods loaded in it.
" Get in," Dad gabbled. "Quick."
Mum, terrified and bleeding heavily, sat beside him.
" Oh, my god, it looks nasy..." Dad torn apart his own shirt in a hurry...
" Go on, you cattle, clear out and don't come back. " The gunmen yelled from the burning house.
Saranda climbed onto the back of the open truck. Her brother followed her, slowly, weeping quietly to himself. Dad drow off. At the end of their village was a traffic jam with many vehicles, tractors and people. They were hidden in a smoke haze. Every house near the road had been set ablaze.
" Ghosts, they are like ghosts," Dardon whispered. " It's a nightmare, soon we will all wake up, back in our home. On, no..we have to go back, what about the dog?"
They could hear a horn started blasting. Their car clanked to a halt. Suddenly Dad jumped off the front seat and ran along the logn row of vehicles.
" Our doggy ran away like us, he went straight to the forest behind our paddock." Saranda said looking for the sight of her dad in the crowd. " Maybe..." she couldn't say anything else because it felt as if she had a lump of wood in her throat. Finally she saw him rushing back followed by a woman with a first aid kit. As soon as they approached their car, Mum screamed in pain.
Slowly the cars moved on. Daylight was fading. The cluds seemed so low as they joined the smoke from all the fires around. The grey world around absorbed all sound. The grey cold crept into her body. Saranda stretched her upper body on top of the cold suitcase and fell asleep.
" I am so hungry, it drives me nuts." Said Dardon from behind her.
She sat down semi-conscious and gasped for air hungrily. They were surrounded by blackness. It seemed as if they had spent days on the top of their truck, which was doing more stopping than moving.
" Gee, I've found it, a piece of bread, yum..." She could hear his noisy eating. Saranda stretched her arm in his direction. Shivering from cold, they watched as the sun rose again. So small and lost in the grey, gloomy world. Chewing slowly on hte piece of old heavy bread, Saranda looked up at the sky: " I wish 'Light man' from Grandmum's story gave us a sunflower each."
" I wish I could fly." Her brother's gaze followed the direction to the birds flying towards the sun. A big cloud soon hid the sun and heavy rain began.