Saturday, April 28, 2012

Australian Citizenship Ceremony with a taste of tragedy (September 2001)

One day Dad called them to his Study and presented proudly a letter with Australian emblem. Saranda
looked at the letter an drecognied the heading: 'Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.'
She vaguely remembered a time when a similar letter arrived at the Barracks and they had been allowed to stay in Australia.

    "What's this all about?" Mum asked nervously holding the vigorous Victor by his hand. He looked around the room he was not allowed to enter and was keen to explore it with all his senses.

    "I will miss my soccer, Dad, is it important?" Dardon asked impatiently.

    "Very important," Dad said shaking the letter in his hand: "We finally become rightful citizens of this country," he stopped for a while: "And there is a part I want you to learn by heart by next Saturday," he looked from one to another: "All of you you!"

    "I see Victor learning it," chuckled Dardon to himself, but Dad walking behind him squeezed his arm
so painfully that he jumped up saying: "Don't be cheecky, Dardon, you are not a little boy any more, it is time for you to grow up, sooner you learnt that, better for you."

Then he turned to Saranda, who followed him out of the room: "Here you are, help your Mum to understand it," handing her the letter he noticed Victor, finally freeing himself from Mum, starting to explore enthusiastically Dad's table full of papers.

He beckoned to Mum to take him and leave. Dardon didn't miss opportunity and rushed out of the door to catch up with his training. Mum quickly grabbed Victor who loudly protested and left the room in a tick. Only Saranda moved slowly to the door reading loudly: "From this time forward, under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people..." She suddenly stopped and turned back: "Why do we have to learn this?"

Dad has already returned back to his table and carefully ordered back the papers Victor touched, without taking eyes of it, he murmured under his breath: "Just keep reading, you will understand."

Saranda looked back at the page: "...whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey." She finished reading and stared at him for a while.

He stopped ordering his papers and looked at her annoyed: "This is the pledge, Saranda, we are very lucky people, you know, we have the country of our origin and also a new country, which we are becoming part of..." He stopped for a while and stared out of the window at the sun lit lawn surrounded by colourful hedges of native flowers.

She wanted to say something but then she notice his moistured eyes and knew he is thinking about home. That was not the time to disturb him so she tiptoed back to the door,

    "The least we can do is promise to respect and obey its lows." She heard his last words before closing the door quietly behind her.

     And so they did in the big hall of their Thornlie Council, Mum and Dad stood with others in front of the Mayor while Saranda, Victor and Dardon sat with the audience in the first row. Dad was standing proud repeating the pledge while Mum stood nervously besides him, hiding behind her scarf.

    "Stop wriggling, you little monkey," Saranda whispered in Victor's ear.

He was sitting on her knees. Saranda wished for a quick end as he was turning around and shouting excitedly towards Mum. She imagined the flash of disapproval in Dad's eyes, if he noticed them. It was so embarrassing she quickly turned around to see reaction of the people around them. Jack and George waved to her from the fourth row. Jack had decided to come back hom, which made George extremely hapy. She could see him now putting his arm around Jacks' shoulders and holding him tightly as to make sure he would never run away again. The annoyed look on Jack's face worried her.
She smiled at him encouragingly and turning back she noticed Doha standing near the entrance with some flowers in her hands peeping from her scarf. Suddenly a dark arm wearing shinning bracelets appeared from the last row and waved to Doha. Saranda looked closely to recognize Mrs Hysa sitting there holding Joyce on her knees.

    "Ouch," She was forced to turn back as Victor found another pastime activity, pulling her hair out of her scarf: "Stop it, Victor," she was furious with him and Dardon, who had started to laugh like crazy. She dropped Victor on the floor so she could arrange her scarf. He screamed joyfully and ran straight to his Mum, who was standing shaking hands with the Mayor. Victor stopped behind him, suddenly shy and the surprised Mayor nearly collapsed on top of him, while turning to shake hands with another new citizen.

   "Hello little 'fella', you want to be first to congratulate your Mum, don't you?" He smiled broadly and moved out of Victor's way.

The people in audience laughed, but Mum quickly grabbed Victor's hand and looked sheepishly at Dad, who gave Saranda a grave look. The one she didn't imagine, it was real. Dardon couldn't stop laughing. She clutched her stomach a in sudden pain and get up to leave the hall in a hurry.

It was dark outside and quiet. Saranda breathed with a sudden relief when a dark figure leapt from the bushes in front of her. She jumped from fear and was ready to run back inside, when the familiar hand touched her arm:

    "Saranda, it's me Kathy," Kathy's white teeth shone in the dark and her curls bounced on her head like always when she was laughing.

    "Kathy, what are you doing here?" Saranda observed her dear friend's dirty shirt and jeans and moved out little as the foul breath made her sick. She could smell alcohol and something else, she couldn't recognise.

    "Jack told me," She winked at Saranda and produced a branch from a flowering bottle-brush tree: "Welcome, 'Sar' among 'the bloody Aussies', couldn't you find someone better to belong to?"

Saranda looked at her in surprise when Kathy handed her spiky red bush flowers.

    "I am just joking, anyway I couldn't any poshy flowers around here, anyway these ones are like me, native, ha,ha.." She laughed so loudly nearly loosing her balance.

   "Kathy, are you all right?" Saranda got hold of her arm as she was now laughing hysterically.

Some older couple walking near the entrance looked at them strangely. Kathy noticed them and made a rude sign in their direction: "What are you looking at, f..k off!"

Saranda turned her back to the horrified couple and led Kathy back to the darkness of the bushes where she had appeared before. She had a strange feeling, that this was not her friend, but someone else in her skin.

    "Kathy, what's wrong?" She pleaded with her, but Kathy shook her arm free. Before she disappeared in the bushes, she turned one more time and smiled at Saranda:

    "It's good that Jack is back home, you know, he never was the sort of guy to live on a street."

And she was gone. Saranda smelled the spiky bush flowers and went back inside.

The ceremony was over and people mingled around the tables with refreshments. She spotted her family, who were taking picture with the Mayor under the Australian flag. She was on her way to join them when someone touched her shoulder:

    "I was looking for you, Saranda," Doha smiled at her shyly: "Congratulation on becoming an Australian, my cousin would do anything to be one." She handed her three elegant white orchids tied up with a white ribbon.

Saranda touched gently a white petal, when Doha whispered in her ear: "I like these flowers, they are Australian ones, but they look so strangely mysterious in the bush, like they don't belong there," she smiled sadly at Saranda: "Just like us, don't you think?"

Before she could answer Doha was gone. Saranda quickly joined her family for the last picture under the Australian flag, holding two very different flowers. She had a strong urge of mixing them together. Is it possible?

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