Recreating a promise about something left behind;Community education

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Trying again in uncertain exile

Bodies are stretched out on the floor of the community centre. One sits up suddenly, wide-eyed.

"Go back to sleep," his neighbour says, "it is only a dream." The family drama session in Red Road is in full swing. There are no adult men. "They're very supportive but they don't get involved. It's their culture," Scott says.

But drama worker Claire O'Hara, art worker Eileen Wilson, teenagers, mothers and children are all developing a performance based on Celtic and Kosovan legends. The Scottish kelpie tale will be performed in Albanian and the Kosovan myth in English.

There will also be Scottish and Kosovan dancing. "They're quite similar, and they both use bagpipes," says O'Hara," although the Kosovan dancing is more controlled, a bit less flamboyant. We ended up doing dance because we didn't have an interpreter for our first drama session."

It is a bare, sparsely furnished space, enlivened only by the Kosovan children's drawings on the walls. But there is an intoxicating atmosphere in the hall. Ask a simple question and the whole room is embroiled in multi-lingual discussion, bouncing back and forth through the interpreter, until the original query is long forgotten. The need for communication is so strong that one almost begins to understand Albanian spoken at top speed.

The Kosovan legend the drama group chose is a strange combination of the cruel and tender. It tells the story of a young wife sacrificed to the needs of her country. She asks that her body be left half-buried, so that one eye can still see her child, one hand still rock its cradle and one breast still give it nourishment.

Mentor Mustafa, the young interpreter, struggles to find a translation for the name of the legend. "It means a promise, something you leave behind, something blessed. It shows that when a Kosovan says he will do something, he does it, no matter what."

It seems a fitting representation of these refugees. On the evidence of the few people round the table in Red Road, the Kosovans are a proud people, fiercely defensive of their honesty and trust, even when it is betrayed. Their need to tell their truth, to communicate their sense of wrong, is overwhelming.

But so is their gratitude. "People still think they are dreaming," Mustafa says. "They have no words for how good the Scots have been to them." Given the scale of the horror in Kosovo, it is difficult to credit, but in this little hall on the edge of Glasgow, a kind of healing is beginning.

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