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An evening of Albanian poetry: Flora Brovina

Anglo-Albanian Association member Joan Pearce writes:

Flora Brovina’s first volume of poetry was published in 1973, soon after she finished her doctoral studies in paediatrics at Zagreb University. She later worked in the state health system in Kosovo, and after 1990 when Albanians were dismissed from the state system, she set up her own clinic for women and children. She was also a founder of the League of Albanian Women, and led a number of protests. In April 1999 she was arrested and imprisoned in Pozharevac, Serbia (where a fellow inmate was Albin Kurti).

Flora’s husband, Ajri Begu, was a writer and an economist who became the head of Kosovo’s Banking and Payments Authority, which was how I came to meet him, when I was part of the EU’s efforts to support the economic reconstruction of Kosovo. By way of homage and to draw attention to Flora’s imprisonment, Ajri compiled an anthology of her poetry, ‘Thirrje e Kosovë’ (The Call of Kosovo) which was published in autumn 1999, with the copyright line ‘1999 FLORA BROVINA, Burgu Pozharevac’. He kindly gave me a copy.

The anthology comprises about sixty poems. Some refer to political or humanitarian concerns, in particular those of women and children. Others include medical terms, such as amniotic fluid and red blood cells; there is even an entire poem about the spinal column.

I have chosen from the anthology one of Flora’s early poems, first published in 1973. It appeals to me as a description of the sights and sounds of a town coming to life at the start of the day. The freshly washed pavements are especially evocative of Kosovo. I like the way the poem accelerates and builds to a crescendo before settling back to a steadier pace, and ends by depicting a woman with a child, as if the poet is an artist completing a painting with a signature.

Mëngjesi i qytetit tim

Rrugët herët janë zgjuar

qyteti s'bën zhurmë

e heshtas i sodit hapat e ditës së re.

Morning in my hometown

the streets are awake early,

the city makes no noise,

silently contemplating the footsteps of the new day.

Njerëzit ecin, ecin dikah

me përshëndetje dhe dëshira në gojë për mirëmëngjes.

People come and go,

with good-morning greetings and wishes on their lips.

Hapat kërcasin në trotuaret e pastruara

si çekana fabrikash si maqina shkrimi

dhe çdo gjë është përngut dhe mëngjesi që ikën shpejt.

On the freshly washed pavements footsteps resound,

like a factory hammer or a typewriter,

and all is haste as the morning hurries on.

Rrugët herët janë zgjuar

bashkë me shitësin e gazetave me bartësin e qumështit e lustraxhiun.

The streets are awake early,

together with the newsagent, the milkman and the shoeblack.

Kalimtarët, ecin, ecin dikah

dhe një grua me fëmijë në krah.

Passers-by come and go,

and a woman with a child in her arms.

Translated from the Albanian by Joan Pearce


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