Le verre volé: Stroke!

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 21, 2016 11:16

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  • “Le Verre Volé” is a special feature section of Tirana Times.

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By Jerina Zaloshnja


On the last Sunday of July, of the year 2000, my aunt had a brain stroke. When she was on her way to the bathroom her mind was suddenly engulfed by an unknown and strange feeling. Two minutes later she was unconscious on the floor. The emergency ambulance was at her door just five minutes later. The doctor was able to say without the least shred of doubt that it was a case of hemorrhagic stroke.

“Hemorrhagic stroke” must have been the first thought of her distraught and scared daughter as well since all the signs were pointing at one result: the wide open eyes, the lack of consciousness as well as three more symptoms. They did not really leave space for any other diagnosis.

– “What is it, what does she have?”- must have asked her husband with a meek voice, surrendered on the sofa and the most likely candidate to be the second victim of a paralysis in that house.

– “What else … a stroke! …” – must have caught him short the daughter.

Two months later, with the hard hit of the stroke having wrecked quite some harm on her, my aunt left the public hospital of Athens and for almost one full year received physiotherapy treatment at home. A smiling young man, not that tall but with extraordinary hand skills, came every day to the their house at nine sharp and patiently tried to revive the half dead muscles of the patient and sometimes even steal a potential smile from her since he himself was the smiling kind and needed some conversation.

Even after a full year of massages and medicines you could say my aunt could neither talk nor move, nor really do ANYTHING. For hours and hours she would sit motionless staring at the ceiling and only on some occasions on rare and remarkable days her sight would accompany some of your movements. The stroke had affected her left hemisphere and by saying that I feel that you can understand all that it implies.

Rendered quite hopeless, my aunt’s daughter, the most open minded person in that family, decided to return her mother home, pardon my mistake, she decided that they would all return home so that my sick aunt could spend her last days in her homeland. In order to do this she was ready to leave behind, without any remorse, 10 full years in Athens, her job as a private English teacher, her friendships, her comfort and her well-being, just for this! I have no doubts that all the sacrifices that she has done for my aunt will be naturally rewarded to Almida in blessings, however please bear with me a little more so I can continue my story.

Hence Almida cut her ties with the work, let her home owners know that she would be out of the house in the beginning of October 2001 and had a very teary and even snotty departure from her colleagues that had become her soul mates in all those years and lastly, at the very end, she remembered to talk this decision with her mother.

I am sorry to put it this way but to talk to my aunt was to talk to nobody, she could not even murmur, she would not even look at you. Despite all this, she talked to her, Almida had talked to her!

-“Mother- she had pleaded,- what do you say, should we return to Tirana?”

The sick woman must have remained stunned, unmoved for about 42 seconds and then with a constricted face out of her discomfort has yielded such a strong strong NOOOO that it had shaken her husband sitting in the next room. Here and exactly in the same moment I learned the response of my aunt. Almida had grabbed the phone immediately and shouted to me with a craze made of both joy and hope:

– “Nina Ninoçka, auntie spoke!”

-“What do you mean she spoke?”

-Yes yes I am telling you she spoke!”

-Woooow,- was my reaction, – well what did she say…?”

– “She said NO, I will not return to Albania!”

I still remember the commotion and the joy of that day! My dearest aunt, the second sweetest person of my childhood, my baby skinned aunt with her cheeks as little red balls in perfect round shape, my auntie that would react in the same way every time I would open my mouth and say something by laughing with a full heart and saying so often “this wise niece of mine”! She had thought and she had spoken at the same time!

In that moment I remained stunned so could not come to any conclusions but I knew that I had to find answers for two important questions: How could my aunt speak if her entire left brain hemisphere was out of order and second why did she say “No” to the return to her homeland?

Gripped by a feverish state, I recalled Jill Bolte Taylor, yes exactly her, Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuro-anatomist which once captivated her audience with a speech on this topic: “My stroke of insight”. I searched it on Google and listened to it again. Yes, listened to the whole 15 minutes of the speech again!

“One Wednesday morning while I was having a stroke in the left hemisphere- Jill explains- in that same very state thus between consciousness and its loss, I found myself suddenly free, weightless, limitless, part of the universe. I was everything, away from the worries, away from the stress. The discovery of this hit me. While I was in the midst of this stoke, another second stroke was happening to my sub-consciousness, I was reaching Nirvana! I was able to achieve Nirvana while still alive!”

What had then been the ‘Nirvana’ that stroke from inside and made my aunt react, despite being destroyed from the typical stroke which had left her barely alive? Why did she say “No” to her return home and furthermore could it have been that my aunt was in her former life a targeted person, a person with a problem, was she trying to escape this memory by shouting “Nooo” so loudly? No absolutely! We could never say that she was an unwanted person from the last regime! In our country the people hit by the regime were usually either buried, or in exile or in prison! Luckily my aunt had experienced none of these. The people that were targeted and punished by the regime usually had to be waken at the crack of dawn, embark on some ugly trucks and sent away in forced exile in internment camps and remote villages! I have seen myself wailing women trying to gather their possessions as they were saying goodbye for good to their comfortable life in their neighborhoods. Not my aunt! She lived just 3 miles from the Bllok, worked as a teacher at the kindergarten while her husband was employed in a ministry!

Then what?

What we can say then with almost mathematical certainty is that she was one of those untargeted yet still suffering people from the regime, an individual under dictatorship, whose life in essence goes awry even while it goes relatively well. Hence her “Nirvana” was not connected to her first life but on the contrary with her second life, when my aunt said “Goodbye” to Tirana and started fresh in Athens!

What wonderful things she saw there and what kind of comfort did her soul find there so much that she could make herself leave? Before I can answer this question I have another one for all of you, indeed for all of us:

What do our eyes see when we go abroad for work, for school, for a specific problem, to see our relatives? … Here… lower your eyelids for a little bit please and try to see with your mind: Doesn’t this inner look of yours transport you to other streets, unlike the ones we have here, to other people and to other societies, unlike what we have here, to other schools, very much unlike we have here and to other hospitals equally unlike here? Doesn’t your inner sight find solace and peace in the greenery of imagining other worlds? Can’t you feel your breath almost stopping while experiencing all this change in this dream?

Doesn’t it feel just natural then to rush off in pursue of this dream? Isn’t this then your ”Nirvana”?

… You could very well ask what happened after that with the story of my aunt.

At the moment that eventually death came to her side her daughter must have asked again just like the first time. But differently from that time she has said “Yes” to her return at the homeland, this “Nirvana” auntie of mine.


PS: “Le Verre Volé” is the title of my new Tirana Times section.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 21, 2016 11:16