Natasha at 21
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Natasha at 21
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The last time she was in this narrow cellar, Natasha ,
Nicholson was a frightened child of nine, sheltering ' i» _i t i
from the Serbian bombing of Sarajevo. It was dark "
and damp. Candles were lit to relieve the gloom. - " 5
5 'Iwas scared, ” she recalls. “There was the constant , z-
sound of babies crying in their cots. When the `
shelling started, you just went down in your nightie
and sometimes you would be in the pitch dark for
10 Today, in a basement far smaller than she
remembers, there is a pleasant fug of drying laundry
and Natasha, now aged 21, is being swallowed up in
the pillowy embrace of Fazila, the white-overalled
laundress. Fazila worked in the orphanage kitchen at
15 the time Natasha was spírited away to England from
war-torn Sarajevo twelve years ago.
Natasha is j ust back home in Surrey after spending
five weeks on a personal odyssey to the place of her
birth, her first return visit to Sarajevo. Every day,
20 she worked with children at the orphanage where
she was abandoned by her mother at the age of five
“This is like travelling back in time, ” she said as
she saw the orphanage for the first time since the
25 Chaotic day of her flight. “So much is exactly as I
remember it. This cellar, and the playground bring 50
back images of war and blood. I remember shrapnel
falling in the play area. One friend was shot through
the shoulder and two children were hit in the leg. ”
Natasha`s rapport with the orphanage children,
many with special needs, was remarkable. Everyone
. a. . /"
expected her suddenly to remember Bosnian, but she
never managed more than two or three words and
wonders how she ever spoke it. She was struck by the
warm 'playgroup' atmosphere of B jeleve orphanage
compared with its austerity when she was a child.
“Then it was a cold place and we were left to our own
Through contacting a Sarajevan lawyer who had
helped her father with the adoption process, Natasha
discovered that her mother - formerly a factory cook
and now apparently a cleaning lady - had tried to
contact her only eighteen months ago. “It was a shock
to find out she had been making inquiries. She would
want me to help her. She would want money. I knew
her intentions were all wrong. l was afraid of what
might come up. She might one day decide to turn up
and I don't think I could cope. Deep down, I would
really like to have met her, ” she says, “but realistically
I have to admit I was not ready for it.
“l am very lucky and privileged to have been given
a second chance. And sometimes, after Fve been
grumpy, I'll say to my dad, “Look, what you did for
me was absolutely fantastic. ”
a) What are some ofthe differences between then and
now in the orphanage?
b) Did she meet her mother? Why orwhy not?
Imagine thatyou are Natasha. The warwas over long
ago. You have grown up in England with your new family
and you are now 21 years old. You have decided to return
to Sarajevo forthe first time since you left, all those
years ago. What d0 you hope to see, do or find there?
D0 you think it will be the same or completely different
from your memories? Willyou go to the orphanage? Will
you try to trace yourfamíly? Do you think going back will
make you regret having been taken away from Sarajevo
as a child?
3 Find these adjectives in the text. What do they describe?
Whatdo they mean?
pitch personal special
straightforward Advanced Second edition © Macmillan Publishers Limited 2013