The more languages you speak, the more you are worth

Nora Bezera

This sentence followed me all my life as a bilingual child. It did not stalk me, it followed my pace of life between two cities and two peoples.

Let me introduce myself to you; I am Nora, an Albanian who was born and who spent 27 years of her life in Belgrade. And now, at the age of 32, I am trying to build destroyed bridges between two peoples who live so close, and yet so far away!

Wondering how this can be done in a situation of general collective madness in the Balkans? Well, I’ll start from the beginning…

It was exactly 13 years ago. At that time, I was a graduate of the 12th Belgrade Gymnasium. I was wondering what to enroll in, which faculty, what next?? And so, a little at the urging of my mother, and much more by accident, I decided to enroll in the Albanian language studies, not even imagining that this very choice would turn my life by 180 degrees. Who would’ve thought! I enrolled studies of my mother tongue, what could change so much !?

After 4 years of studying, through work, I met my best friend Jelena! We met in private Albanian language classes, we slowly started cooperating on other important projects and became so close that we became best friends! One of the best and largest surveys we have conducted is on language rights in Kosovo. Why did my life change with Jelena?! Jelena actually taught me to think critically and objectively, and still preserve my feelings and subjective side through the stories she heard in Kosovo, from Serbs and Albanians, and which she told me after each of her trips to Kosovo. These were stories of the daily common torments of all of us.

Then in 2015 I got a job in Pristina. I started working as a translator. Working as a translator, I met a lot of different people from different communities, religions and cultures. This is where my life got rich. I spent a lot of time talking to members of non-majority communities in Kosovo about their customs and traditions. I listened about their celebrations, but also about the problems that plague us all on a daily basis. With them, I learned to listen to their problems, pains, joys, but also to be heard. To talk about everything humanely and in good faith. To offer a chance to get to know and understand each other better. So we started to build our little paradise of all communities in Kosovo and we were looking forward to every trip together. We are actually so different, and at the same time so similar.

I have translated meetings with high-ranking officials, but it was not those meetings that were the most difficult ones. The destinies of ordinary people were those that simply took my breath away, made my words disappear, and my “translation brain” simply went out. Translating someone’s pain, sadness, suffering, longing for someone, is the hardest and the most responsible part of my job.

Many times I have been in situations when I simply could not translate the stories of ordinary people, which were so shocking for me, that my throat tightened and my eyes filled with tears. It may seem unprofessional to someone, but it was simply stronger than me. When I hear and understand, I sympathize with the other side, I can’t remain completely insensitive.

One of them is the confession of a raped woman read by Igbale Rogova at one of the meetings. Confession was so painful, especially since I am also a woman. In those moments, I simply did not have the strength to continue translating, I could not control the emotion that overcame me. Tears streamed down my face, my hands trembled, and thank God, Igbale finished the terrifying reading. It was the first time that I was directly confronted with the terrible fates of the people in Kosovo.

The second time, I wasn’t in the role of translator, and it’s good that I wasn’t. At Jelena’s invitation, I attended a conference organized on the topic of journalists killed and abducted during and after the war in Kosovo. Families of Albanian and Serbian journalists, who are no more, are sitting in the same room. None of them know exactly what happened to their loved ones and they share the same suffering and sorrow. Their eyes, full of hope that they will find out something about them after all this time. “I am a Serb” or “an Albanian” was not written on their faces; on their faces are only sad eyes that remember their husbands, fathers, brothers… Their pain is the same! Dignified in their pain, they seek the long-lost truth. When Jelena started talking, the weight of her words fell on me, especially since Jelena is my “older sister”. I saw and felt with what pain and compassion she speaks on that topic. I know how much effort she put into talking about both sides equally, and I know that, no matter how professional she is in the work she does, she was overwhelmed by emotions due to terrible and difficult destinies. It was hard for me, and I know it’s even harder for her as she speaks. She was looking straight at me and no matter how much I was on the verge of crying, I had to stay strong, because Jelena asked me to. It ended!

They say that if you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language, it goes to his heart. I strongly believe that my greatest value and advantage is that today I can have a dialogue with both Serbs and Albanians, to understand and be understood. Growing up “in the middle of the bridge” taught me to observe, listen, try to understand all those people who pass through it. Knowing both languages has opened many doors for me, brought me closer to many good people with whom I hang out and cooperate.

Knowledge of a language allows us to get to know different views, to progress, and not to stand in the same place, to make friends everywhere with it. To better understand each other, in difficult and joyful moments.

Nora Bezera was born on October 9, 1987, in Belgrade. She finished the twelfth Belgrade Gymnasium in 2007 and in the same year enrolled at the Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade, Department of Albanian Language. She graduated in 2011. In the same year, she enrolled in master studies, majoring in language, literature, culture, at the Faculty of Philology, which he completed in 2012 with an average grade of 10.00.

She enrolled in doctoral studies at the Faculty of Philology in 2012, but did not pursue them. She has been working as a lecturer at the Department of Albanology since 2017. She has been actively involved in translation since 2010 and collaborates with many agencies and NGOs in Kosovo and the region.

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