Blogbox | War

The Transistor

By - 31.10.2023

From the collection “The Moment I Knew the War Started.” 

Yesterday, I lost my transistor. The war transistor. The tiny, war news radio. For twenty years, I kept it as a beautiful memory of some darker times. I felt as sad as the day I heard the news that the war was over.

The Serbian paramilitaries did not spare a single thing. They didn’t leave a single house standing in my neighborhood. They wouldn’t forgive anyone who did not speak their language. The life of an Albanian was the least important to them. No one dared to stay home. The people of my village and the surrounding villages moved to the surrounding mountains. A valley between two hills had become a refuge for many souls. A valley full of tents, which were turned into nylon chalets for several months. 

The exiled souls wanted to hear the news. They wanted to know what’s going on beyond the valley. They wanted to know how long this war would last. When could it end?! They did not have anything to listen the news with. In the entire valley, I was the only one who had a small transistor, which I’d charge with the battery of a “Yugo” car.

The news spread fast that I had what they were looking for. Young and old gathered around my tent.

–   Hey boy, hey boy! – uncle Fetah would call me, not wishing to enter the tent – Turn on that radio and let’s hear some news! – he’d call me, knowing that my father was paralyzed and unable to move.

We’d listen to the afternoon news in of a radio station, whose name I can’t remember. Twenty years passed by and I’d forgotten many things. Young and old sat next to my nylon chalet. At first there were twenty men, but very soon their number increased. In the end, as many as eighty-five people came. Everyone kept silent, except for the transistor. He was the law and order there. They’d all listen attentively. They did not want to miss a single word of it. Every once in a while, the transistor would lose its frequency. It’s voice would go off, and the listeners would get their voice back. This would be followed by screams and shouts in my direction.

–   Hold it right, boy! Just when NATO was mentioned, you moved it – said the uncle, followed by almost everyone who blamed me for the loss of frequencies.

–   Just when the big news was coming, you didn’t know how to hold it.

–   How are we to find it out now? – the voices mixed so much that I didn’t know who was talking and who was listening.

Everyone asked me about the news. I was the herald of the valley. I passed on everything I heard on the transistor. I’d hear almost all editions. I’d walk around the valley with the transistor in my hand. I became famous thanks to my transistor. I even became as famous as the commander of our area. Often people would ask me about the war more than him. Not to mention other soldiers. Nobody cared about them when I was around.  

I liked to be asked about news. And I liked it the most when girls asked me. I remember walking around with the transistor in my hand just so they’d ask me, especially Linda. She was eighteen, a year younger than me. Her tall body and her blond hair were the only glow in that valley, where we spent our days like Bedouins of the deserts.  

Her tent was around two hundred meters far. Not one hour passed by without me going that way with my transistor, just to have her talk to me. To ask me what the news said, just like everybody else. But, no. Instead, sometimes her father would come out, sometimes her brother, and at times some cousin of hers. But I never gave up. I kept on going that way. Over and over again the same people would ask me. To be honest, whenever they’d pop their heads out of their nylon chalets, I’d sneer although they were relatives of the girl I liked. Their heads would make me sick.

I heard my two sisters saying that one of the soldiers liked Linda, a certain private B, who was three years older than me. My sisters said they’d get engaged as soon as the war was over. I started hating private B. I’d strangle him if I had him here. I’d lie if I didn’t tell you that he was the only soldier I wished dead in a battle with Serbs. I didn’t care if he died. What mattered was to be with Linda. 

And I didn’t give up. I wanted to talk to Linda and convince her that I am better than private B., that he is nothing compared to me. I kept on walking around with the same rhythm.

And the long awaited moment came and Linda finally got out of her nylon chalet. She approached without looking at me. She was looking at the transistor.

–   Could we listen to music with this? – she was the only one in this valley who didn’t ask for news. 

–   Yes, we could. Should I turn it on now? – I immediately started to look for different stations that would play music.

–   No, I can’t now, because I must help my mother. Come tomorrow evening, and we’ll listen to music. It’s been a long time without music. I nearly jumped of joy when I heard these words. It’s been twenty years and no word sounded sweeter than those words that day.  

I was more than happy. I was to listen to music with Linda. I’m going to tell her everything. I longed for tomorrow, for the evening to come. I made rehearsals with my transistor to find the station with the best music. My father, mother, brother and sisters looked at each other confused.  They were surprised with this desire of mine to listen to music for hours. Until now, I listened to nothing but the news.

As I was tuning the transistor, I heard the news that the war has ended. It was a matter of hours before NATO troops entered. With no further delay, I first informed my cousins and then everybody else I met around the valley. It was over. We were going home. The people wanted to go down to the village immediately, but the commander suggested that it would be best to wait until tomorrow.

The next day, I took my usual walk around the valley. Nobody asked me for news. Nobody looked at me. They didn’t even greet me. I did three rounds along the valley – nothing. Nobody needed the news of my transistor anymore. Nobody needed me anymore. They were all getting ready to go home. Nobody even thought about me. This fact started to bother me. I ceased to be the transistor guy. The news guy. I was just one of the guys of the valley we were leaving behind. I didn’t dare to admit it to myself, but deep down inside I was not happy that the war was over. The sadness increased when I remembered I was to listen to music with Linda tonight. There would be no music evenings and perhaps tomorrow she’d get engaged.     

I felt sad and I tried three times in a row to throw away my transistor down a rocky pit. I couldn’t. I took it and headed back to my tent.


Feature Image: Miona Racić.

This story was originally published in “The Moment I Knew the War Started,” a collection of short stories originally published in BHSC, to contribute to more inclusive culture of remembrance. The stories were written by renowned post-Yugoslav authors, who answer the simple question of their memories from the tumultuous 1990s. Albanian translation includes three more stories from Kosovo writers, and is published by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights and forumZFD Serbia. The editors are Vladimir Arsenić, Ana Pejović and Anton Berishaj.