One of my earliest memories is set in Springburn shopping centre in Glasgow. Not because it’s a place of profound beauty (it isn’t) but because it’s where I first discovered what it meant to belong.
My folks and I were sitting on a bench, fresh-faced from a life-changing move that 5 year old me was oblivious to. All I knew is that people here spoke a different language, I didn’t know it, and for some reason many of those that I loved dearly weren’t here. It felt lonely.
It’s odd to think that, what was for my parents the most frightening and challenging experience they’ll ever have to endure — leaving everything behind in hope for a better future in another country — will one day fizzle away into just “Oh yeah, my grandparents came from Kosovo”.
The shopping centre was about to close and we were sitting down chatting in the only language I knew to speak. On the other side of the bench there was a gentlemen who I hadn’t noticed was on his own.
He turned around, and with a twinkle in his smile, a glint in his eyes, said “Si e ki emrin?” I’m recalling it now as if it were yesterday. My tiny brain was overcome with shock, joy, shear undiluted astonishment. He asked me what my name was, and I understood it.
“Nanaaa! Babaaa!” I turned to my parents.
‘Muuum! Daaad! That man speaks like us!”
They couldn’t believe it either.
I told him my name and then asked for his.
‘Ah! My name isn’t as nice as yours — it’s very hard to say’ he said before pausing a pause I’ll never forget. ‘My name is Sebajdin’. “Babaaa!!!” I turned to my dad, mind-blown.
‘That man has the same name as you!!!’
Over the following two decades our families became close friends, and Axha Sebajdin was the nucleus of our small community here in Scotland. Last week he passed away.
He was a kind, courteous, intellectual man with a worldly sense of conversation that endeared every age group he spoke to.
Today he is survived by his wonderful wife, sons, and grandchildren, who have achieved, and continue to achieve so much.
Prehu në paqe, Axha Sebajdin.