“Judging by your determination in the terms, and I must admit, carried away by my determination to learn your language, I accept the terms!” Victor agreed enthusiastically. “Sorry to spoil your deal for practical reasons but first of all, Mitra is pregnant, and she won’t be teaching classes; and secondly, Mitra, where do you think we should accommodate Victor?” “My condition does not prevent me from talking and explaining, and when we talk about my pregnancy, it is inevitable to bear in mind that we need money because we will have another child, one more mouth to feed. A guest will sleep in the room you use for work, and I will hold the classes there. You certainly have your space to work and think at school, so you can free this room for me. I believe that Mr. Guest will quickly master our words,” Mitra concluded decisively. “I will help Janinka and Trajanka with the chores, and I will also help them with the laundry, so I will also hear other songs from the other washerwomen. I will tell them to ask the other maids and housekeepers in other houses to sing all the songs they know, and we will write them down,” Sultana joined in on the deal. “The recording will not go so fast, Mother, because there are many songs, and there are not many who can write. We will have to write down all the songs because others don’t know how to write,” thought Mitra. “And why don’t you teach the rest of the maids to write a little bit, just like you taught us?” Trajanka also joined in making the plan. “This is already turning into a serious matter, and here I think it must be put to an end,” added Dimitar, who felt that he could no longer stop things from happening. “Let me remind you once again that Mitra is pregnant, and she cannot take such a burden on herself. Also, other women have responsibilities of their own, and no one has time to learn letters and words and write down songs. They will laugh at you as soon as you tell them the idea. It is enough that they stay on the river for a whole day every day. What you are talking about is already a serious matter – opening a school and above all, a school for women, as if you forget where we are and where we live.” “Not everyone has to study, we will spread the word, and whoever wants to study, we will enroll them gradually, we are not in a hurry. The more time we have, the more songs we will learn, and the more we learn, the more we will have in the book. My other son, Naum, who recently returned from his schooling in Constantinople, can help us with recording,” added Sultana. Further conversation was about what would happen once the book was printed. It was not about how the songs would be collected, not whether there would be obstacles and how and where they would be printed, not about what risk everyone is knowingly putting themselves at. That evening, until late at night the guest Victor could hear whispers of the conversation between Mitra and Dimitar. He was amazed by the courage, education, and determination of that Balkan woman. Although he couldn’t make out what they were talking about from the whispers, he could guess. He couldn’t sleep either, excited by the many new things that happened to him in one day. While whispers could be heard from one side of the house, from the other side the sound of the pen dragging along new lines, which was dipped in ink several times, was heard in a hurry so that thoughts and impressions would not turn into oblivion.
“Stepping Out of the Shadows (Secret Girls’ School)”