chirikli collective: Hedina Tahirović-Sijerčić and Lynn Hutchinson Lee

  • Holocaust
  • Hungary, in Practice
  • Kon Dikhes / Who Do You See?
On a Train, 1996 (Lancashire)

My sister and I are on a train.
As we pass by a blot on the landscape, a bruise, a shadow
My sister points to the sign and says Lancashire

Lancashire means Father and all that he endured.
I won’t go back, he used to say from the safety of Toronto.
He cried, calling up the vardo that creaked over the rutted roads,
the mirrors that hung inside from every surface
& reflected the family back to itself
in the ordinariness of their days

My sister’s doing the light simple things we fall back on,
counts her money, lights her cigarette,
brings out a map, a thing he would have scorned.
(The map’s in here, hand at his breast.)
She doesn’t stop talking, lights a new cigarette from the embers of the last,
unfolds our map, tracing, pointing,
as the train rocks and sways

The sleep of the vardo,
the night stories: uncle hanged for stealing a horse
The hectic fairground
The vardo stopped on a low hill
The fire outside, the simple meal
Nothing wasted
Every gesture purposeful, industrious
The wooden horses they carved and painted, red, blue, gold
The hand-built puppets quarrelling and cooing, rolling their wooden eyes
And always the stern villagers, shutting their doors
in Grandmother’s face

On the train we travel through Lancashire.
We’re confused now by the map
suddenly overlaid with arrows, directions,
heavy knotted rivers as if glimpsed from a satellite
And then we see it, the journey from India, the unfurling veins of rivers
the journey breaking into fractals, gathering, unrolling,
multiplying across plains and forests.
Our fingers trace the expulsions from towns,
moving on to the next place, then the next place, and the next

Always moving on.
We look out the window as gentle Lancashire rolls past
Tourists to our own tissues and blood
memory humming around us, vicarious

Where is this memory housed? The sky, a field, a shelter in the air?
A palace embedded in earth and concrete?

Where’s the museum of our memory
And what is the cost to enter?

What’s the cost to shiver outside looking in?

The vardo, painted and frilled with their twirling DNA,
collapsed somewhere in a heap, or used by farmers for firewood.
They stopped travelling before the war, says my sister,
and settled in bricks.

We look back and the sign has disappeared behind the trees and hills


Lancashire is gone, our window empty now,
only the map to tell us where we’ve been

Hedina Sijercic
CV 6

My name was Mehmed. I was born and I lived in Bosnia. I tapped cauldrons and copperboilers. I was getting old. I was fifty-five years.

I died.

They tried to bury me, but it wasn’t allowed. There is no place in their cemetery. In their black earth. My body began to crumble. After 15 days they allowed me a piece of black earth. For hygienic reasons. Far away from the tent. In a place where no one will find me. At the place where no one will visit me.

My body scattered and merged with the earth.

Now, my name is Soul. I fly on the range of the blue shades of sky.

I seek peace.

I ride on the clouds. I exchange the clouds as I would tired horses. Rain washes my face. Wind talks to me. Lightning charges me with power. I fly on the range of the blue shades of sky. I exchange the clouds as tired horses. The sun builds for me a golden path to India. Below the clouds is the silhouette of India.

I'm shivering. I dismounted in the valley of the Ganges. The horse returned to the spectrum of the blue sky. I returned to the spectrum of the blue water.

Hedina Sijercic
CV 6

Mo anav sasa Mehmed.  Bijandilem thaj dzivisardem ande Bosna.  Cherdem xarkumache sheja, kazane thaj kotlove.  Phurisardem.  Seha man pinda thaj pandz brsh.


Amare mangle te praxosaren man, von na dije.  Nane o than pe lengi limori.  Ande lengi kali phuv.  Mrno trupo astarda te rispisarel.  Athoska 15 djive von dije mandje kotor kale phuvjako.  Dure e cahretar.  Pe thaneste kaj khonik nashti te rodel man.  Pe thaneste kaj knonik nashti te dikhel man. 

Mrno trupo raspisarda thaj pharuvda ande kali phuv.

Akana akharav Odji.  Ujrav pe plavo delesko duripeste. 

Rodav miro.

Iklav po nuvera.  Paruvav nuvera sar chindile grasta.  Brshind thovel mo muj.  Bahval vahcarel mansa.  Devlehchi jag del mandje zuralipe.  Ujrav pe plavo delesko duripeste.  Paruvav nuvera sar chindile grasta.  Kham cherel mandje sumnakuno drom koring Indija.  Talo nuvera mothovel pes Indija.

Izdrav.  Huljardem ande Gangeski xar.  Grast boldisarada e plave delese.

Me boldisardem e plave pajese.

Five Songs for Daddy
Lynn Hutchinson Lee


Do you see the moon? Dik.There. Behind the clouds. No stars.                             
The wind is shaking the vardo, shaking the mirrors on every wall of the vardo.
The mirrors reflect the moon.

four mirrors four moons four children
four moons in the vardo
shining on the children

Ssshhh Sleep                                                                                                          

Lizzie Lee’s vardo always on the road
The wheels of the vardo turning
Wheels that carry them across the north
Tikno Daddy the little one playing the bosh, working the puppets                                      wheels of the vardo carry them across the north
across the north and back

Eight year old Daddy loses an eye. Look. Dik.
Here’s his new eye made of glass 
The deep brown iris that looks at everything sees nothing
His eye a mirror reflecting the worlds.
The bright world of hedges, fire, the stream
Shadow world of stones and fists                                  


The shore disappears
they are pulled away by wind and currents
no vardo no mirrors
nobody throwing stones at Lizzie Lee and her children

they cast off their skins in a new country on a new road
Canada, without shadows
Beds in a shed a tobacco farm by Tillsonburg
Lizzie Lee and her children bending to the leaves every day

Picking tobacco

picking tobacco

every day                              

Three puppets on the bench.
Twelve year old Daddy builds the frame, stretches the leather,
carves the wooden eyes the wooden hands,
attaches the eyes to the mechanism,
makes them wink,
makes them open, flirt, flutter, see.

Sixteen year old Daddy
picking tobacco  travelling 
picking tobacco  travelling

Daddy’s hand in the puppet
Turning the head, opening the mouth. Speaking. Speaking the world.

Twenty year old Daddy goes away, leaves them behind—
Lizzie, Father, Willy, May, Lillie  


Daddy loves fields and rivers      
Daddy loves painting loves making rings and necklaces
loves Karl Marx
loves trading, selling: cameras, cars, sewing machines, silver
loves lighting a fire driving past farms into the vesh
loves finding the right place for the vardo


He cried once
on his knees in the dirt
Arms lifted to the sky
His voice too big for his throat.

I am twelve I think I don’t know why he’d cry in the shadow of our vardo
The shadow a dark slash that swallows my father
the sun low in the sky people are watching
His hat on the grass, fallen off lying there
good eye clenched, glass eye staring tears pouring from both eyes
the living and the dead 
dik  dik


The doctor says it was a stroke.  Daddy is trying to talk.   

He says ah.ah.ah.                                                                         

His glass eye looks at the ceiling.

Does the other eye close at night, turn inward to see what’s left?

Dik. Dik. Dik everything, dik nothing.

The story he was about to tell      
caught in his throat  caught
caught  at the last minute  in his throat  breath
breath rattling like leaves

The story he was about to tell   it will never be heard
his tongue winds backward into the past, into the past, to vardo, violin, mirrors
the language they swallowed  
when they got off the ship
will never be heard 
is pulled back   into the cave of his body

his breath stops

What’s left are two puppets
sometimes we bring them down from the attic
working their mouths, speaking for them                                  
in silly voices                                                           
but their truth withheld       
swallowed by Daddy    
in his last breath  

Hedina Tahirović-Sijerčić

Hedina Tahirović-Sijerčić was born and educated in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she was the first producer and television and radio journalist of Romani origin. Her poems "CV 1" and excerpt from "Hear, Feel" were published in the poetry anthology European Constitution in Verse, Brussels, Belgium. She is author of Romani Folk Tales, poetry book Dukh-Pain and five children’s books published by Magoria Books. Magoria also published her English-Gurbeti and Gurbeti-English Dictionary in 2010 and 2013. From 2012 to 2014 Hedina taught two elective courses at the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, Croatia: Romani language and Culture and Literature of Roma.

Lynn Hutchinson Lee

Lynn Hutchinson Lee, daughter of a Canadian mother and an English Romanichal father, is a multimedia artist living and working in Toronto. She is co-founder of Red Tree and chirikli collectives. She has exhibited in Canada, Latin America and Europe, most recently with chirikli collective at the Roma Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Italy, and in 2013 at Romania’s National Museum of Contemporary Art. Lynn was artistic director of chirikli’s community arts project Musaj te Dzav. Her 2014 solo exhibition, metanoia, was held at Hamilton’s Workers’ Arts and Heritage Centre. Musaj te Dzav was exhibited at Gallery 50 in April 2015.