Venera Loshaj-Balaj, Surrey BC

COVID Across Canada: Short Takes

November 23, 2020

Turning COVID Fear Into A Memorable Experience


Venera Loshaj-Balaj


At the beginning of COVID, quiet, empty roads in Surrey, where I live, reminded me of the fearful days before the war in Kosova’s streets when we were afraid of torture or even killed by the Serb police. Now all the world is threatened, and the enemy is invisible. One more unbelievable thing to me!

I had to be extra cautious in following the rules, not only for myself and my family but especially for my elderly parents. I missed monthly book club meetings and going out shopping with my mom. I had to do something to escape the anxiety. Like never before, I became a near-obsessional gardener.

I began by planting varieties of flowers for our honeybees. I aimed to create a European cottage style garden so my parents, who live in a nearby apartment, could come and enjoy the outdoors.


“I had to do something to escape the anxiety. Like never before, I became a near-obsessional gardener.”


My dad now had had his coffee in our garden instead of making his daily visit to Starbucks. To keep the garden continuously in bloom, I had to thin out, rotate, deadhead, prune, trim, add compost and water plants. In short, it’s a lot of work- which I did with love.

From divided perennials, I got new plants, which I advertised on Craigslist. I was happily surprised when I made the first sale. I didn’t even meet the buyer. She picked up the pots and dropped the money in the door slot. That encouraged me. I earned enough money for the garden to be self-sustaining. The summer was delightful; being outside often, I forgot about COVID. My parents came for afternoon visits, so the COVID fear turned into a lot of time with family.

Now, on gloomy November days, I stay warm in the sunroom, surrounded by indoor plants, watching birds digging sunflower seeds. It gives me joy that our garden provides a habitat for wildlife. My Christmas cactuses are in bloom. Until spring, when I start cleaning the garden, I will keep busy with my painting hobby and forget COVID and the aches and pains of osteoarthritis while hoping that next year will be better for all the world.


Venera Loshaj-Balaj is an Albanian from Kosovo. She has a degree in Chemistry from the University of Prishtina. In 1998, the war in Kosovo forced her and her family to become refugees. In recent years, she has found her passion for painting and writing.
Venera is an alumna of The Shoe Project – Vancouver. You can read her story and see her performance in January 2020 on our website:


Art by Emily Honderich



We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.