The poor call her the Saint of the Gutters, while others attribute supernatural powers to her and critics castigate her for her stand on abortion. But Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known as Mother Teresa, was as human and vulnerable as you and me, in the recollections of a former Albanian diplomat and a bishop who knew her family.
She was born into a wealthy Albanian family in Skopje, now the capital of Macedonia, which was part of the Ottoman Empire then.
She died as a citizen of India and a Catholic nun. The work to which she devoted herself was as personal as it was universal.
Her father was a merchant who was patriotic and benevolent, according to Muhamet Kabllani, a former foreign minister of Albania, who met her in 1991 and now lives in Washington. It was Albanian Bishop Lazer Majaeda, who knew the Bojaxhiu clan intimately as well as its history in exile and at home, who shared his recollections with Kabllani.
"Her father was very much a role model, he had a big influence on her," Kabllani said, and he was prominent among the half-million Albanians who lived in Macedonia.
"My little daughter," her father told her as a child, Mother Teresa related to Kabllani, "always share even the last bit of food you have with others, especially with the poor. Selfishness is a disease of the spirit that turns us into servants of our riches."
The proclamation of Albanian independence in 1912 took place at the Bojaxhiu home in Skopje, as did scores of other social events, during which Agnes and her sister Agge sang for the guests, according to Majaeda. Agnes was a "wonderful soprano" and the two performed works written by Albanian composer Lawrence Antoni such as "At the Lake."
"I was really moved by her," said Kabllani, who has lived here for the last two years. "She had that strong character and typical features of northern Albanian women. Despite her small frame, she took my hands and called me my son. "
At her family's time of greatest need, he said, she was unable to reach out to her sister and dying mother.
After her father died, her mother and sister moved back to Albania and her brother went to Italy.
In the early 1970s, Mother Theresa sought, in vain, the help of U.N. Secretary General U Thant and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to go to Albania to visit her family. The Iron Curtain made it impossible.
"Her mother died in 1972, her sister in 1973. They were very poor then, everybody was. It must have broken her heart. She had no way of helping them. She could not talk about it later," the former foreign minister said. "I can understand my suffering," she had confided to Bishop Majaeda, according to Kabllani, "but I have no clue about what my mother went through and her suffering." After many attempts to enter Albania, she wrote her mother a letter, saying: "If we are not to meet in this world, then we will meet each other in heaven." Seeking Office in Costa Rica
The Latin American corps of ambassadors, who by their own admission love one another but cannot agree on anything, are united in their misery over the upcoming departure of their shining star, Costa Rica's Ambassador Sonia Picado. She is going home to run for parliamentary elections at the head of her party's slate and will become speaker of the house or leader of the opposition, depending on the outcome.
True to her combative self, Picado is looking forward to either option. Chilean Ambassador John Biehl, who threw a farewell dinner for her Tuesday, could not conceal his disappointment. "What is she doing now?" he protested, crediting her with setting the agenda for colleagues during her term. "At a time when everyone is growing disenchanted with politics, growing older and giving it all up, she is plunging right in. . . . That's Sonia."
When everyone ran out of ideas, she would come up with something new. Peruvian Ambassador Ricardo Luna, the dean of the Latin American ambassadors, toasted her for "repoliticizing" the ranks and spotting the "ray of sun amid the fog." In the view of her Latin American and Caribbean peers, Picado should have become the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, a post given to Ireland's former president Mary Robinson.
Picado, a judge since 1988, has written several books on human rights, women's issues, democratic transition, religion and tolerance. She was the recipient of the 1993 U.N. Human Rights Prize and was vice president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, until 1994.
She was the executive director of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights from 1984 until 1994 and served as dean of the University of Costa Rica School of Law. When U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asked her to be Robinson's deputy, she declined.
She still has not lost her sense of humor, though. After thanking her male colleagues for their support, she thanked their wives in Spanish. "I tried to make it to all the ladies' lunches. They were always so much more interesting," she teased. The State Department's Cleopatra'
The Middle East can stew all it wants. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright got nothing but praise Wednesday at a forum held by authors of the fall issue of Foreign Policy at the Carnegie Endowment. Jane S. Jaquette said Albright deserves credit for her commitment to women in development and human rights, and her programs against violence. She is very conscious of her "Cleopatra powers," not the coquettish side but the humane side, Jaquette added. Mayra Buvinic, chief of the Women in Development Program Unit, said Albright is helping focus foreign aid and investment for women.