Memorie.al publishes some parts of the voluminous autobiographical book in manuscript “Beautiful land, ugly people” (memories from hell) by the author, Kasem Hoxha, originally from the village of Markat in Saranda and living in the USA since 1985, when he fled Albania after suffering ten years in the prisons of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime. The whole sad and painful story of Kaso Hoxha, from the life and hard work in his village in the southernmost part of the country, the dissatisfaction with the regime and the first poems of a political nature, how they fell into the hands of the State Security and who were his relatives who spied on him, the arrest in the office of the Chairman of the People’s Council of Markat village, by the State Security on June 21, 1973, the investigation in the Saranda Branch of Internal Affairs, the trial against him and the sentence with 10 years in prison for “agitation and propaganda”, staying in “Kaushin” of Tirana (Ward 313), and the prisoners he found there, being sent to Spaç and working in that camp with criminal and “soft” police officers, the accomplices of description of their “portraits” with positive and negative sides, release from prison and return to the countryside, escape to Greece and stay in the Lavros camp, gaining political asylum in the USA, correspondence with Amnesty International, e London branch, inf information with the data he sent to the prisoners of Spaç and the communist regime in Albania, to the creation of a new family and life and work in that distant place with the Cham community divided by the intrigues of the people of the State Security from Albania operating there.
Excerpts from the manuscript book, “Beautiful land, ugly people“, (memories from hell) of the author, Kasem Hoxha, sent by him exclusively for Memorie.al
Do not pay attention to the title I am presenting to you, I mean, if you are not patient to read this collection of memoirs, if you want to forgive the author, that his style is pale, uninspired before this drama of great, of my people, of my martyred nation.
My characters are not created by my imagination, but are real people, they are your brothers, your fathers, your relatives. The events are not fictional, but real and lived. You will convince yourself, only after reading this summary with memories. You will find something from your life, something real from the lives of your fathers, your mothers, your brothers, how they suffered and how they died.
I wrote this collection of memories about the legacy left to me by my friends, for the world to learn the truth, how innocent people were tortured, how they suffered, how they died, in the camps and prisons of the executioner, Enver Hoxha!
I go with the hope that any reader, Albanian or foreign, is not left with hatred, from criticism, beating opposing opinions, as it is the best way to find the truth. The title of the book, “Beautiful land, ugly people”, will anger the reader, but in the end, I will conclude that I have the right to call it “The 45-year era of the satanic communist regime of Enver Hoxha”: Ugly.
I, alas, for the misfortune I had, saw and lived the great drama that happened before my eyes. I am neither a poet nor a orator, I will need hard work to escape the literary mistakes in this historical book, which can inspire future poets and writers, on the tragedy of our time, of the darkest time of my nation !
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all freedom and peace…!
Llavrio, Greece 1985
Continues from the last number
The stranger in my cell!
He focused on writing something on the typewriter which was too primitive for the time and the monotonous noise when he typed the letters like a hammer was beating inside my brain. He later asked me about all the people of my soit, pointing to a long list where he wanted to know about each one. I cut him short: ‘I have not spoken to anyone but Selfos about hostile activities and propaganda against popular power’.
So after more than three or four hours he left me and told the policeman they called Andrea to go back to the office, where something whispered in his ear! It could certainly be an order for torture. The policeman put me in the cell and I was surprised how it was possible that the policeman did not handcuff me or beat me, even though my wounds were still bleeding. I do not know how many days passed after I lost all orientation for time, whether it was day or night and I wanted so much to know about the mood of my mother and those innocent babies, but no news! When you are exposed to darkness for a long time, you can distinguish the walls and the surroundings.
From the day I was locked in that cell, I felt that something was biting my body, but I could neither scratch nor kill that insect, the bloodthirsty parasite, that I did not know if it was a louse or a flea, whether it was a scab, because I had my hands tied. After much effort I was able to catch that parasite that was biting my armpit. It was really spruce, which are unbearable. I thought that these soulless killers had intentionally infected the cell, as this was also a form of torture, to drink the blood of the corpses, unbearable torture that you cannot tolerate at all, because the bite of the corpse is poisonous and very allergic! I complained, I told the policeman, Beqo Sulës, that there are many corpses. He cut me short: – “Do not feel, there is even worse”!
It was almost the end of July, not even a sign, if they prepared the indictment based on Article 73 of the Criminal Code sanctioned in the Constitution: “Agitation and Propaganda”. One day the door opened and the policeman ordered me to take a pair of blankets they had given me a few days earlier, to lay on the boards, which was full of crumbs. I followed the policeman, he took me to a corridor where on the right side there were more than five or six heavy doors, with a small hole in the middle, and at the end of the corridor, there was a small window stuck in bars , where not even a small mouse could pass.
The policeman opened the door with number 3, the cell was a little bigger than the cell where I was tortured for more than a month, at a height of approximately 2 meters. There was a very small window, stuck in the bars, where not even a small bird could go to the other side, but at least a little light entered. It is in the instinct of every human being to think about how to escape when he is in danger. The prisoner spends most of his time wondering how he can find freedom. I came to the conclusion that: I did not have a single chance.
When I entered the cell, I saw a man in his thirties, average in body, not shaved for a week or so, just like I shaved my head. The policeman closed the door from behind. The man I neither knew nor knew had a hopeless smile on his face. He reached out to make the ground, and I gave him my hand without hesitation. There was a fear in my mind, where I do not know why my instincts told me not to trust anyone anymore! Maybe this was when I saw that my brothers threw me at the bottom of the abyss, sold me to the “butcher” for their interests.
I felt that I had suffered a severe psychological trauma, “Socialphobia”, fear of human society. I shook his hand though; I felt a little comfort. I did not know why this man was locked up here, a mind told me that he was a spy prepared by the Security organs, I no longer believed even the walls of the cell, as I thought they would have installed a recording device.
However, he told me that they called him “Christ …” ‘My name is Kasëm Hoxha’ I replied, in short Kaso. Kristua had spread the blanket on the right side of the cell, in the corner she had folded a few clothes (underwear). I laid my blanket on the other side of the cell, the environment of this cell seemed very luxurious compared to the cell where I was tortured. We sat in silence and I waited, I decided not to speak first, let Kristua take the first step.
– “What did you do to be arrested”? – He asked me
“I am accused of hostile activities against popular power, agitation and propaganda,” I replied without hesitation.
I saw that Christo’s eyes were opened wide, his face took on an expression of astonishment and he himself did not believe how it was possible for a 22-year-old boy to be an enemy of the regime?! I was sure that the top, Security boats, had prepared, well instructed, that if possible, they would get any new information! He saw the wounds on my hands still bleeding, as it was difficult to close the wounds with that July heat. Christ’s gaze was curious and at the same time he expressed regret for my physical and spiritual suffering. His skin glowed, and while I was bone and skin, he seemed to lead a good life. That meant he was privileged by the regime!
-“Where are you from”? – he continued to ask me.
– “From Markati” – I replied, “where are you from”?
“I am from Hoxha” Livadhja “, – he answered me.
– “Why did they put you in prison Christ”? – I asked her
“Excuse me, I do not want to hurt your wounds to ask you,” I continued, implying that it is not at all good to push a stranger, open your stomach and tell him about his life…
“No, no,” Kristua told me immediately, “it’s a long story, Kaso,” he continued. “I believe we will have time to tell you what happened.” Pulling out a deep sigh from his stomach, as if he wanted to ease his spiritual pain. His gaze was focused on the heavy door and I saw that his eyes were watering. In a very low voice, so that the police would not hear us, he continued the conversation:
– “I am married, my wife is called E…, I have two small children. – In these moments I noticed that his voice was shaking, two drops of tears rolled on his unshaven face for days! The pain of that man unknown to me, seemed to me to be my pain too! My eyes filled with tears, I reached out and shook his hand, to show him that I, too, have such a pain, deep in my soul. Kristua spoke Albanian so well. He was a Greek minority and I was impressed and thought I was dealing with an educated man. After calming down he continued:
– “I have committed a serious crime for the family, it is not said! I was a lecturer … in Hoxha gymnasium, very good work. Now I lost all Kaso, my career is over! My trial takes place next month, I believe there by the end of August. “I feel very guilty for my innocent wife, for my family, for my people”, continued Kristua
“I do not know how all this happened, it seems to me as if I am in a dream, I have been lying in this cell for two months, I miss the children, and the woman comes to the meeting every week”, he said and extended his hand to a small bag. Although they did not leave anything personal inside, he had a packet of cookies and offered it to me. I was incredibly hungry and he could see this clearly, as I was very weak! I hesitated at first and said, ‘You need food for yourself.’ He begged me to pick him up as soon as possible so that the police would not see us.
I did not spoil it, I took it and thanked him for his generosity. The sweetness of the biscuit seemed to evoke me a little. Instinct told me this man does not hurt you, maybe it was God’s command that this man was an angel for my salvation, and so it really happened. I had no help from my people, everyone was afraid to come to Saranda to bring me food. And the people of Christ, every meal that Bequa let us go to the WC, allowed the prisoners to take some food with them to the dungeon.
It was a special room that held the food of the prisoners, as far as I understood there were approximately ten dungeons, maybe about 15-20 prisoners. Kristua begged Beqo if he could get a little more. But one day he asked him – “Why do you take more than the regulation allows”?! He replied: “Take a little for Kason, for he has not”! – As far as I understand, in the way that Kristua begged you, Beqos felt sorry for him and after that day, he left him free to get from his food what he wanted.
When Kristua entered the cell with all the food he shared with me and put it in front of me, I always prayed to him that he had overdone it with his generosity. One day after he put the food in front of me, he said:
– “If you do not accept them, do not eat what I give you from the heart, you will make me not eat anything! Believe me, nothing goes down, I cannot put anything in my mouth, if you have little respect for me, we are locked in this cell, we spend the most difficult moments of life together, we suffer together let us eat these little things together.
I was touched by the sincerity of that man unknown to me, who I saw suffering greatly spiritually. I could see that his eyes were filled with tears. I tried to comfort him and lift his spirits, saying, “You have a life ahead of you, you can be innocent, you are too young.” I saw on his face a faded, faded, hopeless smile.
“My trial will take place in August,” I continued. ‘The accusation is too much, too heavy, I do not know what punishment they will give me, but whatever happens, that one day we will be separated, you know, that I will always have in my heart and mind, for your generosity, your company, your respect, be blessed ”.
On August 12, I was taken to the Saranda Court. The trial was held behind closed doors. Prosecutor Abaz B… read my indictment quickly. They brought the only witness they had probably paid, this was Thoma M., Who stated before the court that: “Kasemi during his military service, made me agitation and propaganda against the government”.
I did not blame him too much, as I thought he might have been threatened to make such a statement. It would be even worse and could lead to the death penalty if he said: “Kaso intended to hit the Central Committee with a cannon”.
In the end the judge asked me if I accepted it and if everything that the accusation was about was true. I replied, “Yes,” he asked me again, “What do you want from the Trial Panel,” and I replied in a low voice, “Mercy!” He ordered me to sit down, the jury went to the room where the decision was to be made and after a few minutes, they returned. The judge read the decision of the Court. I do not remember literally, but I do not forget when he said: “Defendant Kasëm Çerçiz Hoxha is sentenced to 10 years in prison.”
I expected this even worse, as everything they could do was, they wanted the executioner. The trial did not last even half an hour and I returned to cell no. 3, where Kristua, surprised, asked me:
– “The trial is over”?
“Yes,” I replied.
– “So fast, how many were sentenced”?
“10 years, Christ,” I replied.
On October 13, 1973, early in the morning, Bequa, the ward guard of the Saranda Branch of Internal Affairs, entered the cell where Kriston and I were locked up and ordered us to prepare for the trip. I had nothing but rags hanging from my body. Kristua had two bags, one with food and the other with clothes.
They handcuffed us, put us in a prison car and after a 7-hour journey, we arrived in Tirana. Seven gates opened one after the other and I found myself in the corridor all dark, where the heavy, very stinking smell of the toilets would suffocate! I thought that this “monster” that had gripped me with all its might “in its clutches” was difficult to escape.
The police ordered us to undress for a check, as they were doing a thorough check. The policeman asked me what I was convicted of:
“Agitation and propaganda,” I replied.
– “Oooo, you are the enemy of the people, you will have bucket no.7”
“Get dressed quickly and take your belongings in hand,” the policeman ordered.
The policeman opened the door with no.7 and I entered the darkness of the box with the bag that Kristua left in my hand. Confused and scared at the same time.
I heard voices welcoming me, comforting me to give me courage. Quite strange voices to me, faint voices, as when the dead spoke. So, confused behind the door I thought:
– “Am I not in the grave”?!
My eyes quickly became accustomed to that darkness, I spotted the walls, a small hole stuck in the bars, and a three-story row of beds where 12 corpses lay. My arrival made them curious, as those on the first and second floors got up at the end to see the newcomer. On the third floor, their heads were outstretched. After I collected myself, I return the greeting:
– “Hello friend and welcome”
A prisoner in his 40s, dressed in a brown dock suit, went downstairs from the third floor where he was standing and came and shook my hand, comforting me: “Gone”! Others did the same. Everyone was asking at the same time who I was, from which circle I came, why was I convicted?! Some wanted to know what was going on outside and in the world. The prisoner who greeted me first, roasted me a coffee with letters and I thanked him for the generosity! I neither knew him nor he knew me!
Everyone, when they saw me so young and weakened by torture, were ready to give me their breath, the prisoner who made me coffee told me that they called him: Tanush Frashëri, lecturer at the gymnasium “Halim Xhelo” in Vlora and was sentenced to 5 years. Next to Tanush slept Qani Çollaku, from Mokre of Pogradec, graduated for “Language – Literature” abroad, sentenced to 7 years. Behind him, on the right, lay Ziso Vangjeli, an old man about 65-70 years old, sentenced to 20 years in prison, former professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
A very wise old man, he did not talk much. Down on the second floor, lay Mark Dema, a Jesuit from Durrës. After getting to know everyone, I took a seat on the ground floor near the corner, where I laid that old blanket, it was so old and never washed. I was tired from the trip and everyone asked me to lie down a bit to relax./Memorie.al