By Luan Muftiu
The third part
Memorie.al / Luan Muftiu was born in Berat in 1933 and was orphaned at an early age, as his father, a respected patriot and supporter of the “National Front”, was sentenced to be shot in 1945, but later, his life was spared and died after a few years in the Burrel prison where he was serving his sentence. Luani’s mother and she did not make it out of the psychiatric hospital alive, where she was mercilessly dumped. Amidst the suffering that followed him day by day, with a lot of effort, Luani managed to continue the Pedagogical school in Berat and started working as a teacher. But during all this time he was under the constant surveillance of the State Security bodies and in 1975, he was arrested and sent to the investigator. “What have I done”? – Luani would ask the investigator…! “…You are butchered meat that we keep in the refrigerator, when we need to take it, to punish it so that those young people who sing canzonettas can see it”, – answered the investigator. He was sentenced to 10 years and sent to Spaç, where he served the entire sentence. After 1990, he came to Tirana where he took an active part in the democratic processes and engaged in various writings mainly in the newspaper “Liria”, organ of the Association of Former Convicts and Political Victims of Albania. Luan Muftiu also dealt with literature, studying the genre of the story, which he was very passionate about. He has published an essay entitled “Under the communist territory”, as well as translated “Aphorisms never described” by Oscar Wilde and “White Nights” by Dostoevsky.
Continues from last issue
Ball with marmalade
When the weekly ritual of arrests ended in the “Re-education” Camp, suddenly there fell one of those frightening silences, in which the anxiety of the unknown became almost as empowering as the fear of death. And, since those who were more restrained were often re-punished in this way, it is understandable what those who cursed communism even in their sleep thought of themselves.
These were moments where the dictatorship tried to sow submission and reap a rebellious spirit in its victims; moments when the solemnity of the terror was broken even by the meowing of a cat, which had unwittingly stepped on its tail. And here are these situations, in which violence unwittingly gives way to courage, which sometimes make things as tragic as they are funny.
One day, just at the time when the “kidnapping of the birds by the hawk” had just ended, an unusual noise was heard in the camp. The screams of the two captains who were kicking someone, mixed with the moaning of a boy, who let it be understood as if he was saying: “Shoot, bro, you’ve started well”! In these moments, when the executioners are usually the most frightened, the prison commander himself came running to the scene.
– What did he do?! – He asked when he saw the bloodied convict.
– While the camp is in the silos, this one collects pieces of marmalade in the canteen! – said one of the captains.
– When we started the punishment, he broke our peace by shouting: “I love them for my mother”! “I love them for my mother”.
– He had collected the marmalades in the shape of a ball with the newspaper “Voice of the People”!
– What do you want this marmalade? – the commander suddenly asked the mountaineer.
The boy did not speak.
– Common, talk! Why do you need…?! And when he came to add “I know what to do”! – he noticed the boy’s neck as thin as a stick and the eyes that had dark circles, so he restrained himself and shouted to his subordinates:
– Who had left the marmalades there?!
– The convicts! Those to whom we give as an antidote, when we put them in the mine – said the captain.
– And why didn’t they eat them?!
The policeman leaned to the ear of the “capo” and stammered: “They are sour”!
– Right? Hey, I got it! – And the commander turned to the boy:
“I mean, you want them as food, when you escape”?!
– No, commander, I want them for…
– Connect! – thundered the voice heavily.
Surprise! That day the culprit was not kept in the cell. He was not tortured by the punishment squad. Everyone was surprised, but the outcry did not last long, because soon it became known that the military doctor of the prison had declared that the boy was so sick that even if you let him go home on his own, he would not be able to. The occasion brought me to learn something more about the life of this mountaineer. And this is what one of his cousins who was imprisoned here, in the camp, told me.
“Don’t look at him now, but Mark (as Mark was the boy’s name) was such a resourceful kid that his friends nicknamed him ‘roe deer’. And he really resembled the deer, when he jumped from stone to stone after his father to collect medicinal plants, that his father had unwittingly cut off his entire hand in the sawmills of the state and after that, they left him without a job, even accusing him of this you did it on purpose. It was in the middle of that biography thing, bro! Anyway!
The boy became strongly attached to his father, so much so that he forgot that he also had a mother, who was waiting to give him some joy. He was young, poor Mark, to understand that his entire mother’s rudeness stemmed from her fear of the end that awaited them, when he saw his husband stay even without eating to leave something more for the hungry children. Only when his father went and died suddenly, the boy, apart from the pain, seemed to have a little fun with him: when he wondered why he hadn’t informed him, at least by complaining once.
But, when one day he saw his mother crying with her husband’s photo in her hands, he regretted his behavior towards her so much that he began to treat her with unusual love. And he was amazed to see how that manly harshness softened in the face of this mountain woman, who also had a voice like that of a charming captain. While his mother, who was not pampered by nature, raised him so carefully and protected his sensibility so much, that the boy felt early the contempt of the communist environment of the town…”!
Here, the cousin does not know why he suddenly broke away from the event and jumped on a path, in order to bring out briefly the end of the memories. When Mark asked the investigators why he had been arrested, he was surprised when they told him that the reason was a dream, which he had told a couple of his friends. In his sleep, the resurrected Christ had appeared to him, who had told him that he would bring to earth the kingdom of love and equality between people.
– What equality would you own, brother?! – shouted the investigator, shooting the boy in the face.
– Don’t you want the end of the class war?! However, we will have more mercy on you than that Christ of yours, isolating you only for a couple of five years…!
When the brutal tortures began to get him to accept the accusation, Mark, during that “hell”, made it a habit to think about his mother and little sisters, that from now on there was no one to help them. One day, with the childlike sincerity that distinguished him, he had asked the prison commander if he was allowed to sell blood there and pass the money to the family, but the camp chief had pretended not to have heard.
Mark’s mood changed from the day he formed the “marmalade ball”, which he had allowed to give to his mother, precisely the policeman who had called him for a meeting, mocking him: “Come on, marmalade”…!
His mother came to him once a month and brought him only one kilo of boiled chestnuts, which he did not eat himself, but shared with his friends to wish him for the health of the people of the house. Only when they convinced themselves that Mark’s days were numbered, the policemen started to allow him to take the “Marmalade Ball” out of the wire.
The poor mother would take it from him and wash the streets with tears, when she thought that she could not bring her son, even a simple pie, made by her own hands. One day, suddenly, the attitude of the police personnel towards the prisoners changed, because it seems something big had happened. Rumors began to be heard of a major pardon. Some captains were approaching the prisoners to learn from their mouths what they thought of them.
There were even those who expressed that not everyone deserved such a severe punishment. Some went even further, saying that many were even punished in vain. Then some people came to the camp, urging the convicts to pray for forgiveness.
However, surprise! No prisoner made such a request. It seems everyone took this as some new trap. This disturbed the command; therefore, one day the commissar himself entered the camp, which, not enduring this open contempt for the generosity of the party, turned to Mark, who thought that he would not bother to contradict him.
– Hey, take Mark! Will you pray for me to go to Nana?
After a pause, the boy stammered:
– No…, commissioner…!
– How…?! Why…?! – said the party man.
– Yes, I have not committed any crime, so I ask for forgiveness!
– Like that?!! – the commissar gritted his teeth.
– It’s not your fault! – shouted the policeman, who was accompanying the superior. – When did we let you take balls of marmalade out of the camp…?!
Mark never looked up from the ground…! Memorie.al