By Aurora Damini
The first part
– The tragic story of 1975, where Enver Hoxha, in the most barbaric way, hit the oil sector, punishing the country’s best specialists with shooting, prison and exile!-
Memorie.al publishes the rare and unknown testimonies of Vangjush Kokonoz, a senior engineer, who graduated from the University of Bucharest in the exploitation of oil resources, who worked for more than 50 years in the sector of of oil, (from a simple engineer to the highest management positions in the oil sector), which narrates in detail all that great drama that happened in 1975, in the oil sector, where after some anonymous letters that was a dispatcher (night watchman) from the city of Patos, for the senior leadership and Enver Hoxha personally, the big storm happened in one of the most vital sectors of the Albanian economy such as oil, where after several meetings, meetings and activities where some of to the main leaders of the Political Bureau of the ALP, such as Adil Çarçani, Abdyl Këllezi, Haki Toska, Koço Theodhosi, etc., a great disaster occurred, where the cream of the Albanian specialists in the oil sector were imprisoned, interned and shot , such as: Koço Plaku, Protoko Murataj, Lipe Nashi, Beqir Aliaj, Milto Gjikopulli, Jani Konomi, Dhimitër Stefa, Nuredin Skrapari, etc.! Engineer Kokonozi is one of the eyewitnesses of those events, since after finishing his studies, he was appointed in Patos, then in Kuçovo, in the Central Laboratory of the Petroleum Institute in Fier, deputy director of the Petroleum Institute, etc., when the Institute of Nafta came to Fier and Piro Gusho was the first secretary of the district of Fier, he was taken to this city as the secretary of the oil sector.
Hostile Oil Group” in 1975
It was 1972, the time of “hostile groups” in the oil sector. Then he would see with his own eyes the drama that happened in 1975, where from then on, it would be his turn. Fortunately, he is only sent to the remote sector of the Kashi Pass, through the remote wells of Hekal and Romsi. He was expelled from the party and was described as a “member of the hostile oil group”. But not qualified for such serious crimes. As the general secretary of oil in the district, where the “enemies of power” came from, Vangjushi admits even today that he would take the bullet, but Haki Toska, with whom he had an early family friendship, saved him.
The engineer, who worked for half a century in the difficult oil sector, says that all that political mess still holds a mystery to this day, about the barbarism shown by the Labor Party to talented engineers and workers in that difficult sector; to the denigration she did to her best sons, up to their physical elimination…!
Mr. Kokonozi, from your point of view, why all that ferocity for that constellation of engineers and high and well-educated specialists in foreign universities?
Even though it has been over 30 years and we have gone through different political systems, I still ask myself: Why all the cruelty of the Labor Party to its people? I say this because more than 80% of the employees in the oil sector were completely left-wing, with tessera and political convictions, since the employees of this vital sector at that time passed through the “sieve” of the Central Committee of the ALP.
The army, oil engineers, agronomists and teachers were the soldiers of PPSh and they had passed the test in the biography of the documentation for the high school. Maybe I am wrong, but I have drawn a conclusion: apart from the wild nature of the government and the apparatchiks of the time, it was a mediocre period, when the fate, even of a talented specialist, remained in the hands of an apparatus that played the role of “Witches of Salem”.
Where there were differences of opinion and opposition, where the production plan was not realized, there had to be saboteurs. There were people who were extremely influential in the Central Committee, just from the anonymous letters they wrote, where they described “sabotage” in the oil or gas field. Skilled and hardworking had no value. It is no coincidence that the 1975 drama was born in the oil city of Patos, which at that time was the city of intellectuals. But it was just a basket of lobsters…!
More specifically, why…?!
At that time, there were two opposite currents in the oil sector, which collided from a technical point of view and which, surprisingly, also took on the color of a political clash. The Central Committee of the ALP eliminated one wing and after three years, it also eliminated the opposing wing, that of Kadri Rama, who was an opponent of the “hostile group” of oil in 1975, headed by Lipe Nashi.
This was also the paradox. In that turbulent time, it was never understood who was a good person and who was a bad person, thus the cause of many tragedies! Because there were bad people and at that time it was not discussed. In the working environment it was much different. When someone, a representative of the Central Committee of the ALP, brought among them “for education”, a convicted engineer, they treated him with cruelty in the first days, but when they got to know him well on the work front, then they left their heads for such and such an engineer and Who knows how many times they asked themselves: “Why has the party condemned this human spirit…”?!
What about you, were you hit or suffered anything at that time?
Yes, I too then after 1975 went to the Kash Pass, in the “heart of the working class” as a convicted engineer. After all, not all were imprisoned, exiled or even worse, shot. There were many others who were more fortunate, like my work. From the secretary of economy in the Party Committee of Fier district, I was sent as a simple engineer to Kash, about 3 km. away from Ballshit, after I was kept for more than 2 consecutive weeks in the interrogator, where I did not admit my guilt.
How did you escape without being sentenced to prison…?!
I don’t even understand how I escaped! The wonders were very great. Kashi was a “flower” for 20 consecutive years, after the horror and traumatic shock that I and others suffered. After every morning you ask yourself: Will they call me to the investigator again and admit to a crime that I have committed? “Sabotage”, “enemy of the Party and the people”, “traitor”, were the words that were uttered without gloves at that time by the apparatchiks of the Central Committee of the PPS
What were these wonders?
There were many surprises. First, the first analysis had begun, the meeting of the Political Bureau of the ALP was held. By chance, when the meeting of the Political Bureau ended, I was in Tirana at the Central Committee, where I wanted to meet an instructor, (a very good and honest man), with whom I was familiar and I was waiting for the end of the meeting. When the meeting, which lasted for hours, about the activity in the oil sector was over, the instructor came and kissed me and said: “This work is over, we are all saved”!
Until then, 3-4 had become active, in Patos, Fier, and Tirana. According to the instructor, Enver Hoxha had told Koço Theodhosi at the meeting: “For what has happened, those who work in the district Party Committee should at least be expelled from the party, but let’s not create a new trauma for the party, as plenty those of the Army created us”. (It was about the “Hostile Group of the Army”.) Therefore, I say, let’s close this work with a serious warning to all of you responsible for the oil sector. You, Koço, will pay off the Party from now on, with your work”.
This is how we thought that the meeting of the Bureau was closed, after many analyzes that had been done until then. It was December 1974. Meanwhile, at the Oil Institute in Patos, several general meetings had been held and the conclusions of these meetings had gone to the Central Committee of the ALP. Even Avdyl Këllezi had made a very negative report, where he wrote that the situation in oil was very difficult, hostile work was done, only enemies worked at the Institute, so a general analysis had to be done. But fortunately, the meeting of the Political Bureau ended well. But this is where the wonder begins.
What a surprise…?!
A mediocre, a madman from Patos, of Himarjo origin, a mediocre technician, who did nothing but write letters to the Central Committee, writes a letter to Enver Hoxha. He was on duty, night watchman, and dispatcher and as a profession, dispatchers keep records. Since he had no work, he sat by the stove and wrote letters to the Central Committee. He sent 10 letters a week and made 3 copies. A Central Committee, a Ministry of the Interior and a Prime Minister.
What did he write in those letters he sent to the senior leadership?!
He wrote in the letter that, in the oil in Patos, there was an organized disorganization, and I remember then that he grabbed an element that, in that unfavorable period, served him. Lipe Nashi, General Director of Nafta, who was a good man, extremely correct and hardworking, decided in the report he sent to the Central Committee of the APS for the realization of the plan, 200,000 tons, which in reality could not be realized even if all wells were productive.
This was for the oil wells in Saranda. Saranda turned out badly, because the wells produced only gas and not oil, and this was considered too great a sabotage. The truth was that this served the tamperer of the anonymous letter and I still don’t understand why Enver called it too big a sabotage.
What happened after these letters that dispatcher sent?
Enveri reopened the “file” of the oil sector. The person with no moral sense of the letter used to compete with one of his colleagues in Vlora, who would send the most letters to the Central Committee of the ALP. Damn that man already, it’s not worth it, but he killed dozens and dozens of great people.
What exactly happened and who suffered from it?
Enver Hoxha convened the Political Bureau again and described it as a highly sophisticated hostile action, from where measures would be taken in the government meeting. The general meeting with government representatives took place on February 6, 1975. I was alone; Piro Gushoja had gone to Pukë for a family problem. The instructor of K.Q. of APS, ordered me to tell the responsible engineers to take responsibility for the mistake, but with a measure so that it would not be considered a fault or sabotage.
Did you tell the engineers the order of the Central Committee instructor?
I immediately went and ordered Lipa, Beqir Alina and Myzafer Trebeshina. In anticipation of this meeting, where Mehmet Shehu had come, I was informed by Mehmet’s secretary, Kiço Kasapi, former deputy general director of Nafta in Kuçovo, a very good man, general secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office. Until lunch, the meeting went well, with harsh criticism, but still good.
From 12:00 the meeting was interrupted and Mehmet Shehu went to Enver Hoxha. When the meeting resumed, they call me and tell me that the meeting has turned into a trial. I went in one breath. Mehmeti expressly told Lipa Nashi: “Listen here Lipe, when you went to China, you took a train trip via Moscow, not directly. On the train you met a friend from the Party School who was at the levels of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. I don’t say what you said to each other, but this detail shows something, that you are dealing with the Russian agency”!
Beqir told Ali: “I don’t have any concrete facts about you Beqir, but the truth is that you had a Russian wife, your sons are in Moscow and your Russian wife is a KGB agent, she still bears your last name even after the divorce. I do not have the authority to dismiss you, but I suspend you from office”. He said something to Myzafer that now sounds funny: “I have nothing to say about you, Myzafer, you deal with feces, and you don’t deal with oil issues”! (Myzaferi was the chairman of the Executive Committee of Fier).
How did they react after those serious accusations that were being made against them by Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu?
No one spoke; they were stunned and remained as if frozen. I was surprised to hear those words. From Fieri, the meeting was taking place in Patos. I sent a radiogram to Pirro Gusho and told him to come to Fier urgently. He had started from Puka with Mihal Bisha (director of the Directorate of Personnel in the Central Committee of PPSh). Pirro sensed that the situation was very serious, while Mihali advised us to calm down and take it easy.
What did you do after that?
We decided that I should contact the Central Committee of the ALP and specifically Haki Toska (Secretary of the K.Q., who covered the economy, on whom I depended directly), while Pirro Gusho should contact Hysni Kapo. Pirroja tried and called the home number, but Hysni Kapo picked up the phone and immediately hung up.
What did Pyrrhus do after that?
Pirro came to me wax yellow, from which I knew exactly that the situation was very serious. Then, after Mehmet Shehu’s decision to suspend them from work, the activity in Patos took place. We prepared for this activity, where the instructors of K.Q. of ALP. Nimet Cani was in charge. He asked me for a list of “those who would be accountable”.
Did you give them that list he asked for?
To be honest, I didn’t appreciate it, or I couldn’t imagine that it would lead to arrest, but as always in protracted meetings, with harsh criticisms and decisions on serious remarks. I ordered the three of them: Lipen, Myzafer and Beqir, to think and bring the names of the engineers responsible for the failure of the oil plan. The next day I was told by the Central Committee of the ALP that they had the list ready and this list would be presented to the active. I look at the list: at the top is Lipja and 50-60 people, all engineers. I ask one of the instructors of the Central Committee: “Who did you talk with to prepare this list”?!
He told me: “That’s how things are; we talked with the Directorate of State Security of the oil sector in Fier”. At that moment I realized that they had prepared everything “above” and our opinion was not even taken into account. The State Security had given up.
What happened after that?
Three or four days before the activity, Adil Çarçani came. I made him aware of the list and showed it to him. He told me expressly like this: “Hey, have you all stepped up?! Why, wait, we will put all the oil in prison”?! I froze. Then I found out that the word they laid to me, telling me: “they would give an account”, was equivalent to prison. I remember he told me expressly like this: “Pirroja is not in good health and you will deal with the body of this asset. It is very important. There will be arrests. There will be arrests in the hall as well. But we have experience from that event in Durrës, where people in the hall fainted. Strong calls: traitors, saboteurs, negatively affected the health of those who were accused. Thus, – Adili told me, – you will also bring doctors, besides that they will be recorded”. Memorie.al
Continued next issue