By Hajro Hajra
The third part
Memorie.al / An authentic narrative, lived and unadorned, drawn from the carved, but not sleeping, memory of the Albanian who experienced the communist hell, but who managed to escape from that hell thanks to the resourcefulness and great faith that only by coming out of that purgatory, you can fight that icy winter, that infernal fog that had covered Albania from corner to corner, you will read in this article about Remzi Barolli, sentenced to 101 years in prison, by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha .
Continues from last issue
Coming to America was one of the most important events of his life. That distant day of December 26, 1955, when he had arrived and settled in New York, is very fresh for Remzi Barolli: – “When I arrived in America, for a long time I could not believe that I was free. I went out into the yard and screamed so much that the neighbors around the apartment where I lived remembered that I had stepped on it. Maybe in that way I got out all that pressure, stress that I had suppressed in myself for years, since childhood.
I enjoyed freedom, but it was lacking. I envisioned my mother in Albanian prisons. The sister was also in prison, the brothers and many cousins were also in prison. The prisons of Albania were full of Albanian prisoners, but even those who were outside the prisons were kept locked up in the big prison called Albania. That state, which had close ties with Stalin’s state, had completely turned into a collective prison and its citizens were prisoners”.
Every time he remembered Albania as if it were worse, Remziu was worried. It was a worry that would not let him rest, that weighed heavily on his troubled soul. He felt sorry for all those people of the soul who were living hard times in the camps and prisons of Albania, that’s why the freedom he enjoyed in democratic America seemed like something worthless. And that freedom would be as if his mother, his sister, his brothers, and all of Albania enjoyed it.
However, he could think of others, coexist with the suffering of others, only if he would provide for himself. Having great and inexhaustible energy, he devoted himself to work from the first days after arriving in the USA. It is not long before he meets his future life partner, Miss Mary, an American-born girl of Slovenian descent, whom he married on May 2, 1959, at the age of 29 which he lives even today.
The beginning, like every beginning in and abroad, was difficult, but it was enough that Enver Hoxha’s policemen were not on their heads here.
The first job he would start here was that of a dishwasher at his uncle Nuri Mehmeti’s restaurant in New York. He worked diligently and with great will, aware that the road to success was very long and very difficult.
First contacts with anti-communists
Most of the Albanians who came to America in the 1940s and 1950s had fled their homeland, Albania, because they did not agree with the communist regime. Some of them not only had not supported it, but had also fought it, aware that the red plague would only bring suffering to the poor Albanian people. They had two options: either to stay in Albania and pass through the filter of the “people’s court”, or to leave home and exile and become exiles, to see the world.
Those who had been the most determined, the most resourceful, the bravest, had succeeded. There were also those who had lied to themselves in the hope that the fierce campaign against the “enemies of the people” would stop as soon as the heads, dizzy from the Marxist-Stalinist anti-national ideology, cooled down. But, those heads had not cooled for 50 years…!
Remziu had his first contacts with people from “Legality”, such as Abaz Kupi and others, who had never stopped the fight for the overthrow of communism. Seeing in Remziu a resourceful and courageous boy, a worthy fighter, anti-communist, the members of “Legality” would take care of his education (in Albania, Remziu had managed to finish only 3 grades of school: two before the War and one in prisons).
Thus, in addition to doing various jobs, Remzi Barolli was devoted to learning English from the first day. His persistence had paid off. After three months in America, he had begun to communicate well in English.
Then he started to study. He had finished high school in New York and was getting ready to start his studies. He loved mathematics the most out of all the subjects, maybe also because he had a German major as a math teacher, which he loved very much. However, studies could wait for later. It was the issue of the Motherland enslaved by the communists that was waiting for the help of his sons, so Remziu would put himself at the service of the Motherland with all his being.
In the service of the CIA
Remziu was the only one from the Barolli family who was lucky enough to escape the clutches of communism. All the other Barolians, as well as relatives from other families, were either in prisons and socialist re-education camps, or had been sentenced to death and executed, and for their graves, even if there was someone who was interested, there was not even the slightest courage Even here, in America, Remziu learned bad news: this cousin was arrested, this uncle was shot, this cousin was sent to work in the camp.
These announcements that penetrated him from time to time were like stabs in the back of a man in handcuffs. He, deeply shocked by the fate of all that number of family members who were experiencing hellish nights, was forced to endure, just endure.
He had his first contacts with CIA people immediately after escaping to Greece, in December 1953; with full conviction that only through such a powerful agency could the dreams of the Albanians be realized. Expelled communism from the nest of Albanians, so he had decided to put himself at its service with the deep conviction that one day the flag of democracy would fly free in Albania as well.
When the CIA’s doors opened to him, he was happy. If not for anything, for the fact that he would clash with those people who ran the state. With those people who had only caused harm to his family and himself. He would not do this to take revenge, because those people were so deeply involved in sins against Albania, that it was impossible to leave a debt, but he and other true patriots did this because they had a moral obligation, they owed a debt to the Motherland.
Fighting against those people who were taking the breath away from Albania, Remziu and his friends were not giving up on the Motherland, but were giving a punch to shake those Albanians, who were drunk on Marxism and Stalinism, stuck in the grip of ideology for the construction of a classless society, they were eroding the brains of backward Albania, Albania, which was so exhausted that it was forced to throw the load on its back.
Although Albania at that time was considered a bunker where no one could enter and from which no one could leave, with the support and unreserved support of certain circles within it, groups trained at the American CIA bases in Greece, in Cyprus found it, they had been entering Albania for a long time and were carrying out numerous “sabotage” actions for the overthrow of communism.
Illegally in the Homeland
After approximately one month of stay in Greece, Remzi Barolli had come into contact with the CIA and for 10 consecutive years he had been part of the US Central Intelligence Agency. During his two-year stay in Greece, Remzi Barolli and his group entered Albania several times. The first mission was in May 1954. It was a short mission, carried out at night, in which case they entered a village about 6 kilometers from the border with Greece and after completing the mission, they returned to Greece that same night.
The second mission was carried out in August 1954. It was a three-day mission, covering a route of over 50 km. to Korça. The next 4-5 day mission of that year (December 1954) had been the insertion of the group of 3 people some 80 km. inside the Albanian territory, somewhere west of the town of Maliqi. The group had the task of accompanying 4 agents who would carry out missions in Albania and return to Greece.
During the time he was in the service of the CIA, a job he did until 1964, the first two years during his stay in Greece and then another eight years after he fled to America, Remzi Barolli was sent on a mission to Albania many times (he was parachuted at least 8 times).
Even today, Remziu remembers those illegal visits to his beloved Albania, to Enver Hoxha’s camp Albania, to the homeland through whose prisons all his relatives were being sent:
-“Preparations to carry out sabotage and terrorist actions, as Enver Hoxha called them, were done in great secrecy. They were intense preparations that lasted for weeks, and sometimes even months. The exercises were difficult and required great physical and mental commitment, but we had a great will, so we coped with it all. I entered Albania illegally more than 15 times”.
Most of the times the “sabotage” groups jumped there with parachutes. Actions were well prepared and carried out by people who did not know each other. The actions were always done in groups, equipped with the most modern weapons of the time, those that were used in the Korean War (1950-1953). The risk of being killed, captured alive and arrested was great. Whenever they went into action, they were aware that they might end up there, either alive or dead.
-“When I think today, – continues Remziu’s narration, – I wonder at myself. We had to be crazy to accept that assignment. Naturally, lofty goals drew us there. Apart from the suffering people, I had almost the whole family there and I knew very well what state they were in.
I had been in their shoes myself. Every time I was eating, walking or swimming in the sea or pool and my mind went to them, I got a big lump in my throat. However, I held my own. Nothing could be achieved with oil, that’s why I tried to move forward, because it was better for me and for them. If I was strong, there could be hope for their fate as well.”
In the actions he carried out in Albania, Remziu was armed with a small 8 mm machine gun, with 90 cartridges, a light and very good and practical weapon to be used in such cases.
Attempts to get the mother out
During those years of illegal activity, Remzi Barolli will be almost always on the move, in the America-Greece (or Cyprus) relationship and vice versa. Every time he entered Albania, he tried to contact known people and get information about his relatives. He had managed to provide accurate information about his mother’s whereabouts. She was in a camp, somewhere in the district of Maliqi and Remziu, despite the great danger, several times she had tried to get mother Aisha out of the camp.
– “I went to Albania several times to get my mother out of the camp,” Remziu confesses, “but without success. I looked at him from afar and I could not approach him. To get it out I needed internal help. No one had the courage to offer me help, but I did not regret it. If anyone were to be found helping me, they would suffer very badly. It could be punished with death, so I couldn’t ask anyone for the impossible”.
-“When I entered Albania for the second time”, – continues Remziu’s narration, – “I went to the house of my aunt’s two daughters. I sneaked into the cellar near the house and waited. I knew I was putting my aunt’s daughters and their families at risk, I knew I was putting myself at risk, but I couldn’t hold back any longer. I really wanted to meet someone I knew. When one of my aunt’s daughters saw me in the office, she was completely horrified:
– How did you dare to come? – She turned to me with a smile. If the communists find out that you are in our house, evil will consume us”.
Despite all the great fear she had, she had not told anyone about Remzi. Meanwhile, Remziu had informed him about everything he knew about the Barolli and the whole family.
-“When we met with her after 40 years, – says Remziu, – she told me: I have kept the secret about your visit for forty years. I haven’t told my husband either. I spent whole nights without sleep”.
The Kennedy assassination – the end of the CIA’s mission
American attempts to overthrow communism in Albania were part of a strategy that was related to American interests in the world. At the same time, the red empire of Moscow was trying to expand its sphere of influence in many countries of the world. As you know, until 1960, Albania was tied to Moscow like flesh and blood.
After the meeting in Bucharest of the representatives of the communist and workers’ parties of the countries of the socialist camp (June 24-26, 1960) and after the meeting of the representatives of the 81 Communist and Workers’ Parties (10.11.-1.12.1960), Albania would finally break with the Union The revisionist Soviet, as it was called then, to connect with another state of the socialist camp, with Mao Zedong’s China.
The Albanian communists had sworn to eat grass, but not to give up communism. Until 1963, the year when American President Kennedy (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) was killed in Dallas, Texas, the CIA had made several attempts to overthrow communism in Albania, but without success. The assassination of President Kennedy and the coming to the head of the United States of America of President Johnson (Lyndon Baines Johnson), mark the end of American efforts to overthrow communism in Albania.
-“After the assassination of President Kennedy,” Remzi Barolli recounts, “America’s interest in getting rid of communism in Enver Hoxha’s Albania decreased significantly. The last action we took was in June 1964. It was a plan made when President Kennedy was alive. The Americans kept this plan in the greatest secrecy. We were a total of 4 thousand people (divided into several divisions) who were going to land in Albania. Our destination was the capital, Tirana.
According to the plan, the building of the APS Central Committee, Radio-Television and others would be attacked, but even this attempt was unsuccessful. I, the seventh, was thrown near Tirana. Of those 7 people, only 3 had managed to return alive to Greece and they never found out about the fate of the other 4 agents, but even this attempt was unsuccessful.
Activity and schooling in America
Although the “subversive” actions in Albania were stopped, Remzi Barolli would never stop his patriotic, anti-communist activity. The fight for the establishment of a democratic system that would necessarily be built one day on the ruins of the communist system, Mr. Barolli developed in different ways and he did it in accordance with the circumstances and the moment.
Since 1966, he was involved in the Religious-Political Association of New York, which, more than religious activity, was engaged in patriotic activity. Violation of the rights of Albanians in Albania by the communist regime and in Kosovo by the Serbian ruler was two objectives from which the activity of this association was directed. There were 28 people, among them Remzi Barolli, who developed a dense political activity within the association, which had no less than 25 thousand members.
The political goals of this association were two: to overthrow the communist system with Enver Hoxha at the head and to liberate Kosovo from Serbia. There was no meeting of the Association where Kosovo was not discussed. Two years later, Remzi Barolli was elected president of the Association, a position he held for 13 years. Memorie.al
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