By Vasil Qesari
Memorie.al/ The overthrow of the great totalitarian edifice in Albania would leave behind, not only the change of the system, accompanied by lots of hopes, mirages and cries of happiness but, unfortunately, also many wounds, dramas, victims, dust, milk and disappointments from the most different. Ten years and more after that event, which deeply shook society, completely overturning many previous codes, rules and concepts, people still continue to ask themselves such questions as: What really happened in society Albanian, during the last 50 years of the dictatorship? How was it possible that the system managed to warp everything? Why did people accept it? What was the totalitarian logic of the transformation of society and the individual? How were the structures of totalitarian mechanisms conceived and functioning: propaganda, secret police and the exercise of the ideology of terror? How did it happen that among all the communist countries of Eastern Europe, Albania was considered an exception or a special case? Why did Enver Hoxha remain blindly, fanatically loyal to Stalin until the end, turning the country into a prison where violence, fear and purges continued until the end of the 80s? Why was the country so insanely isolated, locking people up between bunkers and barbed wire? Why, then, did all the above phenomena happen…?! The book “Post-scriptum for Dictatorship” does not claim to provide definitive answers to the above questions, or the complexity of the reasons that brought and maintained the totalitarian power in Albania. Nor is it a complete, deep and comprehensive fresco of the life and suffering that people experienced during that system. Its author, perhaps, has the merit that together with the retrospective view of the totalitarian period as well as the zeal of a passionate analyst, he has tried to turn his head back once again, to give not only his personal memories and opinions, but also to return once again to the vision of that era with the simple philosophy of preserving the Memory and supporting the Appeal to never forget the well-known maxim, that…the corpse’s nails and hair continue to grow even after death! Ten years or more after the great revolution, the book in question has current value and we hope it will be appreciated by the reader because, as an Albanian researcher also says… the greatest evil that can happen to a people comes when he fails to analyze his own past. An amnesic people are forced to be constantly neuropathic and repeat their painful experiences…!
RELIGION – OPIUM FOR THE PEOPLE
Tirana was boiling with lightning bolts, a good part of which struck religious beliefs and the clergy in general. The campaign against them started on January 21, when the Durrës high school students had taken the revolutionary initiative to “deepen the fight against backward customs and religious beliefs”.
After that, on February 6, Enver Hoxha himself gave a speech in which he strongly supported the youth initiative and called on the people to rise up in the fight against religion. That speech also marked the beginning of the Ala-Chinese Cultural Revolution in Albania. It seemed that, for the total disappearance of religion, he too, just like Stalin and Mao Zedong, was making devilish use of youth.
All the press and, in particular, the newspapers “Voice of the People”, “Voice of Youth” and “Bashkimi”, published for days whole pages with letters, initiatives, pledges and actions from the front of the war against backward customs and religious beliefs. In them, it was announced enthusiastically about the closure and demolition of cult objects as well as the public discrediting of priests and monks.
Thus, in Delvina, a group of Orthodox priests were forced to go out into the middle of the city and there, in the presence of thousands of people, their beards were saved. One of them who had dared to resist was arrested on the spot. Meanwhile, the Mufti of Vlora was executed as an “enemy of the people” and, little by little, hundreds of monks and priests were being sent to be educated in production.
In Qeparo – says Zaho K. – as in the entire area of the Coast of Himara, the Party authorities forced the village priest, Father Pani, to cut his beard and stop practicing religious rites. Poor priest! Since he could not bear the humiliation, he locked himself in the house and did not go out for a long time.
Such insults and humiliations were also done to the psaltery of the church, Petro Xhuveli, a noble man and respected teacher, who constantly kept his passion and devotion to religion alive and undiminished.
The ferocity of the revolutionary zeal to eradicate every sign of religious rites and symbols also fell on cemeteries, sacred and respected places for every people in the world. During one night, in the public cemetery of Vlora, unknown persons broke almost all the crosses of the Orthodox cemetery.
The same thing happened with the stones of the Muslim tombs as well as the tombs. Enver Hoxha had declared war on God, to make Albania the holy kingdom of his cult. Everything that had to do with religion had to be wiped off the face of the earth. Within 8 months, 2169 cult objects were closed in Albania. People were experiencing one of the wildest and most terrifying campaigns the country had ever experienced.
… One morning, walking down Elbasani Street in Tirana, in front of the “Jordan Misja” Artistic High School, I noticed a group of people gathered in front of the house of the professor of the Faculty of Sciences, Minella K. On the wall, next to the Iron Gate, which was placed a lightning bolt? “Professor! – it was written – The Party has entrusted them with the education of the new generation, giving lectures on sciences.
And you, meanwhile, have religious beliefs which you practice secretly. We know from reliable sources that you belong to a group of evangelical believers. How do you explain this reactionary and masked attitude, professor? Do you deserve to continue to educate and teach our new generation? We are waiting for an answer…! From a group of students of the Faculty of Geology – Mining.
Strong, this sheet-lightning! – I said to myself – He is going to suffer badly, poor professor! Because I knew that, even in the faculties, following the example of the Chinese Red Guards, the revolutionary Youth Groups had started work which, under the direction of the Party, drew up plans and actions to fight foreign demonstrations, both in the ranks of students and even the professors.
After that, we noticed more and more a new phenomenon. During the lectures, some lecturers separated themselves from the essence of the literary comments and devoted themselves to analyzes about “the influence of the reactionary role of religion in the history and life of society”, emphasizing that, “it was the product of ignorance and that the Albanian people you had seen nothing but evil, divisions and backwardness”.
Meanwhile, it was exactly those days that I had returned from Dajç village, where I had gone to meet my friend F. Gazulli. Even there, the broom of the war against religion had turned everything upside down. The village church was emptied of cult objects and turned into a Cultural Center, while its priest was sent to work in the cooperative.
There, in Dajç, you have not seen anything! – Said my course friend, Sami Y.- But, in Shkodër, it has become our home. While here, in Tirana, we are still not seeing anything. Et’hem Bey Mosque and Catholic Church, for example, are still open…! It’s impossible! The mosque, yes, because I have seen it myself, but for the Church, I don’t believe it…! – I answered. Shall we go see it…? He asked. Let’s go! – I told.
And we headed from “Rruga e Kavaja”, where the Catholic Church of Tirana was located. It was Sunday, a day of celebration. At first, I thought we would find the church in ruins. But I was wrong. No! It was there, undisturbed, with the shutters of the doors open and the huge cross at the top of the facade. At first glance, it seemed that nothing extraordinary had happened, but this was only a momentary impression…!
We went up the stairs and, above the gate; we saw a poster where someone had written in big red letters a quote by Emile Zola: Mankind will find joy and happiness only when the last stone of the foundation of the church falls on the head of the last priest. Next to it, a sheet of lightning was placed, with the text: “…Clerical gentlemen of the Catholic Church…!
You continue to deceive some people who have not yet managed to understand that religion is a lie, that the church is an expression of medieval obscurantism, that the Clergy is a blind tool of the former exploiting classes. How long will you continue your reactionary activity? We are waiting for an answer…! From a group of students of the Agricultural Institute of Kamza.
We crossed the threshold and went inside. There weren’t many people. Were there 30 people? Old women and some foreigners, members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Tirana. Some men in identical suits and dark glasses had taken their place from the last rows, scattered disorderly. We sat for a few minutes and returned from where we had come.
– We did well to leave…! Why should we make trouble for ourselves? – Sami Y. told me and added – Did you notice those with glasses…? I assure you that they were from the Security. Of those who follow diplomats from embassies. I say that they did not close the church, for the sole reason that the families of diplomats go there. But this, listen to me, will not last long…!
Sami Y.’s prediction came out quickly. After a week, Julie B., a friend of the English department, (who lived in the building in front of the church), told me that she had seen with her own eyes, the event which happened during the following Sunday mass. Exactly, at the moment when the offering ceremony was taking place, a battery of stones, bricks, bolts and pieces of iron had flown over its windows.
The priest, Father Kurti, was shocked and retreated to the sacristy, while the few believers who were inside, had come out terrified. Some citizens, who were passing by there by chance, then showed that the battle was organized by a group of revolted young people from the “Tractor” plant.
Thus, the last mass of the Catholic Church in the capital had ended…! Another day, we passed by it again. The doors of the church were locked, not with one but with two pairs of locks. As for its priest, through a lightning sheet placed in front of the Bank, we learned that he had given up his profession as a preacher and started working as a warehouseman in a mechanical office in Tirana.
Then, the fate of his life continued tragically. (Many years ago, Father Kurt had been sentenced to 20 years in prison, accused of being a Vatican spy. In a word, as they said then, your name was on the list). Indeed, a year later, in 1968, he was arrested again and sentenced to 16 years of exile…! Memorie.al
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