By Petraq Xhaçka
The first part
Memorie.al / The purpose of this book is to join the efforts made to present the truths and horrors of the communist dictatorship in Albania. The main purpose of the book is not to show our people or anyone else, that we oilmen have been innocent, because this has become known from publications in our press, from foreign televisions, as well as from direct meetings with the International Forum and the Albanian Human Rights. The author’s desire, is that through this story, together with other stories, fight any manifestation in any form, even moderate, that he may have to create a communist society.
I think that even through this bitter personal history, the cruel, treacherous and overbearing face of Enverism will appear, that for half a century, held the knife with the tip in the chest of the Albanian people, with a pine eye, intercepting the movements for salvation from the outside, or rebellion of the people themselves, ready to push the knife to the heart, at the first movement. I, and fortunately not only I, – wish that there and everywhere else, every revival of this amoral and criminal communism, in whatever form, however moderate, should be fought. This is because it constitutes a decadent system, which gives rise to totalitarianism, which incites the hatred of man for man and constitutes, in essence, a system of slavery in modern forms. The events are set in the economic fields where it has appeared most strongly, such as the oil and gas industry, where I had the fortune to pour my energies, for a whole life, and become a participant and witness in those events.
Only a handful of people know these truths, even though the echo of the drama of the oil workers was mentioned and mentioned in the history of the communist rule, in different points of view. The oil industry was the main source of export and currency provision for the fragile Albanian economy, in addition to the supply of fuel for internal needs. In these memories, through the tragic events with the oil specialists, it will be shown that Albania has represented a great prison for the people. While political prisons served as tools to exercise dictatorship over innocent people, to instill fear in the people, so that they would not dare to make even the slightest reaction against the communist government, or to fabricate fake judicial processes, to realize the goals of the leadership of the Party and the communist state. All these forms of terror and injustice have been among the wildest of all the countries of the former socialist camp of Eastern Europe.
All the events that are written in this book of memories are true, not only without any exaggeration or embellishment, but perhaps, I don’t know how much I was able to present the terrifying force of the events that took place in that decadent system of socialism, where no there was no human feeling. Names are also mentioned there, which are real persons, in order to fully reflect the truth. Only the names of the investigators are not real, but fictitious. This, because the purpose of the book, is not to discretize specific names and that they were not the ones who ordered the making of these fake processes. If it were not these, some others would be charged to do these dirty processes with innocent people, because there were a large number of them, who carried out the orders of the high leadership of the Party. I would like to thank the well-known publicist, writer and director, Pëllumb Kulla, for the encouragement and courage he has given me in these months, with my unfavorable health condition, to start writing these memories.
I thank him especially for the useful advice during their writing. An extraordinary strength has also given me the self-awareness of a civic and social obligation, to complete the bequest of my friend of work and suffering, the outstanding engineer, the master of the art of caricature, the late Enriko Veizi, for written about these events, which in their whirlpools consume our destinies and those of our families. Let this book of memories and a tribute to all specialists, oil martyrs persecuted so fiercely by the Enverian state leadership, with its powerful dictatorial apparatus.
February 6, 1986
At eleven o’clock in the morning, in my office, the State Security officer covering our Institute stuck out his head and invited me to have a coffee at the nearby buffet. The invitation seemed strange to me. He hadn’t spoken or had coffee with me in years. I had a vague sense of self-loathing that I couldn’t avoid drinking this coffee. When we were sipping coffee, his beeper rang. He told me that he was using it for the first time and since I was also seeing such a device for the first time, he explained to me how it works and why the beeper is used. We drank coffee and parted ways. I didn’t believe that the invitation to coffee was just the beeper lecture. An hour earlier, they had arrested the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Institute, Enriko Veiz. None of our employees were believed to know about this serious event, but the Security officer, apparently, had to learn that I knew.
At two fifty minutes in the afternoon, I had two geologists from the group in the office, for a study we were doing together. The door opened without knocking, and a short person, dressed in a tribal costume, with a plump, round face entered. I remembered that I had recently seen this guy several times at the Institute, but I had not asked who this man was and what he was doing here. The short man with a red face turned to me and said in a sharp, very commanding tone, accompanied by a movement of the finger of his right hand: “Come with me, out into the corridor”! I understood from the determination that his power could not even be questioned. I got up and went out into the corridor, which unlike usual, that day was empty, without a single human foot. As soon as we found ourselves outside, he did not delay the slogan expression learned from all the films or stories of those years: – “Petraq Xhaçka, in the name of the people, you are arrested as an enemy, because you wanted to overthrow the popular power and the leadership of the party “! With a quick movement he grabbed both my hands and handcuffed me, I immediately felt a numbness in my body, a real haunting. I didn’t understand how it was possible to be arrested, how it was possible… how could this happen…?!
With these thoughts, which passed through my mind at a great speed, I walked in a hurry in the corridor of the Institute, pushed by the arm by that lively-faced man, who turned out to be the Chief of Investigation of the Fier District, Rustem Ajazi. I couldn’t believe how it was possible, that it was I who, years ago, drew up the organizational scheme, the technical-scientific tasks of each cell of this oil institute, I who worked with such dedication to move it forward, now I walked through its corridors with handcuffs in my hands, as an enemy…?! I expected death, but never this criminal farce of Ramiz Ali, the country’s president and the head of the party, the one who, shamelessly, a few years later, would write, among other things, that he had brought democracy to Albania. But he will never dare to write who filled the political prisons with imaginary enemies, among whom were thousands of cadres, devout intellectuals, with scientific degrees, with the tesserae of a dragon party, which he himself led, people who today they decorated themselves, and the next day they stood white in the face in front of the firing squad.
The arrest of our group, oil specialists, was another blow given to the Albanian intelligentsia by the Ramizist headquarters of the dictatorship. The oil sector was the most important in the economy of our country, it was one of the few sectors that justified itself and did not let that country die for bread. And the oil specialists, engineers and workers, worked with dedication, with a high conscience, and continued to give a valuable help in the development of this extremely difficult industry. In the courtyard of the Institute, which I had never seen so silent and deserted before, two military-type vehicles were waiting. I was put in one of them, and I was cracked in the back seat, between two people, assigned to accompany me in handcuffs. From there the cars went to the Fier Internal Affairs Branch building, inside which I had never entered before. Downstairs was the prison where the investigation took place. There were four rooms, two in one wing and two in the other, separated by a short corridor.
I was ushered into the first door on the left, where there was a neat room about four meters by four. There came some soldiers, who stripped me naked, checked everything I had with me in my removed clothes. After the search, they kept what I had in my pockets as well as my pants belt and shoe laces. In the end, they drew up a protocol on the items kept, which I signed without seeing it. My movements were still completely numb. I could not understand if what was happening was real or a dream?! Be that as it may, it was bittersweet. When the registration formalities were over, two policemen handcuffed me again, as usual, behind my back and escorted me to the end of the dungeon corridor, the last one on the right.
My dungeon was number 8. It was a room about two meters wide and three meters long, and about five meters high. In three-quarters of its surface, the dungeon had a layer of planks, in the form of a floor, while the rest was paved with cement. The walls were very thick, made of stone. There was no lighting from the inside, but light came through a hole above the door. When they put me inside and removed my handcuffs, they gave me only an old blanket, from the Tirana combine, which not only scratched, but without exaggeration, it should have been used for fifteen years. It wasn’t the problem that it was too diluted from the used ones, but it smelled foul and unbearable. Surely, she had never been bathed.
To my ears, or to kill their service time, the policemen were saying that in this dungeon they put those whose crimes were punishable by death. They mentioned that the investigative process and the tyrant Xhavit Sallaku, who was the vice president of the capital’s Executive Committee and then the General Director of the Construction of the Oil Refinery in Ballesh, had passed here. As such, he was imprisoned, and after the trial he was shot. By issuing these notices to me, the police were indirectly telling me that I too would have the same fate as him. But I was quite tired, and their words met with a kind of indifference that I never thought I would have under such circumstances. The two policemen, who escorted me to the cold and damp dungeon, after taking off my handcuffs and covering me with the stinking blanket, left, closing the iron door with that heavy padlock.
Now I was trying to sober up a little from that terrible blow I had received and I was becoming more and more convinced that my arrest was a reality and not an evil dream. I decided to sit down to collect myself and was thinking about my family’s misfortune. I was thinking about my friend, Zhaneta, who that day had traveled by train to Tirana, to see our beloved daughter, Hilda, who went to school there. Then I started trying to figure out what Genci was doing. The boy, at that hour, was probably at home. Yes. did they know where i was?! Were they informed that I had been arrested? Did the Department of Internal Affairs carry out that ugly rite of inspection in the house of the arrested Petraq Xhaçka? I was thinking much more, not about the evil that befell me, but about the black fate of my children, for whom all the paths and spaces for school, for work, as well as for creating a family of health and a good life, which is an unquestionable desire for all parents.
I thought how my family would be persecuted from now on in all the harsh forms exercised by the dictatorship in our country, as it had happened with all the families of the previous oil specialists who were punished. Images of the pure and innocent faces of my wife, daughter and son flashed before me like a fast-moving film. I saw those faces killed by this evil that took over them, with those eyes filled with tears of despair. I now saw the family abandoned not only by society, but also by the circle of relatives. Not that they did not want to meet and protect them, but they were afraid of the persecution of their families, as had happened from the practice of other families, who were forced to close themselves in their shell. , because any contact with the families of political prisoners was viewed with political suspicion. When one reads these lines, perhaps one cannot imagine and get into the terrible life that these families led, who, in most cases, were just innocent victims, without committing any “crime”, which determined either the communist laws themselves such as agitation, crossing the border and others.
I vividly remembered the cases when I happened several times in front of the families of fellow oil workers, branded with the nickname of the hostile group, in 1975, or of other individuals arrested later, and I did not know how to act. Human correctness, the friendship I had and, finally, the complete innocence of these family members, demanded that I greet them, and not only that, but also ask them about their health and problems. But if I made such a humane gesture, I would be considered suspicious, because this sign would show that my enemies felt sorry for me. This was the psychology introduced by the Albanian Enverian rulers. So, I was saying to myself, why did I have the chance to be in front of them and why didn’t I go on another road. This was a double suffering for the family member who felt alone, “scorned”, by their former friends, but also for me to see my acquaintances suffer like this, it created a feeling of pity. This was a real tragedy. There were no tears in my eyes. The tear glands, as well as the whole body, were numb. I should have cried but I had no tears. My eyes were strangely like exhausted streams.
I had to pour them out for the guilt of my family, who would not only suffer but be branded as the family of an enemy, even though my life had been pure from beginning to end. It had been several hours since I had been standing with these thoughts, and as I began to feel tired, I decided to sit on the floor. With half the blanket I covered the tops of my feet that were almost frozen from the cold and the high humidity. But just a few minutes later, the policeman opened the small window and when he saw that I had covered my legs, he ordered me in a sharp tone: “Get up! On foot! It is not allowed to cover yourself with a blanket”! He explained to me that from the morning, when we got up at six o’clock until ten o’clock in the evening, we would not have the right to lie down, or cover our bodies or the tops of our feet with blankets. I was forced to follow the order and regulation, but the policeman didn’t trust me anymore and from time to time he opened the small window to check the situation. I was noticing that it was dark. It must have been about seven in the evening, when the silence of the corridor was broken by some scraping of iron doors that brought people and some heavy steps, which were approaching the end of the corridor, where my dungeon number 8 was located.
The iron gate of the dungeon opened and two policemen approached me, handcuffed me and took me to the interrogation room. There, at first, they checked me for everything I had with me, and then they handed me over to the investigators. There were four people. The person in charge of the investigation group was the person who arrested me and had the duty of the Fier Investigation Chief. I had not known any of these investigators before. – “Do you know why you were arrested?” – one of them asked me. – I do not know. In my whole life, I have not committed a single illegal act or deed to the detriment of my country and my people, – I answered. Then, Rustem Ajazi, the head of the District Investigation, addressed me in a harsh tone – “You are accused of treason and sabotage in the group, in the oil industry. The goal was to overthrow the sound leadership of the party, overthrow the people’s power and establish capitalism in Albania”.
I listened attentively to his words and was surprised by these totally absurd accusations, which were nothing more than dirty fabrications without any facts to support them.
His indignity grew greater when I thought that he fully knew that I was innocent. Without discussion! He had known that years ago, he knew that evening and in all the evenings of the following centuries, that the arrests were made only because he, Rustem Ajazin, had been ordered. It would be up to him now to find, invent or fabricate some fault to make the order coming from the top of the pyramid look righteous. I firmly denied the charge, saying that there was nothing true in it, and that they could never find a basis, even a single fact, to prove it. – Order and tell me a fact about what you are telling me! – I told him determinedly. Of course, they had nothing, except deposits taken somewhere by force. Then the four investigators, with great ferocity, began to press me. I was standing in the center of the room, while they all came around me. They were all talking at the same time, to confuse me. They shouted at me, screamed and threatened me that if I did not accept the charge, I would receive the capital punishment. As I accepted it, they promised that I would stay alive and be able to see my family again.
The men who accused me knew much better than I, that he who has facts need not pressurize. It proves the charge and point! For the defendant then, there is no other way but to accept and show the details. But what would I accept and show?! Such pressure continued for several hours. They threatened my life, while I continued to deny steadfastly. They sat me on a bench in the middle of the room and surrounded me from all sides. It felt as if they had all fallen on me, as if all four were resting on my shoulders. – “Look,” they told me without waiting. – At the time you were arrested, hundreds of thousands of others were also arrested, all over Albania. You cannot imagine what happened today outside this prison! The big coup d’état that you wanted to do failed. The party crushed this conspiracy, of which you were also a part…! Among others, those members of the Political Bureau who collaborated with you in this treacherous coup have been arrested. Therefore, you have only one way for your life: to accept the charges”!
Among the major figures of the Political Bureau, they mentioned Pali Miska, Prokop Murra…! As for Muho Asllan, they did not mention him by name, but said that “and the one from Durrës”, he took away your “Benz” car and was arrested. Then they continued, – “While you – they asked me directly – you will talk to us about that short man with whom you worked in the oil field in Kucovo. Do you understand now? You had him as an accomplice in this thing you were preparing to do”! They behaved like this so that I could say his name , as if I was the one who came up with that name. It was clear that I was required to affirm Simon Stefani, who many years ago, worked as a laborer and then manager, in the oil industry. In recent years he has become a from the main leaders of the party. When I heard the names of the members of the Political Bureau, I was shocked and began to believe that there would have been a big rift in the leadership of the party, that there would have been a coup d’état or. To catch the culprits, with it seemed, new scenarios had to be made, other sacrifices were begged. And here are the signs: three hours before me, in our Oil Institute, Enriko Veizi, number two of the Institute, was arrested, then they had thrown the irons on me.
I began to believe that something had really happened in the top leadership of the party, because I was told not just once, but several times. I could never have guessed that, without such a thing happening at all, these hideouts, these old servants of cold cellars, would have the courage to slander and accuse me, the leaders of the state, who have been treated here for years as monuments. How dare these people accuse them of such serious things, how could they insult them, as if they were dirty enemies! I remembered what was being said up and down, that when Ramiz Alia took the place of Enver Hoxha, in the Political Bureau of the Party, he was able to win with only one vote more than Simon Stefani. As I was in a daze, I connected these things, smelling a clan war brewing at the top of the state.
In response to this new sensational news, I stated that I didn’t even care to know what happened at the top of the leadership. I knew the essential thing: that I was innocent and that I had not had and had absolutely no connection with any group or person, I had not spoken or heard about conspiracies for the overthrow of the leadership and the regime. Even I did not express any dissatisfaction or remark, for the sole reason, that I had not had such, not even one! And indeed, the disgust I felt for the policy of the extraordinary shutdown of our country, of those draconian measures against innocent oil workers, of the cruel treatment of their families, of the lack of freedom of speech, of open thought, of the prohibition of hearing of the foreign radios and the music of the time, of the eternal line in front of the grocery and kerosene stores, of the displays of distrust and disapproval of the specialists who were supposed to push the economy forward, I had suppressed them deep inside myself and never shared them with another man.
I never liked politics, I was just a specialist, that’s all. I just wanted all the time to be a valuable person for my people and my country.
Against the firm stance of not accepting the false accusations that the party, the security and the investigation had concocted, physical violence began to be used on me. They stood me up, put me in the center of the room and all four of them started punching me as hard as they could. They hit me in the face, on the stomach, on the back, wherever they wanted. They kicked me with their heavy shoes, not caring were. The favorite place for their kicks were the knees, where the pain was the greatest. They exercised physical torture on me, but they never stopped psychological terror, saying that they would strip me, as I was alive, of all seven skins on my body until I accepted!
And if I didn’t accept, the bullet remained for me. I, despite the anti-human and criminal behavior of these representatives of this police state, continued to endure and not accept as done, what I had not done at all. I could barely find space between their blows and my screams, to repeat to them that I was only a specialist, even the head of the oil geological service, that I had provided the country and the economy with billions of dollars in income, and that for this, I had worked tirelessly, together with my fellow geologists, night and day, in rain and suffering, on plateaus and gorges. I used to cry that on my feet the elastic boots, during all these years, had been worn twice as long as the shoes!
I ranted non-stop about the oil industry, there was no harm from me! Seeing that I had a strong physique and several times their fists, I immediately ambushed them with my palms, by order of Rustem, the policeman put the bars back into the dance. As soon as they cuffed my hands behind their back, they started firing their fists quite freely at my face and body. I couldn’t help but notice that, especially Rustemi, he felt a rare satisfaction when his fists landed well and when those of his colleagues fell like hail on a defenseless person, on an innocent individual, on a old man
These worthless people, from the beginning of their lives until that night, could not register any merit for anything really useful to the people of the country, they had full permission and no one punished them to shoot at me, the employee scientist who held the degree of Doctor of Sciences. If this scientist, for some absurd whim, had sewn on his body that day the decorations he had received during his laborious life, the Fier investigators would not have found an undiscovered place for their idiotic fists, and would have been forced to strike above orders, stripes, creases, respected grays! Memorie.al
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