By Reshat Kripa
– “People who have never known dictatorship and tyranny find it easy to give in to the rhetoric about freedom, forgetting the simple and terrible reality of willful oppression where it always exists”.
Giovani Sartori: “Once again for the theory of democracy”.
Memorie.al / Robert Krasta had made a habit of going to the cemetery and placing a bunch of flowers on their graves on every anniversary of his parents. He would look at the picture stamped on the porcelain and start a conversation with them. He had been doing this habit for a long time. The conversation seemed to soothe his soul. He told them about everything that had happened in the family. Sometimes, when he found difficulty in something, he asked them for help, and it seemed to him that they answered him. Perhaps this, could be some guess of his own, yet he believed it.
Continues from the previous issue
– Agron, I don’t see you well today, – said Lumtua, when they lay down in bed, – What is bothering you? Your face is not like other times. Speak with. Don’t hide anything from me.
– Happy, I’m not hiding anything from you. I will explain everything to you.
My life, or rather our life, has been covered by a dark fog. A black shadow is moving around us. She is trying to disfigure us. How do I act? I want your opinion.
– What shade can a chief engineer like you or a director like me cover? Are we not a family of martyrs? Why was your father killed? Was he not killed for these days that we enjoy today?
– Yes, dear, yes. But not everything is as you think.
– For sure, don’t bother me more, tell me what happened?
– I met the head of the Branch. He asked me to cooperate in the surveillance of Stefani and Gjergji. In short, I turn into an ordinary spy.
– To monitor Stefani and Gjergji? But what do they have with them?
They are great people. You told me that, even with the task, they are very regular.
– According to the president, they have a bad political composition and have started whispering up and down, against the people’s power.
– And you, who are close friends with them, have you heard any such whispers?
– And then, when they haven’t talked to you so that they have close friends, who would they dare to talk to?
– I do not know. I have a blur in my head. To be honest, I do not understand this policy that our country is following. Everyone is seen as an enemy. Twenty-nine years have passed since the end of the war and there is still talk of patriots and enemies. Along with all the countries of the world, we have been ruined, are you saying that we were the only ones who were right? I see myself as a mannequin that others command. While I want to be independent. I want to have my opinion and express it freely, without fear of being overheard.
He was silent for a few minutes, as if he was thinking of what to say. The confusion in his head confused his thoughts. The words of the head of the Branch had disturbed the calm until then.
– See what philosopher Izajah Berlin writes in his book “Philosophical Ideas of the Twentieth Century”, published five years ago. This book was brought to me by Ben, who works at our embassy there.
He got up, went to the shelf and after taking the book, he started reading it:
“My wish as a man is that my life and my decisions depend only on me. I wish to be commanded only by my will and no one else’s. I want to be a subject and not an object, to be guided by my reason, by my conscious intentions. I want to be somebody and not nobody. To be active, to make decisions and not let others decide for me. To direct oneself and not to be under the action of external natural or human forces, as if I were a thing or an animal, or in the state of a slave who is not able to play his role as a human being”.
He closed the book and put it back on the shelf.
– Agron, wake up from your dreams, – said Lumturia. – Go down to the ground. What you are saying only exists in fairy tales. Do not torture yourself with such fantasies.
– Listen Happy! I need to talk, but besides you, I dare not talk to anyone else. Not even with Stefani and Gjergji. I want to be someone, but I see that the time we live in does not allow it. It requires all citizens to be nobody. I am an intellectual. I have my own personality, my own dignity. Today they want to strip me of all this. How to do it?
– And who asked to strip you of your personality?
– Cerbers, (in Greek mythology, a three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell), the devils of our time. They don’t let us live. He can’t agree to spy on my best friends, just because they have the misfortune of coming from a family that has had opposing views to today’s leaders.
– Enough Agron, because you terrified me! Why do you remember these terrible things today? To the evil Blessed, I became a sacrifice, do not talk to anyone, because some mistake will happen to us.
– Don’t be afraid Happy! I have enough sense to understand this, but I told him that I couldn’t stand it without showing my feelings.
They didn’t speak anymore. They turned off the light, but no one fell asleep. Everyone thought to themselves what would happen in the future. Both Lumtua and Agroni were thinking about which path they should follow, to face that scary shadow that was approaching them. Sleep had flown from their eyes.
– Happy, can you make me some chamomile tea?
Agron switched on the lampshade and sat up in bed.
– You remembered well, I also need to drink such tea,
– said Lumtua, getting up. – Maybe he calms us down.
They drink their tea without talking. The mind of each of them had flown away, in the invisible world of anxiety, which was grinding his painful soul. But they could not give him a solution. Finally, Lumtua spoke:
– Listen to Agro, collect your mind! Everything will go well. And why should we be afraid? We are a family of war. We have the right education. We are models at work. Then why should we remember things that we should not even imagine?! You will see that everything will go like clockwork. Let’s go to sleep now, because tomorrow we will go to work in the morning.
– Well said woman, you are right.
They lay down and after some time passed, they fell asleep, but the worm of anxiety did not stop gnawing at their souls even in that wounded half-sleep.
– Dad, look how I swim, am I not a champion? – shouted Irida, laughing loudly.
– Yes, daddy’s daughter, you are a real champion. Come Lumto, because the maid will jump off the trampoline.
The two joined hands, Irida mounted them and jumped into the sea, calling:
– Did I do it right?
– Yes, very good.
– Let’s do it one more time.
They continued like this all day, in the middle of the gas of the little girl who had a pleasure, next to her parents. They looked at him with adoration. She felt great pride. His father was a chief engineer, while his mother was a school director. These gave her a sense of superiority over other friends. It was precisely this feeling that exalted him more.
After they got tired of swimming, they came out on the sand and lay down in the shade of the tent. At lunch, they returned home, where mother Gjyla had prepared a delicious lunch.
– Grandmother, – said the girl with the purity of her heart, – why didn’t you come to see me? I was a real champion.
– You are the mother’s champion, my daughter, – said the grandmother.
Irida was the only daughter of the Canaj family. Agroni and Lumturina met by chance in Tirana, in the “Rinia” park. He had just finished his studies and was awaiting appointment. She continued at the University of Tirana, in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Mathematics-Physics branch. It was in the first year. They met by chance in the park. She was looking for something. He saw her and asked:
– Have you lost anything?
– The ring my mother gave me.
– Why are you upset, I will give you a better one.
He said that word unconsciously. He doesn’t even know how it escaped his mouth. She blushed a little and, looking at him suspiciously, said:
– Thank you, what my mother gave me is enough for me.
They both sat down to look for him. At last he found her behind a bush and called out:
– I found it, I found it!
– Thank you, you are very kind!
– Can we meet? Agro Canaj.
– Happiness Begonja.
– Shall we go eat some ice cream?
– With pleasure, but I will pay. It belongs to me.
– I said it first, so it belongs to me.
They both laughed and entered a nearby bar. They stayed for more than two hours. Here the dialogue focused on their aesthetic tastes, surprisingly, the conversation was not over. When they parted he said:
– I want to meet you again.
– Next Sunday, at ten o’clock, in the same place.
He did not leave for his city. An incomprehensible force pulled him to stay still there. They met and talked for hours. She also felt that this young, handsome and kind man attracted her. A strange feeling had begun to arise in her heart. After four weeks, Agroni received the appointment order at the Electric Company of his city. He had to leave immediately and report to work. Before parting he said:
– Congratulations, I love you! Will you join your fate with mine?
She just smiled and her eyes said more than “yes”.
There, under the shade of the park’s poplars, they shared their first kiss. The next day he left for his city. She walked him to the train station.
– Do not forget me! – he said at the moment of separation.
– Only death will separate us! – he wanted to tell him, but he didn’t speak. Her hand melted into his.
The train started and he was blowing kisses at the window. After she graduated, they got married. They appointed her the principal of the city’s high school. After a year, the daughter, Irida, was born. The birth was difficult. A complication made the intervention of doctors crucial. The child was born healthy and the mother miraculously survived. But the doctors advised them not to try to give birth to more children, as it posed a risk to the mother’s life. So Irida remained the only child of this young couple
Evening was falling on the city. A light breeze whistled, refreshing the environment scorched by the previous day’s heat under the hot sun. Agroni and Lumturia were standing on the veranda of the cabin, contemplating the sunset that, at that moment, was disappearing on the other side of the sea. It was indeed a romantic sight.
A few meters down on the sand, Irida was talking to a girl her age, whom she had met there on the beach. They told each other their dreams. Mother Gjyla was sitting on another chair and was reading a book.
– Mom, what book are you reading? Agron asked him.
She didn’t speak, but showed him the cover. He read: “Intrigue and love”.
– Have you remembered the youth tonight? Agron teased him.
– Oh, my son! I was also young once.
My mother had just gotten married, she had finished the “Normal” school. She was a very beautiful girl, the beauty that caught the eye even now that she had entered the age of old age. Two years after the marriage, Skenderi was born and after another two years, he. Their father was an intellectual with progressive thoughts.
Gjylon treated him with dignity. She was employed as a teacher in a city school. That distinguished soldier. He had finished his studies in Italy. During the time of the Kingdom, he had served in the National Army. He had awaited the invasion of Albania with pain. He was among the first to join the ranks of the National Liberation Front. He was a battalion commander. In every battle, at the front of it. It was the same on that black day, when he was martyred.
Agron did not harass him further. She did not want to hurt her more the wound of losing her husband, with whom she had spent a life to be envied and from whom she had separated, at the age of thirty-eight. But the memories had already occupied the mind of Gjylo’s mother. She continued to speak:
– Do you remember Sabri, the son of our ghetto? They were both killed on the same day. Before he breathed his last, your father entrusted his friend, Syrjau, to bring both corpses to the family and bury them next to each other, just as they had fought, and Syrjau kept his promise. , had given him your father.
He brought the chair closer to his son’s and, lowering his voice, said slowly;
– Syrjau was not in his company. He was part of that of the nationalists. At that time, fratricide had not yet been opened and the two sides fought together. Sometimes your father came home, for a night, secretly from the fascists. During these nights he also talked to me about the nationalists. He had respect for them. Specifically, for their commander. He too had studied in Italy, at the military academy. But later these relations were overturned and Albanians started killing each other. Your father, it was no longer and better that he did not see these things with his own eyes than, for sure, he would not agree with such actions.
After letting out a sigh that came from the depths of her soul, she continued:
– After the liberation, the friends of the Party came and asked me to remove my father’s body from the place where it was, as they could not sit next to a partisan, a nationalist. I had his trust and I refused. However, they removed Sabri’s body and to this day, I don’t know where they put it. The relatives of the deceased did not have the courage to search for his body. They did not forget this action. When the martyrs’ cemetery was built, they didn’t put him there.
I got up and went to Tirana to my friend Enver. They didn’t want to let me meet him. But I persisted. I had decided. How I managed to meet him is a separate story. I saw him one day walking to his office. I got ahead of him. The guards tried to stop me. He saw them and called:
“You are allowed”!
They withdrew and I met him. I introduced myself to him. He knew my husband. I told him everything. He listened to me attentively and ordered that his body be placed in the Martyrs’ Cemetery. That’s how it happened.
Shut up. No one was talking. The way she showed it touched them both. Mother Gjyla realized the effect her words had made and regretfully said:
– Even me the fool, where did I find tonight to tell this story? Come on now, have another conversation with us, because we have come here to have fun and not to show such things.
At that time, Besnik and Mira, the two neighbors of the nearby cabin, were passing by.
– Good evening – they said.
– Good evening, order us to drink something and talk.
– With pleasure.
They sat down on the two chairs that Lumtua served. It wasn’t long before the table was filled with various dishes that she quickly prepared. Agroni took a bottle of wine and placing it on the table said:
– It is Narte wine, three years old.
The conversation moved from one topic to another. He was a welder, while she was an electrician, but they were both quite prepared. They had accurate knowledge about many topics that did not belong to their level of education. They tried not to lag behind their intellectual friends. Surely, they must have read many books.
– And where are your children? Lumtua asked
No answer was received. A silence followed her words. She blushed because it seemed to her that she was wrong about that question. But how did he know what could have happened? Did they have children or not? At last
– Like you, we have only one daughter.
Silence again. It seemed as if that question had broken the harmony of the conversation until then. It seemed as if something invisible, a black shadow, had appeared in front of them, to prevent free conversation. Meanwhile, they were about to finish the second bottle of wine and of course it had its effect. After a rather long silence, Besnik broke it:
– I’m sorry for what I’m going to tell you. Maybe it would have been better if we hadn’t come here tonight.
– Loyal! – spoke Mira to attract his attention.
– Mira, I’m sorry, but I want to be honest with my new friends.
I have always been honest in my dealings with others and I cannot change this nature now. So, my friends, I want to tell you the truth. I don’t know if this truth will affect our relationship. I don’t know if we did well to come here tonight.
He was silent for a few moments. The others didn’t speak either. They waited to hear what he would say. Who was the secret he was going to tell? No one could guess what was the reason expressed in those words.
– Surely you come from a family with origins in the War, – Besnik continued, that’s why they appointed you chief engineer. That’s why I want to tell you about our background. We don’t want to be anonymous people who seek to hide behind others. Well, we belong to what today is called the inverted layer. I come from a rich merchant family, or bourgeois as they call it today. My grandfather participated in several battles fought by the nationalists, together with those of the National Liberation Front. Then came the separation.
The comrades-in-arms suddenly turned into enemies with each other.
He was shot in 1945. My father would have had the same fate, but he managed to escape and closed his eyes in a foreign country. I was left alone with my mother. I do not want to confess my life that it cannot be described. I was able to teach the master welder I live with. I married a girl of my own class. She still has her father in prison. We were born only one girl, just like you.
She grew up, became a woman. Loved a boy. He was the only son of a high official. Such a thing made us not to see this relationship with good eyes. We were afraid of something unexpected. But the girl insisted. The boy’s father forbade his son to meet the girl. But they did not part. The boy had decided. In the end, the father was forced to accept. He paid for this by resigning. But he put a condition, the girl should not meet with us anymore. The condition was very severe, but we had to accept it.
The girl had become pregnant. They got married and since that day we hardly see each other anymore. The only contact is a letter or a secret meeting. A boy was born, but we know very little about him. Now I ask myself: Why are we treated this way? I don’t know if we can be blamed for what our parents thought or did. Maybe they took our opinion when we were still children? I also want to study, but they don’t let me. I want to work redeemed, but again they don’t let me. I want to live free, but even to live they don’t allow me. I cannot understand this logic. Why? Why? Why? Memorie.al