Memorie.al publishes the unknown story of Colonel Josif Zegali, originally from Myzeqe, who won a scholarship from the government of King Zog and went to Italy, where he studied at the Institute of Agriculture, at the University “Antonio Zanneli” of Reggio- His return to the homeland to take part in the Anti-Fascist Movement, where together with his two brothers and uncles, the well-known Orthodox clergyman, Pope Joseph Zegali, became partisans in the ranks of Mehmet Shehu’s First Brigade and the 16th Assault Brigade. which was formed in Therepel of Skrapar, where they took part in all the fighting, until the battle for the liberation of Tirana, where Josifi met for the first time with his two partisan brothers, whom the family and the village knew were killed. of Joseph at the Kujbishev Military Academy in the Soviet Union in 1960, where he won a Gold Medal and returned home, where he was promoted to the rank of colonel at the age of 33, being appointed Chief of Staff. of the Gendarmerie Headquarters at the Ministry of National Defense. Zegal’s testimonies of how he was charged with the construction of some of the most important military facilities of communist Albania, such as Gjadri Airport, Shengjin and Porto-Palermo Naval Base, Weapons Factories in Poliçan and Gramsh, etc., as and the three anti-atomic shelters below the villas of Mehmet and Enver in the “Bllok” of the leadership in Tirana, where after their completion, he was arrested and convicted as an “accomplice” with the “Coup Group of Beqir Balluku”, suffering years in Burrell Prison etc. The story told by Zegal, “Colonel Bunker”, which the famous director, Kujtim Çashku, turned into the film of the same name…!
“The fortification of the Bloc had started from the years 1967 – ’68, when Albania was preparing to leave and ‘de jure’ from the Warsaw Pact. In fact, its fortification had already begun, around 1959, but in those years, it began to be perfected according to projects made by highly trusted people and in the greatest secrecy. Thus, it was decided to build three main anti-atomic fortifications in the “Block” of the leadership, to withstand any blow: One for Enver Hoxha, one for Mehmet Shehu and the third common for all members of the Politburo and the Central Committee. of the ALP who lived inside the “Block”. Enver and Mehmet’s fortifications were built below their villas and Enver often went down the stairs of the house and put them down to see the progress of the works. This is what the retired colonel, Josif Zegali, or otherwise known as “Colonel Bunker” (as he was one of the top military men of Xhenjo’s weapon and the main director of fortifications in the Ministry of People’s Defense), recalled. the beginnings of Enver Hoxha’s fortification in communist Albania and the work on anti-atomic shelters for the two main leaders of the Albanian state at the time. With a memory, health and energy that probably did not “frame” him at all with the years he had on his shoulder, after being interviewed by some very famous and prestigious newspapers of Western Europe and the USA, he agreed to tell about us, telling the whole history and dramas of his life, which for Albanians, are more or less known from the work of the famous director, Kujtim Çashku, in the film of the same title, “Colonel Bunker”.
Imprisoned with “Beqir Balluku Coups”
Around 1973 – ‘74 Enver Hoxha started beating the senior military, accusing them of being coup plotters. The crackdown on senior military personnel, which began with People’s Defense Minister Beqir Balluku and his two deputies, Petrit Dumen and Hito Cako, spread far and wide, leading to the dock as “enemies of the people” with dozens of senior servicemen, former cadres of the Partisan War, who had graduated from the most famous military schools and academies of the Soviet Union. In this context, the family of Josif Zegali was also hit, where his brother Kozma Zegali, a former partisan cadre in the First Assault Brigade of Mehmet Shehu, a career officer working in the cabinet of the Minister of Defense, Beqir Balluku. In this regard, retired Colonel Josif Zegali recalled: “After the arrest of my brother Kozmait, accusations against me and my family began to flow from all sides, based on the State Security. They shocked us so much., so much so that when I told my wife, Ellen, and the girls, in order that they might be prepared for anything, they were terrified and began to sit on their knees.” Ellen said with tears in her eyes, “Joseph, you will They will arrest us and deport us, just as they did with Kozma and his children, so after Kozma was arrested, I, as his brother, was fired and released. from the State Security, which forced me not to leave the house. Even though I was trying to work, I was still anxious a lot. From all this, I tried to give courage to the children, but it was impossible, because from a physical and spiritual shock, I myself suffered a tachycardia in the heart r and I was urgently admitted to the Military Hospital, in very serious condition. Although the doctors I knew were trying to cure me, the order had come from above for something else. So, one day, going out on the balcony to relax, I saw around the hospital, armed guards, who had not been there before. At the entrance of the Hospital, I saw the Deputy Chief of Army Security, V. Idrulin, with two or three Security officers. After a while, the deputy commissioner of the hospital came to my room and I was informed that I had to leave from that moment. I doubted, but I had nothing to do! When I got out, I got in the “BÇ” car and saw myself between two Security officers. It was there that I learned that I had been arrested when the car had not yet made its way into the ‘Old Prison’. They also gave me an arrest warrant, which said: ‘Josif Zegali is arrested for the crime of sabotage, for weakening the defense of the country’. After me, the operation, which I do not know how it was coded, continued in the Military Construction Company, arresting Thoma Bejon, Bashkim Lleshi, Saba Maja and Luan Veshi. This group was called: “The defense fortification sabotage group, with in charge, the former Chief of Staff of Genoa and the Director of the Army Fortification, Josif Zegalin”. Later, the Minister of National Defense and the Prime Minister, Mehmet Shehu, issued a written order informing all the units of the Army that a ‘group of saboteurs, led by the director of the fortification, Josif Zegalin’, had been arrested. So, after a long investigation, came the trial of Joseph, which lasted 29 days in a row. He defended himself against all charges, dismissing them, but he could not escape punishment! Thus, he clashed with the Burrel prisons and Bulqiza galleries, for eight years in a row, from January 13, 1975, until May 15, 1982, on charges of being a ‘saboteur and enemy of the people’, who had ‘left ten years’. back, fortifications in Albania ‘! After his release from prison, Joseph and his family were under the constant surveillance of the State Security, so to escape the evil that followed him at every step, he was locked inside the house, not coming out at all. He studied and wrote to prepare a book, which deals with thousands of years of fortifications in the world and in Albania, a book which would serve more as a textbook.
Zegali: Enver, stop the bunker…!
After his release from prison in May 1982, Josifi Zegali is amazed by the changes that had taken place during those eight years that he had been isolated and is sad when he sees with his own eyes the many bunkers that had sprouted like mushrooms?! Regarding this, he recalled: “When I saw all that dizzying bunkering, planted all over there, in the mountains and hills, in the fields and on the coast, on the beaches and in the inhabited centers, in the villages and in the cities, as a product of a strategy euphoric and crazy and implemented through an intensive popular work and with colossal material and financial investments, I was surprised to the point of shock! And the worst of it all, was that it was going on at a dizzying pace, engaging a lot of manufacturing companies all over the Army! In this work of madness called: “The original Albanian fortification”, I as a specialist, former leading cadre of Defense, trained in military schools and academies in the Soviet Union, researcher of the history of military art and especially the fortification engineer and that I had accurate knowledge, having seen among the strongest fortified lines in Europe and Asia (China, Korea and Vietnam), as may be mentioned the most famous of World War II: “Maxhino” in France, “Siegfried “in Germany, Mannerheim in Finland on the border with the Soviet Union, etc., I asked the question: What is being done like this ?!”
After being released from prison, for about six months, Josif Zegali struggled with himself, to raise his voice for the madness that had happened and continued with dizzying rhythms, or to be silent! All of them tormented his soul immensely and he blamed, first, the Defense Council for incompetence, and the General Staff as incompetent and outside of all the concepts of War. Likewise, with himself, he blamed the Prime Minister Mehmet Shehu, his former colleagues, who ran Xhenjon and Fortification. After all that confusion that gripped his soul little by little, after six months had passed since his release from prison, in November 1982, Josif Zegali decided to sit down to write what had been bothering him for a long time. Thus, in a 12-page letter addressed to the Commander-in-Chief, Enver Hoxha of the Defense Council, he analyzed with professional competence, all the mistakes that had been made in the fortification strategy and called on them to stop it as soon as possible. For everything he wrote in that letter, Zegali did not talk to any of his former colleagues, but only consulted with people in the very close family circle. In this regard, Josifi recalled: “After I signed the letter with my name and signature, I put it in an envelope where I quoted that it was ‘very secret and of special importance’ for Enver Hoxha and the Defense Council, on November 27, 1982, I sent it by hand to the Central Committee.
Enver: Arrest this dude…!
After sending that letter, Zegali waited anxiously about what would happen to him. What happened to that letter, did Enver Hoxha really take it in his hand and what was his reaction? In this regard, according to the testimony of former Prosecutor General Rrapi Mino, the letter initially fell into the hands of Enver Hoxha, who sent notes to the Minister of Defense, Prokop Murra. After she was seen by senior specialists and military staff of the General Staff, Prokop Murra signed the official opinion, stating: “The letter is deeply hostile. The Albanian fortification is an effective major and original Albanian work of our defense, from which the world must learn. What is said there does not stand and Josif Zegali proves once again that he is the enemy of the Party and the people… “! Later, this letter was passed to the Ministry of Interior, where under the signature of Hekuran Isai, it was said: “os Josif Zegali is an enemy of the Party and the people and should have been shot from the first imprisonment, but our judiciary was liberal Po “But what had Enver written in the notes he had made about Zegal’s letter, which he sent to Prokop Murra?! Among other things, it read:
I am sending you a material that was written to me by a certain Josif Zegali, former Genoa officer for Fortification, but who was in prison for four or six years, in the time of Beqir Balluku, who is the brother of that other Zegali, yes and this conspirator and coup plotters and is now in prison.
I patiently read the letter of the “great fortification theorist.” This man overthrows all the plans of our fortifications and claims that they have been done wrong, templates have been made, both in the fields and in the mountains, built side by side in very small spaces.
To throw ashes in our eyes, he removes himself from us as a theorist of fortifications and at the end of the letter he describes the fortified lines, such as “Maxhino”, “Sigfrid”, “Mannerhejm” etc. But the fortifications we have built are special fortifications that fit an attack and norms, not like the norms with which NATO will attack the Warsaw Pact, or vice versa, the Warsaw Pact will attack Western Europe or China and where I know the other.
So, this dude who is writing this letter to me and is removed from me as the theorist and critic of our fortifications, ostensibly from his “fertile” mind, repeats the theory of Mehmet Shehu, which I have rejected, but he does not know, and does not want this! This element that is a defeatist, to be arrested, to be questioned by the Prosecution and the Military Investigation and to answer the following questions:
– Did he show these views of his when the fortification plans were made?
If not, i.e., at the time when Beqir Balluku was Minister, what did he show when Mehmet Shehu became Minister of Defense?
-After Mehmet Shehu killed himself, this person, “when he saw that big mistakes had been made” and allegedly he was in prison, or he was afraid of Mehmet Shehu, why did he not write to the Commander-in-Chief?
-Does he know that our country has a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces? Of course, I know.
-This should be a serious accusation against him, ie, that he did not put me in the current for his thoughts, which in fact are of Beqir Balluku and Mehmet Shehu, as I said above and to reach conclusions for guilt heavy in this regard.
The prosecutor and the military investigator should first look at the file of this person, why he was sentenced to imprisonment, to consider the decisions of the Party Audit and Control Commission, where it is said that he is a suspicious man, after Mehmet Shehu and Beqir Balluku, has been sent for a long time to Italy and Sweden.
“Then, at the end of the investigation, to judge whether he should be put on trial, from which he should be punished according to the Criminal Code”.
Zegal’s second arrest, after the letter sent to Enver
After this letter from Enver Hoxha, what was expected happened. Thus, on December 17, 20 days after the delivery of the letter to the Central Committee, the building where Josif Zegali lived was found surrounded by the State Security forces, who, “in the name of the people”, arrested him and a column of three or four cars, take the road to the ‘Old Prison’ of Tirana! Regarding this, Zegali recalled: “There I was given an arrest warrant, which I read and read again. It was signed by the General Prosecutor, Rrapi Mino, my former acquaintance as a musketeer, which said: ‘Arrested for the crime of agitation and propaganda, for the weakening and overthrow of the People’s Power. ‘After that, having no other way to at least save his family as much as possible, Joseph decides to “divorce” his wife and “abolish paternity. “four girls, which was immediately accepted. In the horrible cell No. 13, ‘Old Prison’, Josif Zegali stayed for 107 days in a row, in the marrow of that icy winter and when he waited from moment to moment to be shot, the most incredible thing happened: his release?! In this regard, Zegali recalled: “After they announced my release, I said: Thank you for the good news you gave me, but I do not get out of prison and I have a reason. First: I have nowhere to go and as an enemy I have been described as, I have my place here. Second: do you see how you turned me into a skeleton ready to die, so I do not leave dungeon no. 13, without being replaced by the one who introduced me here. After these words, the two intervened, the prosecutor and the investigator, FT, who told me: Listen Josif Zegali, you are wise and you understand that you entered here with a superior order and with a superior order you are leaving from here, do not do stupid things, that we pull out by force. Therefore, do not take yourself to that level, and for all that you saw and talked about here, do not make him the object of conversations, because he is coming again and he does not know where he will come from “.
But why did they release Zegal and how did what he called “tragicomic to ugliness” happen?! In this regard, he testified: “Did I not betray myself and enter their service? No, it had never happened, neither in the first nor in the second prison, it would not have happened. My release was conditional on some reasons, the most primary of which was that at that time, Enver Hoxha was ill and his disciples Shehu, Kapo and Hazbiu, already known for their severity in Enver’s arms, were no more. Therefore, those scandalous excesses, let t “You were left to them.” Thus, that night of March 3, 1982, Josif Zegali, after being released from prison, left to look for his family, with the anxiety that someone would shoot him from behind to kill him! After a long journey, he could hardly find his family, after his wife, Eleni, who had escaped from a suicide, had his house taken away! Likewise, one of the girls was no longer alive! She died of spiritual shock after divorcing her husband, who “could no longer live with an enemy girl”, while the other three girls had ended their deportations away from Tirana. The same “fate” had the children of his brother, Kozma, who was still in prison. He was tormented by worries, that all those misfortunes were a gift from him! After the ’90s, the tragic life of the famous colonel Josif Zegali, attracted the attention and interest of the well-known director, Kujtim Çashku, who met and made the already well-known film, “Colonel Bunker”. / Memorie.al