By Shpend Sollaku
– Kostaq Stefa – when beauty turns into material evidence of crime!-
Memorie.al / In the ugly state that killed the beautiful homeland. Of the metamorphosis of medals resurrected as handcuffs, of chains and padlocks with keys thrown into the river. Brain staining, with incandescent seals. The crunching of the grass. The fool who sent the audience under the tripod. Of the bullet behind the ear, that twisted the faith. Of the law born of hatred, which put under the heel the vulnerable left without protection. The knife behind the back that killed the hug…!
These lines are something from the story of a boy scout of the young Albanian intelligentsia, sacrificed on the altar of tyranny. Look carefully at this gentleman in this photo from 1927: it is Kostaq Stefa. Only 22 years old – already for a year, a teacher at Harry Fultz Technical School, in Tirana, after he had finished in the same school so well that he was appointed there.
A modern beratas, beautiful in mind, beautiful in morals. His skill and purity of spirit would lead him to be elected the head of the first Albanian organization, the Bojskautas, that very year, in 1927. The physical, moral and spiritual formation of youth everywhere was the goal of this world organization.
A view that remains modern even today, for those born to be leaders. Because the beautiful berat, Kostaq Stefa, had all the prerequisites to be a leader. Like all those who have come to this world to do good, that brave boy dedicated himself to the Red Cross. Like almost all modern boys, he was also a keen sportsman, his favorite being tennis.
Kostaqi was also lucky, because he was born into a family that never shirked its duty to the country. Family tradition forced unconditional patriotism. That would be another one of the beauties of this boy, selected since birth, to become famous. For that beauty to be complete, something was missing that the occasion brought quite naturally: Leni.
Jançeve’s daughter, the typical beauty of the 30s. If you had been born anywhere else, you could have become a popular actress. Elegant, with a penetrating look, dressed according to the latest fashion, there was no way to escape another wise eye, that of Kostaq. There was no need for the goer. He invited her home as soon as he saw her with his sister, Elpiniq.
It wasn’t necessary to tell her the extinction of the stars, if she didn’t accept: some heart-shaped cookies were made as a message from the soul. That Boy Scout beratas you had just brought from London. He had become a beautiful boy, she would later describe Kostaq. You had curly hair parted in the middle, a straight nose, cheeks that always had a red tinge; full lips…! Inherited gentlemanly manners.
She was still a pupil of the “Normal” of Korça in the most beautiful year of Mangalem boy scouts, in the unrepeatable for them: 1927. Her wise and sharp eye would not escape that boy’s inner excitement, while offered him, from time to time, the box of London biscuits. A heart here, a heart there, the conveyance and the happy proposal, for a common life, which also became the alpha of the creatures they brought to life.
The beautiful family – the backbone of the future homeland
Alfredoja, Vangjushi, Elda, Vitorja and Parashqevia – the little girl who had just turned one year old. These five children, all like stars, were created by the beautiful couple; Taçi and Leni. For them, raising a family was a real art. The homeland needed to grow. How could it develop further, if not through beautiful children?
What more should the Albanian state have asked of its citizens? Eleni and Kostaqi had fulfilled and exceeded all obligations towards Albania: they were intelligent, they had studied in the best Albanian and European schools, they had played their role without hesitation, when the homeland was in need, they saw the direction of the country their towards the West, as something natural, born and in the blood of the Albanian.
A rejected film script, developed upside down
You had also asked the country for that high sacrifice: the accompaniment to the rescue of thirty Americans, who fell there from Belgium. Doctors, nurses, flight crew. We were friends with the Americans, we were allies. They had been the partisan couriers, the ones who had escorted them through the villages to Berat, so as not to fall into the hands of the Germans.
The partisan headquarters of Berat asked Kostaq for that obligation. Boy Scout Beratas, called it honor. Two of the American military nurses took refuge with the Stefs. To go to rescue as soon as possible. A path never traveled even by Kostaq.
In the book “Escape from Albania” by Anjes Mangeriç, it is faithfully described how, under the guidance of that Mangalem professor, the almost impossible itinerary was described: Berat – Dobrushë – Vërzhezë – Leshnije – Zhulat – Progonat – Dhoskat – Gjirokastër – Tërbaç – Dukes. Allotment near the coast.
Kostaq’s only return to Berat deserves a separate literary work. But he didn’t have his mind on glory, but on Leni and the children. And it didn’t even occur to him, that he had just escorted future enemies.
What should have been their strong point of the beautiful Stefa family, according to the evil logic of tyranny, turned into their sphere of Sifiz.
The flags that was unfurled!
There were three in the meeting of Berat that trumpeted one of October 1944. In the course of later developments, two of those flags – the ‘Union Flag’ and the ‘Stars and Stripe’ – would take the swirls, only the middle one would remain, with a hammer and sickle. No one within the border of the state beneath the bleeding star should see the friendship and pride in their fluttering anymore.
What was first rumored unfortunately happened.
In the evening of September 8, 1947, at the gate of Stefajve, someone knocks with his foot. In the name of the people. Whose people does Kostaq Stefa seek to understand the language of terror? Of their people, of course, not my people. There are three, Soldiers.
The prominent boy from Mangalema did not want to believe as true the news received in Tirana according to which the Americans, the British and everyone who had worked with them, according to the Slavic judgment, to which the homeland of the Albanians was being subjected, were already all enemies.
Terrible rumors and trumped-up accusations
Professor Stefa is forced to turn his back on the house. His Leni and the four older children; Tina was only a few months old, they will forever carry in the antechambers of memory, that paternal back, which was swallowed by the darkness.
Eleni Jançe (Stefa) had not even thought that all those wonderful features of her Crown would be considered crimes. Crime because he spoke and wrote English well?
Crime because he saved doctors and nurses from certain annihilation by the Nazis? Crime because you finished the Harry Fultz Technique? Crime because you were a 22-year-old teacher? Crime because you studied in Florence? Crime because you were also a professor at the “Cytetesen” of Berat? Crime because you had built a family, according to the patriotic tradition of your ancestors? Crime because it was pure as a dewdrop, in Tomor?
How many times would you have repeated these questions to yourself when their property was seized and they were left with no deck, when they were also driven from their shelter – Stefa’s multi-generational castle – to crash it with five children, in the baking oven below home; when he saw in the hand of the policeman, Taçi’s watch of 500 napoleons of gold, not even registered in the confiscation letter; when they would fire him from teaching; when her five angels and herself would remain in the hands of friends and relatives!
I often think of that precious lady, Eleni Stefa, whenever I think of my mother. We were six children when our father was sentenced. And our saviors were the Crutan uncles, the good cousin, Gani Duro, in Berat, but also many friends. I can’t forget especially one New Year, when I accompanied my mother from Lushnja, at dusk, through rain, thunder and slush, to Plow, to a friend of hers, interned there – Nebaet Kollčinaku – to ask for a debt, as she did not there was no lek left even to buy some oranges! For others, it was out of the question.
Whatever happened, at least our father made it out of the chrome mine alive. All five of Kostaq’s children would never see their father again. It was not alms that the good people offered Eleni and her sons, but survival with her head held high. Survival that didn’t tarnish at all the family characteristics of the Stefs, until January 18, 1993.
The pit where Kostaq and the other three berats were thrown was found. It was time for Eleni to face the riddle. However, he thought he could be considered “lucky”. Burbuqe Haxhiademi, failed to fill the marble of her Et’hem with substance. Aldo Renato Terrusi, is still desperately looking for his father buried in the Burrel prison, and how many others. And how many others… wander through the ether, without any final abode.
In the ugly state that killed the beautiful homeland. Of the metamorphosis of medals resurrected as handcuffs, of chains and padlocks with keys thrown into the river. Glow-stamping the brain. The crunching of the grass. The dumbass that sent the audience under three feet. Of the bullet behind the ear that twisted the promise. Of the law born of hatred that put under the heel the fragile left without protection. The knife in the back that broke the hug.
The importance of finding the bones of her graceful Crown, however, was all-consuming. She thought about that moment of the shooting, there, by the stream in Uznovo, in the year of the monks in 1948. With the laughter cracked forever, with the desolate tear. She, Eleni the cocoon, heard those cries again and again. It got tight. On the edge of the common pit. Close your eyes. In his ear he could clearly hear the sigh of the beautiful Kostaq: “Ah, my Leni, I was shot, my soul, on March 3, after midnight.
There were four of us drowned in our own blood. I had known them. There was Tajfur Haznedari, the municipal clerk, there was also the lawyer Hamit Muftiu, there was also Teqe’s father, Bedri Cakranji. I am not confessing how we fell next to each other. We tried to be together, all four of us. We couldn’t hug. One of my arms was broken. Our hands were tied with chains. Padlocked chains. Closed even beyond death. With the key thrown away, towards the lands where Slavic was spoken.
This padlock you see now between the bones of my forearms. How those bones hurt me! And it was cold, very cold as they covered us with mud. Constantly shivering feelings…! Until I climbed up there, above Tabe e Kala. I could see you in the palm of my hand. I followed you every moment, but I could not get down to you. There were many wild animals on the road, such as defecating, barking sows.
I missed you, my dear Leni. I burned soot for our children. How did they do without my caresses; Fredoja, Elda, Toti and Tina? Did Vangjo manage to get used to it without me? We were very connected.” “Ah, my Taçi, Vangjo never got used to your loss, neither did the others. May he, together with Fredo, be the first to be found when they discovered you from under the mud?”
Sky that revolves around the eyes of beautiful Elen; earth that shakes from the womb. Meteors that slide and refract as if they were children of lightning. Flat sky, bending over mud. “Let’s take you to a place with light, Taçi. You don’t have to be cold anymore.” Memorie.al