By Dalip Greca
– The unknown story of the Qypi family of Kurbin, which lived for 3 years as a fugitive in the mountains and lost 9 of its members, in the fight against communism –
Memorie.al / A few years ago, when on the pages of the Albanian-American newspaper “Illyria” I had just finished the third article of a cycle dedicated to one of the most enigmatic figures of the Albanian anti-communist nationalists, Professor Alush Leshanaku, Hysen Blloshmi called in the editorial office. , the son of one of those whom the Americans threw in the Albanian mountains, in the early 50s of the last century, to overthrow the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, Xhevdet Blloshmi. Hyseni, it drew my attention that; there was a conspicuous inaccuracy in that writing; Alushi, after the treacherous murder, falling into the trap set by the State Security through a woman, the next day, the dead body was placed in the Pedagogical School, to terrorize the citizens. “You didn’t describe it like that,” he said, from the other side of the phone.
– I have seen it with my own eyes, Hyseni insisted, then added: I know a man who sheltered Alushi, he confessed the paths; helped him when the Pursuit Forces injured him; was together with him in an action, when equipment was expected to be dropped from the air, where besides him, there was also Gjon Gjinaj, as well as the “Group of Kosovars” sent by Xhaferr Deva. It’s an interesting story; they were surrounded by numerous Security forces and in the attempt, the Kosovar commander, Ali Rizaj and Pashko Suma, were killed, Alushi was wounded, Gjon Gjinaj was also wounded”. The story sounded interesting and we left on the day of the meeting.
Together with Hysen, we knocked on an autumn day in 2003, at the apartment of Bardhok Ndreu, in Queens, who told us the following story; what Bardhoku lacked, was filled by Ndrec Gjergji, an expatriate who spent many years in Belgium, and spent three decades in New York.
Continues from last issue
Mr. Bardhok, how was the mountain life when you were on the run?
-“Right there on the top of the mountain, we built a hut and for three months, as if we felt comfortable”, – remembers Bardhoku. But one day two strangers came up there. It was not understood who it belonged to, the Security or random hunters, the doubts in Bardhok Ndreu’s own memory. I don’t know what to say, he says, trying to remove the fog of memory, then adds: “But our guard saw them and they ran away, apparently they were scared for themselves. However, this unexpected visit debunked the camp, which we set fire to and abandoned around March 1950.”
Did you ever encounter the Pursuit Forces?
– “Not just once, but many times. Here’s a case: When we came to a road intersection coming from Gjormi, an intersection with another road coming from Laçi, we found ourselves in a difficult situation. George urged me to go out, even though it was quick. We came face to face with the Pursuit Force. Shotguns. It was a forest. We wandered and lost sight of them, but they continued to add; they seemed to fight with each other that we had passed in time. Actually, we were not trying to kill anyone, we just wanted to escape their pursuit.
-Another time we were near Laçi, in Delbnisht, there was also a fierce gunfire, but we escaped. It was a September night in 1950”, recalls Bardhoku.
The meeting with Alush Leshanak
Do you remember when and under what circumstances you met Alush Lleshanaku?
– “How not”?!- Bardhok Ndreu cheers up. “On May 25, 1950, Alush Lleshanaku arrived. We were in the mountains of Kurbin”.
Was Alushi alone?
– “No, it was Alushi, Gjon Gjinaj, Pashko Suma, Pjetër Gjoci, Ndue Gjergj Lleshi and Luk Përzefi. We met in Mal Bardhë. Alushi intended to cut the radio and other materials that would be dropped from the air. So a suitable place was required to make a landing and we had to provide it. George says that; it was not reasonable to land in Kurbin, because Tirana was no more than 2 hours away and army reinforcements were arriving quickly and everything failed. With this logic, Alushi also agreed, so that the landing would not take place there. Then it was decided to do it in another place and a part of us had to accompany the guests. I went, Pal Lala, Zef Gjergji.
We walked towards Shesh-Ulza. We fell around Kthella. We have taken place with all the guests. The radio connection was made. On the day that the radio connection was made, on the same day the signal was received from the Security and the army poured out, like oak flies, around us. The whole region, Mat-Mirditë, the area of Kthella has entered the grip of the Security, which has made three sieges of the area. We happened upon a difficult situation; together with the newcomers, we were 4 members of Kurbin’s squad and three of Mirdita. From May 5, 1950, until June 15, 1950, we continued to be with Alushi.
However, our signal was picked up by the center and the plane arrived in the evening around 10.00. Alushi’s radio was expected to be dropped. As soon as the first parachute opened, after we had lit the fires, the Sigurimi army arrived. It seemed that they did not want to shoot at night, they were waiting for the dawn, so that they could start the battle with open eyes. Our only hope was that the Security forces were numerous and could annihilate each other. However, they held the siege. On the other hand, we went in search of materials landed from the plane. I remember that they also parachuted a group of Kosovars, they said they were sent by Xhaferr Deva”.
Do you remember the names?
– “Yes. Riza Alia was the commander of the group, he was from Prizren, Beqir Bajgora from Peje, Ahmet and Shaqir Kabashi, two cousins, Destan Berisha, who may still be alive somewhere. Shaqiri, has stayed in Buffalo. There was also Hajredin Vučiterna. I consider them as now because I have been with them for a long time. This group would be accompanied from Alushi, towards Kosovo. We found part of the goods: 6 “Marshina” (English rifle type, automatic, with 30 cartridges). We found Italian bombs, cartridges, medicines, etc.”
What about the radio that Alushi was waiting for, was it found?
– “Yes, we found it. We hid Alushi’s radio in a mass of corn (the villagers had brought the corn, to hide it from the eyes of the government so that it would not be seized or taxed by the communist government). There we put the parachute together with Alushi’s radio….”!
The fierce battle of Shesh Shtjarthi, the assassination of Ali Riza
Bardhoku continues the story: – “We took the materials and tried to move slowly, under the nose of the Pursuit Forces. We were no more than 10 m away. from the army, but it was dark, we couldn’t see each other. With all Kosovars, 16 people. All together, we could not run away, then we split into groups. Under our company, the guests had to be. The Kosovars were not oriented at all, they did not know the terrain. We were divided into small groups, where in each group, there was one of us who knew the place. When we walked 200 meters, we came under fire from the Security forces. We didn’t think we had the strength up front.
The gunfire started at eight in the morning, I swear we didn’t feel if it was our shots, or those of the Pursuit Forces! We leveled a mountain of bullets. The mass of shells became so large that we could not see ahead. Our weapons were indeed few in number, but the fire was powerful. Gjon Gjini proposed that we move, because they could capture us alive. We did not walk more than 100 meters, when we encountered a dense curtain of fire, which was not clear from which side it was coming from. From all sides, automatic fire. The fire was severe. The Kosovars fought bravely, but under fire, their commander, Riza Alija, remains, he had the radio on his back, and he had 800 gold napoleons with him (I think they were left to the communists).
Zefi saw him and jumped to help him, his hood received 20 bullets. Easter was also killed. The dead remained on the battlefield. A bullet also took Alushi. He was injured, but he didn’t stay…! The boy was brave. We could not take a step without encountering the Pursuit soldiers. After 100 meters, Gjon Gjinaj was injured. My two cousins came out, I called them to help John. Rifle muzzles flashed in front of me. I was faster, I shot in front of them, I don’t know, but then they told me that I had folded a dozen of them…”!
– “Bardhoku is modest, he doesn’t talk about his endurance”, Ndrec Gjergji intervenes in the conversation. “Bardhok showed himself especially in the battle of Fushë Shtjarthi in Mirdita. The war continued long; Gjon Gjinaj and Alush Leshanaku were injured; Zef Gjergji was wounded; captains Riza Alija and Pashko Suma, lost their lives; some of the companions dispersed. Bardhoku remains with the wounded and the group of Kosovars. He is brave, calls on his friends: – Men, let’s not boast; to fight to the last bullet; let’s not leave the wounded and the refugees in the hands of the communists! When he saw that some of his friends were scattered, he turned to his two cousins; Pal Lala and Zef Gjergjit: – We will not fight, we will save the wounded! And the first leader breaks the siege.
For this battle, Ndue Llesh Gjergji later raised a song: Now the clouds of Kurbin are coming/ As lightning shoots from the sky/ Bardhok Ndreu and he Ndue Gjergji/ Ay Pal Marku and Zef Gjergji/ Two honest heads in Kurbi/ The mentioned in history/ The spear of Qypi and Gjin Pjetrit/ As early as the time of Gjin Mjetit/ They fought against the Davlet/ They killed and burned the King’s army…”!
Exiting the siege, returning to Kurbin
Bardhok Ndreu’s narration follows the events step by step: “Then we escaped the mouths of fire. Thirst dried us up. After a while, we fell into a stream and quenched our thirst, but the fire continued on both sides, without interruption. We had escaped the sight of the Pursuit Force, but they fired with guesswork, risking mixing with each other’s fire. There were thousands of fire nozzles, reinforcements had arrived from the neighboring districts and from Tirana. We stayed hidden there in the stream, from 8 am to 2 pm.
After that, we only walked hand in hand, sometimes we crawled. If anyone discovered us as we were walking, I’m sure they’d strip us of what was left of us. We went to a lawn, but from behind, we could hear the fire that had not stopped. Apparently, they were fighting with the army, we were far away from there. Since our position dominated those who were fighting, we had the battlefield in the palm of our hands. We saw the soldiers moving in disguise, without them knowing that we had been an hour away from the stream and the battlefield.
The Kosovars, who had fought like lions, now looked tired, barely able to stand. The rifles were almost falling out of their hands. We were used to mountain life and did not feel so tired. However, we had to go on, otherwise we could be noticed and risked. I lost four friends…! Ndue Gjergji, who knew the place well, Pjetër Gjoci, Luk Perzefi, and Prenga from Kthella. Maybe the rifle separated us, maybe….! I stayed with my two cousins, with Pal Lala and Zef Gjergji, while Gjin Gjoni, who was wounded together with Alushi, were not giving themselves up. I don’t know how many days it was that we were being followed closely by the Pursuit Force. It seems to me that June had arrived. Until it was dark, the rifle could be heard down in the creek. Gjin Gjoni tells me: How did Bardhok do to me?
I was young, I didn’t feel tired and I was ready to help them. He asked me to escort them to Rrëshen, and he returned there from Kthella, went to Mirdita, to some extent, to Fushë te Lumi. This was impossible, the army on that side was the oak fly.
– John, I told him, for God’s sake, I can’t convey any dekik, because I don’t have people of faith to support me, I don’t have bases. I told him that in Rrëshen, I have uncles, Mëlyshte, Pal Mëlyshin and my brother, but I haven’t seen their door for 3 years, I don’t know, have they become communists, or what the hell are they, so I don’t have faith to take you there. Down below, (we were far from Kurbin, 6-7 hours) as for Kurbin, I won’t leave you alone, I’ll take you wherever you want. It was decided that we would go there, from where I proposed. As soon as it got dark, we started the march. I was deprived. We went to Kroi i Derven. As soon as we got there, the light came on.
We were tired, we didn’t even have a crust of bread. When it got dark, we went down to Shkopet. We fell into the river Mat. I remember how Alushi began to wash with all his clothes. As soon as the light passed, luckily, some cattle came to us nearby. We caught a bear and killed it, after paying the shepherd. We needed water. I knew the place. We had to go on. I was cut. It was a ladder we had to climb. I broke up with Paul, he fell on one side, I on the other, and we controlled both sides. We had the staircase in the middle. Paul saw the guards under the moonlight. He fired a rifle. He approached me; I told him: – Why did you shoot a rifle? He answered me: The partisans, mores, soldiers…!
We had left Alushi, Gjon and the five Kosovars behind, we were the vanguard. The sun was rising. When we got three partisans; we had them in the palm of our hand, they couldn’t see us. We shot them; we killed two, one was wounded. We continued; we climbed the foothills. We went to Mali Trolles, where Mat and Kurbin were separated. We found water there. We drank and refreshed ourselves. Night had come. We walked, we reached Skuraj, Preng Previzi’s village. The two cousins had bases there. We gave them the names of the bases, where they could get bread and food. I took the Kosovars, Alushi and Gjon Gjinaj to Saint Mary. There was a stone with cold water, they washed, shaved and became like men. A shepherd I knew had taken the goats out to pasture. As soon as he saw me, he called out in surprise: – Are you still alive, Bardhok?
– Why, what happened? – I asked. – U ba nami, man, the army and the police have landed. There is gunfire day and night. There are 7 days that the army is firing rifles and for seven days, the soldiers are fed on the battle line. But how did you save yourself, the brave that you were!
Meanwhile, he slaughtered a goat, we roasted it and quenched our hunger. The cousins who brought bread and other provisions also returned, and we were fed. We had to walk through an area filled with soldiers. We had made a meeting with our friends from Kurbin. It has been a month since we parted with our friends, from May 25 to June 21. We also met the comrades who had been separated unexpectedly, at the time of the battle of the Square of Stjarth; Ndue Lala, Preng Lleshi, Ndue Gjergji, Luk Perzefin.
What happened to the guests you were accompanying?
– Until July 19, we kept them there, at our base, in Mal Bardhë.
When Alush Lleshanaku entered the cinema of Tirana!
– Any scars from the meeting with Alush Lleshanak? – I ask Bardhok.
– “Alushi was a loyal friend, soft-spoken, even with a child he talked, as if there was a man in front of him. Alushi was brave above the brave, his eyes were not afraid. For him, incredible things were told in the people. There are many stories. He often came to Albania. He told me himself once, that he had gone from Ura e Zogut, through the driveway, straight to Tirana. Dressed in Elbasan shalwars, a bag on his back, where he carried work tools, the tail of a hammer was visible.
I am a mason, he said, I build houses in villages. He was so brave that he even entered the cinema, in the middle of Tirana, without being understood by the Security forces, who were looking for him in the mountains and caves. And it didn’t happen once or twice, it happened many times. He did not take the automatic from himself, he kept it next to his body. This was the reason why they poisoned Alushi before killing him. They were scared.”
– You said that Alushi was also injured, where you treated his wounds, Hysen Blloshmi intervenes in the conversation, who follows Bardhok’s confession.
– “We treated him there on the mountain. George treated him; John changed his wound”.
And where did you take the medicine?
– “We used to get medicines from Marka Zefi. He was still at work, working as a nurse in Milot. It is the time when Sigurimi, had not yet tracked him down, had not discovered that he was treating the committees that came to overthrow the government. Marka Zefi was a good nurse and continued to work for the state”.
When and how did Alushi leave you? I ask Bardhok.
– “On July 19, I took Pal and Zefi and accompanied Alushi to the border crossing with Kurbini; we gave him a roasted sheep, 10-12 kg. cornmeal, water and we divided into Rubik’s. We didn’t meet again and we don’t know what happened later. In New York I met Gjon Gjinaj, once I met Shaqir Kabashi, Destan Berisha, and beyond that, I don’t know anything. I learned later that; Ahmet Kabashi was killed, Haredin had surrendered, Beqir Bajgora was killed, Gjon Gjinaj was also killed here in America…! As for Alushi, I learned late the death by trap…! They had poisoned him…!
The battle of Bushnesh and the treacherous siege of Nikollë Gjergji
Anti-communist gangs were very rare in the mountains of Albania. The Pursuit and Security forces were emerging victorious, helped by the Soviets and especially their agent in Washington, the rumored Englishman, Kim Philby, who was later declared the “Hero” of Moscow. Many of those who came from abroad fell directly into the hands of the Albanian State Security. Gjergj Nikolla, who had to choose resistance in the mountains of Kurbini and not escape outside Albania, continued to stay and not hand over his weapons. He overcame all the traps that were set for him, but on May 5, 1952, betrayed, he was surrounded in the Field of Bushnesh in Mamurras.
His entire squad, consisting of 7 people, was put into an iron fence. Gjergj Nikolla, together with Pjetër Lala, Gjon Lok Piroli, Pjetër Marku, Gjok Pali, Gjon Perjaku and Bib Brahja, did not respond to the call to surrender. They stood bravely, with faith to fight, to the death. Mark Dodani, known for his books on the Security and the scripts of films with saboteurs, has written about the brave act of this gang and its commander, Gjergj Nikoll Ndreu, who could not hide the brave act. Cheta is surrounded in three ways; three cordons of Security and Army forces were placed one after the other.
The siege was carried out in a difficult place, the terrain was plain, there were neither hills nor forests nearby. The gang manages to fight and make several holes to hide from the bullets that fell like hail. Machine guns rang out everywhere. The voice of Gjergj Nikolla gave heart to his friends. He conveyed courage to his comrades, with calls against the besiegers. Now, it is clear that the last act of his war has arrived! The chronicler of the time has conveyed the moments of this battle, when Gjergj Nikolla shouted: “Down with communism”! “Down with Enver Hoxha”! “Long live Albania, down with the puppies of Russia”! The war rages fiercely, reinforcements from Tirana continue to arrive. The casualties in the ranks of the army, which was very busy, kept increasing.
The heavy machine guns, as it seemed, were firing at the opposing forces; they killed each other…! For many hours, the fight remains raging. They say that Mehmet Shehu, the former Minister of Internal Affairs, who was getting nervous, was leading the war over the phone with his officers: “How are you not managing to annihilate a gang of 7 people?! What is that Gjergj Nikola?! “All weapons are used. It was the turn of the tanks as well”, says Bardhoku, who rumble on the battlefield. When the tanks arrived, Gjergj Nikolla saw that the platoon had come to an end.
He gives the order for the final attack, the attack of death: On the attack, for life and death! The attack was powerful, as might be an attempt to defy death, which had extended its bloody claws, to snatch the lives of the seven. The first siege is passed, but in the second one, bullets flood from all sides and hit the chest of the squad commander, Gjergj Nikolla. Almost everyone was injured. Pjeter Llesh Lala, the cousin, tells Gjergji that he will not be separated from him even in death and kills himself with a bullet, without falling alive into the hands of the army. The other members of the gang are captured alive. Gjon Lok Piroli is hanged on a rope in Milot, the others are sentenced to life imprisonment.
This was a fragment from the history of the anti-communist Qypi family, which was bloodied with communism. It has given nationalism its best sons, while some of them were forced to leave the Motherland and immigrate to foreign lands, some here in the USA.
Members of the Qypi family, who were killed by communism:
- Gjergj Nikola, killed on May 5, 1952.
- Prend Gjergji, killed on July 24, 1948.
- Zef Gjergji, killed on June 20, 1951.
- Marka Gjoni, killed on June 20, 1951.
- Kolë Gjoni, killed on November 10, 1951.
- Jak Mark Lala, killed on November 10, 1951.
- Pjeter Llesh Lala, killed on May 5, 1952.
- Mark Preng Ndreca, buried in October 1947.
- Nikollë Ndreu, dies at the age of 84, in Tirana prison.Memorie.al