By Petraq Xhaçka
Memorie.al / The purpose of this book is to unite the help in the efforts that are 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, along 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. The events have been set in the economic fields where it has appeared most strongly, such as the oil and gas industry, where I was fortunate to pour my energies, for a lifetime, and become a participant and witness in those events. All the events that are written in this memoir are true, not only without any exaggeration or embellishment, but perhaps, I don’t know how much I have been 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.
Continues from last issue
The large-print newspapers were announcing this success of our petroleum geologists, but in the first place, this success was attributed to the right politics of the party. The authors of the study and I were several times the subject of television shows with frequent interviews. On this occasion, decorations were made for some geologists and geophysicists of the Institute, of the geophysical enterprise and of the drilling enterprise and the brigade that drilled the well successfully, up to the design depth. I was decorated with the order of the first degree “For distinguished work in mining and geology” and a little later with the “Order of the Red Banner of Labor” of the first degree, which was a very high work decoration.
Later, then, on the occasion of the November holidays, I was awarded the “Republic Award of the First Class”, an award given for a special contribution in the field of science and technology. This was the second award I received until that time, which was a rare event for the scientific workers of our country. This award was given every five years for outstanding contribution in the field of science, technology and art. In 1978, I was promoted and appointed director of the Institute.
In this way, my life was like a small fishing boat, sailing in the straits in a sea full of high waves, struggling not to drown, occasionally rising above these waves with its lighthouse that makes people happy close family, that the man in the boat is alive. From time to time the boat plunged into the depths of the waves, where she was lost from sight. I, the fisherman, fought the waves as well when I was rising above them as when I was diving below them. I, the selfless oilman, always fought equally with all my strength, with all my abilities, for the good of the country, but my name at certain times was honored and mentioned with respect, at other times, it became the object of accusations for harmful work, very harsh attacks in meetings and conferences, which ended with punitive measures. Man was unable to recognize himself, where he was finally included by the communist rulers, in the lists of the good or, in the suspicious ones, of the enemies?!
Our life was prey to the dictator’s whims. We were slaves of modern times, in the hands of this all-powerful slave owner, at the navel of the 20th century. They forced us to have only the thoughts that arose in one’s head. They told us where to work and how to work; they instructed us how to speak and how to write; forcing us where to live and how to live, through a brutal passporting regime for every town and village; they ordered us how to dress; they restricted us in which languages we could speak; they determined whom to write to and whom to greet; they forced us what kind of music to listen to. We were forced to go through the long lines of food: lines for milk, lines for cheese, dairy products, meat, eggs, kerosene for the fire.
What more does it take to be a slave? The chains?! We had them, but only their rattling could not be heard, how we dragged them through the streets, on walks, through trains and buses, through the salons of the stairs of the prime minister’s office. The interventions of the party leadership in the technical issues of oil were continuous and, of course, had only negative consequences. Such a case was the one in the drilling well at the new Cakran well site, in Ca 21. The well had entered the limestone layers of the bed and was being deepened to pass from the gas cap area to the oil-bearing zone, which was located under it. During drilling, some geologists and geophysicists, without sufficient technical experience, raised the idea that the well was drilling in the oil-bearing zone and not in gas, based on some signs of oil, which they found in the limestone samples extracted from the well, during drilling with a drill.
This judgment was not correct. Their perception of the type of bedding was wrong, because we were not in an oil-bearing zone, but a gas-bearing zone, and the interruption of the drilling that they sought, would result in millions of dollars spent in vain. I argued to the specialists who were there, telling them that the signs of oil were the result of the condensation of oil from exiting a high-pressure area, where it was in a gaseous state and when the sample came to the surface, due to the effect of reducing under pressure, the condensate turned into oil. The specialists were not convinced and brought this issue to the Fier Party Committee. There they presented their opinions and complained about a conservative attitude on my part.
One afternoon they asked me to the Party Committee. In the office of the First Secretary, I also found the Secretary of the Central Committee of that time, Prokop Murra, who welcomed me with his first legs: – Comrade Xhaçka, don’t you listen to the opinion of the new cadres?! They have a fair proposal for the Ca 21 well. The well has entered the aquifer and drilling must be stopped. How can we explain your attitude?!
I still hadn’t been invited to sit down. Right on my feet, I answered: – Comrade Prokop, I have had and still have the acceptance of the right thoughts, either from the young or from the old, in my work method, and in the foundation of my education. But when misinterpretations are made, as in this case, which is no more, no less, absurd ideas, I cannot make decisions that seriously damage the economy. I’m very sorry, that you keep this firm attitude, without knowing correctly, especially technically the situation! After the first harsh exchange of retorts, the conversation calmed down and I sat down and was forced to explain the problem to them in technical detail. However, Prokop Murra did not give up the self-esteem of the party leader. Ever since he left Tirana, he had decided to maintain the opinion that they were young and, therefore, they were right.
Then I decided not to extend it. – I do not give the order to stop drilling the well. To me, that would be a crime. If you have decided to listen to them, then please give me a written order to act as an institute. He did not like this harsh way of leaving the decision entirely in the hands of Prokop Murra. He didn’t have the courage to act on his own and stop the well, because he lived like the rest of us, in the shadow of fear.
The work went all the way to the prime minister. I sensed that the leadership of the party was not of the same opinion as me, that’s why I had tasked Prime Minister Shehu, together with his deputies, to make a complete comparison of opinions, and then he himself would decide. They gathered us in his office. The Prime Minister, seeing my persistence, in support of the technical opinion, understood that I was closer to the right. He lined up on my side and gave the order that the well should continue drilling and that the work should not be interrupted. We took his decision in a seven-page document, to have in the Geological Institute and to make it clear to all concerned.
The drilling did not stop and the work seemed to be put on the line. But the story did not end there. An order from the ministry, which was contrary to that of Mehmet Shehu, clearly demanded that we stop further drilling the well, lower the column and put the well into use for oil extraction! Mehmet Shehu’s order was quite fresh. How was it explained?! We, as the director of the Institute, were really surprised when we read the ministry’s order, but we immediately understood that Enver Hoxha himself had entered the dance here. There was no other explanation: Only he could get over the prime minister!
An awkward situation was created. In these conditions, in order not to lose the well, I judged and decided on an intermediate technical variant, lowering a column tail, which allowed the well to go into acquisition, but also later allowed its further deepening. I did this because I had a firm belief that at that depth, the well would yield the gas I thought and not the oil that the ministry and all those who pushed it expected.
We obeyed the ministry’s order. We ordered the drilling company to switch to this new variant. An order is an order. Enver Hoxha, such arbitrary actions were common. He ignored the authority of his prime minister, did not ask about the experience of geologists and simply issued an order. No matter how the clash ended, he would never be held responsible, because he was the “infallible leader” and had received this epithet, from where exactly; he was never “wrong”!
When the works on the Ca 21 well had begun according to the new order that we forwarded to them, Mehmet Shehu was made aware of all these vicissitudes. He went down to Ballsh and called us all. After successive meetings in the cinema of Patos, such announcements, without an agenda, always made the mind feel bad. In a large hall, about two hundred and fifty people had gathered: leaders, specialists, workers and of course those who have never been absent recently, State Security employees.
The Prime Minister did not come alone. He had behind him the chairman of the Special Commissariat for Oil, an organization that was created after 1975. At the head of the Commissariat was Hekuran Isai, who came from a series of trivial jobs, until he reached the position of First Secretary of a circle, which I don’t remember now. Mehmet Shehu immediately took the floor. He spent some good words in the address of the oil workers, and especially for the Oil Institute, regarding the discovery of the source of Cakran. Then, nose and lips, in a sharp tone, he addressed me: – “Stand up a bit, Xhačka”!
I stood up in the middle of a great silence. – “I knew you were brave, but you were nothing but an opportunist”, – continued the head of the government. – “Why did you change your mind to continue drilling in the Ca 21 well?”?! It was understandable that he felt very affected at the seder and since he could not vent his anger elsewhere, he had come all the way to vent here in Mallakastër. He knew who had overruled his order, but he probably didn’t know that, from my technical point of view, about the progress of the well, I had not yet withdrawn.
I was forced to begin a very difficult explanation. – Look, fellow prime minister. – “Why did you stop drilling him”?!, he continued.
It was not easy for me in front of everyone present, but nevertheless, filled to the brim with this unbearable condition, I told him. – “I, fellow prime minister, am still convinced that the well will yield gas and not oil. I see that you are angry with me, but I am the first one. If the well will yield oil, hang me here in this place, where I am saying these words”. I knew that he liked such forms of expression.
– “But, friend Mehmet, there are some orders that I do not have full power to face. However, based on my steadfast conviction, I have taken measures so that we do not lose the well. Let’s give it a try, as those who don’t think like me say. We’ll go back to continuing to drill, to get to where the real stuff was.”
The statement was incredibly powerful, in such a crowded environment. I assumed a high responsibility, because if it turned out the opposite, I knew what they were made of and what they could do. But nerves, I no longer had allies. Interventions from above had become unbearable. My words, indirectly, but very clearly, implied that the great of the country, Enver Hoxha, was wrong to take such a decision, but we still had to implement it with wide eyes. After this answer, the prime minister did not push it anymore, because he understood correctly how the matter stood.
When the well went through the acquisition process, everything became clear. The well proved the presence of gas and not oil. Thus, the opinion that I bravely defended turned out to be technically correct and the solution given by me, in order to allow the well to be deepened further and to lower the next column for deeper exploitation, was also well thought out and with measures careful protection. We got the oil below, where I predicted, and not at the depth that the party decided to stop the well. The production that the well gave was of great benefit to the economy of our country. As I guessed, no one took part in the fierce debate, and no one showed the slightest human courtesy and respect, or at least apologized to me for all the nervous stress I went through.
Years under a blazing sky
The party did not last long, because after a year, during the drilling of the Ca. 27, there was a serious accident, an extremely powerful open fountain, with a layer pressure of nearly 450 atmospheres. Day by day, for almost three years, gas and oil were burned in the atmosphere and burned, converted into oil equivalents, about 6000-7000 tons per day, extremely great damage to the economy of our country.
The open fountain happened because of the reckless carelessness of the drilling brigade. The whole brigade knew that they were drilling into the oil bed, which had high pressures. One night they left the well alone due to a small fault in the well pumps and fell asleep as if they were in beach hotels. The well had begun to activate and in an instant it exploded. When the lone worker who was working, saw what was happening, he woke up his companions, but they, terrified by the powerful fountain, left without attempting to make any maneuvers.
Fontana threw up what he was wearing, the metal parts created a spark and the flame took the sky. For months, the burning flame in Cakran gathered the sad looks of the residents around it, from Fierak, Berata, Lushnjar, Vlonjat, and Tirana. When the atmospheric conditions gave a greater transparency, the flame of the Cakran fountain was visible during those three years to the shores of Italy.
The brave oil workers bravely worked in extremely difficult conditions, led by the staff of specialists led by engineers Perikli Prifti, Koli Mone, Dhimitër Deda, and others, in whose staff I was included, to curb the powerful flame , which destroyed everything on the surface. At the risk of their lives, the oilmen managed to extinguish the powerful flame several times, but the fountain was impossible to close, because it had burst into underground veins, through cracks in the metal column, inside the well, and came to the surface in the form of a griffon. , in a very large space, of hundreds of square meters.
It was attempted and succeeded in drilling in difficult gas environments, a deep well, to meet the bottom of the first well. But with the existing technique, the approach of up to seven meters was achieved. The efforts were superhuman, but it was not possible to achieve any result, to command the fountain out of the new well. The state did not even think of accepting the attempt to ask for help from any specialized American company to carry out this task. Blind politics did not allow to look at things realistically or to open this discussion. The wealth of the people in hundreds of millions of dollars continued to be blown up for three consecutive years.
Although we had no responsibility individually or as an Institute, the great calamity that occurred at this source-place was a new blow in the chain of other calamities and worried us beyond measure. When I often went to the area around the mouth of the well, near that fountain and the powerful fire, to find some solution for the processes that would be carried out in accordance with the concrete situation at the mouth of the well, my heart dripped, so much so that my eyes often filled with tears. The wealth of the country burned there, the blood, sweat and sacrifices of geologists burned there, the possibilities of a more peaceful life burned there.
One night late, I had returned home to wash after days of staying in this battle with the well, I approached the kitchen window, which saw the red sky above the post, I was looking at the painting with unbroken pain, that those days it seemed that a cruel hand had hung us in all our windows. My nerves were shattered, and my eyes watered again. The woman noticed me, approached me and asked: – Why are you crying, Petraq?! You’re not telling me, are you at fault in this accident that happened?!
I explained to him once again that I had no responsibility and I did not cry because I was guilty: I cried for the values that were burning, I cried that we geologists would have a very hard time finding it again. And this my concern was confirmed by life afterwards. Some of us, some of the foreign companies, who searched for oil and gas for more than ten years, after the fall of the communist dictatorship, in our country it was not possible to discover any other resource; even if not to the extent of that of Cakran.
In the years 1979-80, again towards the Geological Institute, demands and criticism began to increase, as before. They thought that under the drive of fear, we would discover some other Cakra. Despite all our efforts during these years, we had no result. We had an increase in oil and gas reserves every year, but not at the high levels that were planned.
All this work and life with an incredible tension, resulted in me getting sick from nerves, with a very pronounced depression. For the period 1980-’82, I was treated by the best doctors in the country, who hospitalized me three times in the hospitals of Tirana, in the neurology wards, and I stayed there for several months. The bad thing was that some did not have to understand the danger of this disease, despite the warnings of doctors, to change the workplace. The relevant bodies did not take into account the suggestions of the doctors, so I was not given the necessary help, after twenty years of intense work and full of nervous loads. For a period of six years, I continued to use cures in strong doses, which, thanks to the good work of the doctors, helped me to escape the danger that threatened me.
In the years 1978-’81, in addition to my daily work, I also worked on the preparation and defense of the dissertation for the scientific degree of doctorate, in the field of tectonics and petroleum geology of Albania. In November 1981, I successfully defended my dissertation in all instances, from the Institute to the State University of Tirana, and obtained the scientific degree “Doctor of Geological Sciences”. This was the first degree of this scientific level, awarded until that time in the sector of the oil industry. Thus, throughout this period and until the day of my arrest, I was also a member of the technical section at the Academy of Sciences of Albania.
I cited my health condition and asked to be released again, to leave the oil sector, and go to the University, which continued to persistently ask me to be a lecturer. But they had my life in their hands, they still wanted to hold the lemon and squeeze it all the way, until it had no juice left, and then throw it in the bin! Memorie.al
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