By Luan Muftiu
The first part
Memorie.al / Luan Muftiu was born in Berat in 1933 and was orphaned at an early age, as his father, a respected patriot and supporter of the “National Front”, was sentenced to be shot in 1945, but later, his life was spared and died after a few years in the Burrel prison, where he was serving his sentence. Luani’s mother and she did not manage to get out of the psychiatric hospital alive, where she was thrown mercilessly. Amidst the suffering that followed him day by day, with a lot of effort, Luani managed to continue the Pedagogical school in Berat and started working as a teacher. But during all this time he was under the constant surveillance of the State Security bodies and in 1975, he was arrested and sent to the investigator. “What have I done”? – Luani would ask the investigator…! “…You are butchered meat that we keep in the refrigerator, when we need to take, to punish, so that those young people who sing canzonettas can see”, – answered the investigator. He was sentenced to 10 years and sent to Spaç, where he served the entire sentence. After 1990, he came to Tirana where he took an active part in democratic processes and engaged in various writings mainly in the newspaper “Liria”, organ of the Association of Former Convicts and Political Persecuted of Albania. Luan Muftiu also dealt with literature, studying the genre of the story, which he was very passionate about. He has published an essay entitled “Under the communist territory”, as well as translated “Aphorisms never described” by Oscar Wilde and “White Nights” by Dostoevsky.
I don’t know how children need their mothers, but mine has had a strange love for me. She wore a special ring on her finger to protect me from some secret curse of her heart when I did any of those things that hurt her. But she never revealed her love to me, as she wanted not to infringe on my freedom. She hid her excessive care from my eager gaze. Besides me, I dictated her weakness to me, whenever I had to be reprimanded for an action that affected my sensibility. As a “gentle lioness”, she wanted to raise a “proud cub”, therefore with a feigned indifference she wiped out the consequences of my punishable behavior. Perhaps, through me, this beauty queen wanted to establish the power of her pride in the cultured environment where you had been a bride. I don’t know why the amazing beauty of her soul I saw painted in the icons of the churches of the city, which I visited almost every Sunday.
Treading cautiously through their alleys, paved with white grass, from which grew green grass that seemed to be renewed by the sound of the bells; I entered the church with my heart all trembling with an incomprehensible feeling. Behind the smoke of the censer, I contemplated the light of beauty of brides and elegant girls who had come to pray to God to forgive their sins, the sweet sadness of the wall paintings, the majesty of silence and the magic of the divine voices of the children’s choir. It seemed to me that only there I discovered the paradise of a mother’s inexpressible love. I felt so intoxicated by a strange passion that it seemed to me that the whole religious ceremony was taking place just for me. And I had a need to thank all those who came to pray in the church. Thus was established at that age a kind of secret connection between me and this house of God.
Even today I do not know how I read the meanings of the sounds of the bell, because I remember that, when they announced a death, I ran with tears in my eyes to my mother, who surprisingly never asked me about the cause of my illness my, when I would jump into her arms happy that she was alive… even she didn’t want me to openly show my weakness for her! She never complained about the troubles and worries, when my mother was arrested by the communists and she had to stand bent over in front of the prison gate twice a day, hoping that they would accept the food that she had prepared for her husband. This being that embodied compassion was now overwhelmed by a sense of duty.
A wrinkle of anger, which tried to grow between her eyebrows, could not break the harmony of that being who found happiness only in peace. Did beauty play a role in that tenderness that he made for himself? I adored her and, enthralled, I was jealous, silently, when I saw that even women were confused in front of her. Perhaps this jealousy had also created a kind of enmity with him, which led me to make some mistakes that I was sure would anger him to see how, he would protect me in any case, without asking about the sadness I caused him my appetite. Now that he had fallen into prison, it seemed to me that he had sought it himself, despairing that I had not recognized his love for me, and as much as I pitied him, I condemned him for this merciless revenge from me. Everything that happened to me, I weighed in my own way. The communists seemed to me like toys in the hands of my fate, who only acted as he told them.
Now I saw my mother more and more haunted by day, while at night, when I clasped her between my weak arms, she seldom remembered that I was near. One day I caught her by surprise crying. They had sentenced the only brother to death! He was the copy of his sister from the soul, as if we subtracted a flash of strictness (when he touched the sensibility), which had sprouted, perhaps, from the feeling of responsibility for the family, which had fallen on his shoulders from an early age. Smart and with a fine intuition, but without the culture that his intellect required, he treasured the pride inherited from his father, the anti-Turkish insurgent, who, with the purity of his patriotic feelings, had also won the sympathy of those who were to be hated. This compassionate brother loved his sister madly.
Her brother’s nobility stood like a crown of flowers to her stunning beauty, just as his sister’s angelic hair adorned his head. They should be proud of each other, the way they were treated when they were children. Who would protect my mother’s beauty now from all those arrows that this beauty unwittingly drew towards her? The communists really killed his brother, not even showing him the pit where they threw his body. They didn’t even like it when she cried. The communists were very afraid of the tears shed from pity for their victims. My mother cried secretly, but not from fear. She didn’t even want to cry. She could not accept that her brother had died, when she thought that he had only done well to others! She wept secretly for the humiliation that had been done to her brother. They had robbed the mother of her pride, so half of her being was dead. The other half ran after his memories, in order not to feel alone.
Meanwhile, the income was depleted and the needs increased every day. The sale of valuables for a piece of bread began. The days dragged on with difficulty and hunger started knocking at our door! Mother was leaving us every day, like that captain who does not approach the passengers who are about to drown, when the ship is filling with water, terrorized by the cries of conscience that he is unable to help them. Always thoughtful, she mechanically performed her duties as a wife and mother! Those who yesterday respected her for her nobility, now that they had taken power, disdainfully advised her to divorce her husband and get married, since her husband would no longer take his head out of prison bars! Revolted and insulted, she slapped everyone in the face when she thought about their cuteness, while the nights, shocked, kept them awake without sleep.
I tried to stay close to her, putting myself in her breast at night, but she, although she didn’t forget the caresses, seemed to beg me not to bother her. One night she told me to be careful not to hear footsteps on the ceiling, and when I assured her that there were no such noises but the complete silence of the night, she laughed under her breath as if to tell me that you had been joking, while I saw in the moonlight coming in from the window, two drops of tears glistening in her eyes, filled with an unusual light. Then I began to search like hell for my mother’s love, because I didn’t understand why she was getting cold every day. What was this evil that drove me from her heart? I followed the sighs, the movements, even the colors of her voice, but I could not come to a conclusion. I could not find a reason why you should have lost her love for me. Then I was overdoing it with blasphemy to deserve a rebuke from her. But no! She seemed to be burdened by my love that she felt was killing me. Then I threw away that sensibility and pride, with which I hid my weakness for her, thinking that I would offend her in that early request of her soul for me, but she was only troubled for a moment, then became indifferent.
She was now asking for a new pact, which I could not accept: to leave her alone! But how could I leave him alone, when I saw how he was suffering? And she, perhaps, wanted to teach me with her absence?! Ah, how often I imagined myself dead in order to enjoy the happiness that compassion expressed in tears and cries gave me! I realized later that I had a sick love for my mother. Had her heart felt this? Had she felt how wild my love that she herself had sown was? She herself had taught me to treat her cruelly. I used to come to school for him; I wore new clothes for her, ate and drank for her and slept only for her sake. She did all the homework that the teacher gave me to do at home, she excused me, when I wandered the street and didn’t go to school, and she covered my faults everywhere and whenever. And she never complained, never told me what she had done to protect me, as if it were her mistakes and she had to pay for them.
Once, the children of the neighborhood who often came to our house, had taken all her silk dowry, bought in Italy, out into the yard and, dressed as actors, played in the theater. Another child had accidentally dropped a 30 kg jar of grape jam from the porch counter and had started to cry for fear of some punishment. Mother came: everyone froze. Her clothes were lying on the roses in the garden, while the pekmezi had almost soiled the whole house. She laughed, asked about me, found me, put me in a room and, after undressing me, checked me carefully to make sure I hadn’t been killed when the pipe fell. After making sure that I had not suffered anything, she breathed a sigh of relief, collected her things in the yard and started to clean the house without scolding us or scaring the neighborhood children to come again. And I tried to help her with some work, but without her noticing that I had done that work.. She, of course, understood, but she also didn’t thank me, as she knew that this would not give me pleasure. .
It was wartime and our father, charged with various duties, rarely came home. But we were not alone, because our mother often took home poor and homeless women and separated them (at first), as brides do for the first time with their parents, and served them for their souls for a whole month. In the end, he sent them off with five hundred goodies, promising to invite them again next year. We wondered with what devotion she performed this charity. Now, apart from silence, she had started to stay without eating, but we could never understand the reason for her “hunger strike”. Didn’t she want to leave us her bread ration that the state gave at that time for every soul? Or hunger helped him to feel less spiritual pain! In those days, the communists had also sentenced to death her nephew, whom she kept close to him, because he was a copy of his brother, for whom I don’t believe he stopped crying until he went to him.
Did he, on those sleepless nights, talk to his grandson, expecting to be kidnapped from moment to moment, as the hyenas who did not get enough of innocent blood for 45 years kidnapped him? How can you kill a child who hasn’t sweated the hair on his cheek well? A child who had not killed a butterfly or scared a bird? Maybe she felt that this was the end of the world and there was no point in trying to live. While I stubbornly asked for her love! How much trouble I must have given the poor thing by asking him to do something he couldn’t do! Ah, mother, how much you had to endure. Those whose lives you had protected now did not even give you menial work to keep your children alive. Now you only had to pray: to the prison guard, to the baker, to the doctor for a visit, to your husband’s friends, who now acted as if they didn’t know you! You nobly descended these steps of humiliation and showed another beauty, which perhaps you did not know yourself. You washed these steps with tears of insulted pride and who knows what secret agreement you made with death, which stamped indifference on your forehead. What killed you the most, mother?
The absurdity of the sacrifice, or the cynical ingratitude of the people? Goodbye, mother! You had to leave this life! Was your coldness a way to make the separation less painful? How much you must have suffered to tear these strong threads of our love! And how did we not get angry once with this abandonment that you did to us every day? Did we feel how you were? Or you, in your waking moments, showered so much love on us, that it would keep our hearts warm for as long as you would be stolen from our love. How did the candy disappear in your smart smile? Where did that benevolent irony go, with which you forced us to abandon evil, without feeling insulted?
You fell, mother!
No calamity could have damaged our souls at that age more than this fall of yours. We lost forever the desire to build something beautiful in life, in the image of happiness! Did you know this?!… Forgive me, mother, if we made you suffer even after death! You couldn’t leave without a cry! Can’t stay without showing the executioners their true face! The honor of the brother, the tears of the orphans, the good deed of your husband, who was treading the dungeons of safety, demanded it! Your compassionate soul could not allow his nobility to be mocked by some rascals whose ambition for power turned them from ungrateful beggars to treacherous murderers, while the criminal instinct of greed led them to believe that they were even gods! And your insulted pride runs from the darkness where you threw communist terror, exploding like lightning that strikes a snake’s head. You shouted in their offices: “graceless…! Felon…”! And you didn’t hear the phones that screamed and the doors that slammed and you didn’t see how you went down the stairs and how the irons were put on your hands, how the thugs threw you in the cell and how they tied you up at home!
And we found you alone, alone, with your hands tied behind your back with German irons, cross-legged and hair down, beautiful as a genie above the big shelf above the stairs. You were silent and we couldn’t find out who was sitting there. And why there? They said that two policemen brought him, some that there were civilians with them, others that there was also a woman there, but they did not say who had seen him when he came. We asked the mother herself, but she did not want to answer. She stood with her head down, as if she were guilty, with fixed eyes, fixed on one point, and it seemed as if she begged us to pity her, saying to us with silence: “I did this now”! This moment remained in our memory as a first slap that communism gave us! I approached him for a moment and kissed him on the cheek; she grimaced as she struggled to muster a smile, turning her head to the side in embarrassment as the irons clattered to the board along with her white hands. We gathered around to see those nails bent like rings around her swollen hands.
Suddenly the sound of the feet of a policeman was heard coming up the stairs, who, red in the face, told us not to remove the irons from the mother, because only then would they allow her to stand next to us. What happened? Dream? Or was a mysterious force giving us this punishment to force us to appreciate our mother’s value more? It took years to convince us that this was a reversal that had to be faced with great pain! While we were thinking about how to feed her and how to take her to the bathroom, she seemed to understand our plight, as she let out an uncontrollable moan, smiled caressingly at us and asked us to give her some bread. One of us removed the irons, carefully, while she, with her hands now free, fastened the open vest to the first two springs. Then she started eating hungry, just like that, scared, as if she were a stranger in her own home! The great shock had frightened us to tears and I wonder today where we found the strength to be so attentive to her!
As long as a man is the king of happiness, he does not care about those who donate to him, but when the victims who are sacrificed raise their heads, he immediately becomes a beggar and begs for mercy! We hadn’t realized yet that without mother’s love nothing would enter our eyes! We called this happiness our right, and compassion, her duty. Now we felt that every mother’s love was not something earthly! Now that we miss her, we were amazed! All our lives we would fight now to deserve a spark of love that resembled that of a mother! But in vain…! We would remain real people, how long would the moisture of her love stay inside us, the echo of the sweet cries of mother’s love! Surprise! Our care for him tormented him more! The “lioness” shook her mane and stood up. We were not in a dream: we had regained what we had lost forever!
We plunged back into the kingdom of love! We were human again! I slept that night as before with him, even shedding tears of happiness in my sleep! She also cried with me, but she pretended to be moved by my tears! And he lied to me, poor thing, giving me the impression that he had tears of joy, while he felt that it was the last night he slept with us! When she woke up, we put the irons back on her hands, just like she taught us. Then he went and sat down at the place where the police had left him. And he looked at us smiling, as if he wanted to tell us: “Look, how good, nothing happened”! And it really seemed to us that all this was just a toy! However, after we hurriedly carried out the orders given to us separately by a relative who had dared to come to our house, we returned to our mother immediately to make sure that she was there. Beautiful as a forest fairy, she sat still with her head held high, as we have heard brave men sit before firing squads. She had a special glow and it looked like she had become a bride! We were the only ones who didn’t know what to do with it! And the ” affinity” were not looking to lock him in the “cage”! Memorie.al
The next issue follows