From Leka Toto
The first part
Memorie.al / Leka Toto were born in Tirana on February 14, 1934. After finishing high school at the Tirana gymnasium, he was able to begin his studies at the Faculty of Law of the State University of Tirana, but in 1956, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment freedom, being accused of attempted escape. He was released from prison in 1964 (where the convicts worked for the construction of the Superphosphate Plant in Laç), but the ordeal of the sufferings of Leka Toto, who is also the son of Ismet Toto, the well-known publicist and politician of the Bird Monarchy period (and the grandson of Et’hem and Selaudin Toto, who was shot with the Group of Deputies in 1947), will not end there: he works as a manual laborer first in agriculture and then as an ironworker in construction enterprises, always under pressure of the class struggle, as a “declassed man”. In December 1990, he engaged with the democratic movement and processes and, starting from this, in the elections of March 22, 1992, he was elected deputy of the Democratic Party for the area of Delvina and Saranda. Then for several years he served as a functionary (organization branch) in the Democratic Party, where he was also a member of the presidency. Leka Toto passed away in 2001, after a serious illness. Having a wide cultural background, since his youth Leka Tota was engaged in various writings, mainly of a literary and philosophical nature, but without ever attempting to publish, due to the effect of the family biography. He was able to do this only after the 90s, where he explored the genres of prose, journalism, drama and translation, managing to publish several works, among which we can mention: “Sakipi”, “Vetkryqezimi”, “St. Friday” and “I’m reading myself”.
FRAGMENT FROM THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL BOOK “I’M READING MYSELF”
A few months after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, I was arrested, “in the name of the people”, in the company where I worked. The warm winds coming from Russia could not melt the hard ice of the Enverian dictatorship; on the contrary, they raised a fierce frost that resembled the first years after the liberation.
The darkness of an ordinary evening found me under the stairs of the Department of Internal Affairs, at the elegant “Selvia” on Dibra Street. A narrow and steep dungeon where you could only walk crouched. In front of it was a small round window, two feet above the cement floor that looked out onto the sidewalk of the building.
Confused, I sat down beside her and, through the crossed bars, I watched quite indifferently at the feet of the policemen, the boots of the officers, and rarely the buttocks of a secretary, that came and went in a hurry. I don’t know how long I sat like that, with a head empty of all thoughts, inside which only the tapping of feet behind the window echoed, like a continuous rhythm without a melodic line.
The mind involuntarily began to numb with pain, just as a numb limb is freed from flies. Unconscious fear froze the brain and she herself began to melt it, putting it at the service of reason. To create the impression that it is the source of all human activity. I thought about all the possible directions why I was there and I got only one answer: I must have said something that struck them.
Communists, though atheists and dogmatic materialists, grudgingly accept the fundamental importance of the Logos in the genesis of everything, just like the biblical prophets. They watch him very carefully and when he comes across, they first destroy what he utters, because they know clearly that the word cannot be killed.
This I knew well, however, in a close circle of friends, I was aware that I had expressed dissatisfaction on occasion. Surprisingly I couldn’t remember anything definite. All dissolved in a fog from which I could only distinguish the color gray to black. Accepting the fact that I had spoken, the only logical way to analyze the people with whom I had exchanged thoughts.
The severe persecution that the dictatorship had exerted on our family, the shooting of my uncle (Selaudin Toto), with the Group of Deputies, the vicious attack that the dictator made in his writings and reports to my parents, as anti-communists, had turned me into a son of measured at a young age.
Consequently, two or three friends made up my social circle. I began to examine them one by one, trying to remember any weakness of their character over the years. A futile effort, any doubts that arose was immediately dispelled. They could have brought me to where I was much earlier. My head started to hurt and a feeling of shame came over me. Muttering to myself, I apologized for my doubt. Weakened, I lay down on the floor and with my hand on my cheek I fell into a deep sleep.
I don’t know how long I was woken up immediately by the sound of the door being slammed open. Frightened, I stood up and the policeman without saying a word put handcuffs on my hands. He gave me a good squeeze, took my arm and led me to a large office a few meters away from the dungeon.
The strong light of the room blinded my eyes, so much so that it took me a few moments to notice that there was no one there. In front of me stood an antique desk, probably confiscated from some aristocratic house and above it on the wall a large portrait of the dictator in military uniform.
The policeman, next to me, kept holding my arm. After two or three minutes, a tall officer without a hat rushed into the room, who pulled the desk chair with force and, as he sat down, took some unwritten papers from a drawer where he wrote something with a pen and before finishing, he stared his to come out, that shone like a man in a fever…!
– “Do you know why you are here”? – He addressed me in a hoarse voice – No – I answered somewhere between surprise and fear.
– “Don’t you think we called you to pass the time, beautiful girl”? – He immediately raised his voice and looked at me as if he wanted to eat me – “What have you done against the popular power?”
– I don’t know what I did – I said in a low voice, but looking into his eyes to show him that I am sincere in my answer.
He got up nervously, pushing the chair, brought his face so close to mine that I could just make out the yellow-green color of the wrinkled skin and the rare, black teeth, which moved up and down all over the place. .
The stinking breath that carried his insulting words slapped over my face and I was terrified and motionless like a frozen body. “Mascara! Despicable villain! You will overthrow the popular power, but forget to move your tail; we will cut off your head”! He screamed and with his big hand gripped my chin tightly, shaking it violently. He let go of me uttering two words that hit me like molten lead in my heart: “Bir bushtre”!
Tears jumped out of my eyes immediately, everything was coming to me, I instantly wanted to rush to them as my hands were tied, inside I was shaking, but reason, the daughter of fear, as always, finds softer ways: “Please deal with me, you have no business with my mother”, I told him tensely in a clipped voice. A little silence prevailed, a suspended silence.
With a quick movement, he placed a green file on the desk and read it with all his might: “The Hungarian counter-revolution is not a counter-revolution, but a real revolution for freedom.” – But what do you say to that, you got kokorroç. This is the judgment of the class enemy, this is the judgment of the capitalist world, and this is what you say up and down. Do you understand that we know everything that a whole people are watching with us? Now it is better for you to show all your hostile activity towards the people, to prove that you are remorseful and of course the judicial authorities will consider it as a mitigating circumstance.
I felt quite surprised, but the instinct of self-defense was on the alert for all kinds of traps. I had heard from my acquaintances, ex-prisoners, that the fairest path to the investigator, the most dignified and without further complications is that of denying the accusation, although it is the most difficult.
– I did not say such a thing.
– “You said it – he continued – and the witnesses will prove it together and with many other things. It’s better to accept it yourself; to free your conscience before it’s too late and take advantage of extenuating circumstances.”
The phone rang. It must have been one of his superiors, because he immediately stood up and the line of “as you order” was being lengthened with great piety. As he finished speaking, another bell installed on the side of the desk rang. Without delay the policeman entered, who took me by the arm as before and led me to the dungeon. Before leaving the office, I had turned my back, I heard some words of the officer: “Let’s see, will you be good enough to stay where you are going”.
I sat somewhat haunted again by the round window. The human leg was no longer visible. The lamps placed on the walls surrounding the building illuminated the sidewalk and a little of my dark hole. Turbulent thoughts were swirling around in my head and surprisingly, they collided in extreme agitation, without respecting each other, to open a heavy metal gate: who has denounced me?
I had the impression that he was standing behind her. Overwhelmed by this stubborn effort, they sat down in a small circle and, aided by memory, tried somewhat calmly to imagine the image of the one behind the gate. But to his surprise he multiplied. Some very dear and respected faces of mine were fanning around a radio broadcasting the news about the tragic events in Hungary.
The voice of the Italian announcer vibrated in my whole being, the titanic figures of Imre Nag and the members of the “Petef” Club rose majestically, cracking the concrete floor with force. I can’t say how long that excited drunkenness with my eyes closed lasted, but I’m sure he mentioned something cold to me that forced its way down my throat.
Frows of weakness covered my face. At the same time, I was burning with shame for my lack of courage as an individual and I felt cold about what was waiting for me next. I wandered for a long time in a vast snow-covered field, without a definite orientation, somewhere I collapsed and fell frozen into a dreamless sleep.
At dawn a woman’s shrill cry pierced my heart with its sharp timbre. I stood up dazed. Among the messages that followed, only one word stood out accompanied by a gasp, which seemed to me to be coming from the depths of his stomach: “children”!
The creak of a gate opening described the silent emptiness of the corridor followed by the rude shout of the policeman: “Rest, I’ll be fine”! The wound of silence was closed, while within me and that unfortunate the memories were deafening. Nothing was leaking. This painful silence was torturing me to such an extent that a burning ache took over my head, it seemed to me as if with his departure I would remain completely empty and my mind would disappear with him.
The horror of the void brought to my ears muffled groans coming from beneath the cement floor. I had heard that in the dark cellars of this wretched edifice the cruelly tortured languished, but I could not say for sure whether those were their groans or figments of my imagination. To me they came like waves of the sea crashing on the shore and returning with a deep sigh. After a while, although I was no longer listening to them, I quietly muttered to myself: “God wants to protect me.”
Handcuffed, I was led out to the front of the sample yard waiting for me. I call it a sample that his appearance evoked terror in anyone who approached him then in Tirana. Accompanied by a young officer I got into the back of the car, the windows of which were closed with thick dock curtains. Nothing was seen outside.
The moment the car crossed the threshold of the gate, it wobbled a little and the corner of the curtain on the right side moved so much that up to a meter above the road I could only see people’s legs and bicycle wheels. Although I grew up in the streets of Tirana, I was not able to distinguish where we were going. Without realizing it, the feeling of uncertainty mixed with a sad feeling coming from the seat I was sitting on. How many of them who have sat on it are no longer in this world and how many others are sent to prisons and camps.
The car slowed down a bit, took a sharp turn. At the edge of the pavement, sitting in the square with a few bunches of pine in front, I saw the only human face on this journey into the unknown, that of their seller. After a few minutes I found myself in the courtyard of the Old Prison from the back. We were met by a middle-aged Security Captain, who, after exchanging a few words with my companion, together with the guard, after ascending a few feet of stairs, led me into a long corridor over thirty feet long, well lighted.
As we walked along on our right flank raised large windows with crossed bars, from which you could look into a quadrangular square surrounded by high walls, at the two outer corners of which stood two bodyguards. Later I also walked in that square that the prisoners call pajdos. To our left, there were iron doors like those of electric cabins, and next to them, men’s shoes, less often women’s shoes, more opinga, down on the floor. Each gate had a number written on it in red paint. They put me in one near the end and bolted the door without saying a word. Memorie.al
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