From Drita Çomo
The first part
Memorie.al / Drita Çomo were born in Tirana, in 1958. In November 1960, at the age of two, she was exiled together with the whole family, due to the political conviction of her mother, Liri Belishova, a member of Political Bureau and secretary of the Central Committee of PPSh, who was accused by Enver Hoxha of being a revisionist. While Drita’s father, Maqo Çomo, former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Agriculture, was sentenced and re-sentenced by the communist regime, spending most of his life in Burrel prison, until the collapse of the communist regime , accused of being an “enemy of the people”. Based on this, Drita Çomo spent part of her childhood and adolescence exiled in the village of Kuç in Vlora and then in Progonat in Kurveles. In the late 70s- her family was interned in the town of Cërrik, where she finished high school, but due to some absences she had made at school, due to an incurable disease and the obstacles that brought them out as a “reactionary family” she was not allowed her to finish her high school graduation. Unfortunately, the disease progressed and on 19.02.1981, at a very young age, she passed away in the Oncology Hospital of Tirana. In the tragic moments of her last days, she was not allowed to have her mother by her side until she was in agony of death she remained alone, even though her mother, Liri Belishova, had written several letters to Nexhmije Hoxha (her former close friend since the war), but she never received an answer…! The text that we are publishing below is excerpted from her book “Light from the Abyss”.
PART FROM THE DIARY OF LIGHT COMO
(EXTRACTED FROM THE BOOK “LIGHT COMING FROM THE ABYSS”)
On Tuesday we left with my grandmother to go to my father and uncle. We found only the uncle. Dad was taken from there. Where is?
They don’t answer us. Nobody cares if you worry. Everyone is deaf. “We do not answer” – they answer. I will never forget that evening, when I was waiting in front of the prison door, in the dark and a little further, a group of policemen were talking in low voices. Suddenly I heard some words: “the coffin… I think they will take it out tonight…”
A cold horror took over my whole body, I felt shivers and I had to catch my breath. “O great God, not only this, not only this”! That whole day I had not shed a tear and I had tried to be as calm as possible. From the first moment, I thought of only one option: they have arrested him for another trial. All along, I had been thinking about it and had almost forgotten that it was just a guess of mine.
Only at that moment did I realize that, no matter how terrible something is, it is never absolutely terrible; there is always something that could be even more terrible. I was not a lady to think about anything. In my whole being, only one thought was pounding like a hammer: “Only be alive, only be alive, oh God, only…”!
They sent me again: “Come tomorrow at 7 o’clock”. Grandma and I went back down the dark road again, walking awkwardly, stumbling almost at every step and not being able to say a word. I saw nothing and heard nothing, only that terrible thought swirled in my tired brain…!
We went to the Internal Affairs Branch and asked for the chief. He refused to meet me. Then, helpless as I was in my distress, a strange insistence came upon me. “I will wait until it comes out, I said – and I will stop it here outside”.
I don’t know how long that frozen waiting lasted. Once, a thin man in a gray suit came out. “Excuse me, are you the head of the Branch”? “No, I’m the vice president.” He shook my hand, we entered the waiting room. He behaved well, but he did not answer me.
All effort is futile. However, from the conversation I could understand that the worst had not happened. He was alive – and that was the main thing Alive. And what was the importance of the others before that?
The next day we went to Tirana. I went to the Ministry and the same answer. “It’s very good. We have it. Right now we don’t tell you where he is. Come in a month. Let him go back to where he was.”
And now – a cold, passive waiting. What happened?
Friday, 16. IX.’77
On Tuesday afternoon, I left with Bule for Lezhë – we received a telegram that the next day, my uncle’s trial was taking place. We received the telegram at lunch, so we were forced to go by taxi to Tirana. From there by train to Laç and from Laç to Lezhë by bus. We arrived late so that night we went straight to the hotel. The next morning we went to the prosecutor’s office. When we were leaving the hotel, Bulja tripped on the last step and fell all over.
His whole body was shaking. The trial started around 8:00. Sokoli was waiting for us in the hall. So polite and with that premature seriousness, as always.
There were lots of people. The hall was small and they pushed each other, climbed on the benches, squeezed each other…! Once he came, handcuffed, between two policemen, pale, eyes wide open. I couldn’t even recognize him. Another man. His eyes moved surprisingly quickly, as if he was looking for someone, a support, a warm look, or rather, as if he did not dare to look anyone directly in the eye. A vein throbbed in his neck, like a fragment of anxiety. Once he saw his son and his eyes calmed down for a moment, then calmness seemed to slowly take over him…!
The trial of a man. It was my first time attending a trial.
He spoke. Sometimes possessed by that strange, almost suffocating restlessness, sometimes sunk into apathy.
I had such a hard time getting to know him. This was that Agron, whom I loved so much, that doctor who traveled miles to help the villagers, the one that all the highlanders talked about?
The trial ended around 12:00.
At 16.30 the decision was given.
Then we went to the Branch and asked to meet him. We met him about a quarter of an hour in the corridor, on foot. Now he seemed calm, smiling and talking almost normally. Let’s go. Even S. was shocked and confused. How will he endure it? Whole life.
At dinner, the three children came to the hotel, Bulja begged Sokol, that he wanted to meet the oysters. Both so good, so charming, so polite. With that soft and sweet voice, the embodiment of human innocence and purity. Oh my God, I thought. Why?
We parted so quickly. The hotel receptionist came and told us that children were not allowed inside. I forwarded them. It was cool outside and it was night, so we parted ways. Who knows when we will meet again?
Friday, 7. X.’77
Today we received a letter from dad. We still haven’t received the first two letters you sent us. This is the third.
Ten years. Again from the beginning. We still do not know the motivation of the sentence. That doesn’t even matter. Again from the beginning. The “don’t get hot” game.
“Freedom is one of the most expensive possessions that heaven could have given to people. All the treasures that are hidden in the depths of the earth and in the depths of the sea cannot be compared to it.”
Sunday, 26. II.’78
It’s been about two months since I kept a journal. Let this period of silence remain as a reminder of poverty. Titi returned from the army and still hasn’t found a job. Neither did I, while my mother’s salary was not even enough for us to eat. So I couldn’t afford to buy notebooks. Three days ago, finally, I started work and earned the notebook with “sweat”.
I work in the municipality, flower garden worker.
These two days they used us as transport workers, we distribute wood around the city with “Zuk” or “Zetor”. I’m a bit tired, but someone told my mom that work will pass me by and, it seems, like it or not, I’m following his order. My work friends are relatively old. The only person I can have fun with is a charming young man of about 30, but very black, who sings, shouts and jokes all day.
There is also a cheerful woman, a little younger than the others and as white as the first one is black, in every sense of the word. Yes, she is now in a relationship. The driver of “Zuk” is a woman from the villages of Saranda, she has been married in Cërrik for about a year, so the curiosity of the residents has already died down. These days, my presence again made the zoo an object of attention. What else should I write?
It’s been a while since I stopped learning English and reading literature textbooks. I read anything I could get my hands on. Now, of course, I have no time left. Towards the end of January, finally, mom was allowed and we both went to see my dad and uncle. I hadn’t seen him in so long and I missed him so much. Yes, you can’t even write about such impressions…!
Tuesday, 13. II.’79
Yesterday we were with my mother at my father and uncle’s house.
We were notified on Saturday. On Sunday I went to Elbasan to buy food, took the morning bus and came back at 11.30. I didn’t go from my uncle at all. I spent the part of my free time in the library.
We left for Burrel with gas, at 6 in the morning. We were accompanied by two bags. The road was long and boring. It was zagushi, mom was taken by the car and the volley. Meanwhile, I was thinking about what we could do during an hour and I was trying to remember what things I had wanted to say to them all this time. We were only allowed to meet uncle for 10 minutes and dad for half an hour.
This was communicated to us at the last moment, it was something unexpected and opinions were completely scattered. Everything we said didn’t seem right to me. As if they were wasting our time. The minutes passed quickly, very quickly, and in the end I had the impression that we hadn’t talked about anything, we hadn’t even kissed each other enough. Then I felt like a child who was promised a toy and lied to.
Again a long and tiring road. A short interval between two long, long fatigues. This is the father in my life. My good, strong father.
Now everything seemed foreign to me, meaningless, almost ridiculous. People on the street, children playing, buses of workers, guys smoking cigarettes and dating girls. Newspapers, words…! And my father there. 18 years in a row. My father. You say days will pass and I’ll be back to my normal life? In my small, empty worries, in my ridiculous sufferings. There are moments when I am ashamed of myself.
Monday, 19. II.’79
On Saturday China attacked Vietnam. These two days have been filled with something that I don’t know how to explain, with something big, unusual. I experienced a feeling that resembled anxiety. It was the first time I searched the radio for news and not music. In our small, monotonous life, an interest suddenly arose.
I haven’t been feeling well since we went to dad’s. I have pain in different parts of my body, almost in all internal organs, my back and kidneys hurt, especially at dinner I don’t know how to sit. This evening I had a cough and… I put the thermometer, 37 degrees.
Tuesday, 27. XI.’79
On Sunday I was with Bula in Tirana, we met Uncle Bardhyl. We were only allowed 10 minutes through a barred door. He rested his cheek on the bars and we kissed, then we rested our cheeks on the bars and he kissed us. Bulja barely made the way. We finished work around 10:00, I took Bule to the train and I went out to Tirana myself, because I had to buy some things.
When we returned, we found Sh. at home, he slept there that night. He drank a little with his uncle and began to sing old songs that were sung in his youth. He sang passionately and spoke passionately about those years. Ida, Ledi and Laura surrounded him, looked him in the eye and accompanied him as best they could. I returned home this afternoon. Memorie.al
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