Memorie.al/publikon the unknown story of Jetullah Gashi, originally from the village of Mramor in Prishtina, who in 1964, when he was a high school student, decided to flee and cross the state border in the area of the village of Zogaj in the district of Tropoja, where for several days, interrogating him in the Internal Affairs Branch of the city “Bajram Curri”, they brought him to the town of Shijak, placing him in a State Security base, which was called “The filtering center of Kosovar emigrants”, who were fleeing Yugoslavia and coming to Albania, where for several months he was subjected to intensive investigation by State Security officers coming from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and covering “Kosovo emigration”.
He was sent to the district of Korça where he finished high school in the town of Maliq and then in Tirana, where he attended higher university studies at the Faculty of Medicine, which he completed in 1971 and was appointed in Elbasan as a nearby doctor. The hospital of that city. His arrest in 1977 after some time of surveillance and persecution by the State Security organs, “as an agent of the UDB”, where after several months of inhuman torture, he was sentenced to 25 years in political prison, which suffered in the camps of Spaç, Qafë-Barit, Burrel, etc., the extraordinary gesture of Jetullah Gashi when he was serving his sentence, handing over the white shirt of the doctor and working in shifts in the gallery of Spaç, from where he was released at the beginning of 1991, with the overthrow of the communist regime.
It was August 30, 1964, when I, after cutting the train ticket from Prishtina to Skopje (where I was working with my father), all the way, I was just thinking how I would get to Albania, which I had been grinding for so many days. In head. At that time I did not have any information about the state border, Yugoslavia – Albania and based on this fact, I went to the bus station in Skopje, where I cut the bus ticket to Gjakova and arrived there in the late hours of the night. I got off the bus and did not know where to go, as I had never been to Gjakova. I made every effort to avoid people and took the road that had less traffic. At the end of this road, I saw a bakery, bought some buns and continued the same road direction in the dark of night. On the right side of the road, I saw a fence, which I crossed and entered the garden. I decided to sleep there. Near the siege, I found a safe place to protect myself, as there were occasional dog barks, but after a while they ceased. Tired I had fallen asleep. I woke up in the morning, after looking around the place, got up, crossed the fence and went out on the street again. My cousin Kadriu had told me that the border to Albania crosses the tops of some bare hills “. This is how 75-year-old Jetullah Gashi from Kosovo remembers the moment of his escape from Yugoslavia to Albania, where he was arrested after graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in Tirana and serving as a doctor for several years in the hospital of the city of Elbasan, in April 1977. By the State Security, being charged as a “UDB agent” and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Torture during the investigation and the sentence of 25 years in prison, the long ordeal in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha until the beginning of 1991, being released with the last convicts who came out of the “communist hell”, leaving for Switzerland to his relatives, returning to Albania and finally leaving for Kosovo, where he still lives with his family. Regarding these and other events and facts from his painful life, Doctor Jetullah Gashi, testifies exclusively for Memorie.al
Mr. Jetullah, what were the questions asked to you by the Security Officers there at the secret base of the Ministry of Interior in Shijak?
The questions were many, they asked me about my family, relatives, all in detail, about friends, what kind of work they did, was any of the collaborators of SUPI (Yugoslav branch of UDB), is it a relative, police officer or clerk in a state office, and if so, where he was employed, etc., etc. Likewise, in addition to family and relatives, I was asked whether the people of Kosovo are satisfied or dissatisfied with the Tito regime. I was asked about the police station in Prishtina, where they are located with the building, did I know any of the officers or any police officers there. I was asked about the military barracks (military units) located in Prishtina, where they were located, how big the buildings were and had I ever seen a military unit, what armament these units have, and many other questions. All these questions they continued to ask me, for a period, from October 5, to October 18, 1964, in the presence of three State Security officers and all my answers, I signed them with nickname “Rakita”.
What did that nickname mean to you, did the officers suggest it to you?
The many questions they asked me were: did I know any person from Kosovo who had come to Albania? I told them that: I do not know anyone, except Riza Gërbeshi, if he is in Albania. On October 18, one of the officers came to my bedroom and told me, “Get ready and go to the office, we have some work to do.” When I entered the office, they were the same officers, and one of them addressed me, saying: “This year you cannot continue school, because almost two months have passed. Next year, you will enroll in the Technical School, in your branch, and if you agree to these, you will sign these documents “?
How did you respond?
‘I’m ready to sign once,’ I said, and got up from my chair immediately, but one of the officers said to me, ‘Wait, Jetullah, you cannot sign them in your name, but under a pseudonym. “. The officer told me: “To choose a name of your birthplace, so that you do not forget it easily.” So after his suggestions, I told them the name of the water source behind the hill, which is called “Balltak”, but they did not like the toponym, “Balltak” – and they asked me if there was another source? “Yes, Rakita,” I said, and with this name, the State Security officers agreed and told me, “Do not tell anyone, not even once, about this name.” I signed all the documents, in the presence of the officer, with the nickname “Rakita”.
When did you leave this house, or the secret base of the State Security, known as the “Filter Center for Kosovar Emigrants?
On October 20, 1964, I left this house where I stayed for about two months, after they told me that they had finished working with me, and they would send me to another place, until the next year, when they opened. Schools. Here often came a Security officer, who received more information from the officers standing there, than from me. This officer had a long and healthy body and his left eye was damaged, he could not see.
Who was he you learned his name?
Later I learned his name, which was Skënder Backa, and he was the main chief (director) for us Kosovars. Skënder Backa often said in the presence of Kosovars, where they sent us from time to time, “to prepare us for the future”. He told us: “Listen men: I left this eye during the War for Albania, and I would not die without leaving this one for Kosovo”. The names of other officers I remember are: Shaban Braha, Shaban Zeneli, Sali Shatri, Bajram Pela, and others who constantly came to that house in Shijak. I also got the nickname “Rakita” with the consent of these people.
Where were you sent after leaving that house?
On October 18, I was taken to Korça. After the car stopped on the right side of the road, we went down with the driver and the accompanying officer, to a Cafe-Restaurant. About an hour later, another person came, and after we said goodbye, we stayed for about an hour. The officer accompanying me said, “Jetullah, we are leaving, this friend will be interested in you.” We said goodbye and parted from them, so I was left alone with the person who had come, who started asking me where I came from? And I answered you, telling him that I am from Kosovo, while he continued and asked me: “Kosovo is a city or a village”? I told him that Kosovo is big, its capital is Prishtina and there are many other beautiful towns and villages. I realized that he had no knowledge of Kosovo at all and we stayed with him until late in the evening of October 18, in that cafe. After dinner, my companion said, “Shall we get up?” I got up and walked behind him, we went up to the second floor and he opened the door of a room and went inside. There he told me: “You will stay here for a few days, in the morning when you wake up, you will go to eat breakfast, exactly at the table where we were served tonight, I will not be late, and I will come there”. The place where I was staying was the hotel “Volga”, I stayed there until October 22.
And where were you sent after?
Then they took me to the farm of Vloçisht, where I met three men from Kosovo, who had also come to Albania in 1963. After we said goodbye, as soon as I saw him I recognized Riza Gërbeshi and after we hugged and greeted him, I met also with Isuf Visok and Zeqir Rashica. Rizai introduced me to Isufi and Zeqiri, telling me that they had been together in the Nis prison, political prisoners from Tito’s Yugoslav regime. They told me about the tortures they had endured in the prisons of Tito’s Yugoslavia and that they had not left them alone, even after their release from prison, which made it impossible for them to stay in Kosovo.
In Vloçi kute where you were sent, did you go to school?
Thanks to Riza Gërbeshi, who convinced me that losing a year of school would cost a lot, so I would not wait until next year to continue the technical school in the field of Construction, telling me that: textbooks have many variations? He said to me: “Shall we talk to the local authorities, so that you can continue the gymnasium in Maliq”? I said to Riza: ‘I want to continue high school, is it only possible with two months delay’? There were no obstacles from the gymnasium directorate in Maliq and so I continued the gymnasium, starting classes in October.
What about your family in Kosovo, could you contact them to let them know where you were?
At the end of 1964, at the suggestion of my friends, who told me: write to your family, where you are, tell about your health and your progress here, but be careful what you write, I decided to send a letter to them . So in the beginning of 1965, after I wrote a letter, the first letters from my family started coming to me, where they told me about their health. I had correspondence with my family, from that time in the same format during the years of imprisonment until 1991.
Before we got to the arrest and prison period, when did you finish high school?
I graduated from the Maliqi Gymnasium (together with my classmates where I first enrolled) in 1967. At that time every student who graduated from the gymnasium had the right to choose three faculties, I chose the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Science Legal and Medicine.
Were your applications for higher university studies approved?
Yes, I was immediately approved for higher education and I was accepted to the Faculty of Medicine in Tirana. I started my studies at this faculty in 1967 and finished it in 1972.
Who do you remember from your classmates?
I remember from my classmates: Miftar Daçi, Cen Stojku, Flamur Ijeza, Pranvera Bitri, Zana Tabaku, Elmaz Berisha, Emin Xhediku, Dritan Shehu, Petrit Vasili, Maks Lubonja, etc.
Where were you appointed after graduation?
After graduation, I was initially assigned to Korça, where I worked as a doctor at the Korça City Hospital and the Central Polyclinic.
How do you remember the beginnings of your work as a doctor in that city, did you have difficulty getting used to it?
Like me and my fellow doctors, we had our vicissitudes, no matter how professionally prepared we were. Within a short time, asking and consulting even with older colleagues at work about anything I encountered difficulties, I managed within 3-4 months, to feel confident in my profession. During this time, I had no obstacles from local or central government and had all the rights, like any other citizen of Albania.
Yes I live, where were you assigned?
I lived in a room inside the hospital territory, which was adjacent to the Infectious Diseases Hospital. I lived here for about a year, until mid-October 1973, when I was transferred to Elbasan.
What about Elbasan, where did you get a job?
From the end of June of the same year, I was called to the Directorate of Health, at the Executive Committee of the district of Elbasan, where I was asked: Did I agree to go as a doctor of the shareholders for a month, on the Librazhd-Prenjas railway, which was being built. I accepted, and on July 1, I started working as a shareholder doctor in the Quka sector, near the Bushtrica Bridge. At the end of the month, I returned to Korça to meet my friends, Riza and Isufi, who had already become like a family to me.
Did you often go to Korça?
From Ferma e Voloçishtit, Rizai and Isufi often went to Korça, to spend their free time and on Saturdays and Sundays, I often went too. On one of these days, Rizai and Isufi met their friend, Hajdar Livoçi, or as Gorani was known, our compatriot from Kosovo.
What profession did Hajdari have and under what circumstances was he in the city of Korça?
Hajdari, in his youth, had learned the craft of radio communication and was a master of radio at that time. Thus, he used his profession and wanted to join the ranks of the Albanian partisan brigades when they went to Kosovo in 1944, which was accepted by them. Hajdari had told us that the main reason why he had joined an Albanian partisan brigade in 1945, was that his life was in danger from Serbian-Montenegrin chauvinism. After the withdrawal of the Albanian partisan brigades from Kosovo, Hajdari was no longer separated from his brigade and so he was stationed in Korça, serving as a soldier, until he retired. Hajdari had close friends, Ismail Porodina, or as he was known differently, with the surname Pëllumbi. The first time I met Hajdari, through Riza and Isuf, Hajdari did not allow us to return to the village, but invited us to his house to stay, so that I could get to know his family. After walking on the characteristic, beautiful streets and one-storey and two-storey villas, at the end of the road, was the house erected by Hajdari. A house built on two floors and visible from the street.
How do your friendship with your compatriot, Hajdari, go?
Hmmm, yes, yes, I know this, why I know this. Hajdari opened the yard yard and we went inside, where the house had a garden and a fence wall. In the yard we were met by his wife, Remzia, who was limping on one leg. Hajdari’s children, two sons: Remziu, Saimiri and daughter Suzana were waiting for us inside, who greeted us. Hajdari introduced me to his sons and daughter. From that time, when I continued working as a doctor in the hospital of Korça, I often met Hajdari, who did not leave me without taking me to his house. Remziu, Hajdari’s eldest son, was an engineer at the coal mine in Mborje – Drenovo, while Saimiri and Suzana were high school students. In 1974, as far as I remember, Suzana graduated from high school, but did not get the right to study for high school.
Did you have any problems with Hajdari’s family, which you are paying so much attention to?
Here I am telling you. Rizai and Isufi, had told me that: Hajdari family agrees, that if I also agree, to accept their daughter as a wife and immediately start the necessary formalities according to the customs of both parties. They told me that: I did not have to object, as I knew that family very well. I told them to talk to Hajdari, so that he would not in any way impose this relationship on his parent, his daughter, Suzana, because I was close to 8 years older than her. They agreed even though we had an age difference, and so together with Riza and Isufi, who were my friends and they lived in Elbasan with me, we went to Korça according to tradition and exchanged rings, announcing the engagement.
That is, you got engaged to Hajdari’s daughter, Suzana?
Yes, and after a few days, I wrote a letter to my family, informing them of the engagement. In response I received a letter written by Sister Gjylsimeja, who told me that: they were all in good health, happy for my engagement, wished me and Susanna, for a happy life, and told me that they would do impossible for parents to visit Albania.
Did this wish of your parents come to Albania come true?
Yes, on April 25, 1976, my mother and father received permission to visit Albania for a month, and after informing me of the day and time when they would come to Qafë-Thanë, I had taken measures and together with my friends , Riza and Isuf, I took a six-seater taxi and went out to meet my parents.
How do you remember meeting them after so many years you were away from your family and Kosovo, your homeland?
I was in a lot of anxiety and that thing bothered me a lot, thinking about how we would cope with this meeting after 12 years, without seeing each other. Nana and Baba came both loaded with two large suitcases, which they could barely pull, and after crossing the beam, we greeted each other with longing, while at a certain distance, at the Yugoslav border, my relatives, who had come to accompany my mother and father.
Did you have problems at customs with the luggage brought by your parents?
At the time we were embracing, the customs financier approached us and told us that these luggage (suitcases) would be returned back to Kosovo, because according to him, the law did not allow so much cargo. This surprised us, as usual, my family had bought gifts for Susanna and my friends. Meanwhile, the customs financier, forced the mother to open the suitcases and take from an item, as she thought, no more. The rest would be packed in suitcases and taken to Kosovo when they returned. And so it happened, they mostly got the most precious gifts for Susanna, the ones that were allowed. The rest, in the presence of the father and the border post officer, were locked in a room./Memorie.al