By Neim Pashaj
Memorie.al / “He hit me, cursed me and teased me. He asked while shooting me. I just squirmed. When he heard my moan, he made the strokes more frequent. From the few movements I made, I was hit by the belt on my stomach. This was the biggest pain that almost threw me up. The legs, which I had under the table, from the efforts pushed it away and after the shock, fell to the square that were on it. After this uncontrolled action, “friend Todi” left me lying down and sat on the chair. He took out the handkerchief, wiped the sweat, threw the belt at the window and began to collect what fell from the table. Disfigured as he was, he was talking to himself like a madman. I felt like if he came near me one more time, he would eat me alive. “I will make you tell not only the conversations with your uncles, but also how many times you drank milk from your udder. Never tell, but know that I will bring them all here, and they will tell the plan, in their mouths…”!
The author of these lines on the front of a file with hundreds of pages is called Neim Pashaj. It’s in the 60s, it’s telling. The hard life has aged him prematurely. He spent 20 years in the cells of Tepelena, Tirana, Laç, Elbasan, Repsi, Spaçi and Qafë-Bar, but he was able to survive. Fate, it seems, was with him. “I stayed alive to show what I saw with my own eyes”, says the survivor of the communist prisons from Lopësi i Tepelena.
Convinced of his favorite mission, Neim Pashai feels privileged to have been able to keep the diary of the hellish years. There are 7,200 pages in it, which belong to 7,667 days and nights of hell. The first page bears the date June 4, 1966, the day he was handcuffed at the entrance to the Memaliaj mine. The days of the 20-year ordeal continue. Notes kept in the cell, in moments of rest after work. Sheets filled in the notebook, when friends slept. Names of convicts, martyred in camps, heartless investigators and prosecutors, tragedies and terrible dramas. An authentic and rare testimony of the history of the prisons of communism…!
Continues from last issue
MONDAY, JUNE 20, 1966
I have been interrogated for five days. They ask me what I know about my uncle’s escape. Today, Todi started the investigation worse than other times, because every time he asks me and gets an answer, he hits me in the face with his palm.
– What did your uncles tell you?
– They didn’t tell me anything – I answered.
A moment later, the office door opened and without knocking, a fat man entered. Todd pushed me around the corner of the room and hugged the newcomer.
– Huh – said the guest, – what does this bandil say?
– He doesn’t speak – replied Todi.
– But you don’t know how to convince him?
– I know, I don’t want to – replied Todi.
– Well, let me deal with it…!
After a while, the newcomer invited him for a coffee and they both went out together.
It didn’t take long and “friend Todi” came back again. The policeman punched him and went out.
– Don’t tell us what you talked about with the uncles before they ran away, he told me, pulling me by the arm. I promise I’ll help if you’re honest. Think, think and come on, tell me. Today we will leave it at that. After a week we will meet again, because it’s the elections and we have other things to do.
– But I will vote, because I have reached the age?
-Ha, ha, laughed out loud and began to mumble with his lips on the gas. You have not yet found out that you are under arrest and accused of serious crimes against the state. And as he used to do from time to time, he started the song “Cry o bank, cry O River / eat a lot of wealthy / Neim Pashan with seal… “!
TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 1966
After a week, the investigations started again today. As always in “comrade Todi’s” office. He has placed a package of military clothes on the table and pretends to look for something in their pockets. Then he takes out a metal belt and leaves it on the table.
– I believe you’ve had a good time these days; – he addressed me with his head a little sideways. I didn’t answer him. You heard, – he told me – we won 99.99 percent of the votes”. I looked him in the eye.
– Well, – he addressed me, – today we will end the conversation. If you didn’t tell the truth, I’ll pull out the grumpy and put his hands on my throat.
-Who said first to escape – and raised my head a little higher, squeezing me tightly in the throat.
I could barely tell him that I don’t know anything. He was furious. Squeezing me even tighter, he gave me a push until I crashed into the stove behind me. There I lost my balance and fell on the side of the table with my head, cracking my right eyebrow. Blood crack.
Instinctively I put my hand to the wound, but the knight, who had taken the belt in his hand, shot me with it with all his might. I tried to get up, but immediately sat down under the whipping blows.
He hit me, cursed me and taunted me. He asked while shooting me.
I just squirmed. When he heard my moan, he made the strokes more frequent. From the few movements I made, I was hit by the belt on my stomach.
This was the biggest pain that almost threw me up. My legs, which I had under the table, from the effort pushed it away and after the shock, what was on it fell into the square.
After this uncontrolled action, “friend Todi” left me lying down and sat on the chair. He took out the handkerchief, wiped the sweat, threw the belt at the window and began to collect what fell from the table.
Disfigured as he was, he was talking to himself like a madman. I felt like if he came near me one more time, he would eat me alive. “I will make you tell not only the conversations with your uncles, but also how many times you drank milk from your udder. Never tell, but know that I will bring them all here, and they will tell the plan in their faces.
Never open your mouth, open your neck! – vented the head of the branch. Then, he got up from the chair, opened the door and ordered the policeman to take me to the dungeon. The policeman half-dragged me and took me there…!
SUNDAY, JULY 3, 1966
Tomorrow marks one month of being arrested. I still haven’t recovered from the torture of five days ago. I still have pain. Impatience, torture and innocence have made me more sensitive. Today when I went out for airing, I met another convict.
He was smaller than me. He was not yet 16 years old. One of the servicemen told me that, and he was there for politics. “What can this child do to politics”, I said to myself. I saw it closely. His eyes were closed.
There were two bruised lumps on the left side of his face. “Probably from the wood of ‘comrade Todi’, I thought.” Here is the real hell. The people of the state become monsters. They say that you cannot compete with the state.
Sheti has laws. Why don’t these people who are the hands and arms of the state follow the laws? According to the law, a person cannot be beaten in the interrogator. But where do these guys want to know…!
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 1966
“Comrade Todi” called me back to the office. As soon as he saw me at the door, he burst into his favorite song “Cry e breg, e caj o lume…”!
Hello Neim Pashai, are you okay? – He addressed me with irony.
-Good – I returned.
– Without looking at your manhood today. How are you going to tell the person who overheard what you talked about with Hamdiu about the escape?
I brought it here. Then he ordered the policeman to take me to the prosecutor’s office, which was opposite his office. When I entered, I saw Lutfije, Hamdi’s uncle’s daughter-in-law, sitting on the chair in front of the district prosecutor, Qemal Meçe.
Without wasting time, the latter turned to her, asking her to declare the conversations I had with Dajon in Delvina, before crossing the border.
What I was hearing was unbelievable. “Neimi,” Lutfija testified, “begged Hamdi to escape an hour ago, as according to him, the police were following him.
My husband was interested in more, but he insisted only on one point: “Let’s go, otherwise they will arrest us”. The prosecutor, who was listening to him with eyes and ears, interrupted him for a moment and turned to me:
– Do you hear what Lutfija is saying, Neim?
I made to turn around and answer him, but he ordered me not to turn my head to face them. Speak as you are, – he ordered – because we hear with our ears and not with our eyes. Speak up; are these things that Lutfija says true?
– No – I answered. I have never had such conversations with my uncle in his house. They are outright lies…!
– Well then, if you didn’t make these plans with your uncle at home, where did you make them, where did you talk about the escape job?
– I have never talked about these things with Hamdi.
– In other words, you don’t accept what Lutfija says – the prosecutor scolded me.
-Okay, let’s sign here that you don’t accept them! So, he put a letter in front of me, where I signed Lutfije’s testimony “…they are not true and I do not accept them”. After a while, the three of us left…!
SATURDAY, JULY 30, 1966
In the afternoon we arrived at Prison 313, in Tirana. Door after door, we were ushered into a long corridor. On one side of the wall were lined up 16 convicts who had just been brought from Fieri by auto-prison. They also lined up the three of us coming from Tepelena. After a while the guard officer came. After looking at us closely, he took a serious stance and uttered in a raspy voice:
– Who is the enemy, come out here! We were stunned for a moment and started looking at each other. No one was coming out of there the superior said. The latter, when he saw that no one came out, went to the office and returned with some papers in his hands. He immediately started reading them.
– Who is Neim Pashaj? , – he shouted and after receiving my answer, he complained loudly: – When they tell you why you don’t come out here?
– I’m not an enemy; I don’t have to go out.
A policeman at his side laughed loudly. The guard officer turned his head towards me. His face had taken on a black appearance.
– Get out, Neim, get out here, – he ordered in a somewhat calmer tone and waved in the direction of the corridor, ordering the policeman to accompany me there.
He led me to an entrance with two pairs of iron doors, heavy and large, painted black. A policeman and a civilian dressed in khaki pants and a short-sleeved military shirt were waiting for us there.
The semi-military civilian took me by the arm and led me into a room where there was a table, a chair and a bench. It was the warehouse of the convicts’ booty, equipped with horizontally divided shelves and floors.
Bags and items of different types and models were placed on the shelves. Next to each shelf and bag, there were labels with the identity of the “owner” and the room where he was staying. After asking me where I was from and why I had been punished, he invited me to sit on the bench.
He came very close to me and comforted me, “go away and don’t be upset because you are full of your age here”. Then we sat down and he told me his story. They called him Syrja Shehu. The 313th had come from the Navy, where he served as an officer. He was sentenced to four years for agitation and propaganda. He had served most of his sentence and was waiting to be released. At one point, our conversation was interrupted by a knock on the door. Another convict entered. Right there Syrjai made the presentation.
His name was Sitki, and as far as I could tell, he had his second conviction. He was released a year ago and 10 days ago, he was brought back to serve the next sentence. Syrjai gave him blankets and other clothes.
Together with him we went to the last room with no. 8. The policeman opened the door and Sitkiu in front and me behind, we went inside. After a while the policeman put the locks on the door. There were about 20 people in the room. As soon as we entered, they took off on foot. We greeted them and sat down.
The oldest of them beckoned me and I went to him. As soon as I started talking to him, the officer of the guard appeared at the door and ordered to go out. The old man explained to me that we had two hours of ventilation. We all went out together. The airing place was a square between the buildings about 500-600 m. square, surrounded by a high wall.
Almost two meters inside the surrounding wall, there was a marked part and every 10 meters there were signs with the inscription “prohibited area”. Somewhere, at the end of the square, there was a well of water. Convicts came around from one corner to another.
There were about 150 people. In those moments, I had the opportunity to get to know many of them, and also to learn many things about prison life. The oldest, pulled me aside and told me to remember some fundamental rules for prison life:
The first: every newcomer was surrounded by convicts and exchanged personal generalities with them. The second: the newcomer consoled himself with the word “past”. The third: the convicts should find their fellow patriots, introduce them and let them have a free conversation with him…! Memorie.al