By Hysen Selmani
The seventh part
Memorie.al/ European and American press have often addressed the subject of the memories of the Albanian King, Zogu i-r, which he wrote and dictated during his exile from Albania. Considering the notes and syntheses that his assistant, Colonel Hysen Selmani, compiled over the years in his service, – always, next to the King of the Albanians, both at home and in exile, these notes, more or less with parts of detached, without strictly following the usual criteria of memoirs, and without having the definite, final form of an edition, they are prepared by Hysen Selmani himself, who has dedicated most of his life, as in Albania, as well as during the exile, serving the First Zog, the King of the Albanians.
Tirana, on April 4, 1939
On April 4, 1939, Tuesday, at 10:00, the parish of Vlora arrived and was immediately received by His Majesty, King Zog I. After greeting them and asking them, he spoke to you about the extremely critical situation, and also explained to you the efforts made near neighboring countries, as well as European ones, such as Great Britain, France, and America, but without any benefit. Then, he spoke about the task that Albanians must do. Of course, the conversation lasted quite a long time; we are not recording it here. The King told you that: “In order to protect the interests of the homeland, both the Parliament and the Government have decided not to accept anything that harms the sovereign independence of Albania.
Italy is determined to teach us militarily. As you know, there was no way with propaganda and other things to achieve the goal. If he teaches us, we will respond with weapons. Of course, our power is not there to stop the great fascist forces, armed with the most modern weapons, but this is to tell the civilized world that Italy is occupying us militarily. This action will later, one hundred percent, ensure our complete independence, before civilized humanity.
We don’t even have weapons, but the ones we have, for the brave Vlonians, I gave an order to give you 1,200 weapons, with the necessary ammunition. You will have a command under the leadership of Colonel Ali Riza Topalli and Major Bilal Nivica. There is a force of one battalion of the Gendarmerie, two battalions of the Border Guard, and one Radio R-3 platoon, and of course later, the Garrison of Korça will also be helped, as time does not wait. You must leave today, with all the weapons”. That’s how he ordered me to go inside, as well as Colonel Ali Rizaja and Major Bilal Nivica.
After entering, Colonel Ali Rizaja and Major Bilal Nivica, the King spoke to you together, with the Vlora chieftain, above all united and closely connected with the interests of the homeland, as he also told you: “I have full confidence in you, that the Albanian nation, the brave people from Vlonia, as always, will honor it and make it white-faced”. So he congratulated him and shook his hand. Afterwards, I took them and we went to the Guard Command.
When we went to the Guard Command, I immediately called the Commander of the National Defense, to send me Lieutenant Colonel Sami Kokë to the Guard, because here I have the head of Vlora and Ali Rizana. “Yes”, he said to me and lieutenant colonel Sami Koka immediately came and greeted everyone, I told him that the commander of the IV area, colonel Ali Rizai and major Bilal Nivica, together with the mayor of Vlora, will leave within the day, to Vlora, and I reminded him that the weapons, together with the necessary ammunition, have been put in trucks and are ready, as well as a liaison platoon with a Radio R-3 station, together with these trucks. I also told him that orders will be given for feeding the forces that will be gathered in the prefecture of Vlora and Gjirokastra.
Lieutenant Colonel Sami Koka told me: “As you order, everything is ready, and in case there is something missing, we complete it within an hour, only the trucks with the weapons and the liaison platoon, where you want them, or depart directly for Vlora, and now we are ordering the Garrison of Vlora to deposit the necessary food, and when the commander of the IV zone arrives in Vlora, the garrison is to be under the orders of the command of area, and Colonel Ali Rizai, fixes it himself”.
They decided to send them at 4 pm, together with the weapons and the liaison platoon, to Vlorë, where Lieutenant Colonel Sami Koka himself was escorting them to the auto department, to hand them over, the trucks in complete order. I thanked him and that’s how all the talks ended, on the activity of the line, Vlora-Saranda, and in depth: Vithkuq, Gryka e Këlcyra, and Borovo, centered in Voskopoja. We greeted each other and I wished them that; May God makes him white-cheeked, for the fate of the Motherland, and you who, for everything, consider me a collaborator with you. Call me, I’m ready to fill you in on everything you need and I also gave a special number to Colonel Ali Rizai. Then, we went out and went to have lunch, and with lieutenant colonel Sami Koka, we left him at 4 o’clock, at the Auto department, we went.
After they left, I went to the Palace and presented everything that was discussed. Prime Minister Kotta was also there, to whom I told them that they would not leave together with the commander of zone IV, Colonel Ali Rizai and Major Bilal Nivica, and with the trucks with 1,200 weapons, the necessary ammunition and a liaison platoon and with Radio R-3 station, where colonel Sami Koka is waiting for them at 4 o’clock at the Autodepart, to deliver them, as mentioned. I also told you that the Vlora Garrison Command was ordered to call the Army Commander and order a lot of food deposits, and the Vlora Garrison Command, upon the arrival of the IV area commander, Colonel Ali Riza, will come under orders of the area command. Of course, the food will be distributed in the places that the command has determined, in the provinces of the Prefecture of Vlora and Gjirokastra.
I told the Commander of the Gendarmerie, Colonel Shefki Shatku, to order the Vlora District Command, as well as the Gendarmerie battalion in Gjirokastër, to immediately be placed under the orders of Colonel Ali Riza.
Tirana, on April 4, 1939
Darkness has already covered the sky of Albania. We are constantly receiving all kinds of news and promises, but we can already see that the news that is coming to us is certain that the Italian concentration measures on the coasts of Bari and Brindisi became much more important, so that a part of large army, in ships of war. The Italians who are in Albania have received orders to leave for Italy, and preparations are being made quickly. In this darkness, without shame and without the slightest manliness, Mussolini sends telegrams, ensuring friendship and alliance with Albania, empty promises.
When the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekrem Libohova, arrives with a letter and a telegram that he had sent to Italy’s Minister Jacomoni, who came from Mussolini, the Prime Minister was also there. The King ordered the meeting of the Council of Ministers, as well as the Speaker of the Parliament, with the Deputy Speaker, Hiqmet Delvina, to study and present to the Parliament, so that it could vote on the answer that should be given.
At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the Council of Ministers gathered, as well as the Speaker of the Parliament, Pandeli Evangjeli and the Speaker, Hiqmet Delvina. After these were gathered and everyone heard about it, the King said to them: “The Parliament and the Government together must meet and communicate to all the deputies to study with comments and put to a vote, how to decide. So prepare the answer. These letters and telegrams cannot be called an ultimatum by the Italian Government, but at once, dictatorial governments can give it the face they like.
But, as for the promises, they are useless because even the friendship, the guarantee and the alliance, even the request of violations and threats, these do not agree with each other, – said the King. “However, go to the Parliament and, with much wisdom, study and ask everyone to show their opinions. So that when it is put to the vote, there should be no claims that it was decided without being discussed and examined in detail, etc.” With that, the officials got up and left to go to the Parliament. When they came out, the Government and the Speaker of the Parliament, the King ordered me to call Mehdi Frashëri and Mehmet Konica to appear before him.
Mehdi Frashëri came immediately, but Mehmet Konica was not at home. Mehdi Frashëri was immediately received by King Zog, where during the talks, the King informed him that, he is well informed, that Italy, both in Bari and Brindisi, has embarked most of the Army on warships. Power, is an army with 6 infantry divisions, 2 motor divisions, 1 heavy artillery division. “I am telling them this according to the information I have and they are giving us, but this is of no importance. The goal is that, Italy, within this week, it seems, will learn. This is accurate information, but today we had letters and telegrams from Mussolini as well as promises and threats, where the demands follow. I sent it to the Parliament. So you, Mehdi Bey, go on my side, to all the Legations, first those of the Balkans. Turkey, then America, Great Britain, France and other representatives. What I told them, communicate to them as my message, that is, that Italy is showing mercy, we beg for their intervention”.
After Mehdi Frashëri left, Mehmet Konica came and stopped talking with them. As Mehdi Frashëri was previously in Legata. Just as the King had told him, first in the Balkans and then in Great Britain, France, Turkey, etc., with the message that the King had ordered. Likewise, Mehmet Konica was sent to the Yugoslav Legation, to explain to the Yugoslav minister, Miliç, that: ‘Now is the last minute, not only for Albania, but for the entire Balkans’. So that he could urgently inform Belgrade. On this day, when the Italian troops are embarking on warships, in Brindisi and Bari, to teach Albania. The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Count Ciano, shamelessly assures all embassies of foreign countries that no action against Albania will be taken by Italy, etc.
That the states, especially those of the Balkans, are calling us liars, saying that; Italy has no intention against Albania, and there is no dismissal, but they are lies invented by the Albanian Government itself, against Italy, which with these unpleasant behaviors, especially for the Balkans, is inciting to set the world on fire . We must draw the warning from the League of Nations.
Look how far the unfortunate situation had reached, and the next day, Italy officially gave us the ultimatum, and here they still didn’t want to believe it. In addition to those big states, America, Great Britain and France, had understood, but were not ready; they advised King Zog to try to find a compromise with Italy; to put out this fire. The Yugoslavs knew, but you didn’t like it, that we had become allies of Fascism, almost indirectly. This was believed, when the Prefect of Dibra, Colonel Mjeda, was notified by the Yugoslav Command, in Dibra, that no movement is desired near the 15 km border. albanian-yugoslav Also, the same things were done to the Prefect of Kukës, Subi Topulli, and that of Shkodra, where it was said that, in the event that the armed forces of the population are repeated or heard, the Yugoslav Army Command, to ensure its interests, can to march 15 km. within the border of Albania. This is our neighbor Yugoslavia, which left no propaganda undone. Because it is not Italy that will harm Albania, but it is the Albanians who were encouraging them. This meant that, in 15 km., it could “come” to the border of Mati, Elbasan, and Lezha. It is not indirect, but directly in favor of fascism. And they didn’t miss propaganda, but fascism itself did the same thing.
On April 4, the King ordered me to communicate to the Commander of the National Defense that the Italians have received orders to go to Italy. As for the Italian organizers, don’t do anything to them, but when they ask for permission to return to Italy; don’t give them an answer without asking, because we also have our officers in Italy. Likewise, in completing the forces for defense, there is no more secrecy, but act openly.
After I left the National Defense Command, according to the King’s order, at 8 o’clock in the evening on April 4, 1939, I went to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Musa Juka, who continued to be in constant telephone contact with the Prefects. An intimidation of Italian propaganda was felt, especially in Vlora, Dibër and Shkodër. Italian propaganda spread as if Sazani was filled with Italian warships, while Shkodra and Dibra were afraid of Yugoslav propaganda, that their cities would be occupied by Yugoslavs, so that the Minister of Internal Affairs, Musa Juka, from the information of him, he did not listen well to the internal situation, that now it is not only the Italian one, but also the Yugoslav one. It was a lot of trust issues, as it was not so clear. So, as it was 14 hours ago, I asked the minister to meet at the Palace and that I was going to the Gendarmerie Command.
When I was entering the Gendarmerie Command, Major Jahja Çaçi, head of the section of the Gendarmerie Command, came from behind me and said: “Please, Mr. Colonel, let me speak to you.”
“Yes, I told him – speak Mr. Major”.
“Walking, – you are not well,” he told me. I also told the commander, Colonel Shefki Shatku, that there are many officers who are intriguing. For example, here we have the head of the section of the Gendarmerie Command, Colonel Stamatin. He is one thousand percent Italian; he makes the biggest propaganda among the officers of the Gendarmerie and the Army. But you have to pay a lot of attention, not even the Army Command, because you have very clean ones”.
Major Jahja Çaçi, a very good and honest and patriotic officer, made a great impression on me. I turned back, because I was on my way to the Palace and they were waiting for me there. I went to the Gendarmerie Command, but I didn’t take Major Çaçi with me, so that it wouldn’t be understood. When I was entering the Commander’s office, N/Colonel Stamati appeared in front of me and honored me and said: “Order Mr. Colonel”. I took him with me and went inside, Colonel Shefki Shatku, Commander of the Gendarmerie, stood up immediately and said: “Order, Mr. Colonel.”
After I sat down, I said to Stamati, in front of Shefki: “Mr. Stamati, you and I, we have Italian friends, and do we have any new friends?” What are these words whispered up and down? Tell me, what it is, you don’t mind”?! Lieutenant Colonel Stamati answered me: “Mr. Colonel, the gentleman knows the matter well, but as for us, nothing, it’s all Yugoslav propaganda and nothing else. Here, I cut my head, did you get anything from the Italians”.
“Well, I am of the same opinion, yes, why are the Italians withdrawing from Albania”?! And then I added: “This is to press the demands that Italy wants, but not anything else. I also told Colonel Shefki. Very well, thank you”, I said.
After I got up, I took Colonel Shefki Shatku with me and we left for the Palace. I showed him and told him how Stamati is. Shefkiu told me the words of Major Jahja Çaç, but I don’t believe they are true, he said, almost this one, he is more Italian than Albanian. But this one is a coward and does not dare to participate in such things, because he does not have that courage and courage”.
I told him to remember who he is friends with in the Gendarmerie officers, as well as in the Army. Shefkiu answered me that, as for the Army, the Command officers themselves are suspects. The Prefect of Durrës, Mark Kodheli, told me this. But as you know, I know Mark Kodheli, since Minister Musaja also told me that I don’t leave him a minute in Durrës. And with these words, we parted and I went directly to the Palace.
When I entered the Palace, all the halls were filled with people seeking access to the King. As I greeted them, I went inside. The king was walking. The Foreign Minister, Ekrem Libohova, was sitting there. The king said to me: “Come on, Colonel – and from the end of the office he said to me: “What do we have”?!
I presented to them what I communicated to the National Defense Commander, then how I went to the Ministry of the Interior and the minister’s concern, as discussed. Then, how I went to the Gendarmerie Command, how Major Jahja Çaçi came back to me, how I went back to the Gendarmerie Command, where Colonel Stamati appeared before me, how I took him in and talked to them in front of Shefki, and then I left, taking Colonel Shatku with me. And when I told him everything textually, presenting it to him, he replied: “It’s true; Colonel, but we should avoid them. But now it’s a little late”, he said to me with annoyance. After that, it would go up a bit.
A few minutes later, he called the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekrem Libohova, and said: “Now Mr. Minister, tell the colonel that you are friends, I’m leaving you together, and I’m going upstairs.” The king went upstairs, I stayed with Ekrem Libohova. That’s how I started talking, when he said to me: “Look Hysen bey, we are stirring in vain, because I don’t believe that Italy, especially Mussolini, will do such a big shame, for his fame. I don’t get it, but the King has filled his mind that everything is over with Italy. These things that are being talked about are all to pass the time, the King told me, but fascist Italy has decided to enter Albania. I still don’t believe it, I told the King.”
“Well, Ekrem Bey, it’s true that for Mussolini’s manhood, it’s a great shame and there’s no reason for me to do it, but now that they’ve given an order to quickly return the Italians to Italy”?! “This could also be a demonstration of fear, I do not attach any importance to this and I never believe such an action by the Italians”.
Then I said to him: “Mr. Minister, I am telling you the truth, just as the King told you. Fascist Italy has decided to teach Albania militarily. I’m telling you too, it won’t make it through this week. What I am telling you is true”.
“No sir. – the minister answered me, – you Hysen Bey, you are more sure than any other person, you say that Fascist Italy has decided and not a week goes by without entering Albania”. Memorie.al
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