By Filip Guraziu
– The dance that changed the course of my life –
Continues from last issue
Memorie.al/ Adolescence can also be defined like this: The age in which friends and family constitute, after family love, the most precious thing in life. At least, this is my conception, the result of life experience. The childhood friends in Shkodër (Ndoku, Viktori, Bepi, Franko, Franci, Tonini) were also the friends of the first adolescence; I shared with them the first experiences in life, the first joys, the first successes, the first worries and the first secrets. We were united by political thought, united by sports activities, united by trust and mutual help. I felt lucky in their company, and I never thought that sometimes we would be separated, but life confronts you with unexpected things…!
In September 1957, at the age of 14, I was a second-year student at the “29 Nandori” gymnasium, Shkodër. At the end of the first semester, and on the occasion of the New Year, the school management had planned a dance evening with the participation of all second year students.
Not only for me, but for our students, this type of activity was a novelty and, of course, we experienced it with emotions…! I tried to dress as best I could for the evening of the dance; kilt-type pants (like bras on the bottom), a wool sweatshirt with a neck, made by my mother).
I went a little late, the evening had begun. In the school gym, they had placed, on our sides, benches like those of the cafeteria where the girls were sitting; boys and girls were grouped in different positions, while in the center was the place of the orchestra, accordion and guitar.
Although the music was lively, the beginning of the evening was “slow”, because no one was taking the initiative to go up to the girl group to ask for the right to dance.
As soon as the “brave ones” broke the ice and started dancing, the evening immediately took off, and the place was almost not enough for all those pairs of dancers. I danced too, this kind of experience gave me pleasure, we were all happy.
After some time, a charming classmate, with whom we had been together since elementary school, we were also family friends, (with initials Ç.R.), let me know that she wanted to dance with me.
We danced together to the rhythm of a tango and, at one point, the dance partner said to me in a very low voice and with great emotion: “Filip, I have something very important with you, but I saw you and they gave me the word, that you didn’t tell a living person, because, if you were talking, you cut off the conversation, my life is in danger…!”
After I promised my sincerity, the classmate continued with tears in her eyes: “State Security, through the U.S., has charged me with the task of reporting on our conversations, which you do, Philip! Take care of yourself and take care of me too! You’re talking, grab my neck!”
I froze from the conversation, however I found the strength to thank my loyal friend with all my heart for the help she gave me, you assured her that I would be very careful.
At that moment, the evening was over for me! I didn’t dance anymore, just a little bit, so that I wouldn’t be noticed, because of the change in my spiritual state, I left the evening! I went home, I was crushed spiritually, I kept the incident to myself; that night I didn’t close my eyes…!
That conversation had changed everything inside me, I was no longer the Philip of yesterday, I had no more enthusiasm, until my friends seemed different to me, the city had also changed, and the school was no longer the first…!
I asked myself, why this change in my psyche? Do you mean from the fridge?
“Altroego”, from the depth of the soul, gave me an answer: – “No, it’s not fear, because you have nothing against power, but it’s “disgust”; the disgust caused by the dirty politics of the “class war”, the disgust that you feel and gets into your stomach, belly, mouth and everywhere and confuses you, even your psyche, when you are confronted with scum, intrigue, slander and crime!
This disgust had shattered the thread of enthusiasm of my first adolescence…!
The next day I decided: I will leave Shkodra, uncle Tonin and Dila, in Tirana they welcome me with open arms! I will try: new country, new life, and new hope!
That evening, I gathered my friends to communicate my decision; you showed them the essence, but not the conversation and the person. “You should know, I addressed them, that I am and we are being monitored by the Security agents, I am leaving Shkodra, be careful, avoid standing in the group”. There was no discussion, complete silence, the news blocked them…!
Fate helped me, Tirana changed the course of my life, there I found a completely different atmosphere (it was the years of liberalism, in favor of Khrushchev politics).
In the first grade of “Kuqe” school (Tirana), I found support and opportunities for my activation in the sport of basketball. Together, with two close school friends; Vaso Shaka and Bujar Shehu, after a few years we became the main players of the Albanian national basketball team…!
Two years ago, in 1959, I was declared the Champion of the First National High School Sports Spartakiad in Shkodër, and, in September of the same year, I was awarded the Gold Medal, as a young player I stood out, in the sport of basketball.
Thanks to the “fatal dance”, my life changed, and the rhythm of the “new dance”, attracted me with its force…but…but, the zig-zag of the “class war”, came before me, during our lives, and to this day, that I am writing these lines!
The beginning of sports, along with political persecution
In 1955, at the age of 13, I continued the seventh grade, at the “11 Janari” school, Shkodër. The passion for football was at its peak. In those years, I joined the home football team of Pionier Shkodër, which was led by the former veteran footballer, Ernest Halipiani.
The joy, which was very great, when I received the sports suit (boaters, sports overalls and old soccer shoes). My grandfather repaired my shoes at a shoemaker in the neighborhood, and I started training with great passion.
After a month, we were informed that the football team of the pioneers, where I was part of, would play for 15 minutes on the field of the Shkodra stadium, against another team of the same age, during the break between the two halves, in a match of the category seen.
The occasion was very beautiful, the desire is great, to play in front of my spectators. I went to the stadium with joy, along with my friends, but I was completely disappointed by the coach; everyone got into the game except me!
I returned home very upset, I didn’t talk to the family, but I thought and concluded with myself: Maybe, someone for political reasons, ordered the coach not to activate me, or the second option; I wasn’t good at football. The second one, he didn’t convince me, because for my abilities I was elected captain of the school team, so…!
The next day, I went to the coach and handed him the sports suit, and they told him: “yesterday, I understood that I don’t do it for football”. I was a little surprised that, like Coach Ernest Halipiani, he was not at all impressed by my action and was completely indifferent! It seems to have gone “just right”, my departure!
Although I had this “defeat”, being active in sports was eating away at me inside.
I remember that, after one year, I started my education at the gymnasium “29 Nandor”, Shkodër. At that time, Shkodra had a very good basketball team. I, with my friends, was “secretly” guards at the school, and from the windows, we admired the training and championship matches.
The main players at that time were: Muhamet Sokoli, Vehbi Ademi, Skënder Tafilica, Luan Shatku, Skënder Osmani, Sandër Laca, etc.
In that period, the passion for the sport of basketball crystallized. This passion pushed me to enroll in the youth team of “Spartak” Club, where the coach was Sandër Laca.
There I acquired the basic elements for the game of basketball, and I remember that the well-known basketball coach, Esat Haxhi, taught me the action of “hunting before shooting”.
One day at the “Spartak” sports field, during the break between the two halves of the adult match, a match was played between the youths of the “Puna” and “Spartak” sports clubs, where I played with “Spartak”, and I scored points.
It seems that I caught the eye, because the secretary of the Executive Committee of the Shkodër District, “comrade” Sadik Rama, had told Rifat Uruç that, for political reasons, you should not allow Filip Guraziu to become active in sports! (Many years later, the late Rifat Uruçi himself told me this conversation).
In September of 1957, I continued school in the second grade, at the “29 Nandor” gymnasium, in Shkodër. The new (newly arrived) teacher of the Russian language, Xh.V., who looked at me harshly, kicked me out of the lesson on the first day of school, completely in vain, even today, I don’t know why!
Long ago, I understood the motive of that behavior; Xh.V., after being in the group of communist students in Shkodër, who had terror (1945) on Shkodër students, who did not show sympathy for communism!
It seems that the teacher Xh.V. was still living with the psychosis of the events in Hungary, a year ago and, following the actions he had in his youth, continued the class war against me, as the son of the Enemy of to the people…!
What I felt, inside me at that time, without knowing what the instructions were… etc., was the feeling of discrimination, and because I understood that it was not even a matter of me joining them school basketball team. I was silently excluded.
For these reasons, and others to tell, (the “dance” that changed the path of my life, December 1957), I left Shkodra and continued my education at the “Red School” in Tirana. There I found a different atmosphere, much more liberal, than in Shkodër.
The director was Sofokli Afezolli, the teachers were kind and close to the students, I single out with great respect the physical culture teacher, Abdullah Stermasin.
I quickly became friends with my school and neighborhood friends (Alfons Gurashi, Bardhyl Martiniani, Ibrahim Konjari, Festim Tërshana) especially those girls who had a passion for sports; Vaso Shaka, Bujar Shehu, etc.
Together, we started our sports career, in basketball, and wrote a new, quality page in the history of Albanian basketball. Memorie.al
The next issue follows