Memorie.al publishes the unknown and rare story of Thoma Dardeli, originally from the village of Muzinë in Saranda, who in 1952 received a state scholarship from the Albanian government to pursue higher studies at the Faculty of Medicine in Budapest, where during the events of October 1956, known as the “Hungarian Counter-Revolution” by the official historiography and propaganda of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime, he took an active part in the anti-communist protests inspired by the Petef Club and Cardinal Mindcenti, where he wounded by a Russian soldier who hit him with bayonets on the shoulder. Rare testimonies of Thoma Dardeli, for all the events of Hungary in 1956, where he together with about 70 other Albanian students attended higher studies and specializations, as well as returning home, where due to his stay in those events, he would suffer a full 21 years of political imprisonment!
During an official visit that the President of Hungary, Arpadi Genz, made to Albania almost 25 years ago, in addition to his protocol agenda, he reserved a long reception where he had a cordial conversation with an Albanian doctor who had come in those days from the city of Shkodra., where he resided for years. Even after that conversation that the President of Hungary had with the Albanian doctor, he would again keep him close to him in many other meetings that he held with senior state officials, introducing to Albanian officials their compatriot, as a a personal friend, whom sometime later the Hungarian state would award with the high medal “Hero of Freedom”. But who was that doctor and under what circumstances did he become known and become a friend of the Hungarian president?! Regarding these and all his tragic history, we will be known in this article through his testimonies given exclusively for Memorie.al
From Tirana to Budapest
Thoma Dardeli was born in the village of Muzina in the district of Saranda in 1932 and after the burning of the village during the war, he was forced to leave his hometown and settle in Tirana, next to his father Anastas, who had come before. in the capital, taking up small jobs to make a living. The end of the war at the end of November ’44, found the Dardeli family in a small room not far from the center of Tirana to its north. After completing seven years of education, Thomai enrolled in the Medical College of Tirana, which he graduated in 1951. As he had high results, the Ministry of Education granted him a right to study, to the Medical Faculty of Budapest in Hungary. At that time, based on an agreement reached by the Albanian government, about 70 Albanian students went to the Hungarian capital to study in various branches, 30 of which were for specializations. In this regard, Thoma Dardeli recalls: “When we went to Budapest, we saw that there was another life that could not be compared to living in our poor Albania. I had read about Hungary in books, that the developed economy of that country and the high standard of living, was the highest of all the countries of the Communist East. Given this fact, it was used to the maximum by the Soviets, who were present everywhere in Hungary, in all vital sectors. Numerous trains came empty from Russia and returned there full of goods. We were told that Hungary had been liberated by Stalin’s Red Army, but that was not all. The Hungarians told us that the Red Army “robbed and raped us more than it liberated us”, Dardeli tells about the first days he went to Hungary and what he had read or told, about the place where he was lucky enough to study.
How did the Hungarian Revolution start?
Regarding the reality that Albanian students faced when they first went to Hungary in the early 1950s, Thoma Dardeli recalls: “The Hungarian people at that time were very dissatisfied with the Russian presence that commanded everything. In all the cities there were Russian military units, which lived and were equipped with much better equipment than the Hungarians themselves. Starting from the history between these two peoples, the Hungarians did not have any good consideration for the Russians, as they in 1848, had suppressed the Hungarian revolution, coming to the aid of the Austrians. In the suppression of that revolution led by the great poet Petef Shandor and led by Ben Joseph of Koshut Lajos, the Russians had shot the 13 best generals of Hungary. Due to a certain freedom of speech and expression that at that time in Hungary was greater than in other eastern countries, the Hungarian intelligence united around the club “Petef” (Hungarian National Poet and inspirer of the Revolution of 1848), which was created by an elite of intellectuals, to oppose the Soviet presence in Hungary, living at the expense of the Hungarian people. The creation of the Petef Club came after the XX Congress was held in the Soviet Union, where the cult of the individual and personally the figure of Stalin was first attacked. In this context of political developments in the Soviet Union, personalities from the culture of art and politics joined around the Petef Club, giving various speeches in support of the liberalization policy that Khrushchev began to pursue at the time. After that, a movement began there, led by intellectuals and students, who organized and began to address political demands to the government. Those demands were aimed at removing the Russian Army from Hungary, its full independence and school freedoms, regardless of class or political affiliation. As part of the liberal policy pursued by the Khrushchevites, Rakos had already left the head of the Hungarian state as a fanatical communist and was replaced by Gerr Erne, known as the most moderate and liberal. On October 23, 1956, as a result of the Government’s silence on the demands of the “Petef” club, mass protests began. That day, a government delegation led by Prime Minister Hegedus Andras returned to Budapest from Belgrade, where he had gone to meet with Tito (after Khrushchev’s rehabilitation). “The government delegation, which had just arrived from Yugoslavia, found the situation extremely tense, and Prime Minister Gerre gave a speech on Radio Budapest in order to calm the situation and called on the protesters to go to their homes.” Dardeli regarding the political and socio-economic situation of Hungary at that time, when he and about 70 other Albanians were studying there.
Dardeli: “How did I clash with the Russians in the protests…”?!
Regarding the beginning of the ‘Hungarian Revolution’ against the Russians, the former Albanian student who took place in Budapest in the “heart of the anti-communist revolt”, recalls: “After the speech on Radio Gërreje, the crowds of protesters not only did not return home, but intensified those that became more frequent and larger, extending in addition to Budapest, to other cities, such as Seget, Gjerr, etc. The fiercest demonstrations took place in the building in front of the Parliament and in front of the Radio building. In that large group of protesters in front of the Budapest State Radio, I was the one who had followed the protest of the “Petef” club from the beginning. Protesters standing in front of the Radio, where most of them were students, demanded that a group enter the Radio and read a petition, which was rejected and then intervened in large military forces that forcibly dispersed the protesters. During the Army intervention to disperse the protests, there were clashes between us and them, where in one of them, I was hit with bayonets by a Russian soldier, (on the left side of the back, below the shoulder), where a lot of blood flowed. After this blow, I got up with difficulty and entered a nearby house, to recover from the pain. In that house I was completely alone and her people very kindly helped me for a preliminary treatment of the wound and gave me courage, when they found out that I was not from their country, but from Albania, for which they few had heard nothing. During the time I was staying in that family so unharmed, I watched the main road near the Astoria Hotel, where an armored car was coming to the aid of the soldiers guarding the Radio building. That armored car turned back, because the protesters got in there and took control and its direction. At that moment, I came out of the house where I was sheltered and approached a large crowd of protesters, where we overturned a tram, to make it possible to block a road. Since the beginning of the anti-Soviet revolts, from our embassy in Hungary by Ambassador Bato Karafili, we had received an order stating that all Albanian students should not interfere in those protests, but stay in dormitories. Almost all the students had responded to this order. After the tram overturned, we, along with many other protesters, got into a car and were heading towards the city center. Meanwhile we saw many soldiers handing over their weapons and hats, saying they were no longer fighting. Along with some protesters, I also went to the “Kilian” military barracks, near the “Corvin” cinema, to look for weapons, but we did not find anything there. After leaving there, we headed to “Dozha Gjergj” square, where the Stalin monument was. There a large crowd of protesters, had thrown a cable to the monument at the neck, pulling it, but it did not fall. Then someone approached a welder and cut him to the thinnest part, which were the boots and the monument that weighed close to 10 tons, fell to the ground. After the monument collapsed, protesters tied it to a cable behind a car and began dragging it through the streets of Budapest. Behind the car pulling the monument, a long convoy of vehicles became. I could get on one of them and after we walked a few km. through the streets of Budapest, we stopped at the National Theater Square, behind the “Gorky” cinema. After the demolition of the monument, where many protesters rushed to tear it apart, I, along with some other students, went to the dormitory and there began to prepare various posters with descriptions, which said: “Down with the Russians.” “Russians, go to your homes,” “Down with communism.” As we were writing them, I was instructed to: in red ink, underline the main parts of the slogans, which we then pasted on various streets and squares of Budapest. After we finished work, I, together with some of my fellow students, went to the hospital near “Bakaç” square (Region 9), because in that hospital, there were many protesters hospitalized from the wounds received during the protests. But in addition to the protesters, there were also many members of the government forces, communists, Soviet military, etc. At that hospital I served for three days in a row, helping as little as possible in the many emergencies that came there. With me was a friend of mine, (Tot’h Ilona), who was later shot dead by the Russian Army after suppressing the Revolution by injecting gasoline into many Russian soldiers. instead of medication. This accusation was fabricated, as my friend, Ilona, had not even thought of such a macabre. Meanwhile, the Hungarian army did not take part in the suppression of anti-communist revolts and the protesters were confronted only by Russian soldiers stationed in Hungary, as well as forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and its secret services. Following the fall of the Hungarian communist government of Prime Minister Gerr Erne, the new prime minister, Imre Nagy, took power, becoming a symbol of the ‘Anti-Communist Revolution’, along with Cardinal Mindcenti, who, after the suppression of the revolution, took refuge in the US embassy… The Hungarian communist government fell as if from paper and the Russians withdrew. In those days, I was talking to some Soviet officers, who said to me: Why should we come and liberate Hungary for the second time?! After the triumph of the Revolution, although there was no retaliation against the Hungarian communists, in the electric poles, there were many members of the hanging secret services, whose mouths were filled with coins and on their bodies hanging upside down, were placed signs, which read: “Traitors, sell your country for money.”
Return to Tirana after the “Hungarian Counter-Revolution”!
But how did the events in Hungary continue and what happened to the Albanian students who were there at that time pursuing higher studies? In this regard, the former Albanian student, Thoma Dardeli, who has been there for studies at the Faculty of Medicine in Budapest since the early 1950s, recalls: “On November 4, 1956, the Russians entered Hungary by tank and suppressed the revolution, regaining control of all of Hungary. We received an announcement from the Albanian embassy, stating that all Albanian students should leave the dormitories and gather at the embassy. After all the Albanian students had gathered there, they got into the cars of the Polish Red Cross and on November 12, they left for Czechoslovakia and we went to Bratislava and Prague. Along with my luggage, I had taken with me three camera films, where I had filmed with my camera during the demonstration, as well as some of the posters I had folded, from the ones we had distributed against the Russians. After being held for two weeks in Czechoslovakia, we boarded trains and from there we went to Linberg, Ukraine, to Kichevo, Moldova, and then to Odessa, where we were boarded on the large passenger ship Bellostrov from where we traveled to Albania. In this long voyage, without entering the strait of “Dardanelles” from a great storm we miraculously escaped, as the ship almost sank. The long voyage ended on December 5, 1956, when the ship “Bellostrov” arrived at the port of Durres. Upon arrival in Tirana, I and my friend Ramadan Muço were called to the Ministry of Education and Deputy Minister Qibrie Ciu, putting pressure on us, told us: You were both participants in the ‘Hungarian Counter-Revolution’. Meanwhile, not many days had passed since we were called to the Ministry of Education, where we were informed to report to the Directorate of Internal Affairs of Tirana, (at “Selvija”) me and two other fellow students. There we were interrogated by Nevzat Haznedari, who told us to tell everything, what we had seen, how we had seen and how we had acted during the ‘Against the Revolution’ period. Of course, we did not show that we had taken part in those protests ourselves and Haznedari, after keeping us there for a few hours, set us free, instructing us that: if we remembered anything else, let us go again to confess. After I left the Home Office, I immediately went home and burned all three camera films, along with the posters I had brought with me from Hungary. Meanwhile, life went smoothly without calling us to the Directorate of Internal Affairs, and that year I passed the four exams I was left without in Hungary and received my diploma together with the students who were titled doctors for the first time in Albania, from the University. of Tirana”, Dardeli concludes his testimony, regarding the adventure in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, where he was “mixed” with the protesters in the anti-communist revolts in that event which during the period of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime, is otherwise known as Against the Hungarian Revolution”!
Arrest in Berat and sentenced to 18 years in prison
After graduating as a doctor at the Faculty of Medicine of Tirana, Thoma Dardeli was sent to work in Fushë – Arrëz of Puka district, where at that time he was the only doctor graduated in the whole district, after having done three months of practice in the hospital. of Shkodra. After working for some time in the town of Fushë-Arrëz, at the beginning of 1958, Dardel was transferred from there and sent to work as a doctor in the city of Berat. After four years of working as a doctor in Berat, in 1962, Thoma Dardeli was arrested by the State Security on charges of “agitation and propaganda, as well as the influence of the ‘Hungarian Counter-Revolution’.” Along with Dardeli, two other people were arrested (Islam Spahiu and Vangjel Kule), who were called “hostile group” and their leader was Thoma Dardeli! His arrest came after the State Security had obtained all the necessary information about his stay in Hungary, in support of and participation in anti-communist protests. After the trial held in the city of Berat, the young doctor Dardeli was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which he suffered in Vlora, Rubik and Laç, where major industrial works were being built at that time. Even while serving his sentence in forced labor camps, at various times, Dardeli practiced the profession of doctor, where his accomplices remember and remember him as one of the only convicted doctors who set up nurses only for convicts and who gave them medical reports, according to their physical abilities. Dardeli completed his sentence on March 12, 1970, being released from the Belsh Camp after earning several years of reduced sentences and a few years with amnesties granted during those years.
The second arrest in Tepelena district
After his release from prison, in 1972 Dardeli was assigned to work as a doctor in the district of Tepelena and in the same year, he started a family, marrying Gjystina Pjetër Shestani, from the city of Shkodra, who was a young girl who in her family circle, had some political prisoners, most notably Dom Zef Shestani, one of the Catholic clergy who dressed in the priest’s veladon had fought with arms in hand against the communists during the period of occupation, 1943-’44. In the district of Tepelena, Dardeli took his wife with him and during that time, he had under his patronage about 22 villages, where he also worked as a nurse, dentist and general practitioner. Although he had a very good opinion in the villages where he worked, as a humane and tireless doctor, the shadow of the “enemy of the people” would not be easily separated. Thus, in 1975, Thoma Dardeli was arrested again by the State Security, on charges of “giving a woman maternity leave more than he deserved and taking bribes from the sick, half a liter of brandy and a cup of tea”, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison. He started serving his sentence on September 18, 1975 and finished it in July 1978. After being released from the second prison, Dardeli returned to Tirana, but without any possibility of living, as the house he had there had been taken from him by the state. Left without shelter, a relative of his wife, Gjystina Shestani, vacated a room of his own in the city of Shkodra to live with his wife. In the city of Shkodra, Dardeli was assigned to work in one of the deepest areas of the district, such as Mnela, a village on the border with the districts of Mirdita and Puka. Even in this deep area of Shkodra district, he worked with dedication and humanism to come to the aid of the villagers of the area, but even there there would be no peace from the State Security organs, after he was ‘targeted’ to be beaten and arrested. Thus, in July 1981, in the village of Mnelë, a large meeting was organized where delegates from Shkodra also participated, where the party and government bodies had gathered all the people, to publicly unmask the doctor Thoma Dardeli, “as a man which was against the Party “. “He listens to the radio in foreign countries”, “The doctor tells us, do not take the cattle to the cooperative, because you have to eat for bread”, were some of the accusations that the State Security had ‘inspired’ for the village doctor who had over themselves two political sentences with long prison terms. After this “unmasking” and those accusations, Dardeli waited for the arrest and the third prison, but fortunately it did not happen, as someone in Shkodra had said: “Leave it at that, because we have no other doctor to send to that remote area…”. Thus, after that, Thoma Dardeli, a former student at the Faculty of Medicine in Budapest who was once called a “colleague” by his professors, ended his career as a doctor in that area, without ending up again in the prisons of the communist regime. In the following years, he and his wife, Gjystina Shestani, devoted themselves to the family and with the fall of the communist regime, he was able to realize his dream of educating his two children abroad (son and daughter, graduated in Italy, respectively in Law and Medicine), as he himself once did. Although already at the age of 90, Thoma Dardeli continues to write memoirs, being a “living testimony” of that regime, which deprived him and thousands of other Albanians of the most beautiful years of their lives. he suffered in prisons and internments./Memorie.al