From Shpendi Topollaj
Memorie.al / Even goods have a limit. The poor man endures and endures and then does the unthinkable. That’s how it was for Dan Selim, from a village that lay on a mountain slope above Valbona. Dani loved that place very much. Not only because it was the place where he and his ancestors had been born, but also because it had a fairy tale beauty. All the flowers of the world grew there. Ever since he was a child, he had roamed the sloping grassy lawns with his palm, tending the cattle. A thousand times he had been refreshed in the raging waters of the river that passed between the white stones, rounded by the fury of its flow and by time. He had also caught trout with his friends. How delicious they were.
Let their everything was of exceptional taste. Even the meat, the chestnuts, the plums, the apples… All the seasons were magical here. Intoxicating spring. Pleasant summer. Autumn awakens the dream. But winter, magnificent. But most of all, there were wonderful people here. Handsome, tall, and ruddy-cheeked from the healthy climate, they were very friendly and honest. Perhaps the lack of roads, the isolation somewhat from the world, the harsh winter, the arrival of visitors rarely, very rarely, had bound them tightly to each other.
Even the wild and very cold winter had its own charm. The men and the elders gathered, one after the other, and the wise conversations continued all night. But things had changed somewhat, when after the end of the last war, the governors were closely related to the Serbs. So narrowly, that without a single point they declared that without Yugoslavia, there would be no Albania. This initially caused anger in those parts, where they knew well what friends they could make. Then, suddenly and without remembering, came the breakdown.
This surprised, but also delighted the people. Well – they said among themselves – they will have finally understood who went. The cursing did not stop now. And the breakdown appeared to be final. But Dan, who had just completed his military service, was also a little upset. And he had reason to be upset. In the village on the other side of the mountain, which he could see from Gjakova, he had a married sister. The border was closed and suddenly he couldn’t go there. Initially, he hoped that the situation would normalize, but he did not say so. The communists in Tirana never tired of cursing and accusing the Titists.
Years passed and the situation was not changing. Dani was now married and had children of her own, but longing for her sister was burning her. Nothing knew about it. How many children did he have and how did they fare there? It’s good that we broke up, but why did Kosovo have to remain under Tito? So occupied by the Serbs. Dani could not understand this. It was said that they had taken advantage of the attitude of our politicians, who had never shown any interest in Kosovo.
Years passed and Dani did not forget his sister. He came where he came and she paid attention to him. He saw it even in his dreams. He used to say to him: Why don’t you come to see me once, brother, because I miss you so much. So one day, without even telling his wife or meeting the children, he made up his mind: he would cross the border and spend a night there. The place was so steep that there was no need to build the clone. Border control was done by soldiers. They patrolled two by two day and night.
But Dan knew those paths well. He knew where he could go unnoticed. He waited until it got dark and left. His heart pounded, but he was determined. Finally, the next day he would return again. He was filled with mixed feelings: there was both fear and joy. He didn’t feel tired at all. He took the road from there to lead to Maja e Dhive. It was a narrow street, as if paved with cobblestones. Taking care not to slip, he reached the top. Beyond lay a vast plain.
He took a deep breath and seemed relieved. This is our Kosovo – he said to himself. – How beautiful and prosperous it is. Then he couldn’t stand it: I made my mother a politician! And he went to the village where his sister lived. It was released almost with four. Without saving at all. He wanted to get there as soon as possible. How many years had it been? What if she didn’t know him? There was no way. He walked, almost running, without even being protected by the thorns that scratched him. He was experiencing an excitement that made him flutter.
It took him another twenty minutes to get there, but it seemed to him that the closer he got to that village, the further away it was. I’m coming! I’m coming! I’m coming! – He was talking to himself.
And without realizing it, he was speaking out loud. When he got under a black rock, all of a sudden he heard someone shouting threateningly “Stoj”! What is this?! He wanted to continue, but a rifle shot and a barbell.
Not that he was afraid, but he knew that something had not worked well. He had been guarded by his own and had forgotten that the border was controlled here as well. “They will understand me – he thought. – I will tell them when I see my sister and I will come back. Those people are too. They may even have sisters themselves and they definitely know what they miss”!
But they did not want to know about his reasoning. They approached him and tied him up. Dan Selimi tried to clarify things, but apparently they did not know Albanian at all. They put him in front and took him to the border post. The other soldiers also gathered here and were curious to see Dan, as if he came from another planet. When he was brought before an officer, he told him to sit down and called a villager from a nearby village. Apparently he was supposed to be from his sister’s village. And Dani was not wrong. He, as soon as he heard that he had come over here to see his sister, said:
– Asht is the brother of Shpresa, Kelmendi’s wife. But as it was seen, the lieutenant had no other right than to take note of the generals and the reason for the escape. Dan, when he heard this word, tried to explain that he was not running away; he just wanted to see his sister and that was it. But he tried in vain, because the officer ordered to accompany him to the command, there in Gjakova. They put him in a “Jeep” and through a road full of potholes, just like that, with their hands tied, they started for the city. When they arrived there, they started with investigations. It was understood that the civilians interrogating him were from the UDB.
Dan tried to explain himself, but they told him that you came on duty and the sister was just a fool. This continued for a month, and when they saw that he did not have any kind of mission, they told him that they were done with him and would return him to Albania. – Please – begged Dani – let me meet my sister. – A job that cannot be done – answered angrily the one who should have been the first. – They are waiting for us there at the border. And you know for our honor that we left it at that and we are only returning you.
– How did you leave it like that? As I see, you have been notified in Albania and you should know, I believe, that they don’t leave it at that.
That afternoon, Danin, accompanied by an officer and two policemen, was taken to the border crossing point. On the other hand, a group of Albanian policemen and soldiers was waiting. A black “Gaz” had stopped nearby. When he was crossing the beam of the checkpoint, he saw two tall and silent men coming towards them from the other side. He realized that they were exchanging him with those cuckoos. When they passed by, one looked like Kelmendi.
Surprisingly, he also had the same mark on his cheek. He became confused and all kinds of conjectures began to torment him. The officer, who took him into custody, handcuffed Dan Selim to the bone. Right away, he didn’t speak to her, but he seemed very annoyed with her. When they put him in the car and put him between two handsome policemen, the officer started yelling at him:
– Despicable! Traitor of the Motherland! You will know how to escape from your country. Dan didn’t make a sound at first. But when he saw that the officer was not resting, he asked: – I’m sorry, but can I know who I’m talking to? The captain turned to him and, seeing him threateningly, replied: – He is talking to the commander of the border battalion. That you opened all these troubles for us. Let us also suffer from your enmity.
– What hostility are you talking about, that I don’t understand? – Why, what do you call escaping from your motherland…?! – I am bothering you with questions, but please tell me where you are from captain. – How am I from!? I am from Tepelena. What do you need where I’m from? I’m the one who should be asking here. – Well, I wanted to learn it, to tell you that, you don’t know that our border does not pass at Maja e Dhivi, but at Guri me Vrimë.
And I was going to my sister, whom I haven’t seen in forty years and who lives in an Albanian village, in historically Albanian lands. Therefore, those traitors found somewhere else, among those who left our lands to the Serbs; they separated us from our relatives forever. And exchange us, yes, with Albanians. Who are you making fun of?
The officer did not speak, but he knew that now it was the turn of the people’s court to speak. And that trial sentenced Dan Selim to twenty years of political imprisonment. Now, until he died, he would not be able to see either his sister from whom the madness of time had separated him, nor his beloved Valbona. As for Kelmendi, he never learned anything correct. Memorie.al