By Maksim Rakipaj
The first part
– Excerpt from the book “Alive after the sinking of the ship”, by the publicist, translator and writer Maksim Rakipaj, former officer of the Merchant Navy, who suffered in the prisons of the communist regime, as a political prisoner-
Memorie.al / I had heard a lot about Spaçi already in the Ballsh camp. Spači and the Spačians are spoken of with respect here after the revolt of May ’73. Very soon I would have the chance to become a spacian. Chaplain Shehu himself, (who had now moved to Lushnje, as head of the branch), had promised me with sighs and blushing with anger as early as May ’79, much more than that. And suddenly, in the second week of July ’79, when I was looking forward to my appointment (I turned 28 on the 15th), the loudspeaker boomed: ALL WHO WILL HEAR THE NAME SHOULD GATHER THEIR THINGS AND IN 5 MINUTES THEY WILL BE LINED AT THE GATE!….
…My name is third on the list. I don’t have time to meet anyone; dozens of policemen in the camp became a fence between us and those who remained there. Only Aladdin, (Kapo) who helped me get my spoils, barely managed to hug me: “Don’t worry brother”!
The gate opens, we go out, and the gate closes. There are three trucks. The first is with heavily armed soldiers. In the middle is our truck. Behind us another truck with soldiers. Above the driver’s cabin a two-legged machine gun and a soldier, one with him, with his finger on the trigger.
Two policemen are in the back of our discovered truck. One of them shouts to the soldier with the machine gun: “You bastard! Take your finger off the trigger of the machine gun because you’re going to kill us all”!
We are all tied up with WWII German handcuffs, two to a pair of handcuffs. I am single. The policeman ties me up alone, with me alone and last: “You, Max, will sit next to me, at the end of the truck”. He has left my handcuffs completely loose.
“Hold it well so that you don’t fall because you gave it to us”! He ordered me, smiling. As we leave. I see him with surprise. I don’t know him because he has never served inside the camp.
– My name is Fatmir. – He introduces himself to me – Don’t you remember me?!
– Yes, how do you know my name, Fatmir? – I speak to him by name, with which he is being very affectionate.
– It’s not your fault. The day you met the mayor of Lushnja, you were a smoke, Makso. You couldn’t see with your eyes. I was behind the door and heard your whole conversation. You blew my mind… hahahaha…! Especially when you said: I will come to take you to the grave, when I get out of prison…! Ahahaha, you got him talking to himself.
Halal. That’s why I let the shackles loose, you know. When I told your conversation to a friend of mine, who is a policeman in Fier, he laughed so hard, well done – he said about you. Fatmiri seems like a good guy.
He keeps me talking all the way, until we reach Spaç. Anyway, I’m very attentive in conversation with him, but he doesn’t ask any provocative questions, he even talks more than I do!
Arriving in Spač, he shakes my hand tightly and says: “I wish your health, Max. We are the same age and I am very sorry that you are in prison. That’s life. Don’t worry, tomorrow it’s no surprise, they’ll put me in me here so. Come on, be good”!
I haven’t seen it again. I salute him, wherever he is, if the day comes and he reads these lines. There were good people even where there shouldn’t have been.
…We are being checked again by the policemen of Spaç. Very diligently, meticulously. Once the control ends and the life of Spaci begins. I am worried about the family, because I was expecting them in two days in Ballsh. A friend helps me and I send a telegram home with Spaçi’s address. But the telegram goes a week late. Grandma, mother and my brother, Dashi, went all the way to Ballsh in vain. There they are briefly told:
“The convict Maksim Rakipaj is no longer in this department. We have no idea where he is. Ask the Ministry of the Interior.” The ministry does not receive any response! They are told only this: “It has been transferred to another re-education ward. Come and ask later.”
“Later, I said. Come, have a good day.”
When they finally receive my telegram with the new address, they calm down. “Calm down” I said? Ehhh…!
When Monday comes, I start working in the mine. The first three days are for “instruction”, for getting to know the mine and technical safety rules. It feels like you’re going to hell. For someone like me, unaccustomed to hard physical work, it is real horror.
I am told that I will work in a group of three, i.e., one miner and two shovelers. The group rate is 8 wagons filled with ore (about 2 tons of ore per wagon) two pairs of rebar, concrete or wood and one pair of biers.
– But beer is made by the miner – says Zef Nishi, the convicted brigadier – You are 50-60 kilos, no one makes you a miner, Max. Maybe make you a leveller.
– What do you mean by levelist? – I ask timidly.
– Levelist? Here, push the wagon with me, like the one over there…! Any ALL at the end of the month he receives, because it depends on the rate of the brigade. The leveller’s work never falls below 100%, he receives at least 7-800 ALL per month.
The first three days I work as a leveler. The wagon must be filled to the brim and taken out to be unloaded in a large warehouse. Below it, big trucks come to be filled. Even with Durres license plates. The wagons must be pushed on some thin rails.
– Do you see this metal platform? This is the plate; it serves to roll the wagon from one gallery to another.
Make some routes by helping an old leveler; he doesn’t bother to teach me:
– Oh, I have to do the norm. See what I do, you do too. Tomorrow you will be alone, no one will help you. The next day I am alone. From the very first road, my full wagon derails. Four wheels on the ground. What about now? I come around, hopeless. I try to lift it, to put it back on the rails; where he shakes. A leveler comes with his wagon:
– What the hell, take the master! Are your eyes in your forehead, did you forget about this wagon shit?! What are you waiting for, give it to me, I’m late!
– I tried it, but it doesn’t move. – I say.
– Kuku, for me, I have to raise the wagon with you!
It seems Shkodran from the dialect.
– I took off my head so I can lift it myself. – And in the blink of an eye the wagon was put on the tracks.
– Where are you from? How do you say the name?
– Durres. Max, what about you?
– Shkodra. I have a shitty mother, Enver, but they call me Ruke. When I left, a hodge shit said to the old man: Enver was my name. And the old man did not spoil it. Who cares? As if there were no other names. Mafmut, let me be called shit, for short. But not Enver, by God!
And to make it worse, they curse my mother, my wife, like in the camp, like in the gallery. I was a little late in the queue, for example, only when they start with a plow, with a drill book, the young man now that a couple of wagons are coming…!
And indeed, as soon as they recognized Ruken, they began: – Oh Enver whore, you have become assless as a plate of pyrite, why did you block the road. Oh Enver shit, you found a meal to eat in your ass…! ahahahahah…! O great god, die, O Enver!
– Amen, my God! Well, I know you don’t have it with me. – You don’t spoil Teresa Rukja – I helped this young man lift the wagon. My name is Max, I’m from Durrës.
– You have matured perfectly, Marx and Enver… ahahaha. Listen, brother, you’re a good boy, you’ll have everyone’s help, you’re lazy, you’d better tell them to find you a place in the offices, because this is where you’ll lose your head.
…This is my first introduction to mining. After a few days, with the new organization, they appointed me a miner in zone IV. To learn how to use the hammer, I have Agim Hamit, from Vlora. Dawn is a little shorter and stockier than me. We quickly build trust in each other.
– They didn’t put miners on you and me to make the brigade’s plan – says Agimi – but to take our souls out little by little. They give us fronts with the hardest rock. Of the 8 atmospheres of air that are normally needed for WUP hammers, from the compressors in the fronts where they are like our work, who want to die in dust, they do not send even 4 atmospheres. You will see for yourself. Even the workers give us weaker ones. Someone is also a command spy.
And I really see it. Dawn is right. I have two employees: Islam Spahi and Ahmet Kolgjin. Islam is powerful, but it does not say to the spade. He knows French and French poetry very well, he is also a painter. Great man, rare friend.
Ahmeti, raised in exile as a child. Yellow, weak, with 3 heart diagnoses, but works hard, with all his heart. Knows several foreign languages. I know the French encyclopedia “Larousse” almost by heart.
There is no field of art, science or religion that Ahmeti does not know. May your memory be eternal, my friend Ahmet!
The Brigadier is unhappy with the work of my group:
– I’m sorry, but I have nothing to do. You haven’t been able to finish a pair of beer for two days. You have the armor for black cheek. I have reported to the brigade policeman, Mark and the Technical Office. If you didn’t do the beers today, the dungeon is waiting for you, Max.
– If that’s the case, I’ll go to the dungeon right now. With 3 atmospheres of air coming to me, not me, not even the best miner can make the beers, stay here with me and see for yourself.
– I don’t just have your front; I have a brigade to follow. Come on, keep working!
The little air barely rotates the baromina, if I force it, it stops completely. I made only two 80 cm biras. I have to make 8 or 9 beers of one meter deep. I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn my head, I see the brigade policeman, Mark Marku. There are two or three policemen with this name. This seems like a calm, quiet guy.
I never laugh. He motions for me to turn off the hammer. Do as he tells me. I follow him until we are away from the front of the gallery and the mist of dust. We sit on two beech logs that I have to arm the gallery. He asks me in a tired voice where I’m from, what’s my name.
– Rakipaj, you say? What about Xhaferri, the director of Reclamation of Lezha?
– Dad, I have it.
– So I had a coffee in Laç with Xhaferri. Tall man. I am very good friends with my uncle, who is the director of Laçi Park. No, take it! See how life turns. Today I am a policeman and I protect Xhaferri’s son! My uncle told me, but I didn’t know it was you.
From tomorrow you will have as much air as begs for beer, I will come with him to the front. If there is no air, don’t shave it, leave it alone. You don’t make holes in the rock with your fingers. As long as I’m a companion policeman of this brigade, you don’t have me in the dungeon for doing beer without air. Dad, are you coming? Yeah, eh. Thank you very much.
Mark keeps his word. But, no matter how much I do the rate every day, I never manage to get any money in Spaç, even when I complete more than 100% of the monthly rate.
– Don’t even wait to get it – Agim Hamiti tells me – With our money they pay the spies, those whores of the command.
I was also told by the writer Halil Laze, who was in a strong group with engineer Xhafer Agaraj and miner, former topographic officer, surveyor, Diogen Nako. They made over 150% every month.
When he had gone with the policeman Mark to complain to the convicted normist with the last name Mulosmani, the latter, angry, had taken a piece of paper out of his pocket and had angrily shouted at the policeman: “And these, how are you going to I pay, right? Do you know what they told me? Go talk to those big commandos, you don’t have to talk to me at all…”
The policeman sewed his mouth shut. They were afraid of spies who were brigadiers, normists, etc. Memorie.al
The next issue follows