Memorie.al publishes the unknown story of Skënder Skopje, who after graduating from the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Tirana (branch Physics), in 1963, served as a teacher in the villages of Tirana until 1983, when he was appointed as Collegium Secretary in the magazine “Science and Life” in Tirana, where he worked until 1991, after the publication of the first opposition newspaper, ‘Democratic Renaissance’, he was appointed Secretary Collegium and in the first pluralist elections in March ‘ 91, was elected as a member of the Albanian Parliament, proposed by the Democratic Party. His appointment in 1992 as Albania’s ambassador to Ankara, Turkey, where he served until 1997, when the ruling left-wing coalition fired him and he returned to Tirana, leaving him without work and support. social. Unable to make a living with a pension of 150 thousand old lek, he was forced to emigrate to the United States, where he did a lot of manual work to support his family.
Unlike years ago, when dressed in the ambassador’s costume, he waited and escorted foreign politicians and diplomats in the lobby of the Albanian embassy in Ankara, or attended various banquets talking and having lunch with President Turgut Ozal or King Juan Carlos of Spain. he was later forced to work even in manual labor to support his family. This is what happened to Skënder Skupit, who since September 1997, when he left the post of Albanian ambassador in Ankara, continued walking in New York – Tirana and vice versa, to make it possible to provide a living, which he could only afford with a pension of 150,000 old lek. How the former Albanian MP and diplomat experienced that “new experience” at that time, he proves to us with his exclusive interview for Memorie.al, which we are publishing below in this article.
Mr. Skopje, how do you remember your entry into politics?
From the first days of December 1990, when I was still working as the editor-in-chief of the magazine “Science and Life”, I went to ‘Student City’ as soon as the student protests started. There I was involved in various debates, where the formation of a student party was discussed and I participated in almost all rallies and student protests in Tirana. I have unreservedly and consciously supported the student movement for many reasons, related to both my upbringing and my family past.
When did you join the Democratic Party?
I joined the Democratic Party only three or four days after its establishment and there I met with Zenel Hoxha, who covered the organization of the Democratic Party branch in Tirana. A week after the founding of the Democratic Party, by order of its main leaders, together with Arben Imami and Sotir Qirjaqi, we went to the Teaching Aids Enterprise, where we explained the Democratic Party program and we were received with great enthusiasm…
As far as we know, your wife, Mrs. Merita, has she been very committed to the Democratic Party since its inception?
It is more than true, since my wife, Merita Skopje (Plangarica), was the secretary of the PD branch for Tirana, I preferred not to continue to contribute closer to that branch, but I dedicated myself to my profession of journalist, writing in the first issues of the newspaper ‘Democratic Renaissance’. In September of ’91, the chairman of the Democratic Party, Sali Berisha, called me and informed me of the decision to work as secretary of the collegium of that newspaper.
How long did you work there?
I worked in that position until the elections of March 22, 1992, when I was elected PD deputy in the parliament, after I had won 64% of the votes in front of the late Luan Hajdaraga, in the area of the former Bloc, in New Tirana. The area where I won was the only one in Tirana where the PD lost in the first elections of March 31, 1991.
How long have you been a Member of Parliament?
As a member of parliament, I did not stay long, because in September ’92, by decree of the President of the Republic, Prof. Dr. Sali Berisha, I was appointed ambassador of Albania in Ankara, Turkey.
How long have you served as ambassador to Turkey and what do you remember as the most difficult moment you went through during that time?
I served as the Albanian ambassador to Ankara for a full five years, from September 1992 to September 1997, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed me of the end of my mission there. The most difficult moment I went through during that time was when during a dinner hosted in honor of a delegation of our Ministry of Defense, I was forced to enter into a debate with a Turkish general, who was the Commander-in-Chief of Tank Forces of Turkey. There I felt extremely bad.
More specifically, what is the debate about?
During that dinner, the Turkish general suddenly said: “That hero of yours who came here (he was talking about Skanderbeg), grew up here, was educated here, formed as a man, became a great soldier, and then returned there. returned our weapons for 25 years. This is the trust that you Albanians have “.
How did you react after those words of the Turkish general?
Before finishing his speech, the Turkish general, the first secretary of our embassy, Skënder Drini (a well-known writer), asked him: “What would you do if you were taken prisoner by the Albanians?”. He replied with arrogant pride, “I am never a slave to anyone.” Then at the height of my anger I reacted by saying: “Mr. General, if you will convince me that you are a better military than Sultan Bayezid the Elder, then I will fully accept your reasoning.” He did not speak, but the allusion I made was more than clear, because Sultan Bajazi Jëlldërëmi, fell captive into the hands of the Tatars, who walked him locked in a cage. This has been the most difficult moment I have had there, as our relations with Turkey have been very warm and very friendly.
What do you think were your mistakes in the post of ambassador?
I had difficulty in hiring some diplomats from our embassy, who had come there not on the basis of skills, but through various friends and acquaintances. And to make up for their gaps, I had to take on a lot of things they left unattended.
How do you remember the last day of your work in that function?
The last day of my work at that embassy was September 20, ’97 and it was a very normal day, like all the others, as I had been preparing to return to Albania since September 8, when I arrived. letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana. That day, after having lunch with all the embassy staff (at our own expense), I took the road back to Tirana.
With what motivation were you removed from the embassy in Ankara?
As for clarification, I am telling you that for a year I had asked President Berisha in writing to return to Tirana, after my four-year term had ended, but he told me to continue working. While in the letter that came to me from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after the Socialists came to power, there were some articles that had nothing to do with the procedures for my removal from that job. Based on this, I, as soon as I came to Tirana, requested a meeting with Minister Paskal Milo, who told me: “You are dismissed that you ambassadors acted as party members and not as representatives of the state.” After expressing his considerations for me, he said, “We have nothing special for you.”
What did you do after your dismissal as ambassador?
Unemployed and without financial income, after our salary was cut immediately, on September 20 I returned to my old profession of journalist, collaborating with several newspapers as an editorialist. The pay I got from that job was very small and I could barely afford to make a living, but half the evil, as I was alone at home and doing as I did.
Where was your family?
While I was returning from Turkey to Albania, my wife Merita, together with our only daughter Dea, using their diplomatic passport left directly for the USA and took refuge with some relatives of our family. Merit took various jobs and sent me from $ 100 a month to make a living. But, after facing great economic difficulties, I was forced to go to the USA, where I did various jobs, up to manual labor. Initially I worked with the newspaper “Ylliria”, then I worked on an international program for compensation of Holocaust victims, which was funded by the US government, Israel and several Swiss banks. I then worked as a financier for a long time in a mechanical enterprise, which produced cages for tutors.
Yes pension, you were not given here in Albania?
Since 2001 I receive a pension of 150 thousand old lek.
You returned to Albania just before the 2005 elections, did you have ambitions to re-enter politics?
In parentheses I wanted to tell you that one of the reasons for the desperate situation where Albania was and is, is the indifference of intellectuals. In this context, I think that by engaging in politics, I could make a modest contribution to change something. Thus, after returning to Albania at that time, I became involved with the Movement for National Development led by Mr. Dashamir Shehi, one of the most integrated politicians that Albania can have, where I was assigned to head the Department of Foreign Relations of this political formation.
When did you return, where did you live and where did you live before entering politics in ’91?
When I returned, I was living in an apartment of the Gintash company in Lapraka, which I had bought in ’97, after returning from Turkey. That 2 + 1 house was bought with the money of the old 1 + 1 house of Enver’s time, which we sold, with the contribution of our family savings and thanks to a discount made by the owners of that firm, whom I had helped to come to Albania.
What are your passions?
My passions are books, both scientific and artistic. Historically themed TV shows appeal to me, but they also follow football a lot. Man has many passions in life, but they are to some extent conditioned by the economic situation. I lead a simple life, as I drink neither alcohol nor tobacco.
The story of the former ambassador: “Here is the truth about Gazidede and the trafficking of Kurds”
During the time that Skënder Skopje served as Albania’s ambassador to Ankara, the left-wing opposition press in Tirana accused the Albanian-Turkish embassy of Kurdish trafficking, and personally Ambassador Skopje, saying that he had taken refuge in the premises of our former embassy. the head of SHIK Bashkim Gazidede. Regarding these accusations, the former ambassador Skopje says: “I also learned the problem of the trafficking of Kurds from Turkey to Albania from the Tirana press. I have no evidence to accuse any of my staff for this, but even if it is true, so that something happened, of course it was my weakness that I did not discover. But I emphasize that I do not know of any concrete facts about this in terms of our embassy staff. As for Gazidede’s problem, which I clarified even at the time when that accusation was made against me, I am telling you again that if Bashkim Gazidede came to the embassy, I would gladly shelter him, but he never came there”. /Memorie.al
1943 Born in the city of Tirana
1963 Graduated in Natural Sciences, Physics branch
1963-1983 Teacher in the district of Tirana
1983-1991 Editor of the magazine “Science and Life”
1991 Secretary of the College in the “Democratic Renaissance”
1991-1992 Member of the Democratic Party in parliament
1992-1997 Ambassador of Albania to Turkey
1997-2005 Various jobs in the private sector
2005- 2021 Pensioner