By Hajro Hajra
The sixth part
Memorie.al / An authentic narrative, lived and unadorned, drawn from the carved, but not sleeping, memory of the Albanian who experienced the communist hell, but who managed to escape from that hell thanks to the resourcefulness and great faith that only by coming out of that purgatory, you can fight that icy winter, that infernal fog that had covered Albania from corner to corner, you will read in this article about Remzi Barolli, sentenced to 101 years in prison by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha.
Continues from last issue
Waiting for refugees from Kosovo
Many Albanians from that endless river of fleeing from Kosovo to Albania and to other Albanian lands in Macedonia and Montenegro, after a short stay with their brothers, who had opened their hearts and doors for them, had traveled to different countries of the world. A relatively large number had come across the ocean, to America. Here they were distributed in all 50 US states.
In the capital of the state of Arizona, in Phoenix, the first families from Kosovo had arrived on May 12, 1999. To receive them at the “Sky Harbor” Airport, in addition to a large number of Albanians, many American citizens and many journalists had come out to welcome them of radio and television and the press.
It was Remzi Barolli, who had organized the reception of the first families and other families that continued to come one after the other until the end of August of that year, when after the NATO forces had entered Kosovo, the refugee program was stopped from Kosovo.
Always tireless, always vital, Remziu, helped by several American sponsoring churches and American individuals, had organized the Albanians of Phoenix, not only to receive the refugees from the war, but also to organize their settlement and to helped them in different ways until they recovered.
In addition, Remziu had notified all the media of Arizona, whenever refugees from Kosovo arrived here, so a large number of them, whenever families or individuals who fled from Kosovo arrived at the Fenikist airport, you saw them at the airport , together with Albanians.
The first days after arriving in Feniks would have been much more difficult for the Albanians from Kosovo, had it not been for Remzi Barolli, who together with his wife, Meri, was with them almost every day. At first, they took care of settling and organizing the refugees, then equipping their homes with everything necessary, helping them to arrange the various documents and contacting humanitarian associations and many individuals.
Humanitarian institutions collected aid (clothing, used and new, furniture, kitchen equipment, televisions, children’s toys, school equipment, hygiene products, food and others) and sent them to Remzi Barolli. His two garages had been transformed into warehouses for the collection of humanitarian aid from associations and American citizens.
Mrs. Barolli took care of the aid collected in Mr. Barolli’s house, through whose hands passed all the aid that was dedicated to the Albanian refugees. She documented the collected tools, organized them and, in case of need, packed them and when the refugees did not have the opportunity to go and get them, she and her husband took them through the apartments, always keeping records of the amount and the type of aid distributed.
Remziu, meanwhile, as a young boy, always inconvenient, went from one family to another and was interested in their daily problems. He guided them, just like a good parent, about everything they needed to know, because almost all of those who had fled from Kosovo did not know English and wherever they went they needed someone to accompany them and to help them to communicate in English.
Living in the past
Today Remzi Barolli, retired, lives a quiet life in the city of Glendale, but without ever forgetting the past, especially that darkest period of his life, spent in the communist prisons of the big prison called Albania. He has a great hatred for communism, for this plague, the virus of which unfortunately continues to infect Albanians today.
Remziu often mentions the number 349. There are 349 years of prison and exile for the Barolli, which cannot be easily erased from memory. There are a large number of members of the Barolli family and members of other families related to the Barollis, who have experienced the communist hell of Albania. The Barollis have received many years of punishment, starting with mother Aishja, who spent almost 50 years in prison and exile.
Uncle Demiri was shot after 4 years of serving his sentence, the other uncle, Murat, died in prison after 30 years of serving his sentence, uncle Kamberi also died in prison, after having served it for 35 years, and his wife, Nazimja , has served 16 years in prison and her sister, Halidja, 6 years in prison (her brother took care of her young children).
A cousin of Remzi, Ibrahim Tare, after serving 14 years in prison, was later shot, while his father Seiti, together with his other son, Ibrahim’s brother, were shot in prison, Ibrahim’s mother, Esmaja, died in the camp after 15 years of exile. After Remziu’s father, Rakipi, was executed in 1946, Remziu’s aunt’s husband, Rifati, and his son were also shot.
Remzi’s aunt’s son, Nexhmiu, suffered 41 years in the camp, together with his wife (their three children were born in the camp). Remzi’s sister, Hiqmeti, spent 9 years in the camp, uncle Murat’s son, Fiqriu, suffered 17 and a half years in prison, Haki Tare, the son of his aunt, was in prison from 1946 to 1991, his nephew, Seati, after 22 years of serving his sentence, went mad in prison and went blind, another cousin of Remzi, Zeqiri, stayed in the camp from 1949 and was killed in 1961, during an attempt to escape.
Another cousin (from the mother’s side) of Remzi, Skënder Sheholli, accused of being a saboteur, had served 34 years in prison, uncle Demir’s son Fahriu, two years in prison and so on. Even Remziu cannot remember some of the names of the prisoners, because there are too many of them. Many of them, after being released from prisons or camps after the fall of communism, have died, most in complete poverty and without anyone’s care.
Some of Remzi’s relatives, with his help, have come to the USA. Remziu’s mother spent the last years of her life with her son, Remziu, where she passed away.
Even today Mr. Barolli is active and present in every activity, in every gathering of the Albanians of Arizona. At holiday gatherings, such as on Flag Day or Kosovo’s Independence Day, you can see him dancing on the floor with others just like a young man, although in a year he will turn 90 years old. Memorie.al