From Xvehir Gradica
Memorie.al / The name of the swimmer Mirban Kadiu was heard for the first time in the Balkaniad of 1948. He was only 14 years old. The races took place in Durrës and opened with the pioneers, who measured the preparation in 50 m. and 100 m. Children from all over Albania and several other countries of the region participated. Kadi is declared the winner of the first place, in 50 m. free style. Since that day, until now, over the 80 years, certificates, diplomas, honor rolls, titles, cups, have not been given to him for a single moment. Finally, he grabbed two such cups of great value and weight, for the sportsman. Not too far in time. One cup on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa, the Albanian daughter, humanitarian of the World and the other cup, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Independence.
Kadi won the swimming competitions, in honor of these anniversaries thus adding trophies. 38 medals on his chest are the most complete proof of that long road. Mirban Kadi’s career is so far incomparable with any swimmer from Durrës. He was active in the sport of swimming since he was a child, while his long life gave him the opportunity to add trophies even while practicing the sport, now as a veteran.
The swimmer child
The success in the Balkaniad of 1948 will be the first for Mirban Kadi. There he will gain strength and will devote himself to swimming with great zeal. The head of the “Ylli i Quq” Sports Club, which will later be named “Teuta”, “Lokomotiva” and finally “Teuta” again, was Tom Gjini, a very hardworking person with unbreakable faith. He had chosen two boys: Surja Kapexhiu, 13 years old, and Niko Kola, for the 100 m freestyle race, who took first and second place, while for the 50 m race, the place was empty. It was requested that there were six swimmers in the competition. The team had only five athletes. The coach approaches and asks the coach of the Club to allow him to enter the competition, and so it happened.
This year will be marked in the calendar of his sports career, as the genesis and the great springboard of life. The competition for first place with swimmers of his age, such as: Ram Laçi, Gafurr Haznedari, Niko Noti, Eqrem Kosova, was attractive, as they were very close to each other. 14-year-old Kadiu had not practiced with the team for a single hour, however, he won first place. Exactly, he had prepared, even a lot, but individually, that is, simply with his passion and desire, without a coach, without a master, in his head. The children and adults of the city had their own beach in Currila. 14-year-old Kadiu also learned to swim there. A few years younger, he used to bathe with children from the “Sefer Efendiu” neighborhood, with boys from well-known families in Durrës, such as; Kapxhiu, Truma, Mara, Afezolli, etc. There were two ways to get to Currila.
One from the “Sefer Efendiu” neighborhood, above the water tank, the Orthodox church and down the hill to Currilat. The other road from neighborhood no. 8, climbed the hill and went down to the sea, through 12 steps. The middle-class and poor citizens gathered there, while the rich went to the villas on the big beach (from Ura e Dajlani to Plepat) to bathe. They learned to swim in Currila, as well as in the pioneer camp, which was run by Bedri Kokomani and then Stefanaq Gjiri. The camp was established in 1946, with children from all over Albania. They were called debaters and there were more than 300 children. Kadi had learned to swim since he was 10 years old. He swam in Tirana, in the pool near the “Kosova” theater (Former National Theater). At that time, he was also bathing at the cataract above the hospital, towards the Dajti mountain road. There were two such: the “Lion” and “Palaço” ponds.
Above them lay the Priest’s Hill, covered in a dense forest. The joke that Kadi bathed in Tirana and not in his hometown was related to the expulsion of his family from Durrës during the German occupation. He also continued his primary education there. Swimmers of that time were; Ram Laçi, Niko Noti, Gafurr Haznedari, etc. and at this time, Kadi’s career also begins. Due to his father’s anti-fascist stance, the Kadiu family is deported to Arapaj and this brings trouble to the child. Tom Gjiri, under pressure to send the little swimmer away, just because his parents were not in favor of the power of the time, advises him to go to Tirana, to a friend of his, named Avni Zajmi, who as coach, had the Tirana team.
The capital gathered talents and this was best known by Tom Gjiri, who informed the coach of Tirana that the child he was sending was of high quality. This is exactly the case that the boy from Durrës would soon become famous. The Tirana team had only adults in swimming. This forces the coach to include Mirban Kadi with the adults, even though he was not yet 17 years old. In order not to be noticed by others, he changed his name from Mirban to Burhan Kadiu. Even the diploma obtained has this name. In the 200 m races. and 400 m. took third place, leaving behind talented swimmers like Sabri Kapexhiun and Eqerem Korra.
The years go by and the boy, upon returning to the coastal city, continues his studies. He just finished the second year of high school at the “16 September” school in Durrës, during the summer he represents the schools of his hometown, under the patronage of the central company “Dinamo”. This time he climbed, taking the first place. He went even further, breaking the previous results, in 200 m. and in 400 m. free style. Coach Ramadan Shehu will express himself with the most special words about the merits and indicators of swimmer Kadiu. Now that he had grown up, Kadi had become much more mature as a sportsman. When he was called to military service, he became interested in serving in the army at the “Partizani” Sport Club, but his biography ended in Pogradec, in 1952. The army also held many competitions, among them swimming.
Kadi was already very well-known and his collection was not at all in doubt. Here too, the winner of the 200 m race and 400 m., again other records. The coaches Shaqir Kapexhiu and Petrit Caclli are surprised. Athlete Kadiu was very punctual and prepared very seriously. After Liberation, he represents the “Spartak” swimming association of Durrës, with Coach Hysen Vaqarri. Other records in 200 m. and 400 m. Year after year, swimming competitions were organized, generally in Durrës and Mirban Kadiu, he did not get off the first place podium. This is how the years went until 1959, when he was forced to stop his studies, because his brother was fired from his job, due to problems in his biography. Family life becomes difficult, so Mirban Kadiu puts sports aside and turns to work to cope with economic difficulties. Two years later, in 1962, the heads of the political power and the Executive Committee of Durrës were convinced that only Kadi’s return to swimming would give them the opportunity to win the cup, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Independence.
The vice president of the Executive Committee, Petraq Tapia, the coach Sulejman Tufa and the head of the club, Mustafa Çelkupa, try to persuade him to return to the sport of swimming, but one of their requests is met with opposition from the young man. Upon hearing the father’s rejection, he convinces the boy to return to sports and for this he reminds him that; the 50th anniversary is a marked day for all Albanians, so it had to be respected. Exactly on this anniversary of Independence, Kadi broke three more records and reached the norm for “Master of Sports”. He had exactly reached the standards in 1956. The race of 1500 m. had set a record in 1954, with swimmer Eqerem Korra, while Kadiu broke it two years later. He also broke the record in the 400 m race. It is Kadiu who will go even further in the 1962 competitions, breaking the records in the multi-event: 100 m. backstroke, 100 m. frog, 100 m. krol. Most of the competitions were held in Durrës, but not only in this city.
So in 1957, they took place in Shkodër; in 1958, in Vlora; in 1959-1960-1961, in Korça; in 1963, again in Korça. Several years in a row in Durrës and only one year in Lushnje. The gathering of athletes was done according to a regular calendar and those responsible for its implementation were punctual. Generally, in August, the competitions also started, while days before, the swimmers devoted themselves to intensive training. Cadiu was not satisfied with training time in the summer, as throughout the year, he exercised regularly to keep his body in shape as an athlete. Mirban Kadiu has also participated in the three marathons held. The first was organized by the youth in 1956; the second was organized by the Chinese-Albanian Association in 1962, while the third, in 1966, the year he was declared champion. The exercises were done at sea, while the Durrës races took place at the captain’s house, between the lighthouse and the captain’s house, to the right of it.
There was a three-day celebration in Durrës, on the occasion of the swimming competitions, and this was another indicator of the massiveness of this sport. Mirban Kadiu has also become part of the survey announced by the newspaper “Popular Sport”, for the 10 best sportsmen of 1962 in Albania. The swimmer’s name and photos have been placed in many halls of important activities, proof of the values that the athlete from Durrës had. Cadiu never gave up swimming. After leaving the championships due to age, he continued racing as a veteran, doing the same thing, setting records and breaking records, often records he set himself. He served for 10 years as a coach, swimming inspector and judge inside and outside Albania. During the years 1970-1971, he serves as a water polo coach with the youth and boys of Durrës, won the first place in Shkodër. In 1970, the State Committee of Judges recognized him as an international judge in the sport of swimming.
The way Mirban Kadiu joined the ranks of the debating children is related to an event of that time, which is related to his family’s stance against the Italian occupation. Mirban Kadi’s father was called Sulejman Kadi. He was a patriot and anti-fascist. A more personal testimony that shows the love for the country is the meeting of the Durrës parish with the prefect, during the period of the Italian occupation of the country. At first there were men from noble families, who had given their contribution to the country. Invitation to a meeting made by the prefect Reshit Merlika and the mayor, Llazar Tuni. The purpose of the meeting was to formulate a telegram to be sent to the Ministry of the Interior at that time. The essence of the telegram was the loyalty of the duke of Durrës to the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III and the Duchess. The prefect and the head of the municipality were ordered to do such an action, which would serve to avoid trouble with the people and the forces against fascism.
Sulejman Kadiu was a senior member, but he was also a staunch anti-fascist. Without waiting to get to the end of the request, he stands up and protests fiercely. “Italy has come with rifles and we do not send telegrams of loyalty”, the patriot from Durrsac is said to have said. After issuing this protest, he leaves the office first, without asking for permission and without hearing another word. After him, Vangjel Golgota (lawyer) and Haver Haveriku (merchant) also left the meeting, and then, one by one, the entire hall began to leave. Thus this meeting failed and as a result, the telegram was not sent to Viktor Emanuel and the Duce. Kadi’s words and protest quickly reached the ears and the office of the Ministry of Interior.
Among other things, his convictions as an anti-fascist were influenced by an event, which Sulejman himself told his sons, Mirban and Bashkimi. During a gunfight between Ramazan Vogli and Filip Dhimas, with an Italian patrol in Durrës, Ramazan Vogli was injured. The wounded man was sent to the house of Halil Koka, who at that time was of the National-Liberation Throne. In order not to be dictated by athe Italian authorities, after being treated, secretly transfer him to Sulejman Kadi’s house. The well-known and long-experienced nurse, Petrit Ismailati, treats him here. Such accounts of resistance influence the family’s child, Mirban Kadiu, who decides to become a debater, without first obtaining his father’s consent.
Interview with Mr. Mirban Kadiu
Mr. Kadiu, has Durrës had a tradition in the sport of swimming?
Durrës has a very good tradition in the sport of swimming and is also known for many great names of swimmers. It is enough to remember that in the period of the Monarchy, in the days of swimming competitions in Durrës, princess Myzejen, sister of Ahmet Zog, used to come. Durrës had very big swimmers. Three days of swimming activity were celebrated. Not only athletes, but also sports lovers from many cities came here. After the liberation, it got even more development. Boys and girls entered the competition. Durrës had a swimming team for children, boys and girls. Hamit Rama and Vasil Beligradi, were followed by dozens of others such as: Sabri Kapexhiu, Burhan Truma, Eqerem Korra, Ilmi Kapllani, Zyhdi Mara, Dhimitraq Goga, Shaban Belba, Ram Kirçuku, Ferit Velja, Koço Afezolli. Then Niko Koroni, Kastriot Karamuça, Qemal Mara, Hysen Sharra, etc. Durrësi also had famous girls in swimming, such as: Xhevrie Golemi, Engjellushe Barushi, Violeta Rama, Lumturi Cerloi, the Tabaku sisters, Benardina Qeraxhiu, Lucie Bekerdheli, Jolanda Gila, Afërdita Stërmilli, Pina Duma, etc.
You are among the swimmers with the most victories, medals, records. How many hours did you devote to the sea?
Together with Eqerem Korra, I did up to 8 thousand m. Now that I’m over 80 years old, I swim up to 3000m. We sat a lot, 3 hours, 4 hours. We would go out on the sand, rest a bit and go back to the sea. From 1948, until 2012, I have not separated from swimming competitions, first with youth and adults and then as a veteran. When it was cold, that is, from autumn to spring, we trained at home, with springs, gymnastics, various activities. It is not surprising when I say that I tried beer at the age of 40. I have won 38 medals as an athlete, and 12 medals as a veteran association. It is very important for an athlete to train without interruption. This has given us many victories. I was the president of the swimming association from 1998 to 2008.
How young did you become part of the anti-fascist movement, ranking alongside the debating pioneers?
Even though I was young, due to my temperament, I became friends with the leaders of the communist movement of that time in Tirana, such as Jalldis Begeja and Fiqerete Vaqari. The meeting with the young people of the anti-fascist movement put me on a difficult and dangerous path, because it was activated to divide communist tracts in the city. We did this activity in great secrecy because it was very dangerous. They sold “Tatllise” and “Diamant” cigarettes, and together with them, we left the tracts in the hands of the commissioned people, an action that my family was not aware of. This is where the recruitment in the well-known organization “Debatiku” begins. In addition to the distribution of tracts, we also performed other acts. While we were bathing in the “Kosova” pool, I stole a revolver from a gendarme, who was accompanying the son of a person with high power. The gendarme had disintegrated from the heat, so his revolver was hanging. I saw him and after approaching, I carefully and without feeling, remove the revolver from his pocket. I sent the gun to the tailor Llambi Koçi. We mourned in Tirana at the time when the city was occupied by the Germans. The return to Durrës will happen after the liberation, a year later, when the father, Sulejmani, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for political activity against the government.
Auto-confession of Mirban Kadi: “A surprise from my wife”
“It was June 11, 2008. ‘Boni,’ the woman told me, ‘today we have our two daughters for dinner, please don’t be late.’ I didn’t remember my date of birth. Summer had begun. June 22 was approaching. Along with it, the Sea Festival. I was preparing with my friends at sea for June 22, which was the city’s holiday. Therefore, on such days, we were late. I promised my wife that I would go home before 13.00. I really wasn’t late. As soon as I entered the house, my wife and daughters hugged me. At the moment I was surprised and a shiver of joy seized me. In the waiting room, in the corner, there was a simple sideboard, where they had placed the cups, the sports flags, the honor rolls, the titles that I had received from the Presidium of the People’s Assembly, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Olympic Committee, the Federation of Swimming, Sports Club “Teuta” and association “Durrësi”.
Confused by this surprise, I thanked the woman. She turned to me: ‘Are you not asking me, what prompted me to do this sports corner, what is this day’?! Yes, – I told him, – you know that I gave my childhood, youth and now my old age to swimming. I haven’t let them feel comfortable even now, because I’m not leaving swimming. ‘What else’?! What prompted me to give you this gift’, the woman continued. I tried to find other reasons, such as the case of preparing at home with springs and this was an opportunity for showed respect to me. ‘Yes,’ he told me, ‘but what pushed me the most is the 75th anniversary of your birthday, like 65, 70. Even on this anniversary, your association, the power of Durrës, the ‘Durrësi’ Association, did not remember your name, even for a thank you. You showed respect and appreciation to the swimmers and intervened in the local government, in the Federation, the Olympic Committee, the ministry…”!
Afterwards, she tried to justify what the swimming association had done, to give credit to every swimmer and athlete. It reminded me of the years of dedication to sports, the gold and silver medals, the cups, the titles in the anniversaries of the Club and the Association. He spoke and I was obliged to listen to him until the end. I agreed, but it’s not like I said it out loud. My path was very long in the sport of swimming and they were never seriously reminded to do what needs to be done, to every athlete who has broken records, who has taken part and places of honor in competitions for years. ‘Hey, I tell him, don’t tell me anything, because I’ve been happy every time, with the joys of my friends. How many times have we made these evaluations and celebrations for friends, I have also enjoyed with them. Their joy was also my joy. The woman knew that I always worked hard for my friends and we were really pleased, how many times we were able to organize, to appreciate a sportsman. Knowing my soul, the woman remained silent. So, happily, we had lunch together with the two girls on my birthday, one of the best celebrations”. Memorie.al