Memorie.al publishes some parts of the voluminous autobiographical book in manuscript “Beautiful land, ugly people” (memories from hell) by the author, Kasem Hoxha, originally from the village of Markat in Saranda and living in the USA since 1985, when he fled Albania after suffering ten years in the prisons of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime. The whole sad and painful story of Kaso Hoxha, from the life and hard work in his village in the southernmost part of the country, the dissatisfaction with the regime and the first poems of a political nature, how they fell into the hands of the State Security and who were his relatives who spied on him, the arrest in the office of the Chairman of the People’s Council of Markat village, by the State Security on June 21, 1973, the investigation in the Saranda Branch of Internal Affairs, the trial against him and the sentence with 10 years in prison for “agitation and propaganda”, staying in “Kaushin” of Tirana (Ward 313), and the prisoners he found there, being sent to Spaç and working in that camp with criminal and “soft” police officers, the accomplices of description of their “portraits” with positive and negative sides, release from prison and return to the countryside, escape to Greece and stay in the Lavros camp, gaining political asylum in the USA, correspondence with Amnesty International, e London branch, inf information with the data he sent to the prisoners of Spaç and the communist regime in Albania, to the creation of a new family and life and work in that distant place with the Cham community divided by the intrigues of the people of the State Security from Albania operating there.
Excerpts from the manuscript book, “Beautiful land, ugly people“, (memories from hell) of the author, Kasem Hoxha, sent by him exclusively for Memorie.al
Do not pay attention to the title I am presenting to you, I mean, if you are not patient to read this collection of memoirs, if you want to forgive the author, that his style is pale, uninspired before this drama of great, of my people, of my martyred nation.
My characters are not created by my imagination, but are real people, they are your brothers, your fathers, your relatives. The events are not fictional, but real and lived. You will convince yourself, only after reading this summary with memories. You will find something from your life, something real from the lives of your fathers, your mothers, your brothers, how they suffered and how they died.
I wrote this collection of memories about the legacy left to me by my friends, for the world to learn the truth, how innocent people were tortured, how they suffered, how they died, in the camps and prisons of the executioner, Enver Hoxha!
I go with the hope that any reader, Albanian or foreign, is not left with hatred, from criticism, beating opposing opinions, as it is the best way to find the truth. The title of the book, “Beautiful land, ugly people”, will anger the reader, but in the end, I will conclude that I have the right to call it “The 45-year era of the satanic communist regime of Enver Hoxha”: Ugly.
I, alas, for the misfortune I had, saw and lived the great drama that happened before my eyes. I am neither a poet nor a orator, I will need hard work to escape the literary mistakes in this historical book, which can inspire future poets and writers, on the tragedy of our time, of the darkest time of my nation !
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all freedom and peace…!
Llavrio, Greece 1985
Continued from the previous issue
Visit an eye doctor who cut off all hope. He told his mother that he would remain blind for the rest of his life! I returned to the village upset, as each day became more difficult for my poor hut. 5.30 am. Everyone slept except little George who was awake. He was two years old and fatziu spoke to me! I kissed her hard, as this was the farewell meeting. With some money I had, I put it on my mother at the head of the bed and left without saying a word. July 29, a day that will forever remain in my memory.
In my house and put my mind, I felt like at the bottom of hell!
In my house, in my land, I felt like the bottom of hell, as no one loved me in the village except my donkey! That wise animal loved me wholeheartedly, and I did not need to pull it out of the cage! He followed me from behind wherever I went. He was always by my side and now I had to abandon this miserable animal.
From the village to the place called “Abure”, I traveled with Luti Llari, who asked me what I would do. I told him I would plant sunflowers. So, we parted and I tied the donkey to the side of the field, where I removed the samar, and I did not tie the rope to his leg, so that he could go wherever he wanted. He, as if he were a man, seems to have realized that something bad was going to happen! His eyes filled with tears and I felt sorry for him and kissed him. I heard his groaning up to Bami mill.
Meanwhile, two things tortured me: the July heat and the surprises that could happen to me. The dream I had two nights ago gave me the signal “do what you intend to do, God is with you”. I had almost 24 hours without eating, as I had no appetite, probably from anxiety! After crossing the gorge in the village of Theollogo, I stayed at the fountain to drink some water, where I filled the gourd.
Towards the border with Greece, hungry and thirsty!
A woman guarding the cows came to drink water and asked me where I was going. I told him I had sold some oregano and was going to get the money. She told me that everything was closed that day, so I did not hope in vain. I told her I was going to buy something at the store and she ate it. Stugara Mountains to breathe. I took it on foot for more than three hours. After three hours, I was a few meters below it, in a valley full of hills, above the villages of Maçan and Grazhdan.
I anxiously waited for the sun to set, as only in the dark could I cross the border. The sun came up slowly, and the sun suddenly set, and it seemed to me that it was gone up into the sky. Such a sunset, I had never seen in my life and I do not know why it seemed so beautiful to me?! From every angle I looked, it seemed as if I had the world under my feet. Darkness, like a black shroud, was covering the ground, and slowly it was covering those mountain slopes, where my poor hut was.
Herds of sheep and goats came out of the creeks where they were by the river, climbing the mountain upwards to graze in the cool of the night. The barking of dogs in this stillness, was added to the birds with their characteristic song. I had nothing to eat, but I was hungry! Only thirst tormented me and I was forced to save that little water as I had many ways to do it. I was so tired of thirst and my heart was not pounding.
I took the bag with the gourd and threw it on my arm. It was about 9 o’clock at night. Fleeing in the dark, fleeing like crazy, fleeing from the hunger that was eroding my stomach, fleeing from the hunger that was burning my intestines, fleeing so barefoot bloodied in an unknown direction! I was running away and I was overwhelmed, I was running away and the wailing of the mother who was blindly waiting for her son to return to dinner was ringing in my ears! I fled and the wailing of the orphans, who wanted me to bring them bread, rang in my ears. I ran away and whispered in my ear the cries of sisters who did not have a brother, I ran away like an orphan who has lost everything.
I fled in the darkness of night and somewhere I stopped and turned my head one last time, to see those mountain slopes, where was my hut, where were you, where my soul, detached itself from the corpse and left it forever in the mud! When I got to the top of the mountain, the moonlight blinded me and it was impossible for me to cross the border in that blinding light. I sat down on the ground and thought it would be better, to cross the mountain on the other side where it was dark.
Every step I took I tried not to make the slightest noise. When I went to the other side of Stugara, the moon looked like a shadow to me and I liked it. I decided to sit every 50 meters and listen to what was in front of me, standing for 10 minutes without moving. This road, without any anxiety, became an obstacle for me to advance, because I had planned to cross into Greek land before 12 o’clock at night.
The excessive courage that reigned in every cell of the body made me not know fear at all. With faith in God, and with faith in my unyielding soul, I advanced carefully. Down in the village of Leshnica, only dog barking could be heard. Unexpectedly, a swarm of thornbushes rose up in front of me, scaring me to death. Fatigue, hunger, thirst, caused a debugging that gripped my body. If things got worse, if the forces left me, the road would be harder.
Stugara from a distance looked like it was 100 steps, but in front of me lay an endless mountain, as one shore ended another. In my stomach I felt a heaviness despite the fact that I had not eaten anything. Below, on Mount Camadai, the voice of a shepherd could be heard calling the stallion dogs. They grazed in the cool of the night. The idols disturbed the tranquility of this moonlit night. I waited for the wire clone to come out in front of me. My mouth was poisoned by thirst.
After a few hours of travel, unconscious on Greek soil!
Somewhere I fell and tried to vomit. With difficulty volla, but my mouth poisoned more. I had no water to drink and I felt my blood pressure had dropped. I got up, gathered all my strength, and decided at all costs to cross the river. Where I was sure, that behind him was Greek land. From moment to moment I could fall into the abysses of Stugara! This difficult route where I was sure I would not encounter soldiers, was 3 hours, until I went down across the dried river.
My stomach was burning with thirst and my lips were dry. I had to find water at all costs, otherwise I would faint. Suddenly I heard water flowing somewhere near the river and I decided to follow the flow. I found it and drank so much water that my stomach swelled like a bush. I fell to the ground, because maybe the water hurt me. I lay down on his dry side, which became my refuge that morning of July 30th. I was losing my senses on that edge of the creek in a deserted land from the July heat. I fell to die in a foreign land and the only thing that came to my mind was the sight of a mother with three orphaned babies crying!
It seemed to me like the agony of death and then I do not remember what happened! Maybe God did not want to lose me. That morning a man unknown to me was giving me life. With the pot he wet my dry lips and threw water in my mouth that had become scorched. I felt my blood move back into my veins. I felt that my heart was pounding and my body was very tired.
The priests of a monastery found me half dead!
I felt that light was coming to my faded eyes. I could clearly see the unshaven face of the man who was giving me life. I saw that man crying over my miserable condition! This good man, whose name I did not know, made an attempt to ride me on his loaded horse. Keeping me from falling off the horse, he led me to a house in the middle of the forest, surrounded by cypress trees.
Crowds of people dressed in black rushed to the aid of the man who was bringing a half-dead victim! They spoke a language that I understood quite well. The man who had found me by wetting my lips, stripping my gums and veins, was telling others the story of how he found me.
“I saw ravens flying around in the forest, I thought the bird would have eaten some cattle, the chirping of some birds I had never seen made me curious. The horse I was pulling from the bridle stopped, stuck its feet and did not want to go forward! I beat the poor animal, but did not listen! Then I decided to change course and go down the stream, when the corpse of this dying man came out in front of me! I was terrified, I did not know what to do and I approached, put my hand on my heart, heard that it was still beating! This is surprising, this is a miracle from God! Here it is. “By God, that’s how I found this man barefoot, bloodied, with rags hanging from him,” the old man concluded.
The others listened in silence surprised by this story of that morning! Those people make a thousand efforts, to give life. Everything was near me, all the care and spirit of those good people. When I came to, one of them asked me.
-‘Who are you”?
“I’m thirsty,” I replied in Greek.
They were surprised that I spoke their language and immediately brought me water, oranges, Coca-cola.
“Where does he come from?” He asked me again.
“From hell,” I replied in a low voice.
The men dressed in black, backed away a bit and everyone started making the cross on their chest, they thought I was not some ghost!
– “What do they call you”, the shy old man asked again!
– “Jesus Christ”, I answered without fear!
They were frightened, they all started making the cross dozens of times, not believing what was happening before their eyes, thinking that I would be a madman.
“Where do you come from, my son? Can you tell us?” Asked the old man, who had lost his temper.
– “Yes, I can speak your language and I ask you to forgive me for the mistakes, because I do not speak it so well. I come from Albania, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison, which I suffered in Spaç. My name is Kaso Hoxha, I am from the villages of Saranda “.
According to the orders of the priests, I surrendered to the Greek border post
I told them in detail the tragedy of my life, they cried with tears and promised me that they would help me. I was asked if it was possible, to take me to the western world. I was afraid that Papandreou’s government would send me back to the executioners in Tirana.
The head of the monastery assured me, saying: – “Do not be afraid, I will report this to the Despot of Konica, so the government cannot do this to violate international law on refugees seeking political asylum. So, my son, from now on I will call him “Christ”, it means that you are alive! You will do as I advise, (pointing to a house down the hill), you will go to that military post, do not tell them that you have been here to the Monastery. Tell him that he comes from Albania and seeks political asylum, they will take him to the hospital, you need medical help, to heal your wounds on your bare feet and your body crippled by suffering”! k
These people of that house of god, made my father and mother, gave me courage, begging me to forget the past. They gave me the phone number and I promised them that I would never forget them, for the kindness they did me.
I took the road towards Camadai and after an hour I was at the Greek post office. Three soldiers sitting under a tent looked at me intently, and I approached the fence, where without losing my toruan, I greeted them in Greek.
The Greek border guards welcomed me with all the best
-“Greetings, how are you”!
The three of them returned to me together: “Hello”!
Out of curiosity, because my rags and bare feet, they were impressed, remembering that I was a Vlach living in those parts with cattle, their Commander asked me: “Where do you come from”?
– “I am Albanian, I seek political asylum and if it is possible to inform the authorities to take me.
The soldiers got to their feet and invited me to go inside, where I shook their hand, wishing them health. They invited me to sit in a chair and asked me if I was hungry and were willing to fulfill any wish I had.
“Do not be afraid,” said the soldier who was the commander. “Here you are in a free world,” he continued, assuring me.
“Shall I make you a coffee, or do you want some orange juice?” He asked again. They did not know that I was at the Monastery and as the bridge advised me, I did not say anything to them. The soldiers were terrified of my physical condition, so broken, so sick with fever, and thought that this man did not have a long life! In order not to be disturbed at all, I asked them: “If possible, I can drink an orange juice”, I said shyly.
In Bitola I was fed fried eggs and all the goodies and I felt better physically, but I could see that the fever was increasing.
“Drink,” they told me, “it’s good.”
I took the glass in my hand and it was so cold it dried my fingers! I took a sip and, in my mouth, I felt a pleasant, good taste, that I had never tasted in my life and by drinking this good juice, I answered the questions that the soldiers asked me.
A soldier wrote on a piece of paper on the table: “GLORY P.P.SH.” and asked me: “What do these words mean in Greek”?! I wrote them down on paper in Greek and the soldiers laughed, and noticed me with remarks.
“Who taught you this?” I asked in astonishment.
“We saw it written on the wall of the Albanian border post,” they replied.
The soldiers called the center and waited to come from Filati. Half an hour later the police car came with an officer. I was ordered to get in the car and I took the bag, I did as they told me. /Memorie.al