The first part
Memorie.al/publikon the unknown story of Jetullah Gashi, originally from the village of Mramor in Prishtina, who in 1964, when he was a high school student, decided to flee and cross the state border in the area of the village of Zogaj in the district of Tropoja, where for several days, interrogating him in the Internal Affairs Branch of the city “Bajram Curri”, they brought him to the town of Shijak, placing him in a State Security base, which was called “The filtering center of Kosovar emigrants”, who were fleeing Yugoslavia and coming to Albania, where for several months he was subjected to intensive investigation by State Security officers coming from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and covering “Kosovo emigration”.
He was sent to the district of Korça where he finished high school in the town of Maliq and then in Tirana, where he attended higher university studies at the Faculty of Medicine, which he completed in 1971 and was appointed in Elbasan as a nearby doctor. the hospital of that city. His arrest in 1977 after some time of surveillance and persecution by the State Security organs, “as an agent of the UDB”, where after several months of inhuman torture, he was sentenced to 25 years in political prison, which suffered in the camps of Spaç, Qafë-Barit, Burrel, etc., from where he was released in early 1991, with the fall of the communist regime.
It was August 30, 1964, when I, after cutting the train ticket from Prishtina to Skopje (where I was working with my father), all the way, I was just thinking how I would get to Albania, which I had been grinding for so many days. in head. At that time, I did not have any information about the state border, Yugoslavia – Albania and based on this fact, I went to the bus station in Skopje, where I cut the bus ticket to Gjakova and arrived there in the late hours of the night. I got off the bus and did not know where to go, as I had never been to Gjakova. I made every effort to avoid people and took the road that had less traffic. At the end of this road, I saw a bakery, bought some buns and continued the same road direction in the dark of night. On the right side of the road, I saw a fence, which I crossed and entered the garden. I decided to sleep there. Near the siege, I found a safe place that protected me, as occasionally there was dog barking, but after a while they ceased. Tired I had fallen asleep. I woke up in the morning, after looking around the place, got up, crossed the fence and went out on the street again. My cousin Kadriu had told me that the border to Albania crosses the tops of some bare hills “. This is how 75-year-old Jetullah Gashi from Kosovo remembers the moment of his escape from Yugoslavia to Albania, where he was arrested after graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in Tirana and serving as a doctor for several years in the hospital of the city of Elbasan, in April 1977. by the State Security, being charged as a “UDB agent” and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Torture during the investigation and the sentence of 25 years in prison, the long ordeal in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha until the beginning of 1991, being released with the last convicts who came out of the “communist hell”, leaving for Switzerland to his relatives, returning to Albania and finally leaving for Kosovo, where he still lives with his family. Regarding these and other events and facts from his painful life, doctor Jetullah Gashi, testifies exclusively for Memorie.al.
Mr. Jetullah, first can you tell us, what is the origin of your family, from father and mother?
My paternal grandfather was named Hamdi, grandmother Hamdije and during their married life, four sons and two daughters were born. My father, Halili, was the first of the long children. My grandmother is of rural origin, while my maternal grandfather was named Zek Brestovic, my grandmother Hasime and during their married life, two sons and three daughters were born. My mother, Zahidja, was the second birth and they are of civic origin, born in Prishtina, in the Çetlik neighborhood. From the marriage of the father, with the mother Zahide, during the married life, he brought four sons and five daughters. Sister Fatime, is the first of the children and behind her is me, and the others in turn.
Where did your Gashi family live in Kosovo?
My family lived in the village of Mramor, Prishtina district. The village of Mramor, has a wide geographical spread, starting from our neighborhood, Sulevic, Bregov, Busi, Mërtev, Pepiqets, Sylke and Butovce. My father, Halili, was Sheha, while my grandfather Hamdiu was a man with a developed body and physically strong. Even in these moments I remember my grandfather’s love and care for his grandchildren. Since the age of 8-9, I have lived with my grandfather in the men’s room and I remember many events and stories told by men who slept in our room. I have heard all these stories from men and friends who came to the men’s room, to our house. The arrival of friends and men in the inn, happened only after they finished their work in agriculture, so it was the end of autumn. Like my grandfather’s first grandson, Hamdia, he used to say to me: “You, grandfather’s son, will keep you close, you will sleep with your grandfather in the men ‘s room, but when friends come and talk to you, you should not “They told no one what these friends had talked about in our guest house.”
What did the Gashi family do, so how did they earn a living and where were your ancestors educated?
Our Gashi family is engaged in agriculture, livestock, orchards and beekeeping. My father, Halili, together with my uncles, lived together in a family tree (like many Kosovar families living together as a patriarchal family), at least until 1964, when I decided to flee to Albania. As I said a little above, our family, Gashi, was a typical rural family, uneducated in their mother tongue, as this was conditioned and sanctioned by law by the Yugoslav-Serbo-Croatian-Montenegrin kingdom, that the Albanian people are minority and could not have schools in its mother tongue. All this discriminatory policy pursued against the Albanian population in the former Yugoslavia (as it is already known from history), brought the displacement of Albanians from their centuries-old native lands, even in repressive forms. This Slavic policy, (mostly Serbian) has been able to disperse and exterminate hundreds of thousands of Albanians from their centuries-old homes. The Serbian state, with the support of Russia and some European chancelleries, the wars suffered by the Ottoman Empire, were compensated to the detriment of the Albanian cause, and in favor of Serbia. The wars waged by the Ottoman Empire in 1840-1845, with Russia of that time, ended with the defeat of the Ottoman armies. The Ottoman Empire, obliged to pay the war damages, for the benefit of the Serbian state, handed over to them the Sandzak of Nis, which was inhabited all by Albanians. In that period, the Serbian state committed horrible massacres against Albanians, sparing nothing. A part of the population managed to escape the Serbian carnage, to leave their homeland and settle in Prishtina and its surroundings. In Prishtina, they settled mainly in the mahalla (neighborhood) which is still known today as the “Muhaxherëve neighborhood. These families have at their disposal the official carpets of their ancestors, who moved from Brestovci, which to this day in Serbia is called, Brestovc. My village Mramor, took its name from our ancestors, who were displaced by Serbian terror, in the years 1840-1845. The names Mramor and Brestovc still exist in Serbia today. My father and uncles together with my grandfather, Hamdi, were typical peasant families, as I said above, uneducated, dealing only with agricultural work, and other heavy physical work. Sometime from the beginning of 1946, between the People’s Republic of Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, an agreement was signed for education in the Albanian language, so in this period in my village Mramor, a primary school was built in Busi and the 7-year-old primary school in the center of Mramor village. To help education in Kosovo, the leadership of that time in Tirana, sent a significant number of staff of the teacher and teacher profile, and this is because Kosovo did not have any educational staff at all. These teachers worked with the greatest devotion for the development of education in their mother tongue in Kosovo, in today’s Macedonia, and in eastern Kosovo, and they lived and worked until the end of 1948, when the People’s Republic of Albania, and that of Yugoslavia, have subsequently broken relations. Most of the teachers and educators have returned to Albania, but unfortunately, some of them have ended up in the UDB of Yugoslavia, in Tito prisons, accused of being “Albanian State Security agents, who they have done damage to Tito’s Yugoslavia. ”
A little above you said that your grandfather took you to the men’s room, what else do you remember from the conversations that took place in that room?
These events that I am telling you, belong to the period of 1955-‘56, where the men’s room, especially in the winter season, was full of friends. I remember the story he told to the men and friends who were present, my father, Halili, as a partisan involved in one of the Albanian brigades. To this day I do not know in which brigade my father was involved. The father told them an event that had taken place at a time when Albanian and Macedonian brigades, near Ohrid, had joined forces to celebrate victory over Nazism and their collaborators. At the end of the holiday, the father says to a partisan friend: “Do they not know other songs and dances, but only ‘Gjel Kokoshi’, ‘Gjel Kokoshi’, because I am angry with the songs and dances that are being sung by Macedonians “?! The partisan comrade threatens his father, calling him a traitor to the people, who was making fun of Albanian songs and dances, and asks others to shoot him. The matter reaches the brigade commander, who told his partisan comrade, that: ‘Halili (my father) had nothing hostile to Albanian songs and dances’. The father told his friends that after entering the Albanian territory, they settled in Tirana, to prepare for a parade in the parade that was held in 1946.
What else did the father remember about the War period?
His father and brothers (my uncles) told me the story of how my father was involved in one of the Albanian partisan brigades of Enver Hoxha’s National Liberation Army that entered Kosovo to help in the fight for the liberation of Yugoslavia. In this regard, the father said: “At that time, some Albanian partisan brigades that had been put in pursuit of fascism, had penetrated to the depths of Yugoslavia, but some remained in Kosovo. At that time, I and many other men were given the position (order) to appear in Ferizaj, to mobilize in the army, to pursue fascism and their collaborators “. My father told me that after gathering in Prishtina, they sent them to Ferizaj. Along the way they met another Albanian brigade, who asked them where they were going and they replied that they had been ordered to appear in Ferizaj. At that time, three members of the brigade talked to each other and said, “Do you agree to come to our brigade?”
Did the father join the ranks of Albanian partisans?
My father told me that all the men who were there, accepted him and thus joined the Albanian brigade. Thus, the father, Halili, was a partisan in that brigade until 1946, when at the end of 1946, they returned to Kosovo. The story of my full father, I never knew until 1964 that I was there, as they never gave me explanations.
What about the crimes of the Serbian-Montenegrin Chetnik chauvinist forces during the Kosovo War and other Albanian territories in Yugoslavia, did your father speak?
As the father pointed out, under the pretext of accusations as “ballists and collaborators of Nazism”, Serbian-Montenegrin chauvinists have committed many crimes, shooting Albanian men and boys even in the presence of Albanian partisan brigades. The reason why Shaban Polluzha, with his entire brigade, returned to Kosovo by train, from the depths of Yugoslavia, was that he received news that the Serbo-Montenegrin brigades, instead of pursuing Nazism, were committing crimes in Kosovo, killing people. innocent. Shaban Polluzha, fought with his forces and had to face the Serbo-Montenegrin chauvinism, but also with the brothers of one blood, that is, with the Albanian partisans.
During your time in Kosovo, where did you get the information about Albania and what did you know about the motherland, that is, about Enver Hoxha’s Albania?
At the time I was living in Kosovo, until August 31, 1964, Kosovo was in complete information darkness. Few were those residents who had electricity and for lighting, used gas lamps and lanterns with gas and oil. In the inner circle, there was often talk of Albania, where it was said that the Albanian people loved their leader very much and that they had expelled from their country, the Soviet Union of Khurshov. Exactly at this time, they sang to Enver Hoxha many verses, where some of them I am quoting: “Where the sun rises / the inn sets / Enver Hoxha that mother is born / Where did he find his friend / Marshall Tito black page”.
Let’s get to your escape, who knew you were going to escape and when did you make that decision?
I did not talk to anyone about this decision, so I would flee to Albania and only my cousin, Kadri Gashi knew that. What prompted me to flee now seems ridiculous and nonsensical to anyone who can read these stories of mine now, but it happened to me then. So, the reason I decided to escape and come to Albania, was the decision of my professor, Mania Grbic, to stay in my class, which made me miss the school year.
Did you know what kind of regime was Enver Hoxha’s Albania, so here we were a dictatorship, where in addition to the prevailing poverty, the most basic human freedoms were missing, etc …?!
By the time I decided to flee to Albania, I had no knowledge of the communist regime that was here and also had no interest in who was leading it.
What about the Thist regime in Yugoslavia, what did you know at the time about the discrimination and oppression of the Albanian population living in their lands in Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia?
In addition to what we heard in our family, that is, from what was said in the men’s room where my grandfather took me, from time to time we saw with our own eyes what was happening here in Kosovo. It never left my mind at that time in our village, when we went to school, on the snow-covered road, there were clear traces of the blood of men who were arrested and tortured on school premises by UDB officers, during the action to collect weapons.
Did these things that you saw with your own eyes, that is, the tortures inflicted on Kosovars by the UDB, influence the decision you made to escape and come to Albania?
To be honest, no, because at that time we did not understand these things well for the very young age I was.
Did you have any information on the state border with Albania?
It was August 30, 1964, when after cutting the train ticket from Prishtina to Skopje (where I worked with my father), all the way, I was just thinking how I would get to Albania, which had so many days that I was grinding in head. At that time, I did not have any information about the state border, Yugoslavia – Albania and based on this fact, I went to the bus station in Skopje, where I cut the bus ticket to Gjakova and arrived there in the late hours of the night. I got off the bus and did not know where to go, as I had never been to Gjakova. I did my best to avoid people and took the road that had less traffic. At the end of this road, I saw a bakery, bought some buns and continued the same road direction in the dark of night. On the right side of the road, I saw a fence, which I crossed and entered inside the garden, I realized I was in a garden. I decided to sleep there. Near the siege, I found a safe place that protected me, as occasionally there was dog barking, but after a while they ceased. Tired I had fallen asleep. I woke up in the morning, after looking around the place, got up, crossed the fence and went out on the street again. My cousin Kadriu had told me that the border to Albania passes through the tops of some bare hills.
How could you cross the border?
The outskirts of Gjakova were seen to be a fertile field. At the end of the field, a forest lay, which ended with the rising of the bare hills. When I reached the top of the right hill, which was not so high, not knowing I was in the neutral zone I stopped, not knowing what I was going to do. Checking with my eyes around, I saw a Yugoslav flag waving, then I realized and I was convinced that I was at the border line, I decided to go down the hill, without making even two or three meters, it appeared before my eyes of mine, a stone 40- 50 cm high, with FRY written in front and back R.P.SH.
Where did you go next?
After passing the stone of the pyramid, I was finally convinced that 2-3 meters further, I would be on Albanian soil. At the bottom of the hill I saw a village and I was convinced that the village was Albanian, which was lying in a valley around the plains. At the bottom of the hill on the right, I saw a building at the top of which was the red and black flag. I continued walking towards her and in the yard of that building I saw a soldier. I thought that the food I had bought in Gjakova should be thrown in a bush, as I was ashamed to go there with bread with me.
How did you do it?
I headed to the post office door to get inside, as I saw no one in the yard. After opening the door, in front stood a seated officer who was reading. I greeted him and he returned my greeting, saying, “What do you have?” I folded my arms after this action I did and he asked me again: “Where does it come from?” I told him: I come from Kosovo. Meanwhile, somewhere near us was a soldier whom the officer gestured to, and two minutes later I heard footsteps of soldiers climbing the stairs. After taking the measures, the officer asked me: Why had I decided to come to Albania? After my explanation, a soldier intervened saying: along the way this man (he was talking about me), threw something?!
What was it about, your food?
That was what it was about. “We will go to the place where you threw that thing” – the officer intervened – and so it happened, I, together with the officer and the soldier, got out of the post office and they started looking carefully at each bush, to see where I had thrown away the food. The hour was passing, and I could not find the place where I had thrown that package! Meanwhile, the soldier intervened and said: “Tell us what you threw, and do not force us to take the dog to find it.”
How did you respond?
I said to the officer: ‘I threw away the food, because I wanted to hand over the food, and I had nothing else with me’ and I continued to search through the bushes. In the same place where we were talking, I saw the bag of food, which I was glad to find, I showed it to the officer. The officer told me to pick it up, I took it and handed it to him, the officer continued to check the bush, and after that we headed to the post office.
Do you remember the date of crossing the border, to Albania and where did you cross?
Of course, it was August 31, 1964, Sunday, around 14.00, when I was delivered to the Zogaj post office in the village of Zogaj. The border post officer did not tell me the name of the village post office, which I learned only after some time.
How were you treated in the land of your dreams?
I was not mistreated at the border post. They kept me there and around 20.00, they brought me food to the bedroom. On the morning of September 1, after breakfast, the officer came to the room where I was and said: “Listen to me Jetulla, together with two soldiers, we will take you to another post office, which is closer to the city of” Bajram Currit ”, but we will dress like soldiers, because that is the rule. I accepted and after changing my civilian clothes with military clothes, dressed as a soldier, the officer handed me a bag of my clothes and with a laugh said goodbye.
Where did you go with those two soldiers?
With the two soldiers, we set off and left the village behind us, taking the direction of a road that led to the depths of several centuries-old forests of walnuts and chestnuts, and arrived at the post that the soldiers would hand me over. There, one of the soldiers told me, “Take off your military clothes and put on your civilian clothes.” After that, the two soldiers accompanying me left, after greeting the officer of the point where we arrived, and left.
Where did you go, were you interrogated?
As I was looking at the post office, which was planted with trees and flowers, an officer approached me and greeted me and told me to sit on the benches. The officer asked me where I was from in Kosovo, asked me about education and living in Kosovo, etc., questions of this nature. After answering his questions, he ordered the soldier to bring me lunch. After lunch, next to us I saw a truck, which was loaded with hay (harvested grass) from where shouted two people who came to us.
What were they told?
They greeted us and sat down, and together with the officer they started talking about different topics. Occasionally I did not understand their conversations, as many words to me, were unfamiliar. One of the people asked me: what country of Kosovo was I from? After I told him that I was from Prishtina, he told me: ‘you will come with us’, and he stood up. The officer did the same, and so did I. I greeted the officer and was looking at the truck full of grass, bearing the BC license plate.
Where did they take you?
The three of us got into the cab of the truck which took the road and after a short time, I was in the town of “Bajram Curri”, where one of the travel companions, who was the driver, stopped the truck, got off and took me to a settlement. After taking a few keys from his jacket pockets, he opened the door and said, ‘Come in,’ and I did as he was told. Meanwhile, he continued: “Listen, boy, here you have the bathroom, the drinking water tap and the sleeping bed. “You will stay here for two or three days.” After these words, he opened the door and went out, locking the door from the outside, and I was alone in that room. At around 9:00 pm, the door of the room opened and another person entered, who left the food on the table, and after saying ‘good night’, he came out and locked me inside again. On the morning of September 2nd, the same person brought me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Me dt. On September 3, around 11:00, after they brought me food, two people came in and approached me and said: you will come with us.
What would be your next “destination”?
We left the room together and headed to a vehicle type “Gas” where after we got in, he left immediately. In the late hours of that day, “Gaz” stopped and signaled me to go down with them. After the door opened and I went down, I found myself facing a walled house. The house was two storeys high, with a vineyard and a vineyard. This house has been my residence from September 3, until October 20, 1964.
Where was this house and who did you meet there?
About the house where I stayed, I learned much later, as I was free. About that house, where I lived for a while, I was told: Riza Gërbeshi, Isuf Visoka and Zeqir Rashica, who ordered me not to talk to anyone, because they had also stayed in that house, which was in Shijak and was top secret. As far as I remember, it was September 5, when the State Security officers (investigators) interrogated me. /Memorie.al