Memorie.al publishes the unknown story of Astrit Leka, originally from Borshi i Saranda and living in Switzerland, one of the veterans of the Second World War as a member of the Anti-Fascist Movement in Albania, where he was a member of the guerrilla units of Tirana, responsible for Communist Youth of the “Çermenika” Battalion and partisan in the First Assault Brigade commanded by Mehmet Shehu. Rare testimonies of 97-year-old Leka, from the period when he was studying at the “Cicognini” college in Pratos-Florence in Italy and in 1941 hit one of the leaders of the fascist youth of the school who cursed the Albanian flag one day after the assassination of Vasil Laçi against King Victor Emmanuel III, the meeting with Qemal Stafa that persuaded him to return to his homeland to fight against the occupier, the engagement with the ‘Communist Youth Group’, where Alqi Kondi and Ramiz Alia were also present, the numerous actions in Tirana and Durrës, until the failed assassinations of the Prime Minister Mustafa Kruja who was injured, as well as Xhaferr Deva, where Astrit Leka, had been able to enter the house where the meeting took place. How Astrit was declared “enemy of the people” in 1967 and was forced to work as a manual laborer until 1990, when he left Albania and settled in Switzerland, where he still lives.
“While I was standing inside the house where the meeting was taking place and regularly informed Nako Spiro, Gogo Nushi and Ymer Dishnica about what was being said there, I was ordered not to assassinate Xhaferr Deva, as the action was canceled! “After that, the ambush that had taken place outside the house was removed and Adem Kosova and the other comrades left.” This is how 97-year-old Astrit Leka remembers one of the 44 actions he carried out during the Anti-Fascist War, when he led the guerrilla units of led by the Albanian Communist Party led by Enver Hoxha, elected as a member of the General Council of the World Federation of Veterans for Military Conflict, based in Paris, Mr. Leka occasionally comes from Switzerland (where he has been a resident for years with his family. in Tirana, to take part in the celebrations of November 28 and 29, or in other commemorative ceremonies to which he is invited. In 1967, he was denied everything, declared “enemy of the people” and forced to work as a barracks worker for years, until he left Albania in May 1990. But for all those vicissitudes he does not k a desire to speak, calling them past, and agrees to testify for Memorie.al only about the actions of the War and its comrades, with the sole purpose that “those events are not forgotten, the historical truth emerges and he does not take with him to the grave »!
In addition to being elected as a member of the General Council of the World Federation of Veterans for Military Conflicts, based in Paris, Member of the Presidency of the Albanian War Veterans Organization (OBVL-Tirana), Founder and President of ‘SOLIDEST’ (Association Geneva-based International Development Fund for Eastern Countries), former Adviser to the World Veterans Federation (37 million members), FMAC-Paris, Vice President of the European Confederation of War Veterans and Military, CEAC-Paris and Honorary President of the Union of Albanian Intellectuals’ UIAS ‘- Bern, Switzerland, Mr. Astrit Leka, after the’ 90s has given a very valuable contribution to the spread of the most valuable values of the Albanian nation in the world, as well as the establishment of the busts of our National Hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, in several capitals of the World, for which, in 2019, he was awarded a medal by the Albanian Embassy in Bern, Switzerland.
Continued from the previous issue
Mr. Astrit, apart from the actions against the Prime Minister Mustafa Kruja and the Minister of Interior, Xhafer Deva, can you tell us about any other sensational action that you did at that time?
One of the other important actions we did at that time was that of 1943, of taking hostage the Minister of National Economy, AA This was done to force him to give us a white authorization with his signature, in order for us to be supplied with various foodstuffs in Kosovo, which we would need for the partisan brigades fighting mainly in Central Albania. At that time, almost all goods and various food items came to Albania through Kosovo and to purchase and transport them required a large number of authorizations and documents, which the government of that time had entrusted only to the Minister of Economy, AA, who was a close friend of Minister Xhafer Deva.
Who ordered you for that action?
In parentheses I wanted to say that in order to ensure the delivery of food from Kosovo, Mustafa Gjinishi had promised Enver Hoxha that he would be interested and would provide the necessary authorization through acquaintances with positions in the ministries of that time. For this, he had descended from Labinot to Tirana, but the truth is that he could not do anything in this direction (which is confirmed by Enver Hoxha in his works), due to the strict control that Xhaferr Deva exercised, the release of authorizations of this importance in that time of war and great absences. I cannot say exactly who gave the order to carry out the action, but I can say that the senior leaders of the Albanian Communist Party, such as: Nako Spiru, Gogo Nushi and Ymer Dishnica, appointed me as the head of one of the two guerrilla units tasked with this so important mission. After that, I together with the comrades of the units: Halim Haxhiu, Gani Goxhi and Adem Kosova (Krasniqi), after discussing well the problem of securing the authorization, concluded that with AA, they had to deal only with the muzzle of the rifle. So, they decided to act against him, forcing him to sign the authorization by force.
What did you do after making this decision?
After making the decision, together with the three friends I mentioned above, we went to the Ministry of Economy (where the Municipality is today) and saw its external position. Likewise, some of our friends, who were at the ministry and on all sides of “Skëndërbej” square, entered the ministry and saw and studied in detail the entire interior environment, stairs, different floors, exit from the ministry, eventual exit through any window, which came out from the side of the Bar “Sahat” and not from the side of “Skënderbej” Square, carefully looked at the door of the minister, his personal guards with Italian automatic, and many other details that we would need at the moment when we would do the action. After completing the field study in the country, we went to one of our war bases and decided to carry out the action the next day, without involving any other comrades in the work, as the action posed great danger.
After studying the place of action, what did you do next?
Early in the morning, the car was provided with fuel and the necessary weapons, which was left behind by the Municipality in the alley leading to the Hotel “Tirana”, appointing Adem as a driver that day, while Gani and I headed to Ministry of Economy, sitting nearby as persons we had any trouble to perform. Upon seeing the minister’s car approaching, we walked slightly away from the ministry entrance, and when the minister got out of the car and headed up the stairs to his office, I followed him to make sure that the minister was entering his office. I told the police guarding the front door that I was coming from the Ministry of Education to have a verbal conversation with the minister and, without waiting for an answer from them, I went up to the minister’s door. At this time when I went upstairs, Ganiu, who was waiting outside, motioned to Adem, who was standing at the cinema advertisement, who took the car and within a few seconds brought it to the Bar “Sahati”. The plan was for Ademi to keep the car running and to watch carefully from the car in the direction of the ministry, waiting for us to carry out the action, in order to leave us immediately after its successful completion. Otherwise, if we were in danger in the ministry, he would find out from the rifle burst. His task was to get out of the car with a machine gun in his hand and occupy the corner of the mosque or, if he saw it necessary, to enter the ministry inside with a machine gun in his hand, to save us from the destruction that our guards could do to us. personal of the minister, who were equipped with automatic. Ganiu had the task of standing at the ministerial posts, carefully supervising all the actions of the minister’s guards at the moment when needed. After that I went inside the minister’s office.
How could you enter his office without being stopped by the police?
They did not stop me, as I told them that I was coming from the Ministry of Education, for an issue that I would personally discuss with the Minister of Economy and, without waiting for their approval, I, a Serb, went inside, leaving the guards with the impression that they were with a trusted man of the minister himself, whom they guarded. After entering, I closed the door, of course without a key, so as not to arouse suspicion, and pulled out the revolver, telling the minister not to make any move, not even an alarm, as I did not intend to kill him.
How did he react after that?
As he remained frozen, I told him: ‘I came here not to assassinate you, but to force you to give me an authorization regularly signed by you, with the seal of the ministry. This authorization will be used for the needs of the National Liberation War. As far as I know, I remind you that the ministry is surrounded by guerrilla units in Tirana and any attempt by you, to give the alarm, whether visible or hidden, through any means you may have, will weigh on your person, because I, who have come this far, have mastered this work and considered death, while for you, it does not occur to me to give your life for an authorization. You understand for yourself that any of your alarms will make me die in this state that I am, but of course you assume that, before I give my life, I with these grenades that I have, and that you are me ‘ you see them in hand and with the revolver I will first take your life and then I can be killed. So, choose and receive, oh your signature with a blank document, which we will complete later, or life, that I do not return. None of my friends who are out there know what we are doing here. I assure you that this matter will never be understood, because it is to our detriment and thus your dignity will not be violated either ‘.
How did the minister react after that?
The minister was stunned. He made no move. He did not say a word, but made no move to comply with my request. Seconds were passing. After these words, Minister Kapadai began to move and said in this way: “You have embarrassed me, I have nothing to do, I am obliged to sign, but I will continue the fight against you until the end, because I am your enemy sworn in “. After saying these words, the minister got up and went to the safe where he kept the secret documents. He opened the safe, took out the authorization, sealed it and put the signature on it. After receiving the authorization, I said to him: ‘If you are leaving the office at this moment, two minutes after I leave, you are physically missing, by a friend of ours who is waiting at the door and will stay there.’
Testimony of the former commissar of the 3rd Assault Brigade: “Xhafer Deva came to Kosovo, after the action we did with Astrit”
One of Astrit Lekë’s comrades-in-arms, who testified about his activity during the war, is Gani Goxhi, the former Commissar of the 2nd Assault Brigade, who in a statement issued before the 1990s, among among others, he wrote: “I met Comrade Astrit Leka in October 1943, when Comrade Gogo Nushi, former secretary of the Tirana Party Committee, charged us to provide some food (mainly wheat), to supply some wards partisans of Central Albania. The task was assigned by Comrade Enver (see works. Volume I, page 498). These foods were taken in Kosovo, by two guerrilla units, commanded by me and Astrit, respectively. Most of these foods were provided through actions we did in various cities of Kosovo, with the help of local patriots. This task was carried out with difficulty, since the enemy had become aware of our mission, so much so that articles were written in quisling newspapers. The problem went so far that Xhafer Deva, the Minister of Interior of the Quisling government, came to Kosovo and called for the “killing of the communists who came from ‘Old Albania’ to destroy the New Albania.” In this way, the implementation of the task assigned to us by the Tirana Regional Committee required courage, bravery and determination, characteristics that comrade Astrit Leka did not lack. Securing the authorization for our circulation in Kosovo, as well as the authorization for the supply of vehicles with fuel was also realized through the courageous actions that Astrit and I took against the persons in charge, such as YF (who was the Commissioner of Cancellations during the occupation German) and AA (Minister of Economy in the quisling government). From the young people of the Leka family, during the war I had the opportunity to meet only Astrit and Luan, because with them I cooperated for a period of the war, I even had Luan as an effective guerrilla unit that I commanded in Kosovo. Astrit and I parted there at the end of November 1943, in the village of Priskë e Madhe in Tirana, after we reported to comrade Gogo Nushi, the successful completion of the task, which was assigned to the units we commanded, without any loss, because four more comrades who arrested us in Kosovo, we were able to release them with our efforts, returning them to the base. I also learned that Astrit has participated in other actions, such as that of the Bank of Durrës and that of taking flour in Tirana “.
Testimony of Esat Dishnica: “Astrit was one of the heroes of the War and he…”
One of the people who knew Astrit Leka closely during the war was Esat Dishnica, who in a testimony given before the 1990s (when Astrit was hit by the Party and declared an enemy), Among other things, he wrote: “Regarding the revolutionary activity of Astrit Lekë and his contribution during the National Liberation War, it should be said that he had direct contacts with the leading comrades of the SNP. When Astrit was taken over by guerrilla units, he proposed and directed many important actions that required courage, bravery, and a spirit of self-sacrifice, so he hit the ministries, Radio Tirana, the police, the fascist federations, the banks, the capitalist enterprises in the service of the German army rearguard command, providing printing presses with shares and typographers, contributed to assassinations, provided financial funding for the War, as well as military supplies and equipment, etc. I remember that in some cases he also collaborated with the ‘Hero of Pop ullit ‘Lym Keta, with the talented assassin Adem Krasniqi (Kosovo), whom he had in the unit he led himself, as well as with many other friends, who entered and left our house, where the leaders of the War were with us illegally. I will not describe here the important actions taken by the Astrit unit and other comrades, as these things are now known and have been made known by various publications, but I will mention some equally important issues, which have remained in the memory of the comrades who had the opportunity to live those events up close and which characterize very well the agile activity and dynamism and initiative of the comrades of the unit. I remember when the volunteer of the Spanish War, Emrush Myftari from Kosovo, assassinated on the Great Boulevard two Yugoslav Chetniks, collaborators of Draraza Mihailovi pop, traitor of the Yugoslav people and collaborator of the German occupier, Astrit and Ademi, who were near the country. of the assassination for another service, when they noticed that the assassin was alone and without any support and when they realized that the assassination was of a political nature, they immediately supported the assassin and together with him came and took refuge in our house. In this way they had the opportunity to cooperate in Kosovo with him, when they were sent with War services. Astrit and his unit managed to organize an assassination attempt against the Minister of Interior of the Quisling Government, the Gestapo agent, Xhaferr Deva, entering as waiters in a family where a banquet is given in honor of a member of the then Regency, Lef Nosi, and attended by a number of government ministers, such as Xhaferr Deva and others. The leading comrades of the SNP, although they initially approved the assassination in principle, in the conditions created during the banquet, and after deepening the issue, ordered the suspension of the assassination, in order not to give the enemy a chance to commit massacres in the family, in the neighborhood, as well as in all of Tirana, because it was known that Xhafer Deva had carried out massacres in Peja before his regiment fell in Tirana. During this period Astrit was imprisoned twice by the enemy, until he became a partisan in the 1st Assault Brigade. In prison he has maintained a good attitude, as he deserved and as evidenced by the friends who were with him in prison. “/Memorie.al
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