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
Prisoners anxious about who should be arrested!
The prisoners, anxious about who was to be arrested, lay in their beds and a few convicts were seen in the courtyard. I had just finished two weeks in the dungeon and I was incredibly sick. The guard officers saw that I was dying and ordered the police to release me prematurely from solitary confinement, where I was sentenced to one month.
When the prison doctor, Nuri Sallaku, saw me, he felt sorry for my health condition and he promised to report it to the military doctor, hoping to take me to the Tirana prison hospital. I was clear that the executioners of the dictatorial regime did not take care of our health, but rather their objective was to eliminate all of us physically political prisoners.
After the morning appeal, Tellali of Dhimo G burg prison read the names of the five prisoners. In this list were my name, Xhevat Alibali, (former officer in the Ministry of Defense and translator of the book “This is how it happened”), Beqir Alia (former Director of the Petroleum Exploration Institute), Sotiraq Menkshi (Professor of Language and Literature, friend close to me, we played chess every day from the city of Korça) and Petrit Asllani, from the villages of Vlora.
Messenger ordered us to report to the office of the guard officer. I was scared, I thought we were about to be arrested. But no, the military prison doctor tells us they will take us to the hospital for an examination, if we were really sick, or pretending to be, to avoid work.
They put us in the prison car, after more than three hours we arrived at the Hospital Prison. All five prisoners from Spaç were locked in a room, each with his own bed. Inside came a doctor accompanied by a nurse, who was holding a notebook in his hand. The doctor glanced at the prisoners and he noticed that I was churning with fever.
He approached me and asked me, “What hurts me?” I told him: “I have diseased respiratory organs”. He ordered the nurse to put the thermometer on me. After a minute, he looked at it and the thermometer read more than 40 degrees. The doctor ordered the policeman to take me to a room, ostensibly for more intensive care. I said goodbye to my friends and they all wished me “good luck”.
The policeman opened another heavy iron door where three bone and skin ghosts were lying inside! Two with serum on the head, while the other is hard to understand in the former alive or dead! I greeted them and all three wished me: “welcome and the past”! After I was introduced to who I was, they did the same thing: “They call me Shytan Leka”, said the elderly man, who did not move from the bed, because of the bag serum that hung on the holder over his head. “I am from the Dukagjini Highlands”, the old man continued, “I have 20 or so years in prison, and now maybe I have reached the end, man!” concluded the old man.
“My name is Hilmi Disha, I am from Novoseja in Kukës”, introduced the sick prisoner who was in bed in the corner in front of the door. And the third, leaning against the head of the bed, in the other corner, introduced himself, greeting me in a way that impressed me with such well-chosen words, extending his hand to make the ground and putting his other hand on his chest. , saying to me in a voice as fragile as it is wise: “I am Myqerem Janina”. The elegance of the expression made me curious about this gray-haired old man with a saintly look on his face! The first appearance indicated that I was talking to a high-class intellectual.
He saw that I was tired and sick at the same time. He invited me to sit on the empty bed that was between his bed and Shytan Lekë. Nursing gave me a few steps, with as far as I understood they were antibiotics “tetracycline, vitamin C and aspirin”. From the exhaustion of the disease, I fell asleep quickly. When I woke up, I did not know if it was day or night. From time to time, the groans of Shytan Leka’s pain were heard. Uncle Myqeremi, on the other hand, was reading the newspaper that allowed “Zeri i Popullit” in prison.
– “How do you feel Kasem”, asked Uncle Myqeremi in a soft voice full of wisdom.
“Always the same, the worm has come in and sooner or later I will eat the head of its victim,” I replied through coughing.
“Ooo, no,” said Uncle Myqeremi, surprised by my pessimism.
– “I am 90 years old, I hope to see good days again, my son courage!”
“Feel me, I do not want to hurt your wounds with my questions, how old are you?” Uncle Myqeremi asked again. I realized he was interested in knowing something from my life.
“When I turned 28, three months ago,” I replied.
“I have been serving my sentence in Spaç for 6 years, if you have heard it”, I continued.
– “Yes, son yes! I heard “, he returned me there – immediately.
“Yes, sir, how many years have you been sentenced?” I asked, hoping to hear interesting things from this sweet-mouthed old man.
– “You know, my son, a year ago I was sentenced to eight years in political prison, accusing me of ‘agitation and propaganda’, but I have been imprisoned before, after the end of the war, I was arrested in 1946, on charges as ‘collaborator with external and internal reaction’. My friends advised me not to return to Albania in 1943 from Italy”! Our conversation was interrupted when the nurse entered the room to change serums and give medicine to the sick.
So, I waited impatiently for her to leave to continue our conversation. After a few minutes, we were alone. This kind old man, this wise man, had aroused my respect, had made me curious! I realized that in front of me stood an intellectual of European proportions and with a rich baggage of knowledge. I wanted to learn more about his life. He, as I understood it, was a very gentle nature, pure sincerity and from the way of confession, he felt a wide culture and all-round intellectual formation.
Over time, I noticed his rich spiritual world, his love of the perfect, the culture that was imbued with the experience of his whole vicissitudes. To me, his stories were a lesson of great historical value. The dark cells, were my universities and my fellow suffering professors.
Here is what Uncle Myqeremi told me: “To let you know Kasem, I was born in Istanbul in 1890 and studied History and Literature there, at the university of this great city. This is the reason why I remember this past with nostalgia and I try not to forget it. I come from an Albanian aristocratic family. My father, Azmiu, as our surname shows, was from Ioannina, through the doors of pashas. With a career with the Turkish government in the position of Vizier.
My father married a girl from the door of the Vrions of Berat, (Labinur), and from this marriage, he received as a dowry many estates. In fact, I came to Albania in 1922 and from time to time, I went abroad for various jobs. In 1924, my father told me that he had met Fan Noli, who invited his father to help prepare the Albanian Army, but nothing came of it, because Fan Noli’s government was short-lived. My mother and younger brother, Muhameri, stayed in Albania. By 1920, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had come to power, a friend of my father, I had fallen in love with the daughter of Sultan Hamit, which my father did not approve of because he had been overthrown! But I, out of love for him, left and came to Albania. She was a rare beauty, cultured and very smart, with only one flaw, that probably became the reason for our separation: “jealousy”! This marriage did not last long and I was forced to return it to Turkey, separating from it and since then, I am no longer married.
In 1946, I was arrested, but although I never pleaded guilty, I was sentenced to five years in prison. My brother, Muhameri, was a partisan, I do not know under very mysterious circumstances, but the communists shot him without trial.
As I finished prison in 1952, I returned to Berat, where all property and assets had been seized by the communists. I was left alone, man without man, spending time reading and translating. Suddenly in 1960, I was called to Tirana, where I was appointed translator of Turkish at the Institute of History.
Although in my old age, I worked for almost 18 years to translate the documents of the Ottoman Empire, mainly from 1431 onwards. I created in the Institute a separate school of Balkanology and Turkology, to prepare the new generation, among them, talented students such as: Ferit Duka, Kristaq Prifti, etc”.
Uncle Myqeremi, told me that recently he was translating documents of the Renaissance and the intimacy of the main characters of that time. He did not want to tell too much about the arrest and the false witnesses who deprived him of his liberty for the remaining years of his life.
– “I was sentenced to eight years and I still live with hope. I have a woman who loves me, even though she is very young! They did not allow us to get married in the civil registry. She connected with me and from time to time she comes to see me and for that, I am very grateful to Betarice, saying the proverb: “Love knows no age”!
From his confession, I learned that he had beaten the world, lived in Turkey, France, Italy, Greece, etc., an unheard-of adventure! The studies and school of life had given him the image of a real intellectual, who had a meaning and his personal position on every issue or problem that was talked about and discussed.
Encyclopedic knowledge, knowledge of literature, history, arts, and exquisite taste and above all: human spirit and pleasant humor. He was a polyglot who did not have a strong magnet to do for himself, as he did me and many others who knew him.
I realized that Uncle Myqeremi was not simply a translator of documents from the Ottoman archives, but a Turkologist of studies in this field. He mentioned to me the names of some of his collaborators and friends, such as: Hazis Nesini, the famous Turkish writer and humorist, Andrea Sahatçi, Jonuz Tafilaj, and many others.
The days passed so quickly that once, so suddenly, my little sister, Bardha, came to meet me! I do not know how they found out that I was admitted to the Bug Hospital in Tirana. She brought me some food, which was already too late to improve my health. I shared the food with my roommates and Uncle Myqeremi, gave me 1000 thanks for the cookies he ate with so much taste.
The policeman opened the door of our room and entered inside in all its glory. He was so fat that his shirt fastened to the last button and his tie, which was covered by the gills hanging down, gave him the appearance of a turkey. Noticed that my friend nearby was giving up the ghost! He came to pollute her and expressed that with the gesture he made, occupying his nostrils by hand from the stench of the room.
Hilmi Disha was dying slowly but also Shytan Leka who was suffering from black liver, diagnosed with cirrhosis, was very severe. Uncle Myqeremi, as always, would read something. The policeman ordered me out into the hallway. I got up, folded the blanket, and headed for Satan to say goodbye. His bloodless face had taken on an expression of longing, and his eyes were filled with tears. He tried to get up, but I did not let him. – “Don’t ‘uncle Shytan,’ there is no need”!
“Ahhh, make me halal man, because I was bored enough and made it difficult to stay in this room because of the serious illness that has gripped me.”
“Do not say that word, Uncle Shytan, we tried to forget the pain of illness by giving each other courage.”
– “Thank you; “Peace be upon you, say goodbye to your friends, may you be lucky”, Uncle Shytani wished me.
– “May God help you and may Ishala restore your health”, I congratulated Uncle Shytan, shaking his hand.
I turned to Uncle Myqerem to say goodbye, and as always with kindness and delicacy, he extended his hand respectfully to me, saying: “Feel me, I feel sad that we are parting. It was a special pleasure to be given the opportunity to meet you, Kasem. God be with you… “, he said, while I was saying goodbye words, assuring Uncle Myqerem that his figure and personality would remain forever in my soul. I hugged him kissing him on both cheeks, this wise old man, and in his expression, it was clear the regret of my departure. As I was leaving the door, I turned my head to see him for the last time, he was wiping away tears. The barking policeman closed the door with a lever. Walking behind him in the long, dark corridor, at the end of it in a room with an open door, the military doctor signed the exit order. He put it in my file and gave it to the policeman who would transfer me to Tirana prison. The military doctor, whose name I do not know, told me, “I treated you with antibiotics. You have a chronic bronchitis, and you will continue the treatment in Spaç. “I am giving you a report with a disability, that is, incapable of working in the gallery.” When I heard the words incapable of work I was overwhelmed with joy, and I wanted to thank this man with a humane spirit, who correctly assessed my state of health./Memorie.al