Memorie.al publishes some archival documents extracted from the Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana and the Information Authority of the Files of the former State Security, which are part of a voluminous file which deals with the rare and unknown history of Ilia Lekë, originally from the village of Glinë in the Greek minority of Gjirokastra, whose family had been living in exile in Myzeqe villages since 1945, and his father, Theodhoriu, had been arrested since 1951 and were serving time in camps and prisons. accused of being a “Greek intelligence agent”.
Attempts by the State Security to recruit Ilian and then arrest him, and Ilias’ escape together with his brother Kriston and their uncle in Greece, where after some threatening letters that Ilia made to Enver Hoxha, Ramiz Alia, and Adil Çarçan, who was asked to get his father out of prison and his wife and son, to allow him to come to Greece, the three of them went on a hunger strike in front of the Albanian embassy in Athens, which lasted until 1984.
The strike sparked major diplomatic tensions between the two countries, as it sensitized not only the Greek parliament and government in Athens but also the Greek press and some ultra-nationalist parties and Vorio-Epiriot chauvinist circles led by Metropolitan Sevastianos, who exploited it. for their interests, as well as Ilia Leka’s speeches in the European Parliament and the American Congress, for the violation of human rights in the communist regime in Albania, until they forced Enver Hoxha to come out and publicly declare: “I say responsibly to the people Greek brother that in the Albanian prisons there are only 46 citizens from the Greek minority and only 4 of them for political crimes ”, as well as Ramiz Alia to release Theodhori Leka from prison in 1989, allowing him to go to Greece forever.
After the publication in four consecutive issues of a series of archival documents issued by the Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana, which has long been with the initials “Too Secret” and already declassified, where it is a correspondence of the Albanian Embassy in Athens with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tirana in 1982-’84, regarding the Albanian citizen, Ilia Theodhor Leka, originally from the village of Glina in Gjirokastra and living in the villages of Myzeqe, where they have been interned since 1951, as well as Ilias’ escape to Greece in 1982 (along with his brother and uncle), after they had previously arrested their father, where they went on a hunger strike in front of the Albanian embassy in Athens for nearly three years, raising public awareness. locals, political parties, parliament, the Greek government, various organizations, etc., we conducted an exclusive interview with Ilia L himself ekën, where he sheds light not only on those documents that have already been made public by Memorie.al, but also on his entire history and that of his family, from 1945 to the present.
follows from the previous number
Mr. Ilia, you have known and met other Albanians in Greece at that time?
I have also helped many other Albanians who fled and came to Greece, or others who came for work or sports, such as a translator named Ilir Bulka and two Vllaznia athletes, Hoxha and Bërshem, who left the hotel. their team and stayed in Greece. As soon as I found out, I went there to the police station doing the role of translator and taught the two athletes how to seek political asylum and then I became interested and helped them become active as footballers with Greek teams where they stabilized. I don’t know where those two great boys are today, but you can ask them what help I gave them. So did the translator, Bulka, who was a boy who did not have a friend and a staunch anti-communist.
A little while ago you said that you did not part with those of the Albanian embassy or those who came from Albania… ?!
It is also, because in addition to the hunger strike and the protests and rallies, I watched where these embassy activities, such as cocktails, etc., took place, and I went to destroy them. I broke some of them, after being accompanied by some of my friends, mostly Albanians from the minority who arrived in Greece, I came in and spoke out against the communist regime in Tirana, saying that those of the embassy were their blind tools. From what I was doing, Ambassador Xenophon Nushi did not find a hole to enter and alerted the police who came and drove me away. But I was peaceful and in no case did I do violent things, and so the police removed me and did not take any further action against me, as the protests against the Prime Minister or the President of Greece could be done by anyone, as they do today. in Albania. These with the embassy were common for me, but I also ruined some of the big concerts that the ensembles of folk songs and dances coming from Albania did, such as in Patras, Corfu etc. My friends and I went on stage shortly before the start of the concert, and gave speeches, telling them: ‘how do you sing and dance, when in Albania, Enver Hoxha has filled prisons full of political prisoners? and keeps the people in bondage ‘, etc. etc. And I ruined those concerts for them.
After those strikes, protests and rallies, from these brochures you have and the various photos, you have gone and spoken to the European Parliament in Strasbourg and to the US Congress. How did this become possible, so that you could go and talk to those high international organizations?
Initially in April 1982 when I went to Athens I stayed in Omonia and there a 35-40-year-old boy passes by and speaks English to me. I didn’t know English, and he said, “Where are you from?” ‘From Albania’ I say ‘from Gjirokastra’. He asked me what I was doing here, I told him I had escaped from Albania, and I was working and living in a small house near the cemetery in Kiffisia. “Come with me,” he told me, talking on the phone with some when a black “Jeep” came to me. He accommodated me in a luxury hotel, Hilton in Athens, and when we got there, he told the hotel owners, “This is going to stay here,” and they took me to a large, cozy suite. “Everything,” he told them, “has been paid by me.” He brought me the journalists and during the first interviews in the newspapers, a MEP who had seen these newspapers came to me and said: “I spoke to the Speaker of Parliament in Strasbourg and she told me that: these days you will come and translate. you interview journalists from 10 countries. ” A few months later, in November of that year, we went to Strasbourg and sat in an armchair when some others came and told me that you would shave and dress well after you came out for an interview. I spoke there in the European Parliament, and all my words that were translated surprised those deputies, as they had no idea what was happening in Albania.
What about the US Congress?
We went to the American Congress in January 1984, and on the 24th I spoke at the White House, and even there everyone was amazed at what they heard. This Greek man who accompanied me said, “We’re going to talk to your uncle here in the United States and talk to him on the phone. And he came to Greece and met us, but after 8 years.
But why hadn’t you met your two uncles, Jorgon and Anesti, who had fled since 1944-45?
No no we hadn’t met, they didn’t even want to know about us, even though our family suffered internment and imprisonment because of them, even though they were teenagers when they fled and fled Albania, they never asked about us. The two of them, Anastasi and Jorgon, not for me who didn’t want to know if I was alive or not, but when they came to Greece, they didn’t even go to the village of Glina to see their father’s grave ?! I don’t want to talk too much, because I didn’t need them at all because I broke everything myself to where I am today.
While you were fleeing to Greece, what happened to the rest of the family you left in Albania, that is, to your wife, young son, and mother, as your father is known to have been in prison?
After my escape, the whole family, that is, my mother, Dhimitrulla, his wife Maria, together with their youngest son, Anesti, were removed from exile by the communist government of Enver Hoxha where they were in Kolonjë in Lushnja and interned in the deep village of Luf të. Puka, where they were in very difficult conditions. After some time, as it seems from these letters that I made to Enver Hoxha, Ramiz Alia, etc., they after some time removed them from Lufi and brought them to the city in Puka, arranging them in a palace, where they were somewhat more otherwise than where they were before.
Since you mentioned the letters you wrote to Enver Hoxha at the time, in one of those letters that we published in full, you raised the problem that your wife was under pressure to divorce you and remarry. where did you get this information at a time when you were in Greece ?!
Regarding these pressures on women to separate from their husbands when they escaped or were in political prisons, these were familiar things, or as I say they were the “norm” for the communist regime and they happened to everyone. , as that regime, as you know, aimed to strike where it hurt the most, the family. There were many convicts or fugitives who divorced in order to save their families from suffering or exile, and in my case, this did not happen, on the contrary, as you have seen in the letters, I put pressure on those who wanted to ruin my family and my wife also never accepted the divorce, as she had a lot of pressure. They told me these things when they were allowed to come to Greece forever in 1990, but I knew from that time on what was happening to my family and the father who was in prison, from these fugitives who were coming to Greece. . There were a lot of people who had escaped from prisons, etc., and from them, we learned everything, because that was Albania. But for the fate of my family and the pressures on them, I was able to be informed by a young girl or woman whom I met by chance when I was sitting in OMONIA Square.
How did you meet him and what did he tell you?
While sitting in Omonia, I was impressed by her dress in the national costume of our minority area, and when I approached her to talk to her, as she seemed to be Albanian, she spoke to me first. During the conversation, who you are and who I am, she knew and had a lot of information about my family and told me what she knew about their suffering, the father I had in prison, my son, Anesti who was distinguished at school and did not they bring it to the table of honor from the fugitive father, etc., etc., which turned out to be true later when my family came to Greece.
But what was it that she was in, and how did she know about your family?
I never found out about it, as she also left quickly and we didn’t stay long. It could have been introduced by the State Security to meet me and show me the suffering of my family, thinking that I would repent and return to Albania, and so on. I don’t know what the truth is about that girl who approached me on her own and showed them to me, but I’m sure it wasn’t just a coincidence, as someone was hiding behind her.
When did your family come to Greece and how did that happen?
My family, then mother, Dhimitrulla, wife, Maria with son, Anesti, were allowed to come to Greece in May 1990, and visas were granted in April, being among the first to be allowed to leave Albania. This became possible, not because those who had this job in their hands, that is, the Albanian leadership of that time, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, showed compassion, but because they were forced to allow it after a protest I made. me in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens, disrupting a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Reiz Maile, who was waiting to meet with his Greek counterpart.
Specifically, how did this happen, so how did you ruin the meeting ?!
I, after I had learned of the meeting between the two ministers, after those things were made public before by newspapers and radio and television, together with some of my fellow Albanian fugitives, made a plan to ruin that meeting. I took a large box of eggs, filled to the brim and barely kept it, and 6 hours before that meeting, I climbed a tree in the yard of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and stood there motionless so they wouldn’t look at me. those of the police and security. And when Minister Reiz Maile came, I shot him with an egg from above, making the suit all so stained that he was forced to get back in the car and the meeting broke down after the police came and I refused to get off the tree for hours. all, until they brought those of the firefighters with ladders. This event caused a great commotion because in addition to the Greek newspapers and television, the same night the news was given by the main Yugoslav Radio and Television of that time, Belgrade. After this event, those in Tirana apparently got into trouble with me and after a few months allowed my family to come to Greece.
Who were your friends who helped you with that event?
They were the first two cousins from Saranda with the surname Qirjazi, Fane was a man, it was a Beni from Elbasan who had been a cyclist, etc. I don’t remember everyone’s names at the moment, but these were the main ones who supported me, brave and loyal guys, and the rest of them were their friends.
What about your father, Dhosin, when and how was he allowed to come to Greece?
The father was allowed to come two or three months later, after the mother had come with his wife and son. Dhosi was taken from Spaçi and sent to Ballsh, where he was released. Before he was released, they told his father, “Long live the Party, which is freeing you from prison,” and he said, “Down with the party, my son took me out of prison, not you!”
How did my father know that he was being released from prison?
At that time, the situation had calmed down a bit and he knew that my mother had come with my wife and son to Greece, as we agreed on letters, but the prisoners also told him: “Booo what is a boy doing in Greece? , an Ilia Leka…, is driving the whole country crazy ”. And he said with all joy, “He is my son.”
What happened to your family after your family arrived in Greece?
After everyone came to Greece, I no longer needed to deal with the Albanian embassy and the Albanian state, but I saw my worries, because here my second son was born, to whom I named my father, Dhosi. I continued my studies in Law, graduating in 1991, and that same year I was given a law degree, and from that work, I have helped many Albanians who came to Greece since December 1990, when they graduated. border villages forcibly opened the border and then. I helped the Albanians with all the opportunities I had, by making official letters and documents, intervening for scholarships and study rights, etc. I currently live in Athens with my wife, Marien (originally from Kakavija, I met her when I worked in Elbasan), and my two sons, Nesti and Dhosi, who are graduates and have good jobs. Nesti also has two children who light our house.
Mr. Ilia, before we close, and thank you for this long interview if you have anything else to add.
These things that I have told you are only a very small part of my life both in Albania and in Greece, as it takes me days to tell you my story. I also thank you for the interview and for the documents you found and published, as people need to know what we have removed from the communist regime of Enver Hoxha. I cannot thank all my compatriots in Albania who have found me and helped me in the most difficult times that my family and I have gone through personally, as we were also politically affected. I don’t know where to start, there are dozens of them, but let me mention some of them, such as the former Director of Bonification in Fier, General Nexhip Vinçani, who gave me an apartment when I was working in Fier, and why I was single, unmarried then. The commander of the 19-14 military unit in Bestrovë, Vlora, Ilo Myzeqari, and Thanas Hysin, a military engineer there, gave me the VI category for mechanics, and with that profession I ate bread wherever I went. My friend from the 8-year-old school, Thoma Boçi, from the village of Bubullimë in Lushnja, who, although he became an Operational Worker of the State Security, informed me that they would arrest me and I will never forget him. Also, the Chief of Security in Elbasan, Nikola Binjakut, who, as he liked, did what he had to do in those days when my arrest was expected. Investigator Besnik Ymeri, also in Elbasan, an excellent boy, who did not sign my arrest according to the letters they had sent, but went himself to the village of Glina and told those who denied the signatures they had put for me, ‘ they were told that they were theirs and Ilia Leka did not falsify them. Had he not done so, I would have been arrested immediately, so I am grateful for his life. Likewise, my fellow villager from Glina, Kosta Çobo, who defended me there in the People’s Council when those documents were verified for me. Qani Sadiku, originally from Markati Sarandës, a former political prisoner in Spaç, a determined anti-communist who took care of and helped my father, Dhos, when they were both serving sentences in Spaç, and many, many others who did not. I can remember them all now and I don’t want to prolong them, but I thank them all./Memorie.al