Memorie.al publishes the story of how the New Year and other holidays were “celebrated” in Burrel Prison and other camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha before the ’90s, such as Spaçi, Qafa e Barit, Ballshi , Zejmeni etc. The testimony of Qani Beqo Sadiku, originally from the village of Market in Saranda, who spent 17 years in prison and three years in exile during the dictatorship, where he served most of his sentence in the infamous Burrel prison, in a cell with names and well-known personalities of resistance and anti-communist dissent, such as: Kurt Kola, Nuredin Skrapari, Bardhosh Gjonzeneli, Spartak Ngjela, Spartak Bedri Spahiu, Sherif Merdani, Fatos Kërluku, etc., with whom he tells how they “celebrated” the night of the change of years and the “rich menu” that that regime had predetermined for political prisoners on holidays, where only two potatoes were given for the New Year, only those who were in Kaushi of Tirana (Department 313) and a piece Halva on the occasion of October 16, the birthday of “Comrade Enver”, only for those who were in the prison hospital that day!
Mr. Sadiku, what is the origin of your family?
I am originally from the village of Markat in Saranda, where I was born on December 14, 1950.
How many years did you suffer in the camps and prisons of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime?
I spent 16 years and several months in prison, so I was arrested in July 1975 and released in mid-March with the last prisoners. So 17 years in prison, remaining “indebted” to the Party that sentenced me, almost seven and a half years in prison. But before the prison I was also interned for three years in Borsh of Saranda where I was arrested in July ’75.
Why were you interned and why were you arrested?
I was interned after being accused of being an “unworthy citizen for the norms of socialist morality”, while the accusation when I was arrested was “agitation and propaganda, attempted escape, undermining popular power, as if I would kill border soldiers”, etc.
How much were you initially sentenced and where did you serve your sentence?
I was sentenced to 10 years in prison, then re-sentenced twice. Once with 7 years and the second time in 1982, with 25 years in prison, which I suffered in Spaç, Burrel and Shën Vasi of Saranda, where they sent us at the end of 1990, on the occasion of coming to Albania, to US Secretary of State James Baker. So the Party arrested me in Borsh of Saranda and released me in Shën-Vasi, but in Saranda.
Can you tell us: how did you spend a New Year’s Eve night at Burrell Prison, where you served a large part of your sentence, where did that night differ from the others?
New Year’s night in Burrel prison, but also in other prisons such as Spaçi, Qaf-Bari, Ballshi, Zejmeni, etc., there was no difference from other nights. Nothing. So it was a very ordinary night, so that many of us convicts could even forget that it was New Year’s night.
Why, the prison command did not give you any extra food for that night as a holiday that was?
Absolutely no food additives. Even December 31 from morning until late dinner, continued with the same ritual as the other days. This also applies to food: soup in the morning, soup at lunch and a cup of tea at dinner. So, nothing else.
At New Year’s dinner nothing was added to the food ration?!
Except for the bowl of what we called tea, (because it was cold and only had the name, tea), where there should have been 10 grams of sugar and a piece of bread from the lunch one, where most of the convicts “we destroyed” Since lunch, absolutely nothing else. That’s why I told you that night was no different from other nights.
Of the foods that families could bring, were they allowed to celebrate the New Year with them?
Yes, with the food that our families sent us, we even organized something to remind him that it was the New Year.
How did you “organize” for the year?
Only with kadaif that our families sent us by package, ie by mail, or when they came to meet us, there in prison and this did not happen often, because our families suffered because of us, not only politically, but also economically. They usually brought it to us baked and wrapped in paper, just as it was sold in the shops, where they bought it and we dumped the syrup ourselves. But there were cases when our families brought us servants and this happened when they came to the meeting themselves, that when they sent us packages by mail, we threw the service ourselves.
Who were you in the cell at Burrell Prison with, did you have any of the names that are already known….?
Almost all are familiar names. I was in Burrel for a long time, in a cell with Spartak Spahiu, Nuredin Skrapar, Bardhosh Gjonzeneli, Spartak Ngjela, Kurt Kola, Sherif Merdani, Fatos Kërluku, etc. Each of us shared food with all the cell mates, and this started two or three days before the New Year, and continued two or three days after. So the first day we consumed my food, or another’s and the following days and so on. And with the end of the incoming food, the “feast” of the New Year ended. That was all.
What about other holidays, the prison command did not give you any extra food. So how: November 28 and 29, May 1, etc.?
Absolutely no food. An exception was made when we were in Kaushi, Tirana, in Ward 313, as the Tirana Prison was called at the time, only there they gave us a small extra.
It is ridiculous and you will not believe what I am telling you, but thank God there are alive, many accomplices and also captains and prison officers, who know this. For the New Year there in the bucket, in addition to the cup of tea and that piece of bread, which we saved from lunch, they gave us a “bonus” as they call it today, two boiled potatoes, where it turned out that they were not rotten or rotten. That was all. Nothing else gave us command for any kind of celebration. Halva was given only to convicts who were hospitalized in the Prison Hospital and this was given only once a year, on the occasion of October 16, the birthday of “Comrade Enver”. So, if you were to be admitted to the prison hospital on October 16, you would get a halva ration.
Given the fact that we are talking about former political prisoners, did they agree to eat halva for the birthday of “Comrade Enver”?!
For the sake of truth there were many who ate it, what would the poor do, the stomach does not ask… ?! But there have been others who have rejected it.
What about you…?
I have often had the opportunity to be hospitalized in the Prison Hospital and I have categorically refused the halva, so I have never accepted it and I told them this openly.
Were you not afraid that you might be punished again, since it was about the birthday of “Comrade Enver”?!
What would they punish me with, I was sentenced and re-sentenced to 25 years and more than that, there was no law to sentence me. But it was not just what made me tell you openly, what I thought and felt, as I have spoken since the first years of my sentence and for these things I have been re-sentenced to 25 years.
At that time, several amnesties were granted, such as that of 1982 and then of ’86. Did you not benefit from any year of sentence reduction?
From the 1982 amnesty, I did not receive a single day of reduced sentence, as that amnesty specified that those sentenced to 25 years in prison did not receive a reduced sentence, and I had just been re-sentenced to 25 years. So not only I was excluded from that amnesty, but almost all the convicts serving their sentences in Burrell Prison, only three people benefited from that amnesty.
What about the ’86 amnesty?
In the ’86 amnesty, I received a small reduction but before that can I tell you an event related to this amnesty, when they came from Tirana and the Burrel prison command, to communicate it to us in the cells where we were suffering punishment.
After we were granted the amnesty, the prison command came from Tirana to communicate the reduction that the Party had made to us, and after it was read to us, for each convict how much reduction we received and how much we had left, we were asked to say a word. , so to thank the Party. At the time they came to our cell and were being communicated the reduction of how much Adem Allçi and Dhori Gërnjoti had benefited, who had been arrested and were serving prison sentences, since 1963 or ’64, if I am not mistaken, this caused some debate as Dhori who had worked in some background work, surprisingly had benefited more discounts than Ademi, who had spent most of it in convicted cells, for disobedience, non-compliance with regulations, etc. While this problem was being discussed and debated, it was my turn and I asked my friend, Bardhosh Gjonzeneli from Vlora, what I would say to him when he communicated to me how long I had benefited from a reduced sentence, and he said: ‘Tell me “I have forgiven the Party, I do not love them.”
Did Bardhoshi jokingly tell you this or….?!
Bardhoshi told me half-jokingly, but I told them exactly in the presence of the 30 convicts who were there.
What did you say?
As soon as they communicated to me the reduction of the sentence I was receiving, which was about three years, three months and a few days, and asked me to speak, I replied: they, because I do not need “. Those words fell on them like a bomb and so much more, that I was saying them in front of all the other convicts and based on this, at first they were hesitant and did not speak.
How did they respond then, what did they say…?
At first they hesitated and looked each other in the eye, not knowing what to say, but the silence was broken by the commissar of Burrell Prison, Costa Gramo, who addressed me with an unprecedented hatred, saying: “Mascara, the Party and my friend Nexhmije, they do not need your days, because they will live as long as the mountains, while you will die here, like a dog and you will never get out of here “. And after that they left from there… / Memorie.al