Memorie.al publishes the unknown story of Skënder Çela and Mark Toç, two young communist leaders of the Anti-Fascist Youth in the Durrës district during the Italian occupation of the country and then with leadership functions as cadres in the partisan brigades, who after the end of During the war, they led the Anti-Fascist Youth organization of the coastal city for some time, entered into conflict with the main leaders of the Communist Party in Tirana, they were against the dictates coming from the “center”?! How did their elimination begin after they did not “reflect” even after the advice of Nako Spiros and Teodor Heba, as well as the pressures of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Lieutenant-General Koci Xoxes, who called Skenderi to the office and while rotating the revolver on the table as a sign of pressure, he asked him to get out of his way?! Their entire tragic history since the transfer first to Konispol and Leskovik, and then mobilizing them as soldiers in Korça District, where according to the testimony of Major General Baki Starja, on December 26, 1946, by order of Koçi Xoxes, Major-General Beqir Balluku and Colonel Panajot Plaku, respectively the commander and commissar of the Korça Division, took Skenderi and Mark tied to their “Chevrolet” and sent them to the edge of the Pogradec lake, where executed with several bullets in the head! The testimony of Bajram Vula at the first Congress of the KPSH, in 1949, regarding their tragic murder, showing that on the orders of Koci Xoxes, the next day he, Beqiri and Panayoti had gone back to the place of execution, for exhumed and then buried somewhere else on the sides of the national road in Qafë-Plloçë…?!
It was the distant end of December 1946. An old “Chevrolet” was driving through the darkness of the night from the city of Korça to Pogradec, with a destination in the reeds by the lake. Five people were traveling in the black vehicle: Panajot Plaku, Beqir Balluku, Bajram Vula and two others who were handcuffed in the trunk of the “Chevrolet”. Right near the water’s edge, some gunshots mingle with the sound of the lake’s waves, and everything is covered with a veil of mystery…
Who were the executors?
This mysterious event would be partially revealed a few years later at the first Congress of the Albanian Communist Party and fully only after the collapse of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime and the opening of the archives. In that car were traveling “two enemies of the Communist Party”, as well as the three executioners, who would later suffer the same “fate” as their victims on that cloudy and moonless night. Beqir Balluku, then Commander of the Military Division of Korça, years later Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister (until he was shot in 1974, accused of being the leader of the coup group in the army). Panajot Plaku, Commissioner of the Division and later Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister without Portfolio, member of the Central Committee of the ALP (later announced as a political opponent of Enver Hoxha, who was able to escape the revenge of him only after he escaped outside of Albania), and Bajram Vula, Commissioner of the 2nd Regiment, of that Division.
Who were the victims?
The two people connected by wire were Skënder Çela, political secretary of the communist cell of the “Stamles” cigarette factory, during the Italian occupation of the country, as well as Mark Toçi, one of the organizers of the first anti-fascist demonstrations of high school students in Shkodra. Skenderi was one of those who fought with a gun in hand on April 7, 1939 in Bestrovë, Vlora, where at that time he was conducting the Commercial School. A great influence on the formation of Skender and Mark was undoubtedly the friendship they had with Shefqet Beja and Enver Sazan, two high exponents of the Anti-Fascist Movement and then in the Presidency of the Council of the Democratic Front and deputies of the People’s Assembly, who in 1947 they would be declared “enemies of the people” and sentenced to death, accused of being the main leaders of the “Group of Deputies”.
What were Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi looking for that forced Adil Çarçan to “stream” the senior leadership of the Communist Party and personally, Enver Hoxha?! As idealists that they were, Skenderi and Marku could not accept the dictates that were exercised from “above”, as they were against the extreme centralization that was being observed both in the party and in the governing bodies, which led them to oppose and denounced the manipulations that were being done in the election process of the Anti-Fascist Youth organization of Durrës. Regarding this, in his diary, among other things, Skenderi wrote: “We started a principled war, while the center did not share this opinion.” Thus, in their activity, apart from Drita Malile and Hysen Ballhysa, they were also supported by a large group of young people from Durrës, which was considered the “Group of 47 young people”. Thus, in complete opposition to all the orders and instructions of the center in the elections of the Anti-Fascist Youth, in the meeting organized in the city’s cinema, the people demanded that Skënder Çela be the president of the Youth for Durrës. Contrary to the candidacies brought by the center, Mark Toçi and Hysen Ballhysa were also elected in the elections for the local government, although the “group of four” put a lot of pressure on them not to submit their candidacies. Due to the fact that they were not “reflecting” and were not implementing the instructions and orders of the “center”, pressure began to be put on them to withdraw. Thus Skënder Çela was called to the office of Lieutenant General Koçi Xoxes (at that time he held the position of Minister of Internal Affairs and organizational secretary of the KPSH), who blackmailed and pressured him to withdraw his candidacy. Regarding this meeting, according to some testimonies, Skënder Çela would tell his family in confidence: “While Koçi Xoxe was talking to me, a revolver was spinning on the table”!
Nako Spiro and Teodor Heba are sent to Durrës for the “two rebels”.
Based on the fact that the Anti-Fascist Youth organization of the Durres District was “going off the rails”, the senior leadership of the NPSH decided to send Nako Spiron and Teodor Heba, two of the highest Durres cadres, as delegates there there was the leadership of the NPSH. Nako with Heba, foresaw the danger that was threatening Skendera and Mark, and called on them to withdraw from their actions and find an opportunity to leave the duties they were holding, asking for it themselves. Even if it were possible, they would leave Durrës and leave there, seeking to pursue higher studies outside of Albania. But those determined in their ideals did not even accept Nako’s “offer”, even though she was quite kind. They were determined in their uncompromising struggle against the dictates that developed from the top in the Communist Party. Then, when the free vote and the decision of the elections were not implemented and people dictated from above were placed in the governing bodies, Skenderi and Marku, followed by Hyseni and Drita, publicly announced their exit from the Communist Party. This was an unprecedented act that happened for the first time in the ranks of this party. The emergence of these publicly from the ranks of the Albanian Communist Party brought quite a few problems and troubles to the senior leadership in Tirana, as they had and enjoyed immense popularity in their city, especially in the ranks of the Anti-Fascist Youth organization. What to do with them? Their elimination could not be done very easily, when it was known the great support they enjoyed in the Durrës region. Something that became clear later when they were not at all on the electoral lists compiled by the center, the people voted for them without being present in the hall and convincingly winning with the candidates of the center in the ratio of 5 to 1.
The center exposes the “traitors” Çela and Toçi
After all that was happening with the two “rebels” from Durrës, it seems that the “center” in Tirana lost patience and decided to draw up the scenario for their physical elimination, but first they had to be unmasked. Thus in Durrës, according to orders and concrete instructions from Tirana, Adil Çarçani, Kiço Kasapi, Eleni Terezi, (Pashko) instructed to hold meetings of the cells where they were declared enemies. At the meeting of the Executive Committee cell, Drita Malile, who was the main supporter of Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi, stood up openly against Kiço Kasapi, when he said that: “Skendera and Mark were enemies”. “We were elected by the people in a free and democratic manner”, she expressed indignantly at that meeting. But, after the unmasking of them as enemies and anti-party elements, the arrests began. At first, Drita was arrested with Hysen Ballhysa, who was kept for six months in the cells of the State Security, where they were also tortured. While seeing the great reputation Skenderi and Mark had in the people, they were not immediately arrested, but transferred away from Durrës, sending them to Konispol and Leskovik. Did Enver Hoxha know about what was happening with Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi and could they be punished without his approval?! This is clearly confirmed by some archival documents, where in a notebook of Enver Hoxha, there is a list written by his hand, where 41 cadres of the Durrës district are marked, a list which belongs to the year 1943 and Skënder Çela appears third after Kozma Nushi and Telat Noga (People’s Heroes). For Skenderi, Hoxha noted, “subordinate, clear and determined”. And Mark Toçi is the 23rd in this list with the note: “subordinate, clear, ambitious”. This document was written by Hoxha in 1943. In this document, Mark’s name appears underlined…?!
Skenderi and Marku, called for military service?!
In August 1946, Marku and Skenderi were called to perform mandatory military service, which according to the laws of that time was an irregular act, since they had both been partisans, even cadres, with leadership duties and couldn’t they already be mobilized as simple soldiers?! Their transfer to Konispol and Leskovik was not accidental, since according to the scenario that was drawn up from “above”, they were “given” the opportunity for any possible escape, where although they were under surveillance all the time. Seeing that this escape was not realized and Skenderi and Mark were not falling for the trap that was organized for them, then the “scenario” for their elimination changed and they were sent as reservists to Korça District. So Skenderi is sent to the third division (second regiment), and Mark to the third. Sometime later, Skenderi moved to the city of Pogradec. Regarding this, Petraq Laku, who was together in a regiment with Mark, in the testimonies given to his family many years later, remembered that at the end of December he met with him almost for days. At that time, Mark was withdrawn from the regiment, singled out and put in charge of the regiment’s library in Korça, which was probably done to keep him under control? Petraqi and Marku met until Christmas day on December 25, when they suddenly met Skenderi, whom they had not seen for four months. Petraqi made an appointment with Skenderi the next day, but he didn’t even show up for the next two or three days?! On December 29, even Mark didn’t show up at the meeting?! “On January 1, Petraqi recalled, in the snow-covered Korça I met a friend from Tirana (Adem Fagu) and he told me that Mark Toçi together with a friend named Skënder Çela have escaped…?! This thing seemed incredible to me that I had so many friends with them, that they could not do such a thing without me knowing”!
First Congress: Accusations fall on Xoxen
But what had happened to Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi and what is the truth about their mystery? This would be partially clarified years later in the first Congress of the Albanian Communist Party. So after the eliminations that Enver Hoxha did to his closest collaborator since the time of the War, Koci Xoxes, all the crimes, murders, tortures, internments and repercussions that had happened until that time, he (Enver) will charged him, although as Xoxe would testify in his depositions, he had done everything with the knowledge and approval of the “Commander”. The same was done with the Çela-Toçi mystery. In one of the sessions of the first Congress of the NPSH, Bajram Vula would testify: “In June 1946, I was on vacation when the revision was made in the party, then 27 anti-party members, enemies of the party, came out. When the army was called up, two of them, Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi, came. At this time, on 26.12.1947, Koçi Xoxe came to Korçë to work on the economic convention with Yugoslavia. During this period, Beqiri came with Panayoti and they told me to go to the command. It was 11:00 at night. We took both soldiers and killed them. The next day we went and hid them. I told Comrade Panajo to put them on trial, gather the soldiers and then kill them in front of the soldiers. This act is a criminal act because these people were killed without laws. Koçi and his friends did not follow the orders of the Party. I have not been clear about the people’s trials. As the Regimental Commissioner, I do not feel guilty in this act, therefore the first fault is Koçi Xoxes, the second is Beqir Balluku and the third is mine. But my conscience does not leave me alone that Koçi did not kill them himself, but through us”.
This is Bajram Vula’s discussion held at the first Congress of the NPSH, while in another statement made by him after the collapse of the communist regime (in 1993) for their relatives, he further elaborates on this issue, where among others it adds:
The night of the crime, the perpetrators testify
“I was impressed that Panajot Plaku did not hire the driver, but drove the car himself. When I got into the car, I saw Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi tied with a rope. After we stopped the car somewhere on the shore of the lake in the center of today’s beach, Beqiri and Panajoti quickly took them out of the car and shot them several times with revolvers. Caught by surprise at this scene, I protested the illegal action addressing Panayoti that; such actions should be done only by court decisions. While in the moments of covering the corpse with sand, Beqir Balluku, exalted, answered that he had an order from General Koçi Xoxe. The next day at dinner around 11:00 p.m., fearing that the place would be discovered, we took the corpses and buried them in a corner of the highway before reaching Qafë – Plloç, only this time, instead of Beqir Balluku, Baki Starja came. Bakiu and I dug a pit and covered the corpses, while Panajoti illuminated the place with the car lights.
So at the end of December 1946, by order of Koçi Xoxes, Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi were shot by Beqir Ballukut, Panajot Plakut and Bajram Vulës in Pogradec.
The last evidence: The crime is exhumed
While in another testimony that talks about this event given to the family members of Skënder Çela and Mark Toçi, the former Chief of Training of the Pogradec Regiment at that time, Baki Starja, (later Major General), it is said that: Panajot the Elder came to me telling me that: ‘Today we will eliminate the corpses of the two enemies we killed last night, the task is very secret and a great conspiracy is needed’. From the way the task was communicated to me, I thought that we were dealing with a very important task, where the possibility was not excluded that after the task was completed I might also be disappeared to lose track, so I took the loaded revolver with me with cartridges. Bajram Vula and I went to the scene; he showed me the place where the corpses were with a shovel. After the burial, I immediately recognized Skënder Çela as a reservist in our department and another one, weaker and taller. The two corpses that had been hit several times behind the head with bullets, we immediately put them in the “Chevrolet” of Panayoti, who did not get out of the car for a moment. We stopped the car in Qafë – Plloç and using a tranche of the Italian-Greek war, we buried the corpses. Panayoti was sitting in the car again, illuminating our place with the car lights. I personally knew Skenderi in the regiment, where he raised problems that were contrary to the party line… I never thought it right to kill them, despite the fact that I had my reservations about them”.
Hoxha eliminates the perpetrators of the crime
Looking at the above testimonies and documents that shed light on the “Çela-Toçi” mystery, it seems clear that the senior leadership of the NPSH and personally Enver Hoxha, saw in those two idealistic young communist boys, the two political opponents, who could They brought big “trouble” to the authoritarian system they were installing in Albania, which had started since the War period. The very commitment of the main leaders of that regime to the physical elimination of Skënder Çela and Mark Toç, confirms and shows this in the best way. Another fact that makes this event more convincing is a series of documents found in the archives of the former State Security, which shed light “on the extremely dangerous activity of Skënder Çela as the initiator of the creation of the Social Democratic Party, encouraged and supported by his teacher, whom he had as an idol, Skënder Luarasi and his friends Shefqet Beja and Enver Sazani”. Of all his close people that Hoxha used for the physical elimination of Çela and Toçi, only Adil Çarçani was able to escape his iron hand. As it is already known, in different periods of time they had a tragic fate, falling victim to their ideal that they embraced since their youth, such as: Nako Spiro, Koçi Xoxe, Panajot Plaku, Beqir Balluku, Kadri Hazbiu, etc. Thus, in 1975, one of the executioners of Çela e Toçi, the former deputy prime minister and minister of defense Beqir Balluku, would go to his death at midnight, in that secret, but this time not in the role of the executioner as in the past with Çela e Toçi, but this time in that of the victim.
In Qafë-Plloçë, a few meters from the national road, time has covered the remains of Çela and Toçi with mystery. Despite the well-wisher of one of the characters of this distant event, Baki Starjes, who went there several times, those graves have not yet been found…?! While Baki Starja has long since left this life, the two nephews of Skënder Çela, Mirush Kabashi (the great actor) and Ylli Rusi, as well as the brother of Mark Toçi, (Vangjel Toçi), even though they wandered for many years hoping to find there the burial place of their two dear people, that thing has not yet become possible…?! But as a sign of their memory and the event that took his life, from 2011, they have erected a small memorial, on which a bunch of flowers is occasionally found…/Memorie.al