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
This news, was the best news for political prisoners, reviving to all the lost hopes for 40 years! The news in the newspaper was very short and without many comments, while for the reasons of suicide, it was only emphasized that: “The Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Comrade Mehmet Shehu, killed himself during a nervous crisis”.
It was clear that: his rival, his collaborator, his friend and his superior, Enver Hoxha, won the last duel! We knew that Mehmet Shehu had a big clan in government and we were looking forward to who was next!
From the news that came to us there in Spaç, it was said that in January 1982, Enver Hoxha held a secret meeting with the participation of members of the Politburo. He had already lost faith in all the collaborators around him and Enver Hoxha publicly declared Mehmet Shehu as “enemy of the people and one of the most dangerous polyagents”, who was preparing a coup!
It was not long before, on September 24, Enver held a special Plenum to clear all of Mehmet’s associates, arresting Kadri Hazbi, Feçor Shehu, Llambi Ziçishti, Llambi Peçini, who were sentenced to death a year later, and many others from the Ministry of Defense, from the Ministry of Interior, were sentenced to severe imprisonment.
We prisoners were excited by this news coming to us and anxiously awaited what would happen next. After these sensational events of December, the great hope had grown more among the prisoners. The faded faces, as if they were slightly open and everywhere tasted gathered in groups, where they talked, it is understood about the crisis that had gripped the top leadership of the ALP, making prophecies and illusions, what would be the end of those events!
It was no longer difficult for everyone to clearly understand that Enver was strengthening his position and that of his new associates in the top leadership, after the liquidation of Mehmet Shehu and his entire clan. All these collaborators of the dictator, were “sharp swords” in his hands and they had shown tireless and diligent enough to achieve the devilish and tireless goals, to make the dictator’s dreams and paranoia come true, that for their criminal deeds, a few months ago, he had decorated them, declaring them “Heroes of the People”!
Since 1975, prisons were full of innocent people! It was already expected to happen what we had been waiting for a long time, but it seemed that it would still take time to finally bury, Enver’s communism and the rule of his Party!
After the events that took place in Kosovo in the spring of 1981, the controversy was fiercer, more threatening, by both governments, that of Tirana and that of Belgrade. Tirana daily promoted the newspaper “Zeri i Popullit”, with articles on the events in Kosovo, denouncing the oppressive and discriminatory policy of Belgrade. On this issue, the Yugoslav propaganda blamed Tirana, making it inciting and guilty for the turmoil in Kosovo!
Belgrade, day by day, was discrediting the policy and government of Enver Hoxha, showing the people of Kosovo and the whole world, who Enver was and his clique, in what miserable condition the Albanian people were, where the prisons in this country were were full of innocent people, as the most savage Stalinists ruled, etc., etc., giving figures and facts about martyr Albania.
A few days ago, in Spaç prison, a team led by the Commander of the Camps and Prisons of Albania, Mit’hat Bare, came from Tirana, a healthy man, seemingly calm and not sparing good words with convicts, when brought ratsi to go to jail! But if there was a “window” to see his soul, you will notice only the vileness! As he entered, accompanied by officers and police, the prison commander and commissar stood beside him. He called the prisoners and asked them about the crime and the punishment, and at the end he told them to have hope and trust in the Party!
This team, which was suddenly looking at and investigating one by one all the prisoners’ cards, selecting which one should be released and which one not with the amnesty that Enver would announce in November of that year, as in his speech before the elections, he said: “We empty the prisons, while in the capitalist countries, they fill them”!
The prisoners were waiting with all hope the next day, to see what the size of that amnesty would be ?! Would it be general, or differentiated ?! The news that the young prisoners, most of them members of Mehmet Shehu’s clan families, entered the prison, showed that the great crisis in the leadership of the ALP that led to the suicide of Enver’s most obedient collaborator, had started simply from a family affair, where the Politburo had pressured Mehmet Shehu to make a self-criticism in front of her, why his son was engaged to a girl from the declassed family of Turdinjëve ?!
As they said, this led to this “butcher” of Enver, in a nervous breakdown to commit suicide. However, what happened, the death of Mehmet Shehu, became even more mysterious. Perhaps it was also the silent curse of the suffering Albanian people. God “heard” him and put “Satan” in the middle, so that they could eat each other’s heads!
The disappointment of the prisoners of Spaç, when the amnesty of November 1981 was announced ?!
The prison command had ordered all the prisoners to line up according to the brigades on the volleyball court, because inside, the Prison Commander had entered, with all his larvae.
A.Xh., a former convicted officer after the fall of Beqir Balluku, read Enver Hoxha’s speech and finally read about the amnesty, making it clear to them who would be released and who would remain in prison, for him served the remaining sentence. The amnesty was differentiated, as it released all those prisoners who were convicted by eight years or less, only for political crimes, and also, those who had less than a year of imprisonment left, (an article which included me), and pardoned a quarter of the sentence. I must emphasize that this pardon included only those prisoners who were not re-convicted, for the same crime, when it was known that in the prison of Spaç and Burrel, almost 90%, were re-convicted!
The prisoners were disappointed and it was clear that a smile had frozen on their faces, from all that sensational noise of Enver’s speech! To the prisoners deceived by this great lie, hope evaporated like dew after the scorching sun of the behar. Silence and remarks, accompanied silently. My friend Xhelal Çami and I were happy that the amnesty included us, so we did not bother to listen to the “nonsense” of the prisoners, who said that it would happen one way or another.
Or as they said, “it took time for Enver to open the prison doors”, and other things like that! The events that took place stopped this campaign of vain speculations and hopes. Then, when there were no more than 100 honest prisoners left, without being tainted and without becoming tools of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they tried by all means, planning torture and terror, to corrupt and degenerate , to complete dirt. Not only the prisoners but also their families, all the people they call outcasts.
It is not known how many innocent people have had a tragic end as a result of this discrimination ?! In 1979 alone, more than 150 prisoners were arrested and sentenced again. The only thing is that they were standing idly by inspiring other prisoners not to fall into the trap of moral and political degeneration, which was hatched and manipulated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tirana. Through these unbroken prisoners, the executioners pushed in front of the firing squad, Xhelal Koprencka. Active member of the New Democratic Party, an elderly man who carried a whole collection of diseases at his expense! A man with a humane spirit and a dexterous orator, to come to realize that the long life he had spent in prison, he had not spent in vain, but by reading books and learning foreign languages.
Vangjel Lezho and Fadil Kokomani, 45-year-old men, had both graduated in Moscow. They too had created the Revisionist Party and, like Xhelali, had the same misfortune, sentencing them to death. Others were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
My friends who would be released and those who would stay back there
Let’s go back to describing the events of these hectic days in prison. In “Kaushin” where I was, came 53 other prisoners, in a room with a size of 6 by 6 m. This space is suitable for the health of these unfortunates. Even worse when in this room we did not work and were with 500 other prisoners, which we called “unemployment”.
We had gathered in the room in silence, reading the newspaper about the amnesty in our room. Lazëm Shoti, a prisoner re-sentenced three times, never hoped to get out of prison alive, while Enver’s communism existed in Albania! He calculated that there were 6 of us, including my friend Xhelal Çami, who had 5-6 months left from the sentence.
The other was Kosta Lufi, a minority from Dropulli who had suffered severe trauma from the suffering. Luigj Gega had 6 months left to complete the sentence of 15 years in prison. An old man from Dibra e Madhe, named Murat Damsi, and a tyrant named Zenel Shoshori, the brother of my friend, Hysen, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
On November 12, some 300 or so prisoners began to be dispersed to the districts. They gathered us all on the field, where Mit’hat Bare, the team leader, had come forward with the prison commissioner, Pjetër Cara. He communicated the amnesty declared by the government and advised us not to make a fuss, that tomorrow, November 13, the separation would take place.
All that night, all the prisoners whose gates were to be opened did not sleep. Xhelal and I did not shake our heads too much, we just wanted to get some food, as they would take us to the ordinary prison, which was on the other side of the stream, where we would spend two nights. On November 13, the prison command ordered that all amnestied people prepare their belongings.
My name and that of my friend, Xhelal Çami, at the bottom of the amnesty list ?!
Around 8 o’clock in the morning, the reading of the list began. Hugs with tears in the eyes for friends who had suffered a lifetime, and where no further fate was known within this country scary. Finally, at the bottom of the list, my name was read, as well as the name of Xhelal Çami. Whoever heard the name, left the room to go to the neutral zone. With rags on their backs, we fled, while the other prisoners shook hands to say goodbye.
After gathering us all in the neutral zone, the iron gate opened. The policeman ordered that whoever heard the name, go outside. This was the last appeal. The weather was cloudy and from moment to moment, it was expected to rain. This boring job, ended by lunch. It lasted a while, because the authorities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who were in charge of this work, wanted to be safe for the prisoners coming out of the gate.
They, fearing, wondered if any other prisoner would come out on behalf of these! I do not know why my name and Xhelal, were at the bottom of the list ?! This scared me a lot, especially when we were left with 10-15 prisoners, waiting for our name to come out! Sitting on the seat of my clothes, I waited for my name to come out, while the other prisoners had gathered on the other side of the creek.
They were preparing to spend two cold nights in the rain, in the small hut that could not hold more than 100 prisoners. So they had to make room with blankets. By the time my friend, a police officer, who was known by all to have been a hangman, came out, now that things were changing, I felt fear on his face ?! Even this policeman, cursed, tortured and threatened the prisoners for nothing, or why you left the line, and why you talked to your friend!
If you want to know his name, this was Preng Rrapi. A short deformed body, a bloodless dry face, that when opened, opened to the ears! He saw some big teeth, yellowed, blackened and never washed! His head, like a pot, was covered by the star policeman hat, which hid his brick. The few hairs he had left had bleached in time, which showed that he was over 45 years old. Redness on the chin, bastard on the face and soul. His arms were disproportionate to his short and deformed body, with crooked legs, criminal hands, and beast eyes! Ugly in the full sense of the word.
He approached me, pretending to know me, and asked me, “How many years have you been forgiven?” He said, shaking some keys in his hand. I did not move from the seat, and did not turn my head, feeling disdain for this hated face for 10 years in a row.
“I finished prison because I only have 5 months left,” I told him, “photographing” this ugly muzzle well.
“Do not feel at all, it is too much and 5 months, as you could have been convicted again”, continued police officer Prenga.
“How much prison did you do?” He continued.
“10 years”, I returned to this conversation and got up.
“What do they call you, I have not seen you, where did you work”, continued police officer Prenga.
– “Kasëm Hoxha. “You have seen me but you do not remember me, in those isolation dungeons.”
“We had a lot of cases there,” he said.
“Kill your mind, I can remember you, comrade policeman,” I replied.
Meanwhile my name was called. I threw the rags on my arm and showed up at the gate. The prison commander, Mit’hat Bare, asked me about my name and how much prison I had done. I answered all the questions to make sure that I was Kasëm Hoxha./Memorie.al