By Dom Simon Jubani
Memorie.al / Simon Jubani were born in Shkodër in 1927. At the age of 16, he entered the Apostolic School to become a Jesuit priest. After the closing of the Catholic religious schools in 1945 – ’46, he continued his studies at the state gymnasium in the city of Shkodra, where he excelled as a football player with the “Vllaznia” team. He then moved to Tirana, where he completed a radio-x-ray course and worked for a while at the capital’s Military Hospital, after being mobilized for mandatory military service. At the end of three years, he returned to Shkodër, where he presented himself to Monsignor Ernest Çoba and begged him to ordain him a priest, but he advised him to wait and so he was forced to resume work as a radiologist at the Shkodra Sanatorium. In 1957-58 he received the “Orders of the Priesthood” and served in the district of Mirdita as a parish priest. At that time he was arrested by the State Security and convicted and sentenced several times during his sentence, such as in Spaç, Qafë Bari, Ballsh, Burrel and Zejmen, where he served a total of 26 years in prison. Dom Simoni, who is known by all his fellow sufferers for his dignified and uncompromising stand with the communist regime, was released from prison on April 13, 1989. On November 4, 1990, the chapel of the Rrmaji cemetery was burned. , he celebrated the first public Catholic mass, in front of hundreds of believers, which had been forbidden by law by the communist regime of Enveri Hoxha, since 1967. For his contribution, in 1991, the University of San Francisco in California awarded him the degree “Doctor Honoris Causa” in Human Sciences. While in 1996, the state of Michigan honored him with a diploma with the motivation: “Initiator of freedom of speech and the Catholic press”. Dom Simon Jubani is the first Albanian, after the fall of communism, to be called to audience by Pope John Paul II. Dom Simon Jubani passed away on July 12, 2011, in the city of Shkodra and was buried with many special honors in the Rrmaji Cemetery Chapel, by all the heads of religious communities, by the highest civil authorities and many believers. Dom Simoni is the author of two books of memoirs, mainly about the period of serving sentences in camps and prisons, parts of which we have selected and are publishing in this article.
Continues from last issue
EPILOGUE IN HEAVEN
Now, oh God, where should I go?!
It was over and finally the single, terrible night. I bent over myself; lay in the coffin, put on the very same hat where I left it for the second time, surrounded by cypresses and sycamores. I was dead, then, in the end. For the pleasure of those who saw me in my eyes and for the great joy of my friends.
I had completed this journey, that for me there were not a few thorns, although there were no flowers either, as long as God protected me as soon as I saw spring, I even opened the door myself first. My corpse lay there motionless, unusual for me. Hundreds of people paraded around her.
It seems to me that this is called “me ba homazhe”, they want me to die with honor. But I had no need for honors. I needed some grain of urate, to make it easier for me to reach my destination tomorrow. Any “Epja, oh God”. But no one even thought that the soul needs prayer. Most of them talked to me about my affairs, as long as I had been alive. Some even laughed under their breath.
In the first rows, as usual and ironically, always playing with me, the highest communist authorities of the country. Do you think they were there to mourn my death? How much I wanted to be taken away from the coffin. I wanted it for months because, according to custom, my legs were tied with shoelaces, so that the spoons wouldn’t be taken away.
And they didn’t mind, for sure. My body was again drenched in cold sweat in the futile attempt to sit up: “What? Do you remember that I died? No sir! I just wanted to laugh a little with this melodrama, which is being played around my coffin”. Yes, it was useless.
I was already suspended between the earth and the sky. I still didn’t know where I was and where I was going. That’s why the satisfaction that forgave me with the thought that I had completed the earthly path was clouded by another, more difficult thought: I had to start the last journey forever. As soon as my mortal body crushed you into black dust.
Until then, the soul would contemplate, not without pain, that cage, inside which it had wandered for seventy or so years through the streets of the world, until it began to break down and give off the smell of torture. Like any coffee. Body and soul were still bound together by a fragile cord that would soon break. Like the little girl who holds the fluttering bush tied to the thread of the penny.
How tragic, how ridiculous the ceremony seemed to me, with bishops and priests leading the mass for my soul where I had celebrated many times. Then, father, with words that I had, I felt the most pleasure while I was alive. The preacher spoke and spoke, to present to the faithful a Dom Simon who had nothing in common with the truth, with what was left neither of me and who was neither in heaven nor on earth.
Instead of pointing out to the people of Shkodran that I went to the altar of the first mass after the persecution, you did not point out to them that I grew up an orphan. I didn’t know if this was a merit, or if they wanted to, considering that I had grown up without a father. I thought with regret: “I make more enemies when I perform heroism, than when I defile myself with some meanness.”
That’s when I got gas: after a while, when I was finally separated from my body, I would have neither friends nor enemies. And I wouldn’t even be an orphan. Earnings and merits would be weighed in an unerring scale. Hey bela, bela! I left our reactionary life: with others and with mine.
The meetings are over. Kumbona, the rain that they had pulled out of the earth to ring in the first post-salvation Mass, we fell to one side, languidly and sloppily. Kumbi ran through the cypresses, which released green teardrops. The piercing sounds of “Dies irae” spread in the graveyard. The choir began by singing Hugh’s hymn of death, of immortality, of anger.
A large tear broke from my flying soul and fell on my frozen face, just before it was covered forever with the death hood. I didn’t see who else was here. I remembered the strange saying, perhaps true, that is repeated every time an orderly dies: “meeting without being announced, we live without being wanted, we die without leaving”. Big deal!
I said to myself. That’s how I’ve been all my life: I laugh to myself and I laugh to myself! Now, the end was last night’s tear. It was coming back…! It was what was coming back that had begun to trouble me now, though my spirit was light, light, light.
I had received my Redeemer in my heart, a few minutes before my mouth, with my foot broken among the prisons to testify, was closed forever.
The long clergyman’s robe, with purple aprons, perhaps for me, was tightened around the casket for the last time. Chris hammered on the cover nails and I didn’t see myself anymore. I disappeared, as if I had never been there. Now, yes, I had finally died. Four men carried the weight of the coffin and started, followed by the crowd, to the open pit between the simple graves of the Rrmaji.
I feel angry: don’t I have enough to deserve to be buried in the cathedral, next to the bishops and the first cardinal? – I said to myself. But then I was gassed. Now it didn’t matter where I would rest. I should even be happy that I was sleeping my last sleep somewhere near the great Doctor Shiroka. It would help if I was the first to go to Judgment Day last night, even if I was missing some important bone.
The sound of earth falling on the dead man’s face was heard in the graveyard. The shovels moved quickly. While they locked me forever in the pit, the living thought of the work that awaited them there, behind the door, where the human insatiability for life and all that it contains was always lurking.
In the end, a mound of earth was raised over my head and a simple wooden cross was stuck, on which was written: “Pax: here rests Som Simon Jubani”.
Are you resting? No sir! Wrong! The holiday was far away. I felt like I was flying to the heights. I was surrounded by feathery clouds that fluttered like the ruddy wool of a flock of sheep. I don’t know where this phrase came from, which I once learned by heart from a school anthology. It seems to me that Luigj Gurakuqi wrote it. I met him in Paris – I thought happily. Oh he, oh anyone!
I had the same feeling, which I had experienced every time I flew by plane. Finally, I arrived. The clouds moved quickly and a magnificent gate formed before me: it was Parrizi’s door, shining like gold under unknown rays. It was closed. Since it was no rain and I had no way of informing me that I had arrived, I unwittingly uttered the word, as I had many times at the threshold of the towers of my Mirdita: “Do you want friends, O God of the house”?
I was gassed again. Then I immediately became serious. Right now, Saint Peter is taking me for granted, because he didn’t delay and told me. I briefly told him who I was. And I didn’t have a hard time, I believe, because the words that were said about me in the cemetery were still ringing in my ears. Now you, you have a priest, I know that you don’t enter Paris without carefully weighing the things you have done in that life.
Then let’s see where the kandari is going. St. Peter half opened the lid of the magnificent door and let me takes only one step inside. I thought that now I would have work with Sh’Mëhilli. I have preached many times about him and his kandar to be eternal, from which it depends whether or not we will see the face of God. When, what did the Lord take from me! Poor me poor me I see you approached me with a gun in hand, neither more nor less than Enver Hoxha, the hand itself.
His ears were completely white and he had a pair of large wings, just like the archangels in the figures. Enter me hataya, enter me. Brita took my mouth: – Sh’Pjeter (I had accidentally remembered Pjeter), bro, but this is not Sh’Mëhilli. Do you know, bro, who is this? It’s not an archangel, it’s the devil himself. It’s Satan! Satan! Wow! Exercise my magic, like that of a soul wandering in the endless expanse of the sky.
Until I myself was scared by that za lugati. My body was torn to pieces by a man who was coming towards me, gun in hand. Now he would tear my soul and throw me into the fire of hell. I did not expect any mercy from him, and of course, no justice either. St. Peter closed his ears with his hand so as not to hear my foolish cry.
As soon as I rested, he removed his hands and said to me: “You shot us in the head, you priests of Albania! You are completely behind! You are old, old! Moldy! Sh’Mëhilli has been called by God for an urgent job. This one, who is his deputy, is dealing with you now.
As for what you are telling us, don’t be surprised at all. He went to Paris regularly, according to all the rules of the Catholic and apostolic mother Church, because, Lord, two seconds before he died, they said that he was sorry and that he denied Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, return with mind and heart to the religion of Christ. So, one who came here, behaved in an exemplary manner? Don’t give up, come to Parriz.
Especially the souls of the Albanians, who you know well are riddled with vices. As much as Saint Mihilli has named him, neither less nor more, than his own deputy. Most of all, they always have Sh’Mëhilli i Zanun with the party’s mumbles, this weighs on their souls.
Until now, I feel sorry for him, they said, but our brothers and sisters, may they roll in the bottom of hell, because, he is telling us that they have been confused with politics, which is a grave sin for a priest, who you only have to look at the works of the soul, because there is no pluralism: here the almighty Father rules, the Creator of heaven and earth. He who sees everything. No one can beat him!
– That’s how St. Pjetri’s brother – like that – looked at me in the light of his eyes, as if he wanted to tell me: Boll tasti, get on the kandar and finish your work, because the others are waiting and it’s our turn to go to Parrizi’s door longer than between the doors of your butchers during communism”.
I looked at the kandar, the one who was holding it, Parrizi’s half-open door, and I ran away from him. As I had gone outside, with my legs getting lost in the white clouds, I thought with horror: “Now where should I go?”
I had not finished these words when I fell asleep. I was drenched in sweat. Thank God, I was dreaming. The meeting I had attended the day before was our fault. It was a meeting that I had waited for so much, with such desire. It had not been long since the Church was opened, when missionaries and various personalities of our Church began to arrive in Albania.
Some stayed with us forever and helped us get to the bottom, others healed little by little the wounds of our souls and brought us up to date with the events that had happened in the Church, as we are told, we had remain in the time of the Old Testament…!
That didn’t bother me at all. As a man of the Church, I had always felt myself in the time of the Testament: Old and New. I had witnessed that and defended that, even with blood. That’s why I felt myself at the same time, because the Gospel knows no time and other events, even church ones, no matter how important they are, can never surpass the Gospel, which has been given to us forever.
However, speaking new words and being spiritually rejuvenated is never bad. Every sensible person at the top should read the signs of the times, move with the times, otherwise they have no choice, as they are telling us, but to enter a museum with their own legs and freeze me there, next to the brandaveks and Tunisian religions.
They even accepted it. That many people are outside at any time, how funny it is even when I put it in the environment of broken pipes and mummies in the archaeological museum.
So I went, healthy and summer, old and heavy, in a black suit, with a white collar, and sat in the first row of the rain, as it suited me. The lecturer was a Jesuit. Even better, I was a student of the Jesuits. The hall was full, partly because the people had nothing else to do, without work as they had left, partly because they were thirsty and I did not feel what was happening in the world, when we were abroad and what had happened in the Church, when we were in hell.
Beauty, the meeting started with white cheeks. The lecturer informed us with the Second Vatican Council, to order us to adopt it as before, if we wanted to go in relation to the Universal Church. He spoke briefly about the main documents of the Council, about the current state of the Catholic Church in the World, about the papacy of John Paul II, about our future and our Church.
The listeners stood frozen, half understood his words, because he spoke Italian and had a translator with him who also did not understand the ecclesiastical terms that he was listening to for the first time. Even those who knew Italian felt themselves completely outdated. This would be what had been, as long as few understood what was being said.
Finally, he moved on to the questions. What remained on everyone’s mind was the issue of redemption. Therefore, the first question was: “What does a man need to be redeemed? – And – Can even those who have committed rare crimes, like Enver Hoxha, be redeemed?
As for the first question, I didn’t need to hear many explanations, because I had given the explanations myself many times to those who asked me. You rely on the Gospel, it is understood. As for the second question, my mind told me that the Jesuit was answering with only two words to that cuckoo, who had asked such a stupid question.
“Hell is rain for the Deniers”! No sir, no. I have a lot left among the cows! “If he repents at the last moment – said the Jesuit – he can be redeemed even by being redeemed. Maybe even now he enjoys Parrizi’s happiness”!
I was seized with trembling, oh God. For trouble that day, precisely so that we wouldn’t seem too old, I had also put dentures in my mouth, which I can’t stand at all. Those deserts began by forcing me into a certain religion, so much so that it seemed to me that I was losing my mind.
I took them out, put them in my pocket and, as I felt my mouth uncuffed, I immediately raised my finger and asked: “Padre, you are telling us here that Enver Hoxha is probably waiting for us in Paris. If he went to Paris, where did I go? That Dom Simoni and Enver Hoxha cannot live together in one place. Otherwise, Enver Hoxha’s Parrizi had been Dom Simon’s hell. Do you see this toothless mouth?
He has robbed me of ours. And what’s wrong with me, in matches with him in Paris? That he only thinks about it. Then Parrizi would have been a punishment and not a reward, for those who left the flag with blood, so as not to change it! Yes, God, forgive me, kill me, I’m the Parrizi that you’re telling us, I have no job either today or when my soul comes out”!
Gas exploded in the hall. Of course, most were of the same opinion as me, so they sealed what I had said with thunderous applause.
But I didn’t care for clapping or cheering. The idea that I would be able to find rain at the door of Parrizi, the one who had turnips for life, had entered my mind. Or they don’t know more. Do you want to be good to the Almighty Father?
How did he rule his people? And if that’s the case, then where did Dom Simon get it from? Prison is not enough, I wanted to go to hell for the fault of that one, that my Jesuit teacher, who was even passing to God himself for pain and mercy, opened the doors of Parrizi for me, you should close them for me good luck my friends. Hey Bela! What found me?
Dear Dom Simon – I said to myself, as I was opening the door of the house, which for now seemed to me quite silly – dear. First, you’re not dead yet. Second, the great and almighty God cannot make mistakes like this. In the end, we clarify, that he has opened his mouth to talk to us! So, trying to calm myself down, I collapsed onto my hard bed. I dreamed that I was dead! A dream that I told you.
Now where should I take it? The question tormented me even after I had fallen asleep and I was dreaming. Surprisingly, the words that St. Peter said to Christ came to my lips: “I have nowhere to go away from you, Lord! Only you have the word of life for the next generation”! Memorie.al