Memorie.al / Muhamet Pojani, former political prisoner, brings us a vivid testimony from Spaçi Prison, one of the most inhuman forced labor camps of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Alia. Political prisoners have experienced the most terrible torture on the back and the hardest physical labor in the mine. Survival was the only leitmotif in this prison. Muhameti, was imprisoned together with his two brothers and experiencing an ordeal of suffering in prisons and labor camps, until 1991. “He, who has tried it, knows what it means to work in the mines of Spaç, with the communists on his back. The most ignorant people, cops who sat around all day rubbing their hands. They said: – “I know as brave the one who does not follow the norm”. They hit you with the tail of the pickaxe; they didn’t want to know where to shoot. This was their slogan: “Either the norm or the spirit”, there was no other talk. And so, we reached this point…! With my brother, I went to work in the gallery. I helped him from prison to prison. I used to give him 5 lek, as much as I could get”, Muhamet Pojani testifies, among other things, in this interview of his, taken from the Doko family archive.
Mr. Muhamet, where were you born and who was your family?
I was born on June 21, 1951 in the city of Korça. My family comes with a distinguished tradition of patriotic, hardworking, honest, people who loved freedom and did not want violence. They despised the values of communism, they could not look them in the eye, and they had nothing in common with them. However, as these works are known, from 50 years on, this ordeal followed us without a break. My parents took them, removed them from the Korca district.
Wherever they could find a hole and get in, they worked in the quarries, in the smoke. How could it be worse? Thinking every day, that they are arresting him today, that they are arresting him tomorrow. You didn’t believe in this job. My mother had three brothers in prisons, in the period 1945-46. Eventually, one is extrajudicially killed. One of them was executed by trial and the other was sentenced to prison in Burrell, he spent 5-6 years and died there.
We were from 10 years old, from 7 years old, mother used to cry with us as if she had friends. “That’s what they did to me, that’s what they did to me” – said the mother, and then, on our own, we got a hatred for that regime, so much so that we couldn’t look the communists in the eye. Not that we were doing anything, but we never stopped talking, and what they wanted to do, they did to us.
Why were you arrested?
My father worked in these lime kilns, with great effort and fatigue he reached what we became at the age of 17-18, then these (state security) kidnapped us, take one, take the other. We spent 40 years in prison as brothers. They arrested the eldest son, sentenced him to 9 years initially. They took him to Spaç, where he was convicted again in the Spaç revolt, and he served 25 years in prison.
They left him in Burrel prison for 4 years, then again sentenced him to another 10 years. With all these years, I don’t know where they would take them. On June 21, 1980, I was arrested, the day of my birthday. After 9 months, I was sentenced to 7 years in prison and 5 years of exile. From this period, I spent 2-3 years in prison in Spaç. From Spaçi, they sentenced me to Zejmen in Lezha, sentencing me once again to 11 years in prison.
What was the charge and where did he serve his sentence?
The accusation against me was: “Agitation and propaganda” and “You called on the prisoners to revolt”. They take me there, rape me to death, and beat me by 40 men with sticks, for an hour without rest. After an hour, with three or four sessions, the doctors came, they told me: Raise the pupil of the eye, and they asked me with a piece of wire: “Will the pupil of the eye move? Ah, did the instinct work? – They said and continued. Four times like that, it makes me shit.
I was sentenced to another 11 years, in the dungeons of Lezha. So, we had no hope, nothing that I could get out of there alive. When the family members came and saw me there, they didn’t see their child, they saw a 50-kilogram man, one dead. I used to fasten my pants up to the top with buttons, but without belts, nothing. I was completely blacked out. Prison after prison, I went to Spaç again. Hard work in those galleries. Those who have tried it, know what it means to work in the mines of Spaç, with the communist leaders, officers and policemen on their backs.
The most ignorant people, cops who sat around all day rubbing their hands. They said: – “I know as brave the one who does not follow the norm”. They hit you with the tail of the pickaxe; they didn’t want to know where to shoot. This was their slogan: “Either the norm or the spirit”, there was no other talk. And so, we reached this point…!
With my brother, I went to work in the gallery. I helped him from prison to prison. I used to take the 5 ALL I received to him. I was taken over here from exile, because I had nothing to do, the house was completely destroyed, we had no home. This house we had, they gave it for rent, I don’t know how much, because they said these people are dead, who will come there anymore. Sometimes they gave them the barracks, sometimes they didn’t, it wasn’t a problem.
Who was your investigator?
My investigator was Viktor Martini.
When were you arrested and where were you initially sent?
I was arrested on June 21, 1980, they took me to the “Vulnetari” cinema, coming from work, because I was working at the Brick Factory, they said. They had left an agent and told him: Go to the bar where you are supposed to drink a beer and we will take it there, let’s not take it from the street. I entered there and I was met by an Ndue Dema and some of these agents, about five or six. Mark Pezhani, was a policeman.
They jumped on my back like those eagles. “You are under arrest” – they put me inside. When I went to prison, they told me: “Did you find the enemy country? This is how we have it now; the rabbit himself comes in the cart”. Well, I told him, what have I done to you for enmity? Who did I knock down, who did I kill, who did I throw dynamite to, who did I shoot because I was an enemy? “We know what you said.” But why will you deal with my mouth?
For this war work you, what I have said, that I have said a word. I, too, am telling you a word so that you know it well (I hugged the children, that’s what I told them): Do any kind of investigation, ask what you want from me, since you took me here, I will say two words to them you know now…! ‘Neither have I loved you, nor will I ever love you’. Listen well to this word: ‘Neither have I loved you, nor will I ever love you’. Take my soul when you want and forget about those stinking investigators you make.
“It’s good that we will be here, they said so as your business”, he replied. Then they started after 9 months, they came every day, they came for two months, then they left again. Two months ago, when I went inside, they didn’t know what they were doing, so they left it to themselves. Some 4-5 men come at night, maybe 2 o’clock in the morning, I don’t know what time it was, and they told me:
“We are now coming from tourism; we ate some chicken, drank some beer and came to talk with you.” At a time when I had two months that I had never had enough of dry bread, dry bread, nothing else.
“We came to talk a little with you”, he tells me. Well, I told him, since you had eaten chicken, that’s what you call the whole night, beer and chicken that’s what you call it. I am also saying: You did well to come. I said one word now that you came to talk to me: Yes, it was about feelings, I have never loved you and I will never love you, have other conversations. “Who did you talk to”? They asked me. I have talked to everyone. With whom I loved, I talked.
“But who are they”? You never learn that. Do what you want with me, you have me here. “Finally, you son of a dog, you love the cobra,” they told me with all their ferocity. They came and two more times, they put me in one, Shkëlqim Lubonja, another investigator from Cologne was him. He left as chief investigator, and brought him back as an investigator. This also had a connection with these members of our tribe.
He told me: “You will be punished”. I know, I told him, that I will be punished, but why did you come here? Is there a man to release me from here? They take me to court. I’ve had as many provocations as you want, take out papers with blood from the investigation; notify the house about some talk, about anything. I was controlled by those dungeon spies, I was raped, bound, untied.
My soul knows what I went through during that period. However, what can you say…! It seems to me, when I tell these things, as if I am making fun of those who listen. The one who listens to them is pleased that they are so mean that they can’t get enough of us, not even a single thing. Here you have them all.
Are your interrogators and torturers alive today?
Yes, they are lawyers, they are at work, they are still in the state, and they work in the state without a problem. While we are nowhere. I have one here from Spaçi, I know it, and you also have it around here. Rifat Shkëmbi was the Chief of Staff of the department of that prison, who pretended to do boxing matches with the prisoners. He is in the municipality; he works without any kind of problem.
He is a big man, he has guards, I know what he does, I know he is around. No one tells them anything. These are supported by the state, because he does not go to work. We don’t say kill it, cut it, leave it on the street at least. Let the mason work, do what he wants. They don’t ask, they give him a post, they give him a place.
This is the worst in this country. Viktor Martini is a lawyer, from an investigator who used to curse: The enemy, the enemy, now he comes out and defends enemies, defends thieves, he is a lawyer, he wants money. All of them are now lawyers too, all of them who were investigators. What do you see from these lawyers, most of them were investigators?
Did your family come to see you in prison?
They were dragged in “Skoda”, in vehicles transporting pyrite, copper, get on and off. Even when they opened the shops to buy, they could not see them buy with their own money. They did not give him the thing to buy. Out all night, they didn’t tell him there was a shed outside…!? Calculate what the cold does in Spaç, in those mountains.
However, they sacrificed their bread, their pension, what they received, the few ALL. They knew how to collect them, they even came there. When they came there, they came with tears, they left with tears. They looked at our years that the years were running away. That when a person is 25 years old, 30 years old, 45 years old, how long is life, 100 years is life?!
What will these people do? This is what the mother thinks, to fix the children… She used to say: with hope is coming this year, I with hope is coming this year, but you didn’t come for a single year, you didn’t get out of prison. Until they broke their necks and what happened happened.
Has your little brother been in prison too?
He has also been in prison. He was accused of getting a weapon in the Krasta Branch, he was also put in prison, and they kept him for two years, that’s when the end came.
How did you experience the arrival of democracy?
For us it was a very big thing. I was in Saranda, in Saint Vasil. I had taken shelter there; I had been staying there for about 3 years. They had cut us off from the mountains here, because the mines, I don’t know what kind of winds came to them; they also blocked us in other camps. I was in Qafë Bari, and then they took me to Saranda, after the sentence I received.
I fled there, and I had been living there for 3 years. The officers were gentler, they knew how to communicate. The policemen were better; almost there and then they were forming a group, talking with us. When the 90s came, it was a big thing for us. It is not a small thing to wait for years, almost 50 years, to change an idol, to cut off an idol’s head, even if you don’t call it a thing. When I came out, I still remember it.
That day I went out, there was a tap near a shop; there were about 80 of us on the bus. On January 10, 1991, all the people who were at the club went out, what we drink, as these are the pleasures of the moment. I don’t know what God told me, I had some 2-3 thousand ALL that I had saved. While sitting, the crowd said to me: Let’s have a coffee, let’s have a glass of brandy.
Me to myself: How about brandy, where are we going now, you cuckoos who have nothing, men 37-38 years old, neither crafts, nor work, nor school, nor home, we had nothing. I only had my mother, she was sick, my sister said come to me, she said I don’t lock the house; I have three bags, because we were all three in prison.
I was looking like this; tears came out of me, in vain. They said to me: “What do you have, what do you have”? I said to him from my soul: Oh God, take my soul, just don’t leave me alone. When I came here without lights, a gloomy place, as if the shells of the world had fallen, I could not find my home.
After how many years in prison were you coming home?
After 11 years, I find my mother lying there, sick, she had become pelin. It had taken effect 5-6 hours before I came. It was the biggest dream, but the joys are very short. Man suffers a lot, but his joys are very short. When you look at it like that, it’s like you collect your mind and it doesn’t seem like anything… but it’s crazy to come after all those years, not knowing and having all those years to do.
If this did not happen, that dirty communist system fell, we would never have left. We started our work; everyone thought of doing something, because we had nothing at home, we didn’t even have women. We got into those jobs. God blessed us, we got down to our jobs, and we worked. We have reached now, to thank God for leaving us alive and well. Thank goodness we removed that stinky place. Memorie.al