The first part
Memorie.al / The story of Spiro Nasho, originally from the district of Saranda, former political prisoner, convicted three times by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Alia, starting from 1958, until December of the year 1990. In this first part of his interview, Spiro Nasho tells about the first conviction, when at the age of 17 he was arrested by the State Security bodies, after trying to escape by boat from the coast of Saranda, and the second conviction, when the prosecutor asked the Court to spare his life, to use it in labor camps. A story about the tiring work, the torture of the guards and the examples of manhood and bravery from many of his fellow sufferers in the camps and prisons of the dictatorial communist regime of Enver Hoxha, starting from the Castle of Gjirokastra, in Zvrnec to Kriporja in Narta of Vlora, Keneta of Thumana, under construction in Tirana, the Cement Factory in Elbasan, the Cement Factory in Fushë-Krujë, the Superphosphate Plant in Laç i Kurbin, the Copper Plant in Rubik, Spaçi, etc., where he served his sentence until the collapse of that system, in December ’90!
Mr. Spiro, when were you born and who was your family?
I was born on March 20, 1942 and my father was in France, a student. He has not done any political activity. I had an uncle. He got mixed up, he was with the English and in ’46, he escaped with all the other Albanians and fled to Italy.
After fleeing to Italy, he fled to Australia, where his uncle died, and the old man did not get involved in politics. He was polyglot, intellectual, but his father did not get involved in politics. You will say: How did I get this hatred against the system?
I was small, even in the family environment there was dissatisfaction, that our uncle had left us, a dissatisfaction with this system, with the injustices, they took our houses, they took our property and we had no way to be satisfied and I was born with the dissatisfaction in my soul that small.
At that time, I am talking about 1958, I entered prison, because in 1958 I entered prison for the first time. We listened to the “Voice of America”.
The “Free Albania” Committee was speaking at that time, the program for Albania. I also commented on this with others: “I heard this, this, this, says “Voice of America”, these are not true”.
Even for the Hungarian counter-revolution, humanity did not like communism, which was a vile, unjust, lying, ridiculous ideology.
I tried to escape to Greece, by boat, by tire, with chambermaids at that time. The wind blew us, the storm took us, and the wind blew us back to our shores, back to Albania. They caught us and sentenced me to 10 years in prison.
How do you remember the event and the moment when you were arrested?
It was night. They saw us, the border guards spotted us, surrounded us, caught us…!
Were you alone?
With another boy…!
How old were you at that time?
I was 17 years old then.
What year is it about?
It was May 17, 1958.
What happened after you were arrested?
They took me, arrested me, kept us for three days in Saranda and took us to Gjirokastra District. Saranda then depended on the District of Gjirokastra. There in the district of Gjirokastra, I spent 8 months in the dungeon, in the Castle of Gjirokastra, I was a child, eight months in the Castle of Gjirokastra, and I was sentenced by the Military Court of Gjirokastra to 10 years in prison, at that time.
Who was the investigator?
A Zenel Qato.
How was your investigation?
Branch Chairman, we had Major General Halim Xhelon, the one who finally fell victim to Enver Hoxha, fell in because he was no longer needed, he had to be sacrificed. He was head of the branch in Gjirokastra then. The investigation…! What could they do with a small child, who did not know where he entered the prison, not where he came out, he did not know the prison door…!
What did such a long period of investigation require of you?
They asked that there was no connection with the uncle, that he had not come, or with anyone else for me to meet. He was far away, he was in Australia, not even in America, and he had fled to Australia.
Like all other Albanians. Political emigration at that time fled to Australia, fled from Italy, went to America. From America a part of them went to Australia. He stayed there.
When were you convicted?
That same year, in 1958, I was convicted, from December 1958.
What was the indictment?
“Treason against the motherland” and I was sentenced to 10 years in political prison. Then, the article of that time said that the biggest crime that a citizen can commit is treason against the motherland.
After you received the sentence, where were you sent?
After that, they send us to the camp in Thumana, for reclamation. We work there for a year or two, in the fields of Thumana, which ate our souls. After that, we come to construction. We work for two or three years in construction in Tirana.
Even after 5 years and 3 months in prison, because there were amnesties, I got out of prison. Five years and three months, the first time of the 10-year-old. I came out in ’63. In 1966, I tried to flee abroad again, that is, to escape. I get caught, I get caught with treachery.
I will also be court-martialed. Again, the Military Court stated that the articles of escape were always transferred to a political article, not a civil article. That the second time I had an attempt to escape and possession of a weapon without a permit. They even told me…!
Now I will talk about the answers. “Defendant, what did you want to do with these weapons?” I told the prosecutor: “Don’t say too much, I told the investigator.” “No, no, say it here, for the people to hear.” “Do you really want it, I told him, for the people to hear?” “Yes”. “To kill the Albanian communists”.
Then all the people started shouting: “Kill him, kill him! Revenge, revenge”! The entire cinema, because I was tried in the cinema, popular. Open trial, among the people. “Kill them, kill them!
Don’t let this live. Revenge! Revenge”, shouted all the people. This is not me who speaks, an entire people, an entire Saranda, is a witness.
“Kill him, revenge”! Now, the prosecutor who sought the death claim, suggested to the court: “Please, he said, I will give you a piece of advice, don’t kill him – he said – because he is young, he will work diligently for us”.
The prosecutor told him. The prosecutor told the court: “Don’t shoot him, because he will work diligently, he is young, and he will work diligently for us.” This was the reason that I remained alive, without being killed by them.
How many years were you sentenced?
25 years in political prison.
This was the year…?
It was 1966.
After you received the punishment, which camps did you go to?
After receiving the sentence, we stayed in Zvrnec of Vlora, in the drying up of the Narta lake channel. On the embankment there, we worked in very difficult conditions, between mud and mortar. A living horror.
How many prisoners could there be in that camp?
There were over 700 people.
How were the sleeping conditions?
Sleeping conditions…! They had brought us some blankets from the ones they had taken from abroad, given to them by the Russians, so you could take them like this, look at them, transparent, and look from one corner to the other. That they had brought, that they had left, and they had brought the Russian waste from them, then.
How was the food?
Like an animal, like an animal.
You worked all day on the canal?
All day on the channel. I will tell you a story…! He was an old man, Ndue Bajraktari from Kaçinari i Mirdita. This one is repatriated. He had been in trouble with his brother, Mark.
They run away, escape to Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs throw them into Albania as a diversion. They bring this old man. They give tracts to Yugoslavs who speak against Albania, not against communism, but against Albania.
He says to the capo Banda, the president: We have come out against communism, we have not come out against Albania, because we are Albanians, we are not Yugoslavs, we are selling the country. We came out against communism. There he kills the head of the Titograd Branch at that time, he killed him.
They take and shoot this chairman, and another one, this one’s brother; they sentence him to 20 years in prison in Yugoslavia. Finished prison in Yugoslavia. “I go out on my own in Belgrade. When I looked, they were following me behind”, he said. They followed him; they would kill this one too.
“I saw what I saw, I went to the American Embassy”, he said. They told him: “Get out, because you were a fascist!” “I was not a fascist”, he said. “You were a fascist, that is, you were with Gjon Markagjoni”, they told him. “I was not a fascist,” he said.
He took it out, he didn’t accept it. He went to the American Embassy. And the American Embassy refused to hold it. Go to the Albanian Embassy. They tell him: “If you return to Albania, you are sentenced to death by the Military Court of Tirana, you are sentenced to death, if you return to Albania, and you will be shot.”
He said: “To go to Albania and be shot”. Anyway…! This person comes to Albania. The decision of the Court is taken, it stands, with death, but they said: You will be forgiven the death penalty, for the anti-Slavic attitude you have taken”.
The court says, his life is spared. His life is spared; he comes to Zvrnec now, to Vlora, to the camp, to us. A 60 year old man, what could be expected from him. We also had it, we worked. We were young boys.
I worked with a certain Mersin Habil from the Habilaj and Ramë Habil of Kavaja, also a boy from Korça, Skënder Imeri. We worked with these. This commissar jumps and says to this old man: Why is he not working? I will break this stick on your head!
Who was the commissioner?
It was a Kiço Gjonçi, shepherd, brother. He comes to him with a stick in his hand and says threateningly: “I will break this stick on his head; I will break it into 400 pieces”. At this time, we grabbed the three ropes, we said: “Commissioner, don’t tell the old man that we are going to grind now.
We’re going to make 400 bales now. Don’t tell the old man! What do you want from the old man? The rate? We will give the norm, we will make the norm.
This old man said: “Guys, be honest with me, he said, because I have accused that the men of Albania have died, there are no such men”. These are his words.
“Uncle Ndue,” I said, “we have had the rope here in the mouth for 18 years, look what we are doing for you?” We are making everyone die for you”! That old man was then later released, finished his prison term and was released. Memorie.al
The next issue follows