By Nuredin Borici
Memorie.al / Nuredin Boriçi was born in the city of Fier, in 1945. He graduated from the Higher Pedagogical Institute, Faculty of Language and Literature and worked for many years as a teacher in the city of Fier. In 1977, he was arrested by the State Security and sentenced to 6 years in political prison, accused of “agitation and propaganda against popular power”. After the collapse of the communist regime after the 90s, Boriçi published eight books with memories from the period of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Ali, where they focus on the crimes of that regime and the suffering he and his co-sufferers went to prisons and forced labor camps, until 1990. Among them we are mentioning: “Prison Elders”; “It is time to die”; “Longing for the clean earth” and “Olives of Hekal”. The text that we have selected for publication here is taken from the book “Prison Elders”.
PRISONED ELDERLY, THE SHAME OF THE DICTATORSHIP
In the prisons of Albania, the condemned elders were dragged through the cold silos during the winter or in the suffocating air during the hot summer. Those wrinkled faces were really creepy, leaving children, grandchildren and the stones of the house, from the road, from the mountain in front of the window, from longing for a poplar tree somewhere far away…!
These old men could have been rich merchants (whose gold was also stolen), intellectuals of the Korça High School, participants in the war against fascism and later ministers or ambassadors, veterinarians who had studied in Western countries, priests, monks, shehlers, some of whom suffered since 1944, others from 1968 onwards, when religious institutions were hit.
Sick, wise old men, nervous, tired old men, for whom mercy would be most urgent. However they are now gone. In the prison of Ballshi, in 1980, inmate 9 rounded up the oldest. Well, it was a nursing home. Here are some of them: Mykerem Janina 92 year’s old, Zef Malaj 80 year’s old, Mikel Koliqi 80 year’s old, Shemsi Totozani 75 years old, Qemal Gega 70 years old, Miço Konomi 75 years old, Thoma Plasa 70 years old, Gaqo Peci 60 years old, etc.
Through the prisons of Albania for three decades, doctor Dhimitër Konomi (or doctor Miço, as the convicts called him), served with pain for the patients, who remember him in every corner of the country with respect and consideration. Suffice it to say that many of these, left alone in the long prison, swore “for the doctor’s head”.
He spent years in the prisons of Elbasan, Vlora, Laçi, Përparimi, Ballši, Zejmeni, where in addition to his sufferings, with a sense of deep humanity, he checked on the sick, their bodies exhausted from work, hunger, accidents.
Only the prisoners know how devotedly Dr. Miçoja worked, regardless of whether he was a war general or a deposed minister, a farmer or a shepherd. For that, everyone was equal. On one occasion in Ballsh, while talking with him, I asked him to pay a visit to Dashnor Mamaqi, who was not feeling well. Answer me:
– “I will come, but first accompany me, please, until you turn seven, because there a shepherd from Korça has asked me to respect the queue, the man…”!
– “Enver Hoxha is a dog”, shouted a crazy old man sentenced to 20 years in prison. “Enver Hoxha robbed Labëria of prisons”! And the drool hung like glue.
Mykerem Janina, at the age of 90, was put in the prison of Ballshi, accused of agitation and propaganda. His crime was great culture (he knew old Ottoman-Turkish like no one else, had correspondence in the 70s with Azis Nesi, and his father, who had been rector at the University of Istanbul, knew Islam like no one else), but the fault was also the spiritual love at this age for a young woman…!
There were many elderly people in silo 3. Among these is the son of the prominent revivalist Sotir Peci, one of Fan Noli’s collaborators in the USA. Professor Korçar was convicted together with two other intellectuals, among them the painter Vangjush Tushi. I once had a conversation with him:
– For the teaching process, – he asked me, – have you been accused? Because to me, he continued, they mentioned “the goat of Mr. Sega”. Have you read that novel about the goat that wanted to be free? Well, the investigator told me that my allusion was clear: The separation of Albania from the herd of the socialist camp would result in the end of the goat in the wolf’s mouth.
Thoma Plasa, one of the richest merchants of Korça, doctor, pathologist. He spends his old age in Ballsh prison. With nostalgia he remembered the gold that the dictatorship stole from him, he remembered Bologna where he studied, he remembered his Italian friend, the singer Renato Rasha, with whom he gambled in Italy in 1936, and he remembered Ana Manjani, with whom he had an intimate relationship. He just remembered… then with the aluminum tray, we would approach the kitchen counter together.
Zef Mala, 80 years old, the leader of the Communist Group of Shkodra, completely blinded, was moving slowly in the prison yard holding hands with another convict, the angry Kola…! Lived in the dark!
An ancient proverb says: “A man begins to enjoy a little just when his eyes leave him.” Zef Mala, in his youth, believed in the bright dream of communism, although very soon, since he was young, he suffered disappointment in his ideals. Surely in this prison, old, blind, he felt remorse.
Mikel Koliqi, the brother of the writer Ernest Koliqi, moved slowly in the prison yard. His square face with noble eyes, where justified hatred, under these circumstances, never took place, was a symbol of patience and kindness. He was a good connoisseur of classical music, an excellent polyglot, connoisseur of Albanian literature until ’44. He spent all the years of the communist regime in exile and in prisons.
I cannot leave without mentioning the religious elders, who, condemned for the sole reason that they opposed the removal or demolition of religious institutions, with admirable patience, suffered the last days in the prisons of the dictatorship. I was talking with one of them, Sheh from Tepelena, who slept next to me, and he told me: “I also supported the Anti-Fascist War, I fought with partisan detachments; but in 1968, I opposed the demolition of the teke, I did not approve the directives from above, that’s why I was imprisoned”.
Kasem Trebeshina, dissident writer, spent all his years in Albanian prisons, where cultural personalities were insulted in the most barbaric way. In the summer of 1981, the writer Trebeshina in the prison of Ballshi, takes a chilling decision; own is annihilated. He has announced a hunger strike. We try to convince him…!
But in vain: “I want to stop being… I’m tired”, as if his eyes spoke because, after so many days of hunger strike, he didn’t have the strength to speak. The virtuoso guitarist Mehdi Prodani, and other intellectuals, finally manage to save Kasem, helping him with serums etc…! Thus the invincible souls of the opponents of the dictatorship were terrorized.
In front of me in silo 3, the professor of Marxism, Arif Gashi, was sleeping, in front of whom in 1966, at the Institute of Shkodra, I took the Marxism exam. Arif Gashi had studied in Moscow. Even in prison, he did not take the book out of his hands. Except now he was reading Tolstoy. But also Marx.
– Dear professor, – I told him on one occasion, – Western sociologists say that Marx’s fatal mistake lies in the fact that he built a doctrine about man, without first knowing him… MAN!
– Communism buried itself at that moment when the sarcophagus with Lenin’s corpse, in 1924, created the myth, created the superman…! How can I explain it – and he continued the lecture, reminding me of the audience at the Pedagogical Institute of Shkodra, where he was so communicative and humane.
So, creating the myth of Lenin, the superman of Nietzsche, communism killed itself, – he finished the lecture, in front of a former student of his, in the same prison. Professor Arif Gashi had read in Russian and knew very well the great philosopher “rival” of Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche.
Then I reminded him that the reason why he was imprisoned could have been that exam thesis, to which I answered full of emotion, entitled “Talk about Stalin’s mistakes” in 1966. The professor had given us a 5 page lecture on Stalin’s mistakes clarified in 13 points. A lot, right?!
One of the elders of the silo told in one case about the macabre murder of Hysni Lepenica, this outstanding figure of Albanian patriotism. He blamed the communists, who, according to him, got along with the Italian command of the garrison in Gërhot of Gjirokastra, where 32 prominent nationalist men were annihilated.
Later, he said, the State Security imprisoned Hysni Lepenica’s son, also stealing valuable documents, Lepenica’s correspondence with Fan Noli, with Avni Rustem and other famous figures, as well as many photos with museum value.
These old people were the memory of the nation, or rather, they knew the pure truths, and therefore they should be isolated in order not to spread the light of truth. Maybe that’s why the son of Sotir Peci, Fan Noli’s collaborator, the professor of French in Korça, Gaqo Peci, who had many documents and the etymology of several thousand Albanian words created by his father, as well as Sotir Peci’s correspondence, was also arrested. , to this outstanding renaissance, with other scholars.
In totalitarian regimes, oblivion is in favor of the longevity of the obscurantist regime, which, in our case, was Enver Hoxha’s communism.
Horror. It’s winter, 15 degrees below zero. Spaç ’78, the camp on appeal…! A thin, bony boy, as if he were a Christ made of paraffin, or a work of art made of glass, with his right hand placed on the part of his face where the frozen palm with outstretched fingers forms a dividing wall for eyes closed in the dark recesses: Aristotle, a smart boy from the Gjirokastra high school, one of the three boys arrested in 1974, as guilty of the tracts they distributed against the dictatorship; this Aristotle, maddened by torture, hunger, cold, loses his reason.
He no longer sleeps, he moves aimlessly, inside the wires, sometimes naked on the snow he made movements, which are convections that can only be deciphered by the prisoners who look at him in pain…! With the frozen palm of his hand, he seems to divide the universe into two parts. Good and bad, crazy Aristotle, made this division as if he were doing it to the cold space, to the light that came from the little sky in that dungeon…!
As if this glass Christ reprimanded the creator: “Oh God, why did you turn me around in this cold pit”?! After a few days, the forces left him. Lying on the bed next to the glass in Spaçi’s infirmary, he lives his last moments. I wanted to see Aristotle in his agony. I was hoping in vain that he would get up…! His face frozen, lifeless; left a message in my soul: Don’t forget!
Aristotle died. His friend Kosta Qiriakos, with frightened eyes, with tight lips, says that he is also waiting for his turn to enter beyond the gate of madness, many prisoners approach him, and they comfort him. I also approach him; shivering not from the cold, but from his eyes that cry out: “Help me… I’m going crazy”! Memorie.al