By Vangjush Gambeta
– The rare testimony of the well-known former journalist of the “Zëri i Populli” newspaper, who was interned in the villages of Mat district in 1975, where he worked in agriculture, until the collapse of the communist regime.
Memorie.al / I left the office and headed to the dental clinic, next to the Journalists’ Club. Since I was leaving to go to the meeting, I told my friend to wait for me right there, not at the Journalists’ Club, where we often left the meeting. – No! Not in the Club of Journalists! -Why? – From the first meeting, everyone avoids meeting me in places where there are other people. Nobody likes witnesses. They are right, they hurt themselves and me: “Why did you meet him?”, “What did you say to him?”, “What did he say to you?” The vigilance mechanism starts to work to “detect” the enemies…!
Continues from last issue
– “The war reaped the brave, while after the liberation, the dictatorship put the rabbit in people’s stomachs”!-
Paolo left me a silver plate as a memory, with his name of …………… Even “Godete fanciulli” remained with me. But a year ago, in my backyard, Paolo brought his rocking horse, which was our most beloved toy. One night I forgot the horse in the yard, and a torrential rain, as sometimes happens in summer, ruined the beautiful cardboard horse. And I cried, as Artani cried, when the fire consumed the book “Godete fanciulli”.
-If you had Paolo’s cake today…!
That was a slap in the face for me. It seemed to me that my son said to me: “Coward”! Artan was not a coward, not because he was brave, but because he did not know fear, he was small, born and raised not in those environments, where his peers had taught him the words “prison” and “internment” since they drank their mother’s breast.
About forty years had passed since that cursed storm had ruined the beautiful village. Then the war began. Then came peace. But what peace? Who had the courage to try to connect with a dear childhood friend, when that friend was a stranger?
To fall in war, hit in the chest, is bravery, but to fall in vain, under the fantastic accusation that “you educate the boy with foreign books, that you have cabbage on your head”, or, even worse, “It was proved that the accused has was an agent of SIM, the war interrupted his criminal activity and after the war he tried to restore his old connections”.
Such phrases, used in so many trials, had made men wiser. And I wasn’t stupid to not be afraid…! Thinking this, I noticed that the fire had been extinguished; the “enemy” books had been burned.
– Where did Artani go? – I asked when I didn’t see the boy nearby.
-It is in the other room, Violeta told me.
Artani immediately entered the kitchen. In his left hand he held a silver plate and in his rights a nail.
– What about this, dad, scratch it so the name can’t be read?
Artan had become a man within a few days. I realized that it was no longer necessary to talk to my son “about everything” the next day, as I promised him.
– Scratch son! – I told him, and I felt a deep scratch in my heart.
We were at the peak of the corn planting campaign. At five o’clock in the morning, the brigadier divided the duties.
– You, Ali, – addressed the brigadier penman, – take the pen of the oxen and plant that plot under the road, above Dojat. Small, but it’s a good piece. There is also croin nearby.
– Who will throw my seed?
The Brigadier glanced at me.
– Take Vangjushin, – he said, – he has never planted corn, but he will learn. I’ll explain to you how the seed is thrown; it’s not a difficult job.
He again directed his gaze at me, watching me intently for a few moments. He didn’t say anything to me, but I felt that he wanted to tell me: “It’s easy work.” You will get used to it. You have nothing to do with them”.
All I knew about Ali was that he is a good pendar, silent and a great worker. But I had never had the chance to exchange two words with him. In general, he was silent. At brigade meetings and during work, he spoke rarely, briefly and only about work.
When the brigade began to disperse, I headed for the brigade warehouse to get the corn seed. I met Ismail Qerimin, who I knew well, to do a piece of road.
– What kind of man is this Ali? – I asked her. – He seems cold, unsociable to me. Words are very expensive.
– Eh! You will work with him for a few days and you will get to know him. He is a very good man. The best pendar of the cooperative. He works hard and talks little. His words are really expensive, because precisely for a few words that he uttered without control, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. Parvjet came out. But don’t ask him about the past, because he doesn’t like to remember it…!
I returned with the bag of corn to Dodaj’s fields. Meanwhile, Ali had also arrived with the pen of the oxen. He explained to me how I had to walk behind the pen of the oxen and how many grains of corn I had to throw in the funnel and at what distance.
We started. I listened in amazement to how Ali communicated with the ox pen. He shouted some words that were completely incomprehensible to me. It was a professional jargon, apparently, but Kuqua, an old ox, understood it very well and meticulously followed the “orders” that Ali gave him. But that was not the case with Balo, the young bull, who sometimes tried to avoid the bull.
Why did Ali choose Kuqo and Balo today, an old man and a young man, to fly them in the same feather?
I asked this question to Ali. He thought for a few moments, and then said:
– Kuqua works well, but he is old, his strength has left him. If you sharpen the two old ones, the norm is not realized. And the young man, do you see how his skin shines? He is strong, but he doesn’t know how to pull the plow, he wants to wander, he comes out of the gutter, and the work has no quality. Therefore it must be learned. And he learns by basking in a feather with the old one, to learn to walk straight in the hole, and not to deviate sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right.
This was the first conversation I had with Ali, when he ordered us to take a rest that the oxen must rest and eat. But for both Ali and me, the time had come to fill our pipes.
He plowed the oxen to the side of the field, near a bunch of alfalfa, which he had brought himself when he came from the stable. He divided the alfalfa into two parts, placed them ten meters apart. In one he approached Kuqo, in the other Balon.
– Why did you separate them? – I asked Ali.
– He must be taught not only to work, but also to eat. Notice.
For every redneck of Red, Balua is rednecked three times. He is young, he doesn’t know how to measure, and he leaves the old man without eating.
Kuqua today, with the new Balo, has a hard time, he gets more tired, and he must be full. I saw Balo’s appetite, so I shared them…! They should not eat in a mahogany. Because the ox has no mouth to speak and complain, but we must understand his plight.
Ali spoke thoughtfully, in short phrases. He paused after each phrase. But he did not take his eyes off them, once on one and then on the other.
– You, Ali, are strange. It’s like you talk to them…
– I don’t talk, no! I told you, the ox has no mouth to speak, but he understands, he is a wise animal…!
– Instinct, – I wanted to correct him.
– What? The instinct? What is this?
– It is the inherited ability of animals to act in a certain direction unconsciously. This is how science explains it.
– Not instinct, no, but mind! – Ali strongly opposed me. – That you science, my friend, when you don’t understand something yourself, you give it an incomprehensible, confused name, to confuse us too. The ox’s eyes and ears work, he feels hunger, but he is also afraid. He sees that he is led from hole to hole. At the top and bottom of each funnel you hear “left!” and “right”!
Once, a hundred times, a thousand times and you gain experience. He understands that you put a yoke on him; he has to do these things. He understands that if he works well, they will give him more food. But there is also fear, that otherwise… – and he put his hand on his beak, which he always carried with him, with the tail tucked into his belt. – He also understands when and why he is punished. And you call me sitinki…!
The old man understands these things better than the young man. Why? That he has experience. But how is experience gained, by mind or by sitting?
Ali’s voice was a little harsh. He was scolding me for questioning the wisdom of the ox. He did not allow anyone to underestimate the ox. He had tied his life to this working animal.
Ali was silent and began to fill the second pipe. He now realized that in defending the bull, he spoke to me in a harsh, almost angry voice. And to soften this impression, he threw the tobacco bag at me:
– Fill one of this strong. It’s good.
He looked away and was staring at them, as if he wanted to say: “Well, did I protect you well? That we humans are arrogant, that’s why we underestimate you”. He seemed affected that I called these animals, to which he has become so strongly attached, foolish. Kuqua raised his head, directed his eyes at Ali, his eyes bright, as if painted with varnish. Was he thanking him, or was he waiting for an order?
– Let’s go! – ordered Ali.
But as soon as he was yoked to work, Balua, having been satiated and rested, revived and began at once. Instead of walking straight, he sometimes turned left and sometimes right, in an effort to break away from Kuqua, to free himself from the yoke and wander as he pleased. Kuqua sometimes walked straight, sometimes he followed Balo’s whim… or maybe he couldn’t handle his attractive force?
Balua wanted to go back to alfalfa. Ali insulted him and threatened him. But Balua didn’t ask! He was not afraid.
– Did you get the fear of the cow with experience? – I laughed.
– Do not laugh! – Ali threatened me, – because he told a great truth.
Old people know fear well than young people!
Ali got angry. He stopped, took out his beak from his belt and hit both Kuqon and Balon twice in the ribs. Balua lowered his head until his lower jaw touched the ground. The blow to the ribs caused severe pain to the ox. Kuqua also lowered his head, but directed his eyes at Ali, his eyes bright, as if painted with varnish.
Then he closed them a little, and they now looked brighter, juicier, as if the varnish had not yet dried. Are those wise eyes watering? With that look, he was asking Ali for mercy and it seemed as if he was saying: “What about me?”?!
I don’t know how this question came to me, maybe because I felt Kuqo’s pain and understood his wisdom. That’s why I said to Ali, not without regret:
– What happened to him?
– He is more to blame! Not to withdraw from Balua, but to direct it! Do not forgive him any sloppiness. Otherwise Balua will be taught badly!
– There is no fault. He cannot handle his own strength. He tried, but he couldn’t. He is old. Sin! Look at the head. Look how he is talking to you with his wise eyes. You told me that the ox has a mind, but then it must be accepted that it also has feelings. Yes, he has the right to be affected by an injustice.
Ali was stunned. He took out his pipe and ordered:
– Bring the tobacco bag!
I realized that he was addressing me, although his eyes were on Kuqua. But his voice seemed sad to me now, not like usual when he ordered me to “Rest”! Or “Let’s start”!
He filled his pipe without taking his eyes off Red. Apparently, he regretted beating him. Apparently, it was remembered that this planting campaign was probably the last for Kuqo. But maybe also for Ali? That he too was on the verge of retirement.
Ali’s bronze face changed, it took on the color of red marble. He was feeling ashamed and angry at the same time. Rage against himself for beating him, shame from Kuqua himself, who with tearful eyes submitted to fate.
– To know the value of the ox, they didn’t slaughter it, – said Ali in a low voice, as if talking to himself. – He works and enslaves himself all his life and, when his strength is exhausted, he is slaughtered. Balua will take his place. But even this one’s day will come…! Both are wise. But neither can do without the other. Both are wise, but I don’t know if they are wise enough to understand that both must be yoked to the same yoke…!
The secretary of the party entered the office and, addressing me loudly so that the accountant could hear, said:
– Inform everyone in the administration to gather at 11 o’clock at the elementary school yard, that we have a very important meeting.
The accountant asked him:
– Why is this meeting?
– You rest! – answered the secretary firmly, but with a tight lip. – As if you don’t know! The whole village is talking about this and you didn’t hear about it. – And then turning to me again,
– We will take a stand for Hajriu, because the young man is not comfortable…!
– What is he talking about?
– He is an old man without school, who does not know how to hide his thoughts.
He says what is on his mind openly. These do not disrupt our work, they are not enemies. The enemy hides his thoughts, he does not say them openly, but secretly, – the secretary interrupted me as if jokingly, but not without a sting. – Why, you also blame Hajri?
That’s it. And left the office, as always in a hurry, because it was very busy.
– How did we not once have an insignificant meeting! All meetings are very important to us… – the accountant told me laughing.
The whole village is talking about this and I don’t know anything? – I asked myself.
– How is it, Zenepe? – I asked the accountant.
– Eww! They have nothing to deal with either! They will unmask Hajriu. You know that old man whose house is next to mine? They have reported that he expressed dissatisfaction with the government. They say they will take away his Front card. The desolate Hajri!
Hajriu, the wise old man who prayed to God five times a day secretly to others, even secretly to his sons, but whom everyone knew, was a great believer. So honest and not mischievous, that any young man would even make some excessive jokes with him.
Once, one of Kazdeday’s sons, a breadwinner from the sector that distributed bread to the neighborhoods of Mersjani and Hoxhaj, met Hajriu at the bakery, waiting for the first bread of the morning to come out. That those from Lagje e Keke, had the oven nearby and would come by themselves to get the bread. Hajriu was waiting in line to receive the ration of daily bread, convinced that this is what Allah had ordered!
The son of Kazdedai put his arm around Hajri, moved him a little away from the line, so that others would not hear, and said:
– Tonight I saw you in a dream. You were dressed in a new coat, with a green turban on your head and, carried up from the sky, you heard the voice of Muhammad, and peace be upon him, which I also heard. He said: “Shaqiri is building a new house. Bless his house so that it does not fall for a hundred years”!
Hajriu believed him. After being a holy man, while Muhammad a.s. he was charging him with a divine duty! In the afternoon, when it started to get dark, when the two ustallars had left, he went to Shaqiri’s place, saw the house that was being built around him, something spoke to him. Shaqiri, who was coming home from the stable of the first brigade, saw him and thought that he had come to congratulate him on the occasion of the beginning of the construction of the house, as is the custom in the village, he welcomed him, they drank the occasional coffee and parted ways .
Well, what harm could this old man bring to the government?
– Why was he unhappy, when the party had given his two sons secondary school, put them to work, one a teacher and the other a seller, when both of them had earned the respect of the whole village with their good work?
– The job is not there, – the accountant interrupted me. – Really, uncle Hajriu sometimes lets out a word without control, but without harm. He has been like that all his life. Why did they remember today…! Eh, you don’t know?
Do you remember when on the eve of the New Year, an authorization for television came from the district? According to the order, it belonged to Hajri, because the big ones had taken it before. And the village was not against. But Filani said that the TV belonged to him and who knows what he has invented against the desolate Hajri.
– Okay, but Hajriu took the TV…?!
– Here’s the thing, that Filani got angry that the organization didn’t give it to him and who knows what, to then accuse the organization of giving authorization to the “enemy”.
– Are you saying they will take away his Front card?
– Let’s see. I have heard that the party secretary will defend him…! Memorie.al
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