By Halil Laze
Memorie.al / Halil Laze were born in Golem, Gjirokastra, on August 10, 1943. He graduated from the Faculty of History and Geography of the University of Tirana in 1965 and for several years worked in the military press in the newspaper “Luftëtari” and the magazine “July 10” bodies of the Ministry of National Defense. He was arrested in 1975, (after the attack on the so-called “Beqir Balluk’s coup group” began) and was sentenced to 8 years in political prison, being accused of “agitation and propaganda”, a sentence he mostly served in the Spaçi camp. With the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s, he re-engaged with print, making a major contribution to the press of the time. Likewise, after the 90s, he also wrote several books. Halil Laze passed away on August 31, 2001. The writing that we have selected and are publishing here is taken from his memoirs, where he tells about the period he was serving in Spaçi prison and the suffering of his only sister, who had a brother in prison, convicted as an “enemy of the people”, as well as the mystery of the murder of his stepfather, Sherif Zeneli, (brother of the ‘People’s Hero’, Asim Zeneli), former Chairman of the Executive Committee of the district of Gjirokastra), of who was killed in mysterious circumstances while hunting with his friends.
I fell asleep again. The old smell of half-expired medicines and the whiteness of white T-shirts almost always give you the feeling of sleep. Maybe remembering the hard days and nights in the dungeons of Kruja had tired me, and the eyelids, heavy from the sensations of a short time, had not resisted the temptation. Near my head I had my sister sitting on a bench.
– Have you been here for a while? – I asked him still not fully awake.
– I have some. I didn’t wake you up because you were a very heavy sleeper. You could barely breathe.
– I don’t have it from the disease, but from what I remember. It almost seemed to me that I was back in the dungeons of Kruja.
– Leave the memories, evil sister. You are sick at heart and those sad memories are not doing you any good.
The sister, as usual, spoke calmly and very firmly about what she said…!
When I was arrested, she was a student in the second year of the Faculty of History and Geography. My arrest was a very heavy blow for an orphan student, without any support in Tirana. Our father’s tribe was connected to the National Liberation War and none of them would “dare” to help a girl who was frank and smiling, but too proud to ask for forgiveness, when she had no reason to ask for her brother who had been arrested without even committing a crime.
I was constantly thinking about my sister in the dungeon, whether she would have the strength to continue her studies. This was a great and constant worry. It turned me into an anxiety that always kept me in suspense.
But in life there are not only bad and mean people. There are also good people. Very good.
Her friends and fellow students stayed very close to her and became the main causes, so that she did not become sad and weak, to the point of interrupting her studies. Even the lecturers, especially Vasil Naçi, were very kind to her and she managed to finish the faculty.
The news that came to me in prison, that Luti had finished the faculty, for me was really a very happy event, even though for my sister, after finishing her studies, the ordeal of suffering began.
They appointed her a teacher in a remote village in the Kruja district.
The very tiring way: on foot, in carts, in trucks, sometimes even in a taxi, it was nevertheless torture for a young girl, who was worried about what was happening to both of us, in a crazy time, which tended toward the absurd in everything. But she had to go. He had to face life and the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”.
The persecution of women by communist institutions is one of the darkest chapters of the Dictatorship; it is the reverse side of an ideological schizophrenia unparalleled in our land, perhaps in all times.
Our family had shed blood for Albania and we had to stand. She had to face life. To fight hard and survive. He had to work, to keep me in prison with a pack of cigarettes and a spoonful of sugar. We had to survive.
Now she sits by my hospital bed and with the eternal concern of sisters for brothers, worries and worries about my health, about my life…!
Life had brought her to have only me. For him, I was a brother, a father, and everything he lacked in life.
Unfortunately for her, when she was old enough to marry and start her own family, I was in Spaçi’s camp and she could not find a husband of the level of her requirements.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the class war had reached monstrous and extremely threatening proportions. Not even a boy with a good biography could make the fatal mistake of marrying the sister of a political prisoner. This was considered a great sin and was punished by the guardians of the “virginity” of the “class”.
So she stayed in an apartment in Tirana alone with her mother…!
During all the time we had spent together, I had tried to treat him as a friend, as a brother and as a little sister.
From my iniquities in high school, which was named after the ‘People’s Hero’ Asim Zeneli, her uncle (we were brothers with mother), she often, when I was taken out in front of the school to draw attention to me, or when my grade was broken behavior, he cried and sometimes he didn’t even eat bread, but he never told his mother and grandmother what had happened to me.
We grew up together with the thought and decision (unwritten) to help each other until the end of our lives.
I did the impossible, to get her away from the stone town of Gjirokastra (even though I loved her very much and to keep the most wonderful memories), to create the opportunity for my sister to continue her university at home (dormitory life for women it has been very difficult, a real hell) and to settle permanently in the capital.
I would never want her, in the city where her father had been Chairman of the Executive Committee, to find out that her father had been treacherously killed by his fellow workers and comrades in arms. She was too fragile to handle a drama of this magnitude.
I was very young when my mother married Sherif Zeneli, the elder brother of the ‘People’s Hero’ Asim Zeneli. He took me home and treated me as his own son (until then he had no children).
I remember that one fall or winter day, Enver Hoxha, “the most powerful man in Albania”, came to Gjirokastër, the man who commanded the party, the state, the army and the State Security.
The sheriff was not calm those days. He came home late and very upset. One night I heard a long argument with the Commander of the Gjirokastra Division, Riza Veip, who was sleeping next to my room. Rizai was a very wise and loving man. He loved and respected the Sheriff very much. During their argument, I heard the word COMMANDANT mentioned several times (Enver Hoxha was called Commander).
Rizai kept repeating:
– “You don’t talk to the Commander the way you do…”!
Not much time passed from that night and the Sheriff was killed, on a day when he had gone hunting (he had a passion) with his fellow killers.
His murder scene was truly a Shakespearean scene…!
They had set a typical communist trap for them, those who can kill their own mother and father, without shaking their hand, except to carry out the order of their bosses, that they too would be killed later, by order of the bosses of others and so on. Even the most prosperous fancies are poor pictures compared to what happened in that strange time, – an untimely time – I would call it. They hit him and abandoned him in the middle of the rain, forest and darkness…!
It is surprising, but from the end of the 70s, in the magazine of the Ministry of Internal Affairs “In the service of the people”, an article entitled “Murder or suicide” was published, which described in detail the murder of the Sheriff on the hunt, and shamelessly, the anonymous author lied, saying that he had accidentally killed a friend of his, and after careful examination and investigation (none of the murderers did the investigation), it was proved that the killing was completely unintentional .
Some former senior staff of the State Security, who also carried out the political torture in Spaç, explained to me that this whole masquerade was done to bring about a decision, according to which, after the publication of a murder, if if there were no objections and lawsuits, the case was closed and archived.
My fellow prisoners ordered me to keep my mouth shut, if I wanted to get out of Spaçi’s hell alive.
There, in the dark galleries of Spaçi, all those obstacles became clear to me, more than clear, all that malice and blind anger of the rulers towards our family.
It had always impressed me how it was possible for those stinking serviles, who trembled before even a simple committee clerk, to break my conduct grade and expel me from school for a few days, when they came home to visit me. all the leaders of the party and the state (with the exception of Mehmet Shehu, who had the Sheriff as a friend and direct subordinate).
Apart from the deceptive facade of holidays and official ceremonies, an icy coldness awaited our family everywhere; in all state offices and institutions, she felt bad, that such circumstances were created by the fanatic mercenaries of the province, of course, by special order from above.
The mother was left without a job.
Odysseus, sometimes appearing, sometimes hiding behind the scenes of an absurd theater. Memorie.al