By Najada Pendavinji
Memorie.al / Marjana Plasoti Rondo, was only 2 years old when the communist dictatorship threw down the claws of terror by setting up the punishment system. It was 1945 when her father Nikola Plasoti escaped alone from Albania to Greece, never to return. She suffered the consequences of this escape together with her mother Jorgjeta Bacu, who experienced endless persecution in the camps of communist Albania. Their lives went between divisions and unions where darkness and injustice prevailed. Marjana Plasoti Rondo has suffered the persecution system since 1961, while studying at the Pedagogical School; she was interned in the Mamurras camp and was released after 30 years in 1988. Today she is 77 years old, even though more than 30 years have passed since the system savage communist in her mind and soul, the bitter past still remains and she still suffers the consequences today, as she has not been able to reclaim her house occupied by a former communist branch officer.
Ms. Marjana, what is the origin of the family and how did your persecution begin?
I was born in Korça in 1943. I am the daughter of Jorgjeta Bacu and Nikolla Plasoti, with the label “Kulina”. In the years 1940-1943, my father was part of the National Liberation War together with Rita Marko, as a partisan with the ideal of freedom and the defense of the homeland. He came from a family of merchants who also had trade relations with other countries such as Italy where they traded cattle, which grew up in Boboshtica.
But the year 1945 came, the communist regime was established. A savage, merciless regime which brought spiritual and material poverty everywhere. An extraordinary tax was applied against merchants, from which even my father did not escape. For this reason, he took a possibly ill-considered action, due to the consequences we would have. Order behind a perfect future, leaving behind a vulnerable past and present, under communist vengeance. He escaped alone, taking 600 sheep and a sum of money, to go to Greece.
He managed to cross the border without returning to Albania. At that time, my mother was only 22 years old, abandoned by her husband, with a small child in her arms. While the grandfather, Thoma Plasoti, was in Italy and one of the uncles was a tenor in Tirana. The entire Plasoti family was faced with the unexpected and frightening thing that would come from the communist terror. Immediately after my father’s escape, they confiscated our property, took us out of the house, to shelter us in the stables. A little later they separate us.
Where the grandfather, grandmother and uncles were interned in Savër in Lushnja. As for me and my mother, they take us to Kruja. During this time, we commonly lived with fear, insecurity, infidelity, betrayal, crime, where there was a danger to life at every moment. I was only 2 years old, when I was called “the child of an enemy of the people, an unforgivable traitor and dangerous for Albanian society”. For communism, we would be the most oppressed, despised and exploited part of society, where we would always be controlled and surrounded by spies.
What was life like as a child growing up in exile?
Being born, growing up and living in a communist country were very difficult, especially when you belonged to the declassified class. I grew up far from my hometown, far from home, but close to my mother, for almost 3 years in another country, in an internment camp, such as Kruja. Kruja was a camp surrounded by barbed wire, guarded on all four sides by armed guards. Here there were exiles from all over Albania, even Germans, who had been captured during the war.
In this camp there was all-round misery, ragged internees, where it resembled the appearance of an abandoned Orphanage and Nursing Home. No one could understand the hostility and hatred that this regime had towards defenseless creatures like us children. In 1948, an epidemic spread here that caused many deaths, affecting only children. On one of the days, a representative of the Ministry of the Interior comes to the camp.
We children at that moment were playing with that innocent childish world of ours. Stops our game. He looks at us and orders us children who were around to leave the camp. And so it happened. I was only 5 years old when my maternal grandfather came and took me. It was the first time I was separated from my mother. She stayed another 5 years in Kruja. During this time, I almost forgot my mother’s face and became very attached to my grandmother, who was raising me with so much care, dedication, and love.
I could feel exactly the scent of a mother in her. On Easter night, the mother is released. The longing he had for me was very mournful. Her eyes were sad but sparkled when she saw me. I just looked at him but did not approach him. Her tears did not stop. She took me close to her, kissed my hands, eyes, forehead, I couldn’t get enough of my scent, and she held me tight to her heart. A mother’s love for her child is irreplaceable; you will always be in her mind, soul and prayers.
No system, even the wildest, can alienate this love. During this time, we have lived both near and far from our home. After communism took our house, putting other people there, and we took shelter in the garden near the house, where there was only one old room, which we call “ashef”. It was a small place, but one that had love inside.
When were you interned next?
Years passed, but communism still hadn’t settled its accounts with us. He could not leave the wife and daughter of “Kulina” alone, whom they definitely wanted to find and shoot. It was 1961; I was continuing my studies at the Pedagogical school. I was a sports fan, I played basketball, and I was part of the girls’ team of the “Skënderbey” team in Korça. On one of the days, the “Jeep” of the Interior Branch comes to the school.
The Head of the Branch enters the lesson, where we were developing the physics subject, and interrupts it, with a voice so terrifying that we all got scared. Call my name: “Marjana Plasoti”! I stand up. He raises his voice even more and says: “You must come with us…”! I don’t know why I felt we had a long ordeal of suffering ahead of us. I don’t know where my fault was?! What crime had I committed?!
I was simply the daughter of a father whom I had never been close to, or even known. But to others, I was the daughter of a criminal, very dangerous. All the students of the school walked out, there was a great commotion and the lesson was closed. On the other hand, the Security had notified my mother, to collect the spoils, that we were going somewhere else.
They take both of us first to the old prison in Korça, where we stayed for two weeks, and from here they transfer us back to Kruja. We were accommodated in the house of a martyr, where we were of course checked every second and minute by the Security. We had no support, no one to help us, but we only had each other. When my mother finished work, we would both sit on a bench and think about what we were going through.
Tears were the emptying of a soul full of pain. We cried for hours, until my mother told me that: “With faith in God, it will pass and you will have a clean, beautiful life just like your face and soul.” We got up and followed the flow of life; it was enough for us to be the two of us. Until there came a moment where the mother was taken from the Ministry of the Interior and taken to Tirana.
They ask her to write a letter to her father, which should be sent by her man, so supposedly one of her brothers. The mother did not accept, she did not want to include the brothers in this part. So they tell him that, we will separate you from the girls, one to the south and the other to the north. And so they did. They take me to Mamurras, while my mother is taken to the Korça Branch.
What happened to your mother? How difficult has it been for her, a life lived between loneliness, despair and a mother’s love for her daughter?
Oh, my poor mother! He lived a very painful life. His father’s departure was not enough for him, but he would be severely punished by the system. He would face unjustifiable retaliation. They threw him between four streets, separated him from his parents, they were going to separate him from me as well.
He survived with many sacrifices, with the longing that burned him and the love for his son. The strangest thing was that she managed to separate from her husband, that is, from my father. But for the communist state, she continued to be the wife of the “Enemy of the People”. He experienced many sufferings… He would also try the dark cells of the investigation.
What did they ask of her during the investigation?
The deserted mother is taken again and this time taken to the investigator at the Korça Branch. He stayed for almost 6 months in the cells of the investigation. The investigator was Petro Tasellari, a bad man, without a human conscience, who subjected my mother to inhumane torture, just to get information about my father. He was interrogated round the clock, only when he heard the sound of the bars on the window of the interrogation room, he was taken away and faced with unjust accusations.
The questions were meaningless. They wanted to find out if she had had any meetings with her father. Even my aunt’s husband, Naum Veriga, became a part of this investigator, who, according to them, had helped in the meeting she could have had with her father. The investigator confronted both the mother and Naum Veriga, one at the cell window and the other in the Dega yard, telling them both lies, to see what they would say about the father.
For their suspicion, Naum Veriga served 17 years in prison, leaving behind a wife and a two-year-old child. Almost 30 witnesses were brought against the mother, but none of them spoke badly about her. The mother, locked for a long time in the dungeon, had become very weak, had gone into despair. He was kept alive only by the hope that he would meet me.
When were you reunited with your mother?
While the mother continued the intensive investigation, I continued the internment in Mamurras alone. I always had spies or Party people behind me, who chased me every day. I can even say a fact that, in 1963, there was an amnesty, let’s call it, where all the women interned here in Mamurras were released and only I was left to suffer the punishment alone. There I first worked in agriculture, two shifts, with the other internees, who now became my relatives.
My hands were blistered from the shovel and pickaxe I was carrying. I made them with salt so they could dry out. But then, they put us to work in the cattle ranch. There we were raising pigs. Despite it being a dirty job, we were inside, not raining or snowing. After some time, a car from the Ministry of the Interior comes to Mamurras again; they pick me up and take me to the old prison in Tirana.
They asked me again if I had met my father or not. And I kept telling him the truth: that I had never seen my father. That my wish was only to see my mother. I didn’t know what she was like? What had happened to him? And many question marks that made me feel despair about our separations. They take me back to Mamurras, alone again. During that time, I remember receiving a letter from my grandfather, where he said: “Mother has been sent to the hospital in Tirana, try to go visit her”.
While I was reading this letter, I heard a voice saying to me: “Marjana! Look who came to you…”! It was my mom in a wheelchair. They had brought him from the Ministry of the Interior and left him in the middle of the road. She had a serious illness. Eh, he didn’t need you anymore. He had become bones and skin, he had lost a lot of weight, he had been physically and psychologically tortured. The reunion with the mother was indeed a prayer accepted by God, but also very painful.
We couldn’t get enough of each other, that night we both slept tightly hugged. Years passed and we were together even though in exile. We were surprised how the Ministry of the Interior and the Internment-Deportation Commission kept adding more and more years to our sentence, with 5 years each. When even they could not prove our guilt! There I married, had children with my husband, Jorgo Rondo, who was also exiled and persecuted by the regime.
Did you have a chance to meet your father?
Yes, I have met the father. Of course after the 90s. Because at that time, we did not dare to remember the father because, if we did, we would openly show, according to them, treason against the state. I don’t know if it was just curiosity that drove me to meet my father, or a daughter’s desire to know her father, despite everything we had been through. During those years, the father had created a new family.
While we were living amidst endless suffering, for an action he had done. During the conversation, he told me that in the first years of the escape, he came to Albania to get us, but he could not find us, as we had been interned. And that amidst many struggles, he managed to escape the communist clutches again.
I stayed with my father for only three days because his family did not accept me. I have only one symbolic gift from him, a ring. I would not like to say that he was to blame for those events in our lives. Maybe it was meant to be. We lived in a time where questions never had answers.
You were released in 1988, how did you experience freedom?
I was released in 1988, after 30 years of internment, leaving behind a lot of pain. Maybe we got used to that burden of persecution; we lived with the injustices that were done to us. Freedom would come one day, but that would be too short for us. Our rights would be used. Now we would not have a place of refuge as our house had been confiscated by the communist state. Where even after the 90s, we could not enjoy the property inherited from our grandmother, who had brought that house as her maiden dowry.
Even the democratic state did not evict the tenant, head of the branch at that time, Petrika Gjoka, from our part, who had earned this right from the communist system. He had demolished our house and in the garden near it, he had built another building. It is a land occupied without right, but only because justice has not existed in this country and will never exists.
They still continue to benefit at our expense. Even after many years of democracy, after many struggles, dragging through the courts, I have benefited only a part of that, only 80 meters. The case has been brought to the Supreme Court, but as is known, in the highest instances of justice are still the leaders of that regime, such as: Sotir Lubonja, Stavri Kallço and Olsi Xhavella. Memorie.al