From Uran Butka
The first part
Memorie.al / Uran Butka come from a family of patriots. His father, Safet Butka, graduated in Austria, director of the Tirana high school and former commander of the National Front detachments, killed himself during the Second World War, due to the pain caused by the fratricide among Albanians, making an appeal great, for the cessation of the civil war, between the communist partisan forces and the nationalist forces of the National Front of Legality. After graduating in Language and Literature and working for several years as a teacher, such as in Krujë, etc., for political reasons, Urani is fired from his job and forced to do various physical jobs. In 1975, by decision of the Internment-Deportation Commission, he was expelled from Tirana and exiled with his whole family, being sent first to the district of Tropoja, and then to the deep province of Martanesh in the district of Mati. Uran Butka is one of the initiators of the democratic movement and one of the founders of the Association of Former Persecuted and Political Prisoners of Albania, a member of the Albanian Parliament in several legislatures proposed by the Democratic Party and at the same time he was also the chairman of the commission for the evaluation of figures and the rehabilitation of the victims of the communist dictatorship. He led the Movement for National Reconciliation and the integration of political prisoners. After the 90s, in addition to various articles in the press of the time, he also published several books such as: “Revival”, “Masakra e Tivari”, “Genius of the Nation”, “The Return of Mit’hat Frashëri”, ” Safet Butka”, etc., but one of his most voluminous works remains the series of books dedicated to the life and work of Mit’hat Frashër, which has been published in several volumes. The text published below by Memorie.al is taken from one of his memoirs, where he describes the night before his exile in the city of Tirana as well as his arrival in the district of Tropoja, where he was sent as a family, after the decision of the State Commission of Internment-Deportation, which was chaired by the member of the Political Bureau and the secretary of the Central Committee of PPSh, Manush Muftiu.
– Away from people –
– This is our last evening in Tirana, – said Ema.
We had gone out to buy something, while we also took a walk. What immediately struck us was the emptiness. An unusual thing in Tirana, where the evening was special, unlike any other city. Here, the evening walk was a collective ritual. A human river with two wings, flowing through the boulevard, circled from “Skënderbe” square to the University square and back. In this circle, the life of the capital pulsated: citizenship and meanness, ambition and vanity, beauty and ugliness, new clothes and old ones. They owned dark colors even though it was summer. The human stream had the appearance of a mourning procession. Light colors were called soft and peaceful; they did not go with the mentality of the young man. Time called for strong, bright colors, especially red.
In the evening round, people seemed to be freed from the weight of the day’s troubles and were relieved spiritually. There they looked at each other and laughed at each other, they talked a lot, especially about the weather and sports (other topics were dangerous), they passed on the news, gossip, they cried about their troubles…! This was their only amusement. Around that spiral of citizens, where the intellectuals were also entwined. While the political elite did not appear there. Everything revolved inside itself. A daily whirlwind, allowed.
It was Sunday, a day when the promenade was usually full. But it was almost a desert.
– I haven’t been out for a long time, – she said. – Really sad dog!
– Since the “circulation” has started, the evening walk has been exhausted.
Everyone was afraid, panic gripped them. As if the hawk fell among the chickens, – I answered.
– Tomorrow we will leave. Are we ever coming back?!
There is a painful uncertainty in her voice, stretched to infinity.
We have our roots here. Whatever happens, we’ll be back. The times to come, there’s no way they won’t be better…!
I said these words to him probably not to finally break his hope. But things were going as they should and the evil itself was penetrating deeper and deeper. Even within man.
– Will mother be able to afford it?! She said. – If I didn’t have Ela at my breast, I would have left her here with her mother. It would be different for both, though difficult for me. This hug found us with the baby in our hands…!
– The mother is angry in suffering, and will endure until we return. She asks to stay at home, to save this goal for us, with faith that we will come one day. Hope will keep him alive…!
Emma came from a citizen family from Berat. Her mother, daughter of the mufti, a close friend of Margarita Tutulan, had helped the liberation war, but was disappointed by her alienation and abuse of power. His father, an idealist and a man of courage, was not seen well. He used to take spoonfuls of water from his brother, a writer, so he managed to get him the right to study Medicine. Since he finished brilliantly, he was hired as a doctor at the University Clinic, where he specialized in kidneys. However, our relationship and marriage broke all family and social norms. They called her to the Party office and told her to leave, but she was “ungrateful” when she refused, even calling it interference in the family. Like that?! What about the purity of the family, was the Party worried?! So they declared him a heretic and put him in the red circle. She was first in the cadre turnover lists compiled by the Party Committee. But there was also another type of list that was drawn up by the Deportation Commission. I was the object of this list, which was drawn up by the Deportation-Internities Commission. I was the subject of this list. As a couple, we were under the care of both commissions, behind which was State
Security. It was decided for us to be expelled from Tirana and settled somewhere in the northernmost part of the country.
– I heard that they are also evicting their people, even important ones, – said Emma.
– They don’t even trust themselves anymore, they are even afraid. Thus, they kill several birds with one stone. In the first place, we, with “old stains”, then, those with “new stains” and finally, the “suspects”, who make up the majority of the intelligentsia, which they call servants, but also gravediggers of socialism .
– I have no idea how they look to me. Absurd. Scary. I don’t know why they are made…!
– They are made so that no one feels safe, calm, and invulnerable. Except for one. Others feel as if they are under siege, as if they are at war. And don’t let them think about the absences, about everything that has been forbidden to them. Even be grateful. Everything is done, not to make life easier, but to make life difficult for people. Now they have issued another slogan: “Against personal comfort”. Here, look where you wrote it! The people of Shkodran answered with their bitter humor: “We took the saddles off the bikes and sat on the stake. The miracle itself.”
We laughed, although even laughter was not fashionable.
Meanwhile, we had approached the house, where mother and Ela were waiting for us. The mother was sitting in her place, at the corner of the sofa. Ela had fallen asleep on her lap. He was resting his little head on his chest and his brown hair was flowing over his forehead, down to his thin eyebrows and long, black eyelashes. The rosy cheeks and lips pressed against her mother’s black blouse, the chubby doggies clinging to her arms, the petite body, drenched in the snow, rising and falling with a deep breath, her whole being clung to her mother and he didn’t want to be separated from her. As if he had felt the separation.
Mother followed us with big, sad eyes, as if to ask: “Don’t you have any good news?”? The black scarf shadowed the high forehead. The raised eyebrows gave the curve of worry and the pursed lips, too, the entire internal tension.
– She didn’t want to lie in bed, – she said about Ela. – He got into my bosom and fell asleep like an angel of God.
We sat next to her. I lightly touched his livid hand, white and trembling, with blue veins on it and long, slender fingers.
These hands have raised us, – I thought. To rest your soul, look at her like St. Mary, with her head slightly tilted, timid and noble, radiating only love. On her saintly face, the usual, restrained and warm smile appeared.
– God is great, – she said. – Have faith. I don’t care about the rest. They would succeed. Only for Ela…!
Her voice trembles.
– Don’t worry, – Emma said sadly. – As soon as he turns one year old, we will bring him here. Stay with the niece, like now.
That night, we did not close our eyes.
The older brother’s eyes were swollen and bruised. The middle one’s gray head sometimes hung down, but he said as if in a daze: “Let it happen, you don’t run away”! The mother, who was usually taciturn, kept the conversation alive, which sometimes flared up and sometimes died out. The sister, with her eyes teary-eyed and with a hoarse voice, he was talking to Emma.
When the trumpet sounded, everyone shuddered. It seemed to us like an alarm siren. It was still night and completely quiet. The brothers went out in silence to load the booty. Even after them. The mother ran with Ela on her chest to the gate. There it stood like a sphinx, a black, covered truck. We would end up in his stomach. We approached him. Ela was sleeping. Emma carefully took him in her arms from her mother’s hands, which leaned against the gate to keep from falling. A little further, two civilians, like two shadows, stood.
– Get in and sit among the spoils, – the driver told us.
– Why are we going to travel in the coach?! – cried Emma and took a few steps behind. – There the breath boils and the dust suffocates. It’s not a little, but three hundred kilometers of road. Don’t you want to finish me girl?!
The muffled moan of the mother was heard at the gate.
– The first seats are taken, – said the driver and looked at the civilians.
I only have the steering wheel, my sister!
I went up first. I extended my hand to Emma, but my hand remained suspended. The civilians came closer and I saw their frozen faces. An electric lamp illuminated this scene from the top of the pole.
Emma reached out to my daughter, then climbed up herself. We sat on a ledge. We didn’t have time to say goodbye, because the black rain fell, like the curtain falls at the end of a drama, and the truck, closed from all sides, started.
– I have no idea, – said the secretary of the locality of Tropoja. He was a tall man like a host and his eyes were swollen from drink. – Hell, it’s not even the mayor, but he will come, if not today, tomorrow…! Wait for me outside while I talk to my friends from the district committee.
He entered the office and spoke for a long time on the phone.
We waited in the wasteland in front of the building. We were terribly tired. Emma was sitting on a wooden suitcase and holding six-month-old Ela by her side, which was constantly fighting with her. The driver insisted that we unload the loot from the truck because he wanted to go back. I was waiting for the secretary to tell us the target. But he continued to stay in the office. So over two hours of exhausting waiting passed. Once it came out.
– You are assigned to be a doctor here; – he addressed Emma, as if I didn’t exist.
– Where will we settle, you didn’t tell us that? – She replied.
– I don’t know this yet, – he said. – The Chairman of the Committee told me to organize you in the Culture Center. As soon as Asllani comes, we will gather and decide.
– And if he doesn’t come? She asked.
– Actually, we didn’t know you were coming, – he snarled.
– I have to go back, – said the driver. – This is my order.
– Is there a hotel here? – I asked.
– We have to unload the spoils. – said the driver. – There is no place for you here, no more for me!
The civilians had landed a little ahead in the town of ‘Bajram Curr’.
I helped the driver. On the ground, near the offices, there was a pile of used furniture and rugs. Like the immigrants!
The girl was crying.
Some children approached us. A pale girl, about four years old, with yellow and straight hair, approached Ela, cradled her and kissed her. Ela immediately rested. Her beautiful, innocent eyes sparkled through tears and smiles. Emma stroked the little tropojana’s waxy hair.
– Are you a man?! – a seven-eight-year-old boy told me. It seemed to me that he asked me: “Are you alive, do you cast a shadow on the ground, do you stand firm”?
– Cheers! Do you need anything? – asked a boy.
– Thank you, thanks you!
The big, dirty and manly world of children cheered us up, brought us out of that ruined state. Are you saying that kindness and manliness were left only in children?!
Evening fell and we were there.
The sky was starry like sorrowful eyes.
People came in and out of the office, looking at us like we were fallen beings from another planet.
Finally, the secretary appeared.
– They would live in the Heart of Culture, – he told Emma. – It’s that tower over there, beyond the offices. Responsibility is fixing it. He will also help you with problems…!
The tower was a tall one-story edifice, with small turret-like windows, no ceiling, and no floor. Above – the black beams, below – the clay plot. It counteracted the smell of mold and age. A shelf without a door, a few pairs of broken wires and tattered national costumes. A shelf with paperbacks, mostly Enver’s works. Two school desks, legless chairs and long plank benches. Everything was covered in dust.
A dim lamp, like a broken star, hung in the black sky of the tower. The dead day, absorbed by the darkness, gave the objects around, covered with a layer of almost cosmic dust, the image of another world.
– You don’t let the girl in without cleaning her, – said Emma. – Please, a bucket of water and a stick as long as possible, – returned to the manager, a thin man with a wrinkled face, with white hair and eyes deep into his throat.
She removed some of the slime, dust and cobwebs. The rest, which could not be reached, was scattered through the high walls, beams and roof boards, like a mess with hanging nets. The doctor of a medieval drama.
We placed the bedspring in the middle of the ruin. I didn’t want to take it from Tirana, but here we are. Otherwise, we would lie on the ground.
We put Ela in the middle. We were afraid to put it in the handcart, we were afraid of the temptation of mice or any reptile. While she slept, we did not fall asleep, even though we were dead tired. The gnawing and scurrying of rats, the occasional flights of a bat through the dark dome of the tower, the incessant barking of dogs did not let us close our eyes.
Maybe something else that we haven’t determined yet.
– Can you find it? – I said to Emma.
– Look around.
– Enver’s eyes, – she answered. – Even here we are not divided. Oh God!
His portrait hung on the opposite wall. Photo of the years when he had committed the great crimes. However, beautiful face, calm look, warm smile…!
– What strength to give the look of this smile? The power of the devil to appear as an angel, – I said. – Masterpiece of pretending.
– Keep your voice down – she said – even the walls have ears.
– I can’t stand this look.
I got up, put a table against the wall, a chair on it and went up. I included the portrait and pulled it out of place. It seemed as if, for a moment, I lifted him from the throne.
– You removed it, but the trace remained, – said Emma. – Look at the shadow on the wall.
The trail was as deep as a hon.
– It will immediately catch the eye – she said. – Don’t you want to be taken inside? What about me and the girl, where will we stay then?
I stood for a moment in confusion. Like a statue with a portrait in hand. She was following me with her eyes…! Finally, I put it in place. I went downstairs, got Ella’s sheet, and threw it over her. However, his disapproving gaze seemed to invade the fabric as well…! Memorie.al
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