By Vasil Qesari
Memorie.al/ The overthrow of the great totalitarian edifice in Albania would leave behind, not only the change of the system, accompanied by lots of hopes, mirages and cries of happiness but, unfortunately, also many wounds, dramas, victims, dust, milk and disappointments from the most different. Ten years and more after that event, which deeply shook society, completely overturning many previous codes, rules and concepts, people still continue to ask themselves such questions as: What really happened in society Albanian, during the last 50 years of the dictatorship? How was it possible that the system managed to warp everything? Why did people accept it? What was the totalitarian logic of the transformation of society and the individual? How were the structures of totalitarian mechanisms conceived and functioning: propaganda, secret police and the exercise of the ideology of terror? How did it happen that among all the communist countries of Eastern Europe, Albania was considered an exception or a special case? Why did Enver Hoxha remain blindly, fanatically loyal to Stalin until the end, turning the country into a prison where violence, fear and purges continued until the end of the 80s? Why was the country so insanely isolated, locking people up between bunkers and barbed wire? Why, then, did all the above phenomena happen…?! The book “Post-scriptum for Dictatorship” does not claim to provide definitive answers to the above questions, or the complexity of the reasons that brought and maintained the totalitarian power in Albania. Nor is it a complete, deep and comprehensive fresco of the life and suffering that people experienced during that system. Its author, perhaps, has the merit that together with the retrospective view of the totalitarian period as well as the zeal of a passionate analyst, he has tried to turn his head back once again, to give not only his personal memories and opinions, but also to return once again to the vision of that era with the simple philosophy of preserving the Memory and supporting the Appeal to never forget the well-known maxim, that…the corpse’s nails and hair continue to grow even after death! Ten years or more after the great revolution, the book in question has current value and we hope it will be appreciated by the reader because, as an Albanian researcher also says… the greatest evil that can happen to a people comes when he fails to analyze his own past. An amnesic people are forced to be constantly neuropathic and repeat their painful experiences…!
Continues from last issue
THE OPENING OF THE ‘GREEN LIGHT’
Nica, the sister of Jusuf Vrion, who lived in Italy, alarmed, wrote a letter to Enver Hoxha to allow him to be cured near her. The letter falls into the hands of Nexhmije, who is interested in Vrioni’s recovery as soon as possible. After that, the green light opens. The formalities are done urgently. He is given a passport to go abroad, a visa is granted, and he can’t believe his eyes when the plane lands on the runway of Fiumicino airport in Rome. It was March 1985…!
In addition to missing his sister, after years of separation that are not remembered, in addition to the care of the cures for the restoration of health, he feels the feelings of nostalgia for the years of his youth and her unforgettable memories. But now he finds a different Italy and the changes cause him nothing but regret. Recovered, Jusuf Vrioni returns to his homeland where new events await him. Enver Hoxha has died and Ramiz Alia has taken over the leadership of the Party. Very soon, Vrioni has to devote himself to the work of translating his book ‘Our Enveri’. Then, in 1987, another piece of good news. After many hesitations, approval is given for the translation of Kadare’s novel “Concert at the End of the Winter”, which until then was almost considered a forbidden book.
Well, a little later, the miracle happens…!
The French Foreign Ministry invites him to the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
“One of the first things I did as soon as I arrived in Paris was to go and see the places where I had spent my youth, there on the avenue Victor Hugo. Since 50 years ago, for me, the most beautiful memories of life were hidden there. I went to the house where we lived and timidly went up to the third floor, where there used to be a wide corridor, on the sides of which I had made who knows how many drawings. It had already been transformed and divided into separate apartments. Who lived there now…? I didn’t ring any bell and, since they were waiting for me downstairs, I went down the stairs in pain and with tears in my eyes…!
Nostalgia opens the gates and he observes, looks, remembers. Unlike his childhood images, the city seems whiter and brighter. You find the former buildings blackened by centuries cleaner, newer, brighter. He is involved in his lively life. Meetings with old friends. Tears and emotions. Warm expectations. Among other things, with Claude Durand, the director of the Fayard Publishing House…! After a year, in 1990, another trip awaits him again, to Paris. There he meets Liri Begenë, a cinematographer known for Albanian orgy.
Participates in the International Colloquium of Translators in Arles. Meetings full of longing again. With friends and comrades of youth. And back to Albania again. The country finds itself in tension. In fair condition. Something is expected to happen. After half a century of oppression, it seemed that the explosion was coming. Events precipitate for days. Foreign embassies are attacked and occupied by thousands of people. On September 25, 1990, Ismail Kadare sought political asylum in France.
“…I was at home when I heard the news on the radio. The echo of that action was very strong throughout the country. In principle, I considered Ismail’s decision right, because in that way he distanced himself from the totalitarian regime, while the dictatorship continued to be a threat. But, in my opinion, Kadareja left at a moment when his personal prestige was quite big, not only in literature but even more…”!
The events of that shocking autumn follow each other in a whirlwind. The practice of rites is allowed and religious facilities are opened. The statues of Stalin and Lenin are removed. The student movement becomes the focus of the revolt against the communist regime. In “Skënderbej” square, the demonstrators knock down and drag away the statue of Enver Hoxha. Albania throws away, with disgust and courage, forty or so years of fear, suffering and unparalleled terror.
“Two or three months after Ismail’s departure, Preç Zogaj and Pirro Misha came to my house. They asked me if I agreed to appear as a candidate of the Democratic Party in the first pluralist elections. I told them that I appreciated their proposal, but I had no intention of devoting myself to a parliamentary career. I thought there were other ways to serve the unfolding events. Meanwhile, following the events of 1991, I was co-opted into the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights”.
The road of Vrion towards the West is now completely free. In the fall of 1990, he took part in the La fureur de lire demonstration in Paris. In 1993, he was decorated by the French government with the Order of Literature and Arts. In 1994, he received the Halperine Kaminsky prize for his French translations. And finally, as if to return to the most intimate details of the life of the past years, in the spring of 1995, in the company of the French ambassador in Tirana, he made a visit to the island of Corfu, where he was born 79 years ago.
Before him, distant memories unfold again. Everything around has changed. Most of the famous people are dead. While him?
He is alive. Saved by luck and miracle, from the bloody whirlwinds of time. But by then, it’s too late. Too late, to feel yourself, completely and deeply happy! And yet, as the rose-colored frost of the morning falls on the little white breasts of the Hellenic Isle, and as a sailboat begins to slide gently swaying over the oily sea, he is convinced that the life of man has no end and that the events, memories, feelings and emotions that accompany it eternally, can never belong to Oblivion and Death!
AUTOPSY OF VIOLENCE
“…The totalitarian state cannot live without enemies. For it, they are the best justification for the exercise of terror. Even if they do not exist, they are invented and then, once they are “identified”, they are mercilessly eliminated. ..”!
THE SHADOW MAN
An early episode from many years ago brings to me still to this day, vividly, the memory of the first contact with what in Albania was called the State Security, (alias the secret police). One autumn evening of 1963, on the Vlorë-Skelë road, a group of sailors from East Germany were returning to the port where their merchant ship was docked.
Fueled by the cognac and vodka they had returned to the city’s clubs, they stopped by the “Ernest Telman” Canning Factory and danced, singing the well-known song of that time Twist again. We, a group of children, as it usually happened in our coastal town, went back, accompanying them in a friendly way and asking them for some chewing gum, pen or badge. (Before, this thing usually happened with the Soviet sailors, who were like home. But, suddenly, they disappeared and after that, the foreign steamers that came to the Wharf were mainly Romanians, Poles and Germans).
The sailors’ song was so cheerful that we had become one with them. We clapped our hands according to the rhythm and moved our hips and legs, trying to imitate their twist, which was not at all similar to the quiet and boring tangos that were waved at dinners in the “Flag Square” bar…! So, we were among the sailors when, suddenly, the song froze in our mouths. Across the sidewalk, from the darkness, behind a palm tree, we saw a man coming towards us. He approached and threatened us severely, telling us that we had to leave the group of foreigners immediately. Even though we were small, we guessed that the shadowy man who looked like a wild dog was definitely someone who was following strangers.
Soon after that, our group dispersed in fright, while a friend and I were somewhat braver. We took only a few steps further, and when we saw that the civilian had left, we turned back to the group of hawking Germans. We continued to have fun and laugh with them. On the way, the sailors stopped and sat on the pavement in front of the combine, passing a bottle of cognac from hand to hand.
Hey, you’re German! No see…! That, the building there, is the Canning Factory named “Ernest Telman”. Do you know Ernest Telman? – I told and simultaneously asked in Russian. They didn’t pay any attention to my words, while I thought they would show some interest anyway.
“Ah, lo, lo!…Ernest Telman! German communist…”, said one of them, the only one who was somewhat curious, among all the others.
It is built by your specialists! Gift of the German people to Albania! – I added enthusiastically.
“Ah, Sehr Gut! Sehr Gut! – He added.
Here is Ernest Telmani. You see?! – I addressed another sailor, blond and big, pointing to his dimly lit torso, in the courtyard of the compound. He approached the railings of the metal gate, apparently to get a better look, and said:
“Ernest Telman…? Gut! Harasho, Harasho…!
I was about to explain to him, in my lame Russian, that I had read something about Telman’s life in a book when, suddenly, I felt the heavy weight of a hand on the back of my neck, and then the pain of its claws digging into my flesh her bone. Someone dragged me. He twisted me around himself two or three times and then pushed me away with force. I saw that my friend gave it a run and, in a few seconds, his legs disappeared from sight. Meanwhile, the German next to him took three to four steps back and, frightened, joined his group.
I turned my head in horror. In front of me was the shadow man again, who was almost snapping my neck, dragging me on the asphalt. The sailors were stunned, but none of them moved from their place. The shadow man took me with him and continued to drag me until he bumped into me at the entrance of a nearby building: “What are you looking for behind them, stinky puppy? What were you saying? What is your father’s name? Where do you live? In which school do you study…”?!
The questions did not stop, while my neck ached to death. I told him under my breath that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I had told one of the sailors about the name of the Combine and the bust of Telman. That’s all. Nothing more. The iron fingers dug deeper into my flesh. In a low voice, I told him my name, which I belonged to, where I lived and what school I studied at. His hand released my neck only after my confession was complete. Then, the man put his hands in his pants pockets, looked for something angrily and took out a small pad. He quickly made a few notes and closed it.
“Good…! Now run away! Go ahead! I don’t see you behind strangers anymore”! – He shouted, giving me one last slap in the face. I don’t know how fast I ran. I only remember that, I managed as much as I could and, for a few minutes, I held my breath at home. But, nevertheless, I was not calm. I felt my heart jump like a bird, beating hard and full of anxiety. That night I slept full of scary dreams. Of course, at home I didn’t dare say a word. For days, I waited for my father to call me and ask me about the incident. I would definitely eat another good batter after that. Likewise, even at school, I would not escape. Damn it, the shadow man, you had kept a record of where I was studying and he would report me to the principal.
Fortunately for me, out of all of them, neither happened.
It seemed that my problem, which was closed without consequences. However, for years, even today as I write these lines, the angry face, the nails stuck in the neck and the slaps of the shadow man, have remained imprinted in my memory. Eventually, he was also my first contact with a State Security man. This name, the meaning and full content of which, I would learn better in the years to come. A name that would make anyone shudders! Not only those who would have the tragic fate of falling into his deadly hands, but also to every other person who was born and lived in the country of the dictatorship of the proletariat…!
CERBERS OF HELL
State Security (the infamous Albanian Political Police), which was established on the basis of the teachings of Lenin and Stalin as well as the valuable experience of the Soviet Bolshevik Party. The logic of those lessons was quite simple. For the continuous annihilation of the opponents, the totalitarian state did not only need its absolute power, but also needed to turn the country into a real hell. In a kind of concentration camp, by means of which, then, not only would he defeat any resistance or revolt, but he would also realize the mass fear of the society.
The merits of the discovery of that strategy as well as the implementation in practice are dedicated in the first place to V.I. Lenin, the founder of the first totalitarian state. Because it was he who, starting after the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, implemented the principle of maintaining power through terror. According to him, all those who dared not submit to proletarian power had only one end, their physical liquidation.
(“Our enemies must be exterminated without mercy”. V.I.Lenin). such implementation of the terror strategy, in addition to the elimination of the opponents, had another effect: the massive fear of the people and the intimidation of the society in general. The Party had assigned that task to the Political Police. It was to be the organ of the lightning strike, whose actions were to generate in the people, terror and fear of such great proportions, that the mere hearing of its name, was to paralyze not only every individual, but also the whole society.
One of the leaders of the Russian Bolshevik revolution, Leon Trotsky, thus justified the need to use violence and fear: Fear is a powerful political weapon. Our revolution must be regarded as a battle where the elimination of a few individuals must terrorize and frighten thousands of others.
The same idea was also expressed in the well-known statement of the head of the Soviet trade unions, M. Tomski, who, in November 1927, in the Trud newspaper, among other things, wrote:
In the dictatorship of the proletariat, two or three or even four parties can exist, but only on one condition: one in power and the others in prison. Who does not understand this, does not understand the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Bolshevik Party…!
While N. Buharin emphasized: Other parties cannot exist in our country. This is also the fundamental feature of the difference between our state and the Western ones. So everything is clear: the Party stands above everything, others have their place in prison.
Specifically, in the Soviet Union, the implementation of that fearsome strategy would be entrusted to a special body called CEKA, (Soviet Extraordinary Commission for the War on Counter-Revolution and Sabotage), for which, its founder F. Dzerzhinsky, stated: “Our apparatus has its roots embedded everywhere. The people are afraid of him…! Yes, the Albanian experience in that field, what was…? Memorie.al
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