By Mark Ndoja
Memorie.al The epistolary book by the writer Mark Ndoja, contains letters from the political punishment camp of the island of Zvernec 1965-1968 and the prisons of Tirana, Zadrimë, Burrel, 1956-1960. There are 102 letters sent to his wife, Milena, often in the form of coral epitaphs, also letters to family members from Zvërnec and 27 letters from the prisons of Burrel, Zadrima, Shkodra, etc. The book has a foreword by the Zvërnec camp doctor Dr. Safet Kelliçi, who had visited Mark 15 times on Zvernec Island during 1966, who gave him literary talks in the form of illegal lectures on the island. The writer’s male-female correspondence in prison conditions is unique, despite being monitored by the State Security, creating time and events by the protagonists themselves, as the elegiac chronotope with Promethean sufferings evoking the Aeschylus Mountains of Scythia.
Dr. Safet Këlliçi
On the acquaintance with Mr. Mark Ndoja in Zvërnec during 1966
After graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in 1965, I was initially assigned as a military doctor in Tropoja and after numerous objections, after about 6 months without work, I was sent as a military doctor without a uniform to Vlora. Having nothing to do with my being a military man I engaged in the diagnosis and treatment of M.P. military personnel. Interior (Vlora Branch) for prisoners and border post soldiers from Fier to Saranda.
I had received a special order to be interested especially for the 5 people interned on the island of Zvernec, namely Gjin Marku, Mark Ndoja, Xhavit Qesja, Maqo Çomo and Kristo Budo, who was the youngest. He was involved with the health and hygiene problems of the environment in which they lived.
I have often expressed that the maximum consideration has been for Mark Ndoja, as the most serious, few words and that I had the pleasure of talking to him as a very cultured man, with a brilliant memory and that every time I went there (about 15 times throughout the year) I found it reading in a small hall about 16 m2 near the bedroom and several times in the company of Gjin Marku.
Since I was obliged to go and inquire about their health condition and hygienic conditions, I took advantage of the occasion and often times being in the room with the late Mark Ndoja I insisted on his considerations for the book in general as writer and for Italian Renaissance authors for Dante, Petrarch, Arioston, Tasson. I wanted to learn about these authors as I also had at home a book with translations of Italian poetry and I was passionate about literature.
Mark especially appreciated Dante Alighieri who was very dear to his heart, later I learned from his son Leka that he brought the Divine Comedy in Albanian, the masterpiece of the Florentine author.
Mark was very polite, to impose himself with his behavior and dress, and to collect as much from him as he was very silent, I had to intervene often. When I was accompanied by the commanders of the MIA camp (who changed them constantly) from the post office on the coast to the island of Zvernec, I made reservations and did only my work and engagement as a doctor with the relevant visits.
During 1966, the Chairman of the Vlora Internal Branch was Andrea Mici, a relative of Hysni Kapos. It must be said that Mark throughout 1966 did not complain about anything health.
- LETTER FROM THE ISLAND OF ZVERNEC
I love Milena,
I’m healthy. The day I left, I arrived on Svernec Island, where I was interned for 5 years by decision of the International Deportation Commission at the Ministry of Interior.
Do not worry; take great care of your health and the happiest upbringing of children, the fruit of our unfortunate love. We must know how to endure the tragedy that befell us and overcome it as calmly as possible.
Luli kiss me for me and say goodbye I could not give her. Tell Marinta to become a strong and fearless girl, and to raise Lekë carefully and to love her little mother. You and Luli, Marinta and Leka, are the only gas of my life today and tomorrow. Enjoy Lekë and say from me: you Lekë, you are the best boy! Poor little one should not be sad in any way!
We here are fine with general treatment.
As with food, etc. The family has the right to come and see us once in 2 months, from the 25th to the 30th of the month, after receiving permission from the Directorate of Internal Affairs of Tirana. Write me letters from Luli and Marinta, telling me about everything about the family itself.
Please send me a package of letters, envelopes and stamps, for correspondence, send me some 4 or 5 notebooks with a line; preferably a pack of Swedish Record razors, a toothbrush and a toothpick.
Greet Lazarus of the family, Vangjos and your parents. Lazarus was able to forgive me those playing cards and send them to me.
Do not worry, Milena. Do not tell that friend who has taken my history of Italian literature and a book by Cordigniano to return it immediately and never break down the door of my house, nor speak to you or my children again.
Nay, I wasted no time on this idle job!
Write to me as soon as possible and as often as possible, not only you but also Luli and Marinta.
Greetings and hugs. Kiss me 100 times. I’m very upset about that.
The address is: Mark Ndoja
Near Branch P. Interior
P.S. Milena, send me a pack of aspirin, fenasko and algae.
Osman Shashiqi, write to Shkodra to send me the books as soon as possible, especially “Saggi critici” by De Sanctis.
On February 4 I received your very welcome letter which made me very happy. Telegram with unsafe address, I did not receive. Leka’s grief for my departure made me very sad. I foresaw this; therefore I order you all together, to do a long and great pedagogical work with his young mind, so that this calamity does not cause him any psychological sadness, which may leave him with eternal consequences.
What makes me most happy is that you are fine.
In the two letters that I have just sent to you, I have asked you for a lot of things that the family budget cannot stand. I know this very well, but how can I do it? Now, oh Milena, I have to beg her for other things, which cost money. Death comes to me, O Milena, when I ask you to take the bite out of your mouth, you and the children, to fulfill my requests here. Both sides of my panties have been torn from the bottom and I have no feet, no needles, and no patches to repair them. Do as you can and send me at least a foot and a patch for now. If you are sending me a pair of new panties, make sure they are wide enough in the saddle, otherwise they will burst quickly.
You tell me you will come by the end of March. First of all, take care of the regulation of the documents, which is done in the Directorate of Internal Affairs, where you have to submit an application in time and then, be given permission, from 25-30 of the respective month. In the request everything should be clear, along with the names of the persons requesting an appointment. Then this permit will be presented to the Vlora Branch, upon arrival there. From Vlora to Zvernec, there is 12-13 km, so it takes about 3 hours on foot, so if you are in Vlora near the end of the day, you should stay there and sleep in the Hotel.
I want to come with Luli. You can sleep one night here with me. That’s all the clarification I can give about the meeting. Write to me again if anything dark remains. Write to me as soon as possible. When you come, do not forget to bring me the story of Skanderbeg (both editions) of Fan Noli, and you can also beat that of Barleti, which costs 120 lek.
Take care of your health and the joy of the children that you now have as a father and mother. For me, do not worry that I am in good health, even better than I was in Tirana. I am waiting for you with great desire and longing, even though I know that you will come and be torn apart by that working devil that catches cars.
I greet you, hug you and kiss your eyes from afar, yours forever
They loved Luli very much.
I wrote you a letter on January 20th. In the previous letters I have shown my condition. Dad is in very good health. It’s boring for you alone, but writes to dad as often as I can always learn what family is like.
You Luli yesterday, on the 5th, church birthday. If a telegram starts. Congratulations, hugs and kisses. Banu good boy, diligent student and little father of the family, to replace me, until I am absent. Love Marinta and Lekë as much as you’s big brother, and protect yourself from every danger and every evil that may threaten you. You owe it to your mother, listen to her and honor her, because she is a good mother, we sacrifice her after the family; you have a duty to make her life as happy as possible, because she gets tired and moreover bored, miserable that she never said a good day. Luli! You became 13 years old. Bafsh 100 and with good and joys, wishes, hugs and kisses
Much loved Marinta,
What about you? With lessons like yourself? Does Leka bother you much? Love Leka very much, kiss her and enjoy her, like his little mother that you are, because that way you will win my biggest dance. Marinta! Convince mom, fight hard and do not bother her, with your forgetfulness. Marinta. Do not worry about the father, because the father is healthy and has not gone to the end of the world, as you said out of desperation.
No, Marinta, look at Narta on the map; find the swamp of Narta. I am there, because there is no Albanian land further away. Banu good oyster, diligent and brave. Kiss Lek for me 100 times. Greetings, hugs and kisses.
Yours forever Dad
I love Lek very much! You are the best boy! You are the youngest boy! Daddy loves you so much! You have such a father! Love to kiss Dad, Luli and Mom! To have such a guy! Your father is far away and he is very upset for you, but in the evening when he falls asleep he opens his arms and pretends to strangle you, little soul! And so daddy gets upset with you, sleeps comfortably and immediately, we saw beautiful dreams.
I kiss your eyes, cheeks and gills
Your father Marku.
They loved Luli very much.
I received your love letter. Thank you. Why did you write to me so briefly? I wanted you to write to me longer, about your behavior, about the grades you received, about sufficient or insufficient obedience to mom. I owe these, O Luli, from your own mouth. Banu good boy to your mother, who robs at work for you! Banu, good brother and very much in love with Marinta and Lek, because they are younger, they expect a good example and education from you.
I’m confident you will do this job, all the more so now that Dad is missing. It is true that I was cruel to you, but believe that I did it, for your good, O beloved son. You should especially try to be honest, because sincerity is the most precious human virtue, the brightest. It does not matter that sincerity sometimes brings us dreams, headaches and damage! Without sincerity man has no reason to live in human society! The trick belongs to foxes and snakes!
I am very confident that you will become a good, neat and honest boy. I love you so much and kiss you from afar, your unforgettable dad
I love Marinta so much!
Dad sends you lots of greetings and kisses! To be a mom’s obedient oyster, not to be petted! Love Luli and hear that he is your big brother. Dueje, keep Lek strong, because he is your little brother! I’m sure you will be like before a good nanny for little Lekushi! He loves you, like a little mom. I am very upset about Lek, o Marinta!
You who are close to him every day, should kiss him often even for the desolate father who is far away, very far away. Listen to mom, grandma and grandpa. Learn well and behave well at school with your sisters and friends. Do you still have Lorena as your girlfriend? Dad has missed you a lot, but maybe there by the summer we will see each other. Be well with health and work! I wish you a happy life and kiss your cheeks
Your memorable dad
I love my father’s youngest son Lek very much!
Dad loves you so much! Open your arms to kiss your throat and kiss your eyes! You will have a birthday in a few days. I told my grandmother and grandmother’s grandmother, lali Luli and Dada Marinta, Aunt Mela, to have a cheerful party and that day, to stay in your father’s chair. You, Lek, are the youngest boy, you are the best boy, but I still do not know how to write a letter to me. Tell Dad, write to me together. He kissed everyone for Dad. I kiss your eyes and cheeks and gills, your unforgettable dad, who reminds you day and night.
P.S. They loved Milena,
Today I received that telegram you sent me with unsafe address. I’m not using the answer now, after sending you the letter. Greetings Vangjos with family and Llaz with family.
Much love Milena,
I received your letter from Marinta on the 14th. I was very glad you are well. But why didn’t Luli write me, at least two words? You complain that I am rarely writing to you. Yes we are entitled to only 2 letters per month, and you have the right to write to us, as many times as you want. I have sent you 4 letters so far and this is the fifth. You do not want to be frustrated if you cannot get the right pitch so invest in a good capo. It is written that he threw the documents, to be ready to come. When? At the end of March, try to be protected from vomiting with any medicine, if it is found in pharmacies.
For the car, be careful to wait for a ticket with the Vlora Clock, later or in Gjinokastra, which travels every day. Do not come by train, because there will be delays in Rrogozhina. I’m sorry you’re going to be overwhelmed by the trip, but on the other hand I’m glad to see you as soon as possible. When you come, it would be good to be Saturday, because that way you can find in the market a villager from these parts of Zvernec, with whom to travel, or to show you the way. You will have some difficulty on foot, in this 11-12km. from Vlora to here. You should have dinner with you when you arrive.
If you had luggage with you, it will be difficult for you to carry the loads. Do not forget to submit the meeting permits to the Internal Affairs Branch of Vlora. Can you bring me some grain penicillin’s? If you bring me some ground coffee, I’ll be blown away. You know I’m excited. But be careful not to waste your budget, too thin, because then we will take care of your own children, who live on a modest salary. I have all the necessary food here: in the morning bread with marmalade and tea, lunch with beans and pasta, dinner with soup and rice, most of the time with meat. We have enough bread. So do not be fooled into spending in vain and being burdened with groceries.
Do not spend on cigarettes either. Here they give us 5 cigarettes a day. With the money you sent me I buy cashew tobacco and refill cigarettes that I smoke a lot. I miss you and the toads, especially Lek, whom I remember dozens of times a day. I am always worried that you will get sick that something bad will happen to you. So I look forward to the letters. Luli and Marinta should also write to me regularly, their handwritten letter; this is the concrete connection they may have with their father today, and this is what you should ask them to do. Be careful to ask them for order and implementation of assigned tasks, because at this point the education of our children is lacking.
You will ask them for this methodically, without concessions, without joys, not letting them go spontaneously, because that way they will become disorganized in their affairs, discipline will not become their habit. Set clear, regular, and workable tasks. Do not ask too much of them, above their power, but not even a little, under their mental and physical power. I ordered Luli from me, to become a good brother with Marinta, never to drive the only sister she has. Make Marinette more diligent and attentive. Now she is growing, but do not overwhelm her with housework.
I waited to see you as soon as possible; I conclude your letter to wish your health and gas in your possible life. Your permanent hug and kiss you from afar
They love Lek very much!
Marinta, your good dada, writes and tells me, that you do not say “good morning” to me when you wake up at night. But why, Lek, are not you the best boy of the father? Don’t you have a dad like that anymore? Dad did not leave you alone, but left you with Lali, Dad and Mom. You lived a good boy. You owe it to your grandparents to have you too.
I’m very upset about you. But when mom can, then when the time is right and the flowers come out, you will come to see me. On the 5th of this month, you have a birthday, Lek. Dad kisses your eyes and wishes you to be 100 years old, with healthy health and joys in life. If a telegram starts, oh little Lek, the best boy.
Hugs, wishes and kisses you, your unforgettable dad
P.S. Milena: do not forget to bring me some postage stamps and some baking soda. Memorie.al
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