Memorie.al / Stories of prisons, tortures and exiles from the communist period have been written and heard a lot. They are as different as they are similar to each other, but like Aleksandra Ziko’s, they have not heard of it yet. He is different from the others, not only because of the torture he lived in the dungeons, but because of the history that would come to him afterwards. The prisoner’s love affair with the Party member was the next torture, which would continue for the rest of her life. Kujtim Stana, the son of Aleksandra, the minority who no longer lives, tells us everything that his mother told him.
Recounts Kujtim Satana
Spring knocked joyfully at every gate, lush with flowers, with big hopes and dreams for every Albanian, even though the country burned by the war for liberation still smoked and the wounds hurt. People’s eyes shone from the first days in freedom and they hoped for a happy life. But this spring was not like that for the daughter of the family from the Greek minority, 21-year-old Aleksandra Ziko, or Sandra, as her loved ones called her for short.
The beautiful girl, with sweet eyes and curly hair, dazzling from her youth, was robbed of her life by the inhuman communist regime. For mother Vasilika and Sandra, her daughter, from a Greek family, but located in the border village of Biovizhdë in the Përmet district, the world turned upside down and fell on their heads. Spring shopping turned into barbed wire, flowers into shackles, freedom into hard forced labor and dreams into endless tunnels of darkness.
Two defenseless women, after the wild investigators did not substantiate any of the absurd accusations they had raised, were sent to the dungeons of the notorious Internal Branches, in Gjirokastër, Durrës, Krujë, where they were tortured with the most inhumane methods, which we would see later, only in horror movies. Recently, they found themselves interned, in the concentration camp in Kamze – Tirana, where they were isolated for six years in a row, 1945 – 1951.
Dhimitri, the head of the family, together with Ilia, his son, Aleksandra’s brother, worked in Greece since before the liberation of the country for the construction of houses and the closing of the Albanian-Greek borders, which took them away from the family. So wild, barbaric and cruel were the heartless zealots of the communist regime that they were not satisfied with the separation of men and women, which they had done to the family, but also separated six-year-old Olimbia from her mother Vasilika and sister Aleksandra for life. Little Olimbia, for years, wandered from door to door and the streets of the village, without any care, often begging for a living.
No regime in the world would have done this macabre act. Everything was done in the name of the people, for the people, and this family, wasn’t it the people?! After the property of the Ziko family was stolen and looted, by the communist administration itself throughout the year 1945, where there was no representative of the family, with a decision no. 299, dated 10.01.1946, of the Executive Committee of the People’s Council Through, with the initials V.F.-L.P., the last act, the confiscation of the remaining property of the Ziko family, is carried out, on the grounds that; belong to the fugitive Dhimitër Ziko. (Taken from the original document, cited above).
Runaway, when? Since before liberation? Run away where? On your own land? In whose presence? – Robbers of private property? Or the rest of the family, who was exiled a year ago?! His house, shop, goods, furniture, domestic animals, lands, gardens and fields, etc. are confiscated. Who saw them, who counted them? Commission for registration and administration of assets belonging to fugitive Dhimitër Ziko. What logic and justice!
Well, Dhimitri and his son worked in the neighboring country as ustalars and they were “runaways”, since before the liberation, but what was the fault of Vasilika, Aleksandra and Olimbia, six-year-old children, who were separated forever? In order not to dwell on the crimes of the dictatorship, I am continuing with the life of the one who would become my beloved mother and my sisters and brothers, Alexandra.
Sandra was beautiful and loved, she was strong and compassionate. Everyone praised him. He worked more than a man, he also helped mother Vasilika, to realize the norm that was raised from time to time, to exploit the internees as much as possible. In hundreds of such, Sandra would catch the eye and, there was no way not to attract the attention of their manager, 24-year-old Xelal Stana.
You’re in trouble, young man. He liked Sandra, but how should he act? He was a member of the Communist Party of Albania. Some told him, – take it if you wanted it -, others, – why should you mess with the declassified…! The love was great, so he took courage and asked some great statesmen, who came and rested in the fresh shadows of the famous peach trees of Kamza, how to do it. Marry him, if you loved him so much, there is nothing, they told him.
The boy flew, out of joy, asked for Sandra’s hand in marriage to mother Vasilika and they got married without fuss, celebrating it with a simple dinner in the exile room. I was conceived and born there in exile, at the beginning of September 1951. After many requests from my father, my mother and grandmother were released from exile, and my aunt, Olimbia, joined the family, bringing her from Përmeti to Kamze.
I was growing up with the love of my parents, who worked at the Agricultural Enterprise “Ylli i Kuq”, Kamze. But it didn’t take long, the ordeal of hardships started again for the new family. The father was expelled from the Party, because he had tarnished the image of the communist by marrying a declasse.
-”O wife or party leader”- they told her. My father chose my mother, Sandra. The party took the tesera, but that was not enough. He fired the talented fruit-culture agronomist from the position of head of the sector and expelled him from the company. In these conditions, for several years our family lived in a village in Mati, where my father was from, and only in 1960 was he stabilized in the town of Burrel, where a new agricultural enterprise was being created.
Until he retired, my parents worked on that farm, raised and educated seven children, but also poured their sweat and effort into building socialism that was never built. Although in a small town in the north-east of the country, our family stood out for the honesty, culture and education that radiated, we were still seen with some suspicion and from people’s looks, we felt contempt and they did not approach us in social life.
As children and students, our three sisters and four brothers (one brother had passed away before he was a year old since we were in Tirana) were excellent in every aspect, behavior and lessons. My mother was very tired in the heavy work of the farm. He sprayed the plants with strong poisons, carrying the heavy pump on his back, opened irrigation canals or tree pits, digging and moving 4-5 m3 and per day.
During the summer holidays, we children often went to work at mothers and tried to help her, with our fragile hands. Often, he was left without eating, because the food he had taken with him would be given to us children, who asked to eat from time to time. Tens of years passed like this, with work and fatigue. Grandmother Vasilika passed away at the age of 65, in 1965, without seeing or hearing a word about her husband, Dhimitri, and her son, Ilia.
They said that letters and packages came through the postal and Red Cross routes, but everything was checked by the Department of Internal Affairs and returned, with the answer that this family cannot be found. We were never told anything but these, nor did ourselves, seeing the pressure put upon us, have no correspondence with our people abroad.
All this was proven later, with the collapse of the communist dictatorship, when the doors of communication with the world were opened. Aleksandra, partly from the heavy work, partly from the many births and from the drama of her family, started to get sick and not feel well. She managed to get a minimum pension, from working on the farm, as a mother with many children, but where was her soul comfortable?!
The children were growing up, they needed to be educated and to make this economically possible, he went out every day, to the hills and meadows, to collect medicinal plants, which he then sold at collection points. I am not dwelling on the many vicissitudes that we have gone through as a family, such as for education, employment or housing, they were countless and exhausting, but with the advent of democracy, like most Albanians, we breathed easier, as if our lost dignity was returned.
The whole family wanted to establish contact with the rest of the family that had remained in the Greek state. Every day of our lives, the half of the family left in Greece was part of us, we, Alexandra’s children, grew up listening to the stories and descriptions about them. In fact, at the birth of my last child, in 1990, mother Sandra asked me that if I were to give birth to a boy, I would name him Ilia. But even though I had a girl, we adapted her name in memory of Alexandra’s brother, whom you hadn’t met yet.
We will never forget the day when our mother, Aleksandra, after we had exchanged letters with uncle Ilian (grandfather Dhimitri was no longer alive), managed to get a visa and leave for Athens, to meet her brother who lived there, married and childless, confined to a wheelchair. As they told us later, Sandra’s mother, you had fainted at the very heartbreaking moment of meeting your brother, separated at the age of twenty, and now they were hugging each other, almost half a century later, old men of about seventy.
Mother Sandra had wept bitterly for the black fate that separated her forever from her dearest people. Now neither Aleksandra nor Ilia Ziko is alive. They all died, heartbroken, desperate and suffering beyond description. Although by decision no. 19, dated 26.12.1992, grandmother Vasilika and mother Sandra were recognized by the Ministry of Public Order for the period of exile for political issues, a total of 4,380 days, yet neither they, nor we the heirs, have received the corresponding compensation.
Although by decision no. 131, dated 09.06.1995, of the Commission for the Return of Properties to former owners, by the Përmet District Council, the properties of Aleksandra Ziko have been recognized, neither she nor anyone else has received or been compensated for any property. Mother Sandra closed her cycle, with few joys in a life full of suffering and heavy dramas, with countless efforts for survival made by this daughter and mother, who was exiled from Përmeti, to write the drama of her life in Tirana and Mat. Memorie.al