By Marcel Hila
Memorie.al / Missing: Father Gjergj Suli, born in 1893, from Lekli i Tepelena. Shot in 1948. Intellectual man, priest of the unit rite, from Tepelena. He studied at the “Zosimea” gymnasium in Ioannina and later in America. He returned to his homeland to contribute to the country. Gjergj Suli, had acquaintances with Fan Noli, Faik Konica and was associated with the association “Vatra” in Philadelphia. He fought against the Germans and the Italians. He was pro-American and pro-English. He was accused of being connected with the Sylog of Ioannina and having links with the ‘National Ball’, with the leaders of the beys, for the overthrow of the communist system. He was shot in the castle of Gjirokastra. It is thought that his remains are found on the site of the Industrial School, near the cemetery in Gjirokastra. Gjergj Suli’s two sons, Thoma Suli and his older brother, were not allowed to receive a full education at school, were not supported by anyone, were oppressed, despised, performed only heavy and ordinary work, and were regarded as the children of the enemy. As a result of persecution, isolation, pressure and hard life, part of his life was spent in the Psychiatric Hospital, where he was not treated well.
Witness the son, Thoma Suli
Let a statesman come out; let him become the god of Albania! Even though I have suffered from the most inhuman tortures, my country still hurts me, Albania hurts me, and what is it that leaves Albania?
Mr. Thoma, can you tell us something about your father’s life?
Father Gjergj Suli was born in the village of Lekël. He finished primary school there and was educated in Turkish and Greek. As an excellent student, they gave him a scholarship to the “Zosimea” gymnasium in Ioannina. From there, at the age of 16 or 18, I am not sure, he went to America, where he continued his work and connected with Fan Noli and Faik Konica; became friends with Fan Noli and secretary of “Hearth” for Philadelphia, as I have information. He got up and came to Albania because Albania was in pain, the children were left there too … he did not even ask about the children. I, unfortunately, did not know my father, that he left me 9-months. Here is what I say in my verses:
“Ah, my brave Tepelena,
Do not forget Father Gjergjë,
Great patriot of value,
He left America and came,
The child stays there’
How come you did not ask about the children?
Let blood be shed for Albania,
You wanted to bring him freedom,
But the wicked did not leave you.
Lekel’s priest was a man,
Democrat with culture,
That we will never forget. ”
He worked as a priest in the Lecce area and helped fight against Italy and Germany. When the Germans came to Labova and burned the village, he spoke to them in English: “What do you have to do with the people? If you have something, fight with the partisans and ballists, not with the poor people, who are burning down their houses”! Thus the German withdrew from the words spoken by Gjergj Suli.
Later, the spies of communism, such as the Gjirokastra hound hunting kennel, which hunted smart and rich people, were sewn behind them. They put him in the investigator in Gjirokastra. Investigators also came from Yugoslavia to find out who Father Gjergji was. From Father Gjergji, they did not extract any data even under beatings, despite how the investigators of communism wrote. Finally, he was shot in the castle of Gjirokastra.
There they shot and covered many heads of Tepelena, such as the father of the Koshtan Teke, Zenel Shehu, who was a dangerous warrior; he opposed Enver Hoxha at the Përmet Congress; Syrja Shehu from Vasjari of Tepelena was also arrested and shot…!
They were the heads of Tepelena, who led democracy for the liberation of Albania, not to enter the path of Russia, because they knew communism, had finished schools abroad, in England and France, his friends, and George himself in America. These were shot and thrown into a pit and covered, as we received information later.
The shooting of 12 smart men from Saranda, Tepelena and Gjirokastra, was carried out at the Industrial School, near the cemetery of Gjirokastra. When the school of Gjirokastra was built there, in the foundations that were being opened, the bones of the enemies came out, this is what people from the people who had seen them told us. The Industrial School was erected on the remains of the 12 enemies of the Party, they said at the time.
Have you, your family and relatives experienced persecution?
The brother removed a lot of persecutions, because the brother was enlightened, he resembled his father, he was an inventor, that if he had another biography … medium, not communist, he could have become an engineer of many kinds of inventions, while I played the role of the fool: from the wisdom of my father’s gene, I defended myself and escaped that evil.
I have a small event. When I was a child, the men of the village had gathered in the center and my brother came from work as a mechanic and told me where the communists were – the brigadiers, the secretary of the organization, etc. – he would fix the hydropower plant a little, since we had no light. In August the water level dropped. He says to a communist there: “There is no power plant left in your hands to fix it. You look at your work where you have it, because you also have it in excess”! I was a bit like a savage when I was little and I went to throw him in the throat, but my brother did not leave me, because he was very smart and very sharp. The secretary of the base organization was sewn from behind. “Oh, come here,” he told her. The brother replied: “My father may have been wrong about the Party, he was even shot, but we are not to blame for offending us, because I am talking for the good of the village”. “Can you fix the plant”? Asked the secretary. “Yes,” he says, “I will fix it!” If I do not fix it, I will burn in the power plant “!
I spent four days and four nights there, at the hydropower plant, and I do not know how he did it. I brought him the bread and like a calamus, I said to him: “Eat bread, eat bread”, but he had trouble doing the work and when he started the hydropower plant, the world became day. When he was at school, since we were poor, he wanted to leave school and go to work on the roads, but his mother would not let him. “You will continue school, bad mother”!
One day he was looking at a tractor at work and, like a sevdalli, climbed up behind him. Seeing him, he turns to the tractor driver and tells him that the tractor was making noise. “And you, how do you know?” – The tractor driver wondered. “That’s what I think,” said the brother, and the tractor driver then replied, “Will you come and work with me as a mechanic?” Thats it! He also left school and started as an assistant.
He worked for 3-4 months, but they found out that he was working as a tractor driver and they got up and said: “How did you give the tractor to an enemy”? My brother, from a young age he used to get up on the tractor like this, I looked at him and I was happy for him, because he had many trades, a tractor driver, an electrician … what he saw, did, achieved everything in his mind, without school, and I did not know about these things, I only knew the pickaxe and the shovel. And so, take it from there, take it from here…!
He falls in love with a Korça woman here in Tirana, a teacher. They were together for a year when she learned that he was being persecuted. “You had an enemy father,” he says, “why did you not tell me that?” “Even if we had two or three children, I would not have taken you, because I am a communist family, I am not a family of enemies.” So my brother, wait there, hit here, went to psychiatry. Even there he was not treated like everyone else, because the hospitals were a bit like that…!
When I reached the age of 19, I fell in love with a girl and I said to her here, here, “I love you”. She says to me: “I better take you with one eye, but that wolf skin you have, why should I take it too”? So I love another girl, I look for her with matchmaking, and again they would not let me: “Oh, the priest’s son ?! No way! So I also went to a psychiatrist with my brother. Two brothers in psychiatry, until the sister got a man with a good biography. It was a communist family, but they did not come home anymore, since my sister was the “daughter of the enemy”.
However, it also came down to her children. Her first child, from the beginning of school, first grade, to eighth, was with an average grade of 10, but in the village came only one scholarship for two students. The other student had the best biography of my niece, but with grades she was very poor. The director of the school stands up, in the presence of the secretary of the bureau, and says: “I, as the director of the school who knows both students well, think that Zhaneta Suli will take her with a high average grade”. “Sit down,” says the secretary of the bureau, “Zhaneta Suli is the granddaughter of Gjergj Suli.” The school director replies: “Gjergji paid for it with his own head. The girl’s mother did not even know that Gjergj and not this one, however we also say differently: this is a communist granddaughter, she has a military uncle in the Navy in Durrës ”. When he sat down, the secretary said: “Do not feel”!
But these were heavy blows on my sister’s back, even ours. The sister coped with these situations a little better, being somewhat covered by the husband’s biography, while we, two brothers, went to the psychiatrist, where we were treated as seriously ill.
Did you keep personal belongings from your father at home?
No way! Those that were, disappeared, that they destroyed the house. The father had nothing in stock, only books, some boxes, some blankets. Even as it came from America, it was fukara, but it was with other ideals, with ideologies, multilingual, it was necessarily completely different.
Did you find out what was the basic charge your father was convicted of?
The accusation was that: “the father was connected with the Sylog of Ioannina, that he had connections with the ‘National Ball’, with the leaders of the beys for the overthrow of the communist system, that he did not accept the communist system, that he wanted the Americans and the British in Albania…”!
Was this charge only for your father, or along with others with whom he was convicted in the group?
It was in the group and everyone was sentenced to be shot! The four main leaders were convicted at a dinner. Zenel Shehu was known as a great fighter and was appointed chairman of the Tepelena Committee, after its liberation. He rode his horse and went to Përmet, when the Congress was taking place, and opposed Enver Hoxha: “We fought the war, we liberated Albania, but, comrade Enver, you are putting us out of communism. We know what communism is”! “Well, Comrade Zenel,” says Enver, “we will see your problem next time!” At that time, he was immediately arrested and assigned to be shot.
When you grew up, did you ever meet those who caused you this tragedy, people who sued your father, or who tortured him? Did you find out who they were?
We know nothing!
What if today, at this age, you were shown crossing the street, how do you think you would have acted?
I will say to him: “You’s a jerk” !, that I cannot take revenge on one, a dignified bloodthirsty, because we have such a culture here, that we cannot trample even a fly, not to take revenge with torture inhuman, as that system brought to Albania. From me, as we say, they are forgiven, that I am not vindictive with such people, but I am sorry how these barbarians managed to do this with all the Albanian culture, with the cream of the Albanian nation, with all the rich who had shed sweat. How do you call this, to come and take my property? “For those who owned property, that my old man did not even own property, nothing, he just had his heavy ideals, his culture.”
Do you hope to find your father’s bones?
Ah … I do not know. Maybe I can make a mistake, but in my Albania, which my father loved so much, for which he left America and his children, as well as my nephew, I also see that a lot has been stolen here and communism continues, continues, and continues the way of communism…! Yes, everything can be achieved, if it is put in the path of the ideals of the great patriots, of the Frashërllinj, of Mid’hat Frashëri who led the ‘Balli Kombëtar’, of Abdyl Frashëri who was, as we sing songs in the lab:
“Avdyl ruined the property / You made it gold./ Go to Bismarck, / Stay in Skamni…”
People were persecuted, because that was the system. If people are to walk the path of democracy, for the correct democracy to be born, then everything is achievable.
Would you be happy if one day you were informed that your father’s bones were found?
It will be a great joy; however I do not know the word “father” and I have no compassion for the father. I loved my mother very much, that is, my father’s love, I think I threw it on my mother. I loved my mother, because I did not know my father! I do not have his ideals.
I just feel sorry for him now that I am spiritually touched by such a great man, that I cannot even reach the toe, to have great love. But for the misfortune that befell my father I will do it day and night.
Did they write about your father, did they mention him as a figure?
They wrote, but no one wrote properly, that all my father’s fellow travelers did not live.
When democracy was opened, people almost left, we were a little incapable, because we were oppressed and isolated in the village of Lekël: no one came in, no one came out of our house, we did not know how to wish or we did not dance, nor did we console, not even when my mother died or when my wife’s first cousin died, 17 years old…!
There were 17 of us holding the coffin in our arms, in the town of Memaliaj. We opened the way for cars and people, because our cars were crushed, because the enemy’s daughter left, because my wife was also persecuted and sentenced to prison: 10 years her uncle in Ballsh, 5 years her father in Spaç. So we were too, too despised. No one spoke to us orally. They oppressed and spat on us! They left us in the most difficult jobs!
Having a medical report from the Psychiatric Hospital of Vlora, I say to the secretary of the basic organization of the village: “A job for me too, because I cannot eat the pickaxe even with such health that I have”! “Ka norma Partia”! – He tells me.
A sector manager, who felt sorry for me, was not a communist; put me on horseback, horses. As soon as he put me in the pockets, I maintained and sounded them for my personal seder, as well as to honor the head of the sector who did me this great honor. He removed me from the pickaxe as a sick man, but someone wrote a letter and the first secretary of the district sent his instructor and I was immediately removed from the diapers. A fellow villager from Hormova, not from us, but from Hormova, stood up and said: “Do not take it away, more! Leave the enemy, because he provided the pelts”! He said it with his mouth, and I heard it myself. “Go away, watch the work, because the Party knows that work,” the instructor told him.
Mr. Thoma, thank you very much for the interview.
I also thank you for the respect, for the behavior, for the education and I wish that Albania takes the full path of democracy, that all the Albanians who have fled abroad return to their nest, that the bird that leaves its nest…! How do they say: “Where is clay sweeter than honey? Here in Albania”! But we do not see prosperity on our way to Albania, so that all Albanians who have left Albania return, what is it that leaves Albania? I left a piece of land, a ruin in the village of Lekël and I live in Greece, today, and I long to come and see it, although I have suffered from the most inhuman tortures, but still my country hurts, Albania hurts me. I want to see a statesman come out, to become the god of Albania! Memorie.al