From Arta Cano
Memorie.al / Arrested at the age of 20, after being caught trying to cross the border, Luan Berberi from Berat, suffered numerous tortures, starting from soldiers, officers and investigators, until he was brought to court and sentenced to 25 years, which he would have completed in full, if the communist regime had not collapsed in ’91. He tells about the many torments of those 7 years and the indelible memories of the dungeon where he was kept isolated, etc.
Mr. Luan, how do you remember your escape attempt?
I, Luan Berberi, suffered for 7 years during “that” time (I won’t even mention the Dictator Enver Hoxha’s name) and I am surprised that today no one turns his head; he will not even know that I am or it’s not me as a person. And if we talk about my prison, it’s a lot of suffering, despite the fact that I’m in this state today, I’m fine thank God, God forgive me for mentioning it, but I’m fine!
In 1984, we took the road from Berat, boarded the bus that passed through the Ura e Gorica and arrived in Përmet, to Gjirokastër…! We pass it there; we stop near the Kardhiqi Bridge, in Virua. There, we had a friend who was a soldier. I had finished high school and was a civilian. Both of us, including Vani who was in Rrajcë of Skrapar, a soldier, had been talking since Berat and we left.
There, in Virua, we drank from a small glass of wine, from a coffee: “we’ll go”. “We will leave”, we decided that we were staying here for two or three days, it has been a cold winter. It was, if I’m not mistaken, March 31, ’84. We sat outside in the frost for three days, 20 cm of frost. In the cold, hell, hell, rain, then on the last day, it started raining and we hit the road. Yes, it was 120 or so kilometers from the border.
How many people were you?
I, Pelivan Mjeshova who was killed and Adnand Kuka who is dead, have mercy! The three. On foot, walking, we reach Gjirokastra.
Were you stopped for a road check?
No one stopped us. They stopped a couple of policemen like that, but apparently they were informed that I don’t understand this, they stopped us, and they didn’t tell us anything. Those in military clothes…! -“What about you, civilian”?-they told Me.-I am the son of X’s aunt, Nandi, Nand Kuka.-Good, run away, run away! It was on purpose once; it was definitely on purpose because the policemen there, ID cards, damn it, some papers they had, yes they had a couple of pass papers.
Rahmet past Vani who was killed, had a pass. Nani was a soldier in Ure-Kardhiq, that’s the name of the one who watched the planes when they crossed the border. And so we walked, they left us too. We started in the fields of Jorgucat, a couple of civilian cars came to us, and we lay down in what they had planted. It was pure and simple, it had gone perfectly. It was clear there that they were following us. Civilian cars were.
In Jorgucat there was a post-blockade during Enver’s time, they didn’t allow it. It was called the border line, right there. We passed that. We wanted to cross the river. I fell into the river, with all my clothes on, it was cold… when I say the ice was almost 20 cm. like snow. We passed that, passed to Glina, because I don’t remember those other villages; we reached Peshkepi, the last village that had a border with Greece. In Peshkepi, we encountered the patrols, but they did not dictate to us. We opened the clone, our way…!
Were you able to beat the clone?
We opened it, but apparently the signal went off there or they were prepared. We did a maneuver there, I don’t know… I wasn’t the technician. I was 20 years old then, dude. And it was a terrible thing. They let us through. They left us on purpose, because there was no way. Why did they ambush us? They ambushed us at the top of the hill.
An officer, a small captain, I remember his name…! Mitro Kutra, his name was, he is dead, he was with the border dog. The dog passed by us, but it seems that things were calculated that we should come to where the soldiers were and that’s what happened.
It came close to 15 m. away, they told us: the slogan, the counter-slogan, but then they spoke Greek, not Albanian, to each other because the two soldiers were in soldiers’ uniforms and could not be distinguished. A massacre has started there, with bombs, with hell, with the devil. Bombs… I don’t know what they were, because I didn’t understand them because I hadn’t even joined the army. They said: the slogan, the counter-slogan, and the carnage began there.
What did you do at that time?
I got close to the one who has died, my friend, my peer, Nand Kuka and…! “What is happening like this,” I said, “that these people are speaking Greek?” Let’s surrender that we have succeeded”. That’s how I knew, if you cross 6 meters, you have reached the Greek border…! My teenage age at that time allowed me to always say “thank goodness I got away”, because I was a bit of a throwaway boy…! “Thank goodness we left”!
Did you see how Pelivani was killed?
Pelivani…! I do not know…! It was 20 meters away from me. I know that they said: the slogan, the counter-slogan and that’s all I know, from their side, but Pelivani was 20 meters away. I don’t know, I only saw it there when they told me: Kiss!
Were those who spoke Greek Albanians?
Yes Yes…! They were Albanian soldiers. I proved it there, that I was saying to my friend: “Hey, let’s give up; we’ve come to the Greeks. – “They’re not Greeks, – he told me, – they’re Albanians.” to be him
Then what happened to you?
There, I didn’t see anything anymore, I was only taken by three officers with hats, with shoulder pads, they were definitely officers, but I was shot in the head by one of them, the civilian people of the village there…! When he shot me, I cursed him. He cursed me, I cursed him, boom with a lump in my head, and he wanted to kill me, yes… because I wanted to kiss Pelivan. – “Kiss”, – said the officer. As soon as I sat down, they hit me on the head. I have half of my head torn from them, from their cities.
No matter what happened there, but since they tied me up with barbed wire, I have not seen the place where I went. Even the place where I went, at a point, how should I say, 100 meters below was the border point, where those soldiers were, 20 soldiers. They forced the officers, the soldiers with palms, a line, 20 soldiers or 22, I don’t remember how many there were. My friend was in another room, I was in another room. With palms, then behind palms, with long wood, 1 meter was and: boom from the back! All 20 soldiers. Maybe there were also Beratas, because I am a Beratas myself. They may know better.
Where did they take you next?
They took us to Gjirokastra.
How were you treated?
There, that crime boss, what was he, in Gjirokastër, hit me with a chair, with kicks, with fists…! I was tied up with barbed wire, the barbed wire went into my flesh and I still have the scars to this day, however…what do I have to say now that it’s been almost 40 years.
Did they continue to beat you during the investigation?
There, horror! Horror…! I got a headache once. I didn’t listen anymore…! Fists…to the head, bam and bam, because I was also a young man, I was healthy, straight to the point of conversation. They took me to the investigator, with fists, kicks, all…! Like a little reed, I curled up in a corner there. Cracked head, bandage from the head…! I looked at these…! The doctor didn’t come; I didn’t know what was going on. I went on hunger strike for 21 days. If you wanted to ask there in Gjirokastër, 21 days of hunger strike. They inserted probes through my nose, they also threw tea on me, I don’t know what they threw on me, what they did to me?! I went through a severe mental phase. I don’t know, I don’t know what I did there.
How long did the investigation take?
The investigation lasted almost 9 months for me, but I spent four and a half months in Gjirokastër. An extraordinary investigator…is playing with mice. I gave half of the bread to the mice. Maybe you are not trusted. She was the truth. With rats, with flies, a dungeon that the Gyrocastrians know well, dungeon number 2, was called the dungeon of death. I am alive today, thank God! If you ask there, 5-6 people have died who did the investigation there, in that dungeon that I used to walk in, that’s it. Where do you want to walk? Just lay the mattress. On the boards.
When you went to trial, how many years were you sentenced to?
A military trial took place. I was sentenced to 25 years in prison. My friend was also sentenced by firing squad, but his life was spared because requests were made to the People’s Assembly at that time…! That was the conversation.
What prison were you taken to?
In the Neck-Bari. It snowed there in 1985, if I’m not mistaken, in January when it fell two and a half meters, the camp was completely drowned.
You left shortly after the May revolt. What condition did you find in the Qafë-Bari camp?
There, the most extraordinary tortures. There, in the row where the soldiers were standing, if you moved your head a bit, a policeman would fall 1.30 m. you were even 2 meters tall, so that I could drop a palm at my age and throw it over there…but still. They beat you, because if you opposed the police, you got seven days in the dungeon, but the dungeons were ice.
If you are sleepy, wake up. You were dead. Or go to the infirmary. There, the police commander was Mond Caja, after Mond, came Ludovik Cali, more terrible than the other. Mond Caja has obtained political status in Germany and if he comes to face me, I am the first to go out to meet him.
Personally, he did not participate, but he led the soldiers, he led the policemen, the guards, whatever they told him at that time. They were the guards, the guards of the camp. They were also ready. There was only Dayak where I was. There was blood. Even to this day in Qafë-Bari, there is red soil, only from the blood of the prisoners.
Did you work in the mine?
I worked for almost a year in the mine, but in the blink of an eye, I received a report, they told me “you will work here, there”, and I didn’t work anymore.
Did you meet your family during this whole period?
This is the most important. When I was in Gjirokastër, they didn’t even allow the clothes of my family members; they didn’t access them, or food, or hell, or the devil. They absolutely did not allow it.
What about Qafe-Bari?
In Qafë-Bari, yes, they came to me, because it was a camp. If you entered the dungeon, your family members would not be allowed to, absolutely. I have gone to the time when it was two pounds of food a month, any kind: sugar, rice or eggs, whatever was the lightest weight.
Did you try the dungeon in Qafë-Bari?
Yes, normal I tried it.
Why were you put in the dungeon?
Yes, the rules, the cigarette…! We had our kitchen, where we cooked with coal, not stone, but with those coals that were made like eggs. Even half the room was smoky, half smokeless. The regulation read: “Smoking, no smoking”! And they beat me; they put me in the dungeon for this. -“Why do you smoke? Do you look at the regulation”? -Yes, I told him, the police chief… – look how it is…!
We sat because the smoke came. The policemen laughed because they knew very well, what are you saying? We had to drink the coffee inside, the cigarette in the snow outside. We had some stairs where we were sitting and there was a walk down, a square of almost 50 meters, 30 meters wide, where 500 people, not 500, less than half were at work. This has been our work.
When were you released from prison?
I was released in 1991. I don’t remember well that almost 40 years have passed, but these days, March or April. I was released in March, March 29, 1991. Even when I came to Berat, I continued my life. I stayed here for 7 days, I fled to Greece, I worked for a year or so in Greece, I came to Albania, I started 7 years here in the hospital; they fired me, for party work. That’s my story; I was fired for party work. Memorie.al