By Marije Gjoka (Mazreku)
The first part
Memorie.al / Marie Gjoka, from a young age faced political persecution, because, at the end of 1946, her brother, Dom Nikoll Mazreku, was arrested and he spent the entire period of the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and his successor, Ramiz Ali. The other brother, Rrokun, was shot, in the first years of the Enverian communist regime coming to power, even though he was completely innocent! Maria spent a whole life behind prisons and camps, where she went to help her brother, Dom Nikolla, and her husband, who arrested her just a short time after her marriage.
– A SISTER WHO WROTE THE PAINFUL TRUTH…! –
(Excerpt from the book “CIRCLE OF BITTER MEMORIES” by Marija Gjoka)
After so many years, I dare to write a few lines about my brother, Rrok Mazreku. He was born in Shkodër in 1920. Dom Nikolli, in 1941, was deputy parish priest in the Church of Tirana. Then, they transfer him to Kryezi of Puka, but as a parish priest. Here he took his mother, Rroku and me.
Rroku worked as a carpenter, as a master there, from the beginning, he undertook the arrangement of the church of Kryeziu. But, in addition to the works of this church, according to Dom Nikolli’s wish, he also goes to Flet village, for the repair of the windows of the village church. And on the very day that he was going there, a person sentenced to death passed by, accompanied by members of the Security. He was disguised and was going to show the places where Pashuk Bibë Mirakaj and other fugitives were hiding.
The chairman of the council, Riza Mustafa, uses this opportunity to take revenge on Dom Nikolli and his family. Thus, through his brother-in-law, Islam Pema, a former security officer in the Puke Internal Affairs Branch, they concocted the slander, saying that: “Dom Nikolli sent his brother to Flet, to inform the fugitives and thus helping them escape from the hands of the Security”.
A few days before this event, Rizai and the priest had confronted each other in the presence of church representatives, for some conflicts between them, from where the right was given to the priest. Therefore, Rizai took the opportunity to take revenge. Thus, as soon as Rroku returns from Fleti, he is arrested. After he was subjected to the most inhumane tortures, without any facts, he was sentenced to 5 years in political prison.
Just a few months after this arrest, Dom Nikolli was also handcuffed, leaving me and my mother alone in that remote village. At that time I was only 18 years old.
As soon as he served his sentence, Rroku, having no one to live with in the house we had in Shkodër, came to us, close to my mother and me. But unfortunately life near the family hearth for him was short. The revenge of the same people who love him for the first time, with the epithet “enemy of the people”, as incompatible with communist ideals, and above all, as the brother of the arrested priest, would be exercised on him. These accusations were ominous for us, as they foreshadowed something bad. They were like the voices of the cuckoo that caused death.
On January 5, 1950, in that so-called Sawmill Establishment (it was just an old barangay), as it had caught fire many times before, it caught fire again and completely destroyed it. My brother, along with four workers, was about 100 meters away from this facility. They immediately rushed to turn it off, but in vain. That’s all it took and the State Security forces arrived immediately. In charge was the criminal Xhemal Selimi (Uci).
A few months ago, Rroku had a fight with Xhemal Selim in the Puka club, after he had insulted him. The workers, asked about this event, said out loud that the fire was impossible to stop, but Xhemali did not want the truth. The devil was swirling in his mind. He answers the workers, saying that: “Rrok Mazrek burned down the establishment and I will put his head on the foundations of the new establishment.”
Despite the persistence of the workers and their supervisor, Lukë Mark Ndoci, Xhemali does his own thing. He shouts like a madman, saying: “Here we are dealing with an enemy of the people and a former political prisoner, like his brother, Dom Nikollë Mazreku, who is also in political prison. They don’t agree with us, they are Christian Democrats”, etc.
This merciless man keeps Rrok in the interrogator for 10 months, exercising the most terrible torture on him. From time to time he put him in the hospital with the sole purpose, so that the prisoner would recover, and then… torture again. When Rroku was in the prison hospital, anticipating death, he sent us a small letter through a sanatorium called Leze, where he wrote: “I am being shot for an innocent crime. Bring me some sermi medal, so that I can be found sometime”.
On the threshold of the shooting, Rroku also left other letters, which were found in his mattress. In one of them, he wrote: “Mother, I’m dying, but don’t despair: That’s what God said, pay me with my life, a sin we’ve never committed.”
Then, after apologizing to everyone, he describes in detail the inhuman tortures on the interrogator, many times at the hands of Xhemal himself. Rroku’s letters were all copied by his brother, Dom Nikolli, after his release from the first prison. But since the arrests, confiscations and checks never ended in our family, we hid them and today, unfortunately, they are so damaged that they can hardly be read.
Meanwhile, Xhemal Selimi remains faithful to his promise and, after a formal trial, it was decided that Rroku would be shot. Thus, he announces the entire village of Kryezi to gather in front of the Saw Mill, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. (For this criminal it was not the first time that he tried such sadistic pleasures of the communist type).
December 25, Christmas Day, was deliberately chosen…! When Xhemali came with the firing squad, where all the summoned people had gathered, he said to Rroku: “We built the Establishment again, and you are being shot”!
– “Where do you want me to stay”?
Then he overcame a pile of bodies (matter), which were stacked in front of him. They tell him to stop at the sawdust pile. They ask him:
– “What did you say to me”?
E Rroku answers: – “Long live free Albania, with true freedom…”!
And, as he wants to add something, the gunshots cut him off in half. But Xhemali is not satisfied with that. He approaches him with a revolver in his hand and falls on his head to die. Then he falls to his knees in front of the corpse. Apparently the blood had caught him. The innocent blood of Rock…!
It was Christmas day, a holiday for the entire world Catholicism, but unfortunately not for the Albanian one. I heard the crackling of guns from afar. I shuddered. My heart was black. I ran to the scene. I was very shocked. I saw my brother lying like that, bloody…! I wanted to approach them, but they didn’t let me. I wanted to hug him for the last time…!
The body of the murdered man remained there until dark. They wanted to add terror to humanity, but also to wait for the night, in order not to discover his grave. I found trustworthy people who, both secretly and secretly, observed the actions of criminals. After three days, I did the impossible, together with a peasant who had fixed the place carefully; we went to that square of death…!
We stopped. The pile of dirt was covered with pine branches. There were also lots of matchsticks used to see the night as they were burying him. I removed the gems in the branches and made, as best I could, a pit. There I put the serm medal and the blessed water…!
Rroku’s wish that his grave be found, according to God’s will, was fulfilled. But only after 41 years of his shooting…! And precisely in December of 1991. His bones were found together with the chains, with which they had tied him for life and buried him for dead…! They were reburied near the graves of their deserted parents, in the Catholic cemetery of Rrmaj, in Shkodër.
Rroku was born and raised in Shkodër, but was shot in Kryezi i Puka. He was known, sweet and loved by all. This is how all the people of Shkodra who had company with him remember him. Likewise, the residents of Kryeziu, with whom he shared their sorrows and joys, keep him in their hearts. The Blacks are, at the same time, eyewitnesses of his martyrdom, and at the same time of his innocence, which they have expressed many times under their breath, although with fear…!
The arrest of Dom Nikollë Mazrek
In November 1946, while we were having dinner, the door slammed and what we expected happened. Eight soldiers entered the house and, after handcuffing him, took Dom Nikol with them. It was 9:00 p.m. As they left through the night, we were left alone. I left the house and continued walking behind the bound brother. The State Security Forces pressured me to return, but I continued on my way with them. I had a feeling of fear that they would kill him on the way…! After half an hour’s journey, Dom Nikolli brought his head back and said to me:
– “Marie, go back and tell the bailiffs of the church (Church Council) that I have been arrested! You, if you want, come to Puke tomorrow”!
It was almost the middle of the night…! I wasn’t afraid of the trouble that found us, even the darkness, which was like putting fingers in my eyes. My mind was on my brother’s order. I chose the shortest path, and walking through the brambles and bushes, I reached the house of a councilman. As I approached the birch door, a dog, as big as a wolf, jumped at me and bit me badly on the leg.
Once the people of the house came out. One of the women escorted me inside. My shoe was filled with blood, which froze after a while. I gave Dom Nikolli’s order and, just like that, I slowly left for my house. The desolate mother, when she found out what she had found me, was very upset. She was distressed by the arrest of her son, then, seeing me in that state, her distress seemed to know no bounds.
The next day, even though I had a fever, I left for Puka. From Kryeziu to Pukë by car, it takes about 2 hours. I walked that way. I didn’t expect it; I wanted at all costs to know what was happening with my brother. When I got to those extermination offices, I found my brother in the office of Franc Jakov, who had taken him to ask him about his personal curiosity. The brother’s arrest was made under the direction of the Security operative, Zydi Çoba.
How much prison and exile my brother has served, it’s hard to imagine. Every Mandela of the world would blush before him. 37 years of prison and exile, two arrests, two investigators, two trials with as many sessions. How many places of internment…! He has tried almost all the prisons and extermination camps of Albania. It is sad just to mention those hours of fear, psychological and physical suffering, mistreatment and contempt that the Communist State Security inflicted on my brother and on us, as his family members.
I explained in the small book of poems entitled “Lot nane”, how and why I got married there in that mountain village of Puka to a very poor man, just to have him by my side during those difficulties of life, to help my mother , which remained only with me. Both my brothers were put in prison. (I will tell about the other brother, Rrokun, later).
But, unfortunately, my suffering was not over. After eight months of marriage, my husband was also arrested and now I had to take care of him as well. A few days after this event, I and a cousin of Biba, (that’s what my husband was called), set off on foot to Puka, to send food to my husband. At a sign of the place, which is called “Mullini i Pal Gjergjit”, we meet two men who were carrying a vig. A mountain woman was walking behind them. Vigu was discovered, the dead man was Lekë Berisha. The corpse had marks and black spots on its face and neck. The woman who was walking with him, who was his mother, said to me:
– “Mana, my noble, they drowned me for gasp”!
It was said that Leka’s soul had been tortured, with a handkerchief in his mouth and nails in his throat. He whispered convincing facts about who was the author of this cruelty…! A few years later, almost in the same place where we found his victim, the only son of that criminal who was said to have strangled Leka fell. The people, trembling with fear, quietly took this as God’s punishment. God’s punishment, as for people, he never had a thorn in his side…! With the advent of democracy, he lived for several years in Rome…! There was talk, near Caritas…!
Since, according to the slander, it was suspected that I was living there in the mountains to deal with politics, I decided and sought shelter in the village below, in the center, where the offices of the People’s Council and the party were. By settling here I wanted not to arouse the suspicion of the devils. But this cost me quite a bit. I took shelter in a hut surrounded by willows and close by was the cattle pen. I was very tight. The child was 4 months old… another a little older.
The road of my ordeal was long…! In December 1950, nine days after the shooting of my brother, Rroku, my 13-month-old child died. The mother’s little one was well developed and beautiful as light…! The day I heard the shots of the machine gun, which shot my brother, (given that the mother was not inside the house), I took this child out into the yard and put him in a circle (kular), so that he would not fall. But it was quite cold outside. For those who have tried it, the climate of the Puka area is wild…!
The child caught a severe cold in his throat and after three days he died of diphtheria. After a year, it seems from the bitterness of the shooting of my son, Rroku, my mother also died. After her death, I came to live at the cell (church house). I did this mainly because, according to the advice of Monsignor Vinçens Prendush, (who also died later in communist prisons), I, as a priest’s sister, in the absence of the priest, had to keep it open and ring the bells three times a day , and to do you some small service. Memorie.al
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