By A. Cano
Memorie.al / Manol Qirici and Stavro Guxo crossed the borders of Spaçi camp on December 9, 1977 and walked for 13 days between frost and snow, but when they reached the border, Manol’s stomach burst. The entire army and police were mobilized and following them. “Go away, save yourself, at least” – said Manoli to Stavros. The two of them had met a few months ago, in Spaçi prison. But that day, they became friends forever
Among the 152 political prisoners who came to Spaçi camp during 1977, bringing their number to 877, until the capacity of the two buildings was exceeded, were Manol Qirici and Stavro Guxo. When Manoli, from a family of ballisticians, with a shot father, came to the camp, he had left behind the most difficult months of his life.
He was arrested on November 13, 1976, in the middle of a meeting organized in his native village, Mbrezhan, where after the arrest was announced, some communist women took the song. He had been the investigator in Përmet for 9 months and when he appeared in court, there were also witnesses of people with the same surname who said that Manoli had insulted the communist government and Enver Hoxha. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was sent to Spaç in Mirdita.
That same year, on April 26, the teacher Stavro Guxo, a Greek minority from Derviçani in Gjirokastra, was also arrested. He was accused of trying to escape. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison and sent to Spaç. This was the second sentence for Stavrin, who was sentenced to 4 years for agitation and propaganda in 1973.
Apparently, the two became fast friends, not only to share their troubles, but also their plans for escape, which could not be trusted to any fellow sufferer. You couldn’t help but want to escape from that deep camp, where you worked as a norm in the mine, where rights did not exist and the oppression became even more severe after the revolt of 1973, but there were few who took the initiative with high risk to life.
In 1969, for example, as shown in his book “Prisons and Camps of Communist Albania”, Kastriot Dervishi, from whom the data on Spaçi prison was obtained, 15 people tried to escape. Six of them were captured or destroyed immediately, while another nine were captured within 8 days.
In 1973, a prisoner trying to escape and get past the second cordon is shot by a serving soldier, seriously wounding him from the waist down, and is allegedly given an eye and cheek aid, but does not move from the wires until the investigation group arrives from Rrësheni. His image remained on the wire in the minds of the convicts long after the wounded man was taken down from there.
However, Manoli and Stavroja dared. The escapes were made during shift changes, or from the mine galleries and always on days with bad weather, rain, snow and fog. One such day was December 9, 1977, when Manol Qirici and Stavri Guxo overcame all the cordons and came out of the camp, blowing up all the studied high security measures. The event of that date and the days that followed has been confirmed by Manoli’s son, Anastasi.
“My father Manol Qirici together with his friend Stavro Guxo escaped from Spaçi prison. It was a harsh winter that year, but as they escaped from the prison, it began to snow heavily. The police and the army were searching, all of Albania on foot. Days passed and they were not caught. It was the 13th day they had escaped.
They had reached Kukës, my father’s stomach hurts and he says to Stavros: Go away, let me die! Escape at least, doesn’t fall into the hands of these criminals! But Stavroja did not leave him and took him in her arms, went out on the highway and surrendered to the first police car that came in their direction”.
They had known each other for a few months, but at that moment, there could not be men who were more friends between them. “That’s how they take them and torture them and take them to Tirana, – Anastas Qirici continues the story, – where the father is operated on from the stomach and luckily, it turns out that, in general, medical students practiced with the prisoners.
And later after he did well, he was brought to trial in the city of Rreshen, where he was sentenced to be shot, but the sentence was changed to 25 years of imprisonment, plus 10 years from the Court of Përmet, 35 years. In conclusion, 25 years of imprisonment. They took him to Burrel prison to serve his sentence. He served his sentence there for years until he was released from prison on February 10, 1991. He returned to his hometown in Mbrezhan and fled to Greece with his family.”
Stavroja was also sentenced to 25 years in prison. From the testimonies of the prisoners, it is known that he also served his sentence in the Burrel prison, where he was, according to Qani Sadiku’s testimony, in April 1985. “A very good boy from the Greek minority”, says Qani Sadiku for Stavrin – although, after the incident in the Kukës Mountains, no one would doubt it.
“After being released from prison, my father fled to Greece and lived with his wife, two sons and daughter in the Greek city of Agrinio. Manoli was interested in finding out where his friend Stavro Guxo was and we learned that he lived in the Greek city of Arta. He was married to a Greek professor, who worked at the University of Ioannina.
We met with Stavro Guxon twice in the city of Arta, where I went myself with my father. We didn’t meet again since my father Manoli had a motorcycle accident and died in November 1992. I met him two more times in the city of Gjirokastra.
Stavroja had separated from the Greek woman, but had a daughter and married a woman from the minority. I learned that he passed away in 2016, if I’m not mistaken, and rests in the village of his birth, Derviçan in Gjirokastra”, writes Anastasi, from Germany.
Although you can say a lot about their years in prison, or remain speechless, it is certain that they found there: a lot of suffering and a true friend. Memorie.al