By Hysen Selmani
The tenth part
Memorie.al/ European and American press have often addressed the subject of the memories of the Albanian King, Zogu i-r, which he wrote and dictated during his exile from Albania. Considering the notes and syntheses that his assistant, Colonel Hysen Selmani, compiled over the years in his service, – always, next to the King of the Albanians, both at home and in exile, these notes, more or less with parts of detached, without strictly following the usual criteria of memoirs, and without having the definite, final form of an edition, they are prepared by Hysen Selmani himself, who has dedicated most of his life, as in Albania, as well as during the exile, serving the First Zogu, the King of the Albanians.
Continues from last issue
Tirana, on April 6, 1939
On April 6, 1939, at 10 o’clock in the morning, the Ministerial Council met in the Palace under the Chairmanship of King Zog, among the talks that took place mainly were those on the Balkan States and especially this recent behavior of Yugoslavia. The king told you: “What is presented to us today from Yugoslavia should not surprise us, because this is not already, but I told you in time. It is not surprising that Greece also has to take this path, because it seemed that the Great States, the Anglo-French, were advising us for a compromise with Italy, so that this danger would be extinguished. That they were not ready. Since March 25, 1939, the Representatives of Great Britain told me Sir. Thomas Hobler, together with the British Minister Sir. Rayoan that the Belgrade-Athens attitudes depend on the German behavior, that it makes the effect against them”.
The king said: “As we have mentioned many times, we have no other way, except that we are doing our duty. It belongs to us for our Motherland, until the end, so that the whole democratic world knows that the small Albanian people, unarmed, does not accept anyone’s yoke. But he prefers death to the loss of independence. Today, Nazi-fascism is enraged by the victories of the cases, without any opposition, by the League of Nations, etc. Countries that we have seen withdrawing and their guarantees, left at the mercy of the butchers, such as: France, as well as Great Britain, are not ready today, they are escaping, taking advantage of this event.
Our neighbors, Yugoslavia and Greece, who are being used today indirectly as allies of fascism, keep their eyes closed and see very well the danger that is coming to their door and very soon, behind us. Perhaps this is rather the interest of Germany, to have secured the Balkans well, from the fascist army, to be free for the actions that it will take very soon, before the year has passed.
We have known Italy to be as loyal as ever, in friendships and alliances, but she has never been honest with us. We have understood it and even seen it with facts, but we don’t even have what to do. Since 1935, we have prayed to the Balkan States and Turkey, for a sincere union in the middle of a close relationship, to protect the same interests and we have informed them, since that time, about the plan of fascism, but it has not been appreciated or, they did not want, not giving it that importance.
I’m just telling you that: still, some of the ministers and some deputies do not believe that Italy will take military measures against Albania and the ultimatum, they call it a demonstration of intimidation. So, I am telling you that; Italy is determined in time, only it was waiting for the favorable, diplomatic moment, and now the Italian powers are located in the vicinity of the Albanian coast, we will do our duty, with all the obstacles that our neighbors are bringing us. While the European war, one hundred percent, is this year, without the slightest doubt, that Germany’s colossal armament will be used before the Anglo-French are armed.”
After that, the Council also studied some loan issues for the National Defense Command. Thus, the talks ended at 12 noon and they took leave and left. Only Prime Minister Kotta remained there, it was dinner time and the Council would come to the Palace at 2 pm to start the talks. Prime Minister Kotta asked the King about the health of the Queen and the Little Prince. The king laughed and said: “Better, Mr. Kotta, ask the colonel that he might know, because I have not even seen them, nor have I thought of them there.” The Prime Minister turned to me and asked me. I said: “The Prince is quite well, and the Queen is still a little tired.”
Prime Minister Kotta returned to the King and presented the situation like this: “Majesty, as we see, we are certainly in front of changing events, from hour to hour. We are determined to resist. Allow me Your Majesty, that the stay of the Queen ill with the little Prince 28 hours, may not be left here. There is no reason for this and I propose that, immediately for the Queen, together with the prince, that the measures to leave Tirana be taken tonight, and that the place where to put them be carefully studied and that security be taken seriously, wherever it is most suitable”. Then he turned to me and asked me: “Where does Mr. Colonel say that is the best and safest place to put them?”
I proposed to him that, regarding today’s situation, there is no other place but Korca. That Shkodra remains in danger after the behavior of Yugoslavia. I am of this opinion that; The Queen and the Prince should be sent to Korça and this departure should be done as soon as possible, because even the King has to be much more relaxed in the instructions that may now be needed. Because, it must be said that in the first days of any event, Tirana remains like a battlefield.
King Zog, when he heard Prime Minister Kotta and the answer they proposed, turned back and said: “Mr. Kotta, no. Together with the people. The queen, sick or healthy, has to follow the same fate and suffering that the people have to suffer. The conversation you are having is illogical. If we leave these talks and see and embrace every effort and sacrifice, to save and whiten the face of the country. This, raising the honor of the Albanian Nation as high as possible, as well as ensuring the rights, with full honor of the country and its independence, inviolable for later. The Queen, until she gets better, we can send her to the Hospital.
It’s better there. We must first think and provide for the people’s families, then ours. Because the sons of that people have to die for the Motherland and to honor the Albanian Nation, in front of the whole world, as well as to ensure with full splendor, the Independence of Albania, as a Free State. Well, we always have to keep this in mind,” said King Zog.
Prime Minister Kotta took the floor again and said: “Your Majesty, as always, your heart is closely connected with the people. But, Your Majesty, allow me to tell you that; The Queen is the honor of the entire nation, as well as the Crown Prince, who has not yet reached 30 hours. And this is not the way your Majesty considered it, that if we remain, let it be said, the Queen in the hands of the enemy, with the Hereditary Prince, for the Albanian Nation, not only is it an indelible evil, but also a moral loss, of everyone.
Well, this belongs to all of us, not only your Majesty, I assure you that even the day of Mussolini’s humiliation was calculated for this, to weaken us and take advantage of this opportunity to humble ourselves. And this, as Colonel Selmani also says, he needs to leave Tirana as soon as possible, to a place where he is more convenient and safer”, said Kotta.
Prime Minister Koço Kotta, after these talks, took leave and left. When I conveyed it, he told me: “It is not right and not even in the interest of Albania, to leave the sick Queen with the Crown Prince here, in the hands of the enemy, to mock us tomorrow.” But in the afternoon, I have to come with the whole Government. And I think that; to take a decision as the Government, together with the whole Parliament, for the removal and security of the Queen and the Prince”. – Prime Minister Kotta explained to me.
“This would be the best thing, even if the Parliament made such a decision, that the King does not have to listen in any way, but this could fill his mind”. With these words, we parted with Prime Minister Kotta. When I returned to the Palace, the King wanted me to go upstairs to rest: “You also rest a little here in the salon, and if there is anything important, let me know.”
I answered: “I’m going to the National Defense Command, to see as well as to the Ministry of the Interior, to see Musana.” “Very well”, he told me and went upstairs. And when he went up the stairs, he addressed me: “Like Musana and the general of Shefkina and tell them that; at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, come here to me”.
Tirana, on April 6, 1939, at 3 pm
While the Council of Ministers was discussing under the Chairmanship of King Zog, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Thursday, April 6, 1939, Ducja sent an ultimatum, with a 5-hour deadline, for the integral acceptance of the demands. The Prime Minister was also accompanied by an aerial demonstration, consisting of 300 or so Italian war planes.
The Royal Government of Albania, gathered under the Presidency of the Sovereign, having a Parliamentary representation, decided not to accept the requested conditions. Given that the conditions in question destroy the integration and sovereignty of the Albanian state, and in the event of the landing of Italian troops on Albanian soil, this will be called a violation of independence and sovereignty, and will be opposed with weapons. In this way, he answered the verbal ultimatum of the Minister of Italy, Jacomoni.
Italian warplanes are maneuvering over the capital Tirana. At the same time, they maneuvered in the segments: Vlora, Saranda, Berat, Durrës and Shkodër. The entire sky of Albania was filled with Duce’s planes, for the friendship he showed us twice a day, with his telegrams and letters. That they were treacherous and treacherous, very dirty, for a large state like Italy, to show its strength and greatness, against a small, unarmed state and its allies.
The people’s demonstrations flared up and more than ever, when they saw that Mussolini’s Italy was threatening us with the air force. All the people, throwing slogans and protesting, men and women, girls and boys, shouted: “Fight against fascism”, “Fight against the traitor Mussolini”, “Victory is ours”, “We have God with us”, etc.
Tirana on April 6, 1939, 5 pm
At this time, comes the resignation of General Zef Serreqi, the extraordinary envoy to Italy. This telegram assured us that Italy is determined to unload militarily in Albania, and expects all relations with Albania. This was the slogan when Serreqi left for Italy, the last time, on March 26, 1939. We are writing the telegram below: “Rome on April 6, 1939, to Minister Libohova, Tirana. After the proposals taken under responsibility, they are here unacceptable, stop, to discharge any responsibility from my person”.
When in this trouble, the Commander of the National Defense, General Xhemal Aranitasi, comes to the Palace at 7 o’clock in the afternoon. He comes to my office. He was completely demoralized and told me, please inform his Highness, the King, that I want to come in and see him a little. The King at this time was with the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I entered, and submitted to the King, that; General Aranitasi, wants to present something to you. The king got up and asked me to come immediately to the salon.
I notified the general to appear before the King and we entered the salon with him. The Commander of the National Defense, General Xhemal Aranitasi, when he appeared before the King, demoralized at the top, presented him with an envelope without speaking. The king said “What is this”?! The general replied: “It is my majesty’s resignation.” Thus answered the general, with his head down. The king dropped his eyes and directed: “Give it to the Colonel.”
After that, he ordered me: “Take the Colonel.” The King went to the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Foreign Minister who were in his office. The general and I went together to my office and I told him: “This is it, General, because now it’s not even 10 minutes since we received the resignation of General Zef Serreqi” and I gave him the telegram. He saw it, blushed, and burst into tears like a child.
I added: “General, it would have been far better for you to have killed yourself, than to bring this stain on yourself and your family. It was at this very critical time that the King had given you all the confidence of preparing the defense of the Motherland, you resign?! Do you know what this means?! It is a grave betrayal, that you cannot escape with this. On the contrary. And I am telling you as a friend, that I would never have believed this way to you”.
When I was saying these words, he became completely demoralized, grabbed me by the arm and said to me: “Colonel, I have more than a brother, please save my honor, in the great mistake I have made, because I am not a traitor, but I am loyal to the King and the Motherland. But, due to mistakes and not fulfilling the mandated duty, I was lied to and betrayed. Because I had no way to appear before the King, I resigned. Aman Hysen Beg, my brother, arrange for me to take the resignation again, accepting the responsibility upon myself. I am not Italian and a traitor. Please fix this mistake I made, out of the anger of my people, who left me with lies to this day.”
These were the words of General Xhemal Aranitas, Commander of the National Defense. Actually, General Xhemal Aranitasi was not a traitor, but loyal. But he did this because of the many insults they gave you, due to negligence. That he did not tell the truth in time, but had given faith to some sections, and according to them, believed everything to be finished, whereas in reality, nothing had been done. And when I went to them at 4:30, I was shocked because I brought them with me and the Commander of the Gendarmerie, Colonel Shefki Shatku. He then realized his mistake, did not know what to do and immediately resigned. After these meetings, I went and presented myself immediately to the King. I found only the prime minister there.
But as soon as we entered, the King said to me: “Now I spoke with Kotta, colonel, about the arrangement of the Army, talk together and who is the most competent, so that we can charge him with the command of the army? I, all the competence, leave it to the responsibility of Prime Minister Kotta and your colonel. Find a suitable commander, only you have to speed up because time does not wait”, concluded the King.
After that, I submitted to him: “Your Majesty, General Xhemal Aranitasi, has regretted the resignation submitted, at such a difficult time, and I submitted all of the above mentioned, when I submitted that he talked with the general, begs with every responsibility at hand to take over the task again. That when he heard that General Zef Serreqi had also resigned, he wanted to kill himself, and remained in my office, and he would rather be punished for negligence than to he is branded a traitor, putting an indelible stain on himself and his family.
He said that he did not resign for any other reason, only that I could not appear in front of the King. That I lied to you, as they lied to me and that is the whole reason and not for betrayal. And since this is the case, please accept that he takes back his resignation and return to his duties, since no one has heard of Commander Xhemal Aranitasi’s resignation”, I submitted to the King. In this way, Prime Minister Kotta also begs you, said: “I never loved this person, not that he is a traitor. Indeed, this one is faithful, but he is ungodly, clumsy, and nothing comes out of him. I, too, beg your Majesty to take back the resignation and the command, so as not to make any bad noise.”
The King saw Kotta and said: “Under the responsibility of both of you, Lord Kotta, let him take command again, I accept, on this condition. Colonel, call the general to come here,” said the King. I went to my office and told the general to appear before the King, he was very moved, we went and entered. General Xhemal Aranitasi appeared before the King, I and Prime Minister Kotta were there.
The general began to express his intentions, but the King told him: “There is no need, the general knows everything, the colonel told me, I never doubt your loyalty, but after you accepted the command before me, I don’t want words in any way, that I lied to you, etc., that a commander does not lie. And now, for the fastest possible fulfillment of every need, you have the prime minister, and you submit that he has to give the necessary orders”.
He shook his hand and left. After he left, the commander, General Aranitasi, the King returned and told the Prime Minister that: “Under your responsibility Mr. Kotta, now you need to look at him, here is the colonel, that he will not change, that he is”, said the King. Memorie.al
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