By Marcel Hila
Memorie.al/ Missing: Gjelosh Luli, Llesh Marashi. Gjelosh Luli was the grandson of Ded Gjò Luli and married to the sister of Kol Bibë Miraka, becoming an undisputed authority in the two major provinces of Northern Albania. An idealist for the national cause and a staunch anti-communist, he was one of the leaders of the Great Highlands League that mobilized thousands of men to defend the North. Gjelosh Luli was one of the organizers of the Malësia e Madhe Uprising, where he was seriously injured. In an attempt to save him, somewhere, one of his companions strangled him, snatched the gold he had, pulled out his teeth and buried him. The communists who had been following him for months, when they found out about the event, went and exhumed him, beheaded him, nailed him to a stake and walked him in the middle of the city of Shkodra, sowing terror on the people. It is still unknown where Gjelosh Luli’s head ended up.
Llesh Marashi – one of the leaders of the Malësia e Madhe League for the fight against fascism and for the defense of the North, also a fighter against the communists in the Malësia e Madhe Uprising. He was captured by partisans in the period June-July 1946. Accompanied by two officers and several partisans, he was hanged in the middle of Shkodra.
Fran Xhanaj, 91, testifies about the fighters Gjelosh Luli, his father’s uncle, and Llesh Marashi, his godfather. Where is Gjelosh Luli’s head?
All these patriots tried their best to cooperate with the communists, until the Rec war took place in August 1943. Llesh Marashi was one of the first to participate, while Jup Kazazi entered with his forces against fascism. People need to know this truth!
My name is Fran Xhanaj and I am from Malësia e Madhe, born in 1929. In 1940, at the age of 11, I enrolled in school, but after 3 months I left Malësia e Madhe for Shkodra. I grew up with Llesh Marashi, Niko Preka, Gjelosh Luli. I had Llesh Marashi as my godfather, Niko Preka as my uncle, Gjelosh Luli as my father’s uncle. Gjeloshi was related to the family of Kol Bibë Miraka.
All these patriots tried their best to cooperate with the communists, until the Rec war took place in August 1943. Llesh Marashi was one of the first to participate, while Jup Kazazi entered with his forces against fascism. People need to know this truth! Tuk Jakova and Qamil Gavoçi, led by the partisans who were illegal, in the valley above Rrjoll and in Doç i Reçit, sought to form a joint battalion against fascism.
The battalion was organized under the leadership of what I said, with the participation of Major Llesh Marashi, Major Mul Delia, Ded Nikolla of Doda and Tuk Jakova and Qamil Gavoçi for the Communist Party. The battalion was called the Malësia e Madhe League battalion. Nobody discusses this today, but people have left their bones there … and this work continued, so that they would not be led by the Red Army, but here Miladin Popovic and Dusan Mugosha intervened, with orders from Serbia and Moscow.
These men, these patriots, continued like this, until the Second Labinot Meeting was held…! They also organized the Shkreli battalion, for which the chief mufti of Shkodra, Jup Kazazi, Gjon Markagjonaj, Ded Mirakaj, helped a lot. The Shkreli Battalion was organized only for the Malësia e Madhe uprising.
But what happened on January 25-26, 1945? The communists attacked us 3 days ago, on the 23rd, then the men were forced to go up the mountain. Of course, they also came to our house, because I had mine, and we Albanians, at that time, had a tradition that when the other one comes home and you open the door, you have accepted him as your man. This continued until June 18, when partisan forces eliminated them.
But for the people to know, when the Uprising of Malësia e Madhe ended, at the Rrjoll Bridge, the group of Lleshi came out together with Llesh Deda. Lleshi with his companion, Gjelosh Luli with his companion, Mirash Zogaj, Idriz Dashi commander. My uncle, who was mayor at the time, along with his companion and my dad, went out and got into the oaks. At this time, Colonel Zoi Themeli entered the Shkreli church with the headquarters. Nik Pribeti, when he saw that all the “reactionaries” of the North area had entered his village, got up at 12.00 at night, went in the middle of the snow (about 30 centimeters of snow), and shot five times with a rifle.
People came out barefoot. They took their rifles and went out to Razam; 500 meters were led by Bajraktari and my father who knew the way to get to the Dragon Cave. After they went out to Bilal’s Neck, they held them in their arms. We kept them there for a couple of months or three in the cave. It was a great misfortune, that the communists were the evil of the Albanians. The defeat of the Italian army left the weapons in Albania and in any case they were armed and came out with the slogan “Death to fascism!”. But they have changed the story…!
We took Gjelosh Luli with a stretcher on his arm, from the Dragon Cave, together with Pjetër Preka. There was also his wife, Gjelina, Gjelosh Luli’s sister. With a guard back and forth we took him from there, helping Mark Leku i Hotit. Nikolle Prela took them to Mark Gjeloshi of Bardhaj. They could not stay there long, because Marku with men and Lezja with women, were in the hands of the Security. Then they took them to Miraj and Dedukaj, as they said, to Kole Miri and Mark Miri, where they stayed until March 1946.
In 1946, Boje Stokovi me and Lieutenant Baba fell at once and captured the men, the two brothers: Mark was tied to a log, Kola was stripped naked, and put between two fires. Finally, they did their best and removed it from the cave, because the cave was in a place without forest. It was very difficult, that the stretcher had to be held in the arms. They took him to the village of Kastrati, where they left him together with Mirash Gjoka, his companion and another, I know the whole Malësia e Madhe, I do not like to name him. I have decided to tell the truth, for the great God, blood was lost!
The Marash Doda test has also been released. Marash Doda has his house on the border with Shkreli, in the woods, in a convenient area. There, when they were sitting, this friend strangled him, took the gold napoleons he had in his trash, took his watch, and ran away from the mountain.
Didn’t he kill him, Lieutenant Baba?
No, ‘more sir, no! History is not written like this; I am very revolted that they have distorted it. Let me tell you, one by one, I face every Albanian!
How did they cut off his head after he died?
I dictate it. When Mirash Gjoka sat down with these men and took him by the arm to take him to Marash Doda, they found him dead and buried him there. That person waited until the light came on, sat down in Shkodra, on Reçi Street. He sat down at the dentist on Reçi Street, to put his teeth in his mouth. The dentist saw that their teeth had been forcibly removed and, thinking that he had taken them to the cemetery, he informed the police, who arrested him on the spot, at the dentist. I deal with everyone!
On the evening they arrested him, they came out and exhumed Gjeloshi. They beheaded him and buried his body there. His head was taken around Shkodra in a car. When democracy came, Dedë Miri appeared on television: “Who finds the bones of Gjelosh Luli”? I called Kole Luli, because he has the house above us, and I told him “go to someone”. They went, took his bones and took them to the Catholic Church in Shkodra.
Yes, they were never found?
The whole Malësia e Madhe knows that the man of the world has been imprisoned, but the time is coming when they distort this horrible story, this so inhuman crime. Who killed him? I do not like to get into these jobs, but I know the whole Malësia e Madhe. I ask the communists to declare that they made a mistake, to apologize … As I said, we took Llesh Marashi’s group, we removed it from the Dragon Cave, at the time when the area was controlled by Lieutenant Baba and Zoi Themeli , with the attacking battalion.
Shkreli was completely surrounded, day and night. They watched all the movements we made, so the men could not move a single step. We determined the place where we would leave the food, but the women took it. At that time women wore robes and put food under them. That’s how they brought their bread. We men, by no means, that Shkreli had become a siege. Zoi Themeli and Lieutenant Baba, with their men, had listed all the names of families associated with the insurgents. Our friends told us: “Do not go out at night, in the dark, because they will kill you”! Llesh Marashi was caught with treachery. The troops fought for three hours and could not get close. They were told: “Surrender! By the faith of Christ you are forgiven! ”
Rroku with Lleshi and Pjetër Bajraktar grew old so that they would not fall alive into the hands of the communists. Rroku pulled out his pistol to shoot himself, but Lleshi removed it, because we Catholics have the sin of killing ourselves. Then they decided to kill each other, not to surrender. But Zoi Themeli tied 6 men hand in hand with the cross of Christ and led them to the cave. There they were told that these 6 bound men – they were also told their names – would be shot for you if you did not surrender, but if you surrender, we will forgive you.
It was for this job that they surrendered. As soon as Llesh Marash’s group surrendered, they were put on irons, beaten, put in a garbage truck, in a garbage truck. They took them to Koplik, where the organized people came out into the alleys shouting…! The day Llesh Marashi was killed, in July 1946, I was there. They carried him with their hands tied and placed him in front of the tripod. Zoi Themeli, the alleged commander of the People’s Defense, stood up and said: “Comrades of Shkodra and the districts, today we have brought the most dangerous enemy of the Northern area, which has been against the people and the Party.”Others have been arrested and are in prisons.”
He said to Lleshi: “Apologize to the people”! Two officers standing next to him grabbed him by the arm to mount him on a ladder, made of ammunition boxes holding bullets, one large and one small. “Leave him alone, because he rode himself”! – said Lleshi. “Ladies and gentlemen, I have sworn before the people to serve the homeland of the people. Those who condemn me are associated with strangers, have come under someone else’s flag. Long live Shqipnija ”- and then they tied the noose around his neck.
Can you tell us briefly if you know anything about Prek Cal too?
In early January 1945, Lleshi and Nikolla met with Prek Cali and asked him not to take part in the Malësia e Madhe Uprising, on January 26, in order for him and his fighters to secure the border in the area with Malin e Black, so that the partisans would not enter from there. Precisely for this job, Prek Cali stayed, to secure the place from there.
The partisans entered, because the man of the world cheated…! They took one from Dedej and one from Boge and they led them from Boga to Qafë i Thores, from there they entered Kelmend from the mountains, because Prek Cali did not think of that job…! The partisans entered without knowing anything; did the betrayal of these, knows all the Great Highlands; Prek Cali was with his guards.
Yes Mehmet Shehu, where did he come from?
Mehmet Shehu went to Rrapsh; they fired mortars for 15 days and could not do anything, then they took measures from Montenegro, and here from Boga in Bjeshkë, and in Kelmend. It did not occur to anyone.
Did not the population see the armed forces that were entering?
No! Cheated! They said they would go to Dukagjini. I myself saw the people who would lead them to Dukagjini. When they fell from the Mountains and entered Kelmend, the war came within; the Kelmendis entered the caves. Prek Cali was in the cave and they were fighting from there, until Kelmendi was taken.
Did Mehmet Shehu kill anyone when he went to Prek Cali’s house?
Killed 36 kelmendas. Remember, there were 82 partisans who left their heads, that they could not enter from the bridge of Tamara; they had no opportunity, not even on the Yugoslav side.
From the Grabova Bridge, could they enter?
No, no, it was just a bridge. There were two necks from Montenegro, because they could not cross the mountains, they would break the whole neck, only to cross by helicopter. But they entered Kelmend…!
How many people did Mehmet Shehu enter?
1st Assault Brigade, 300 men. It was the 1st Brigade, when the Uprising of Malësia e Madhe took place, at the Rrjoll Bridge. They could not do anything with the mortar, but then someone told them where they could enter.
He said: You have the way there! Always betray us, the Albanians…! We could not direct. Only Gjergj Kastrioti was betrayed.
Thank you so much for your testimony!
Thank you, too, for writing these things, so that the people may know. Memorie.al