By Fatbardha Mulleti Saraçi
Memorie.al / Nurfezo, or as Nurfo was otherwise known, was a girl from the Koka e Delvinë family, who was married in Korça to Sami Koprencka, the son of Xelal Koprencka, (originally from the village of Skrapar, from where they inherited the surname) who had taken part in the raising of the Flag in 1912 in Vlora, being one of the signatories of the Act of Independence. Samiu was a nolist and he was elected deputy at the age of 19, in the first Parliament of Albania that opened its work in April 1921. While in the period 1939-’41, he was on duty as vice/Prefect, in several districts of the country.
Nurfezo and Sami were a happy family, but after 1944, with the arrival of the communists in power, all its members would suffer a lot of suffering and pain. In 1946, they arrested the father, Sami, accusing him of anti-communist activity and sentenced him to be shot. After they took him from the prison cell and were sending him to be executed, at the last moment, they sat him down from the car, spared his life and returned his sentence, with life imprisonment. While the members of the Koprencka family took them out of the house at night, with only their clothes and body, and they were robbed of everything they had in their house.
Mrs. Nurfo followed her husband through the prisons loaded with food parcels, but in 1947, they arrested her and after holding her for some time in a cell, brought her to court accusing her of agitation and propaganda and sentenced her to four years of imprisonment freedom. After that, the children were left alone, as Sami and Nurfo were in prison. Being without parental care and in miserable living conditions, their daughter, Lilja, became seriously ill and was admitted to the Sanatorium in Shkodër, while the son, Xhelali, was left alone at the age of 12 and roamed the city’s flower gardens.
Wandering the streets as an orphan (but with his parents alive), little Xelal saw with his own eyes the places where “enemies of the people” were executed, as well as attending trials and seeing how people were punished. Every moment, the child experienced great pain in his soul and after some time his aunt, Zengjine Begolli, took him to her family in Tirana, but his treatment at school was very bad, they beat him, pushed him in the water, they called him “the son of the enemies of the people”, and making the time he spent at school unbearable.
After serving her sentence and being released from prison, Mrs. Nurfo went to meet her husband, Sami, in Burrel prison, taking her son, Xelal, with her. But when they approached the meeting room, Sami, surprised, asked his wife: Whose child is this? She instantly melted into oil and cried bitterly, as the father did not recognize his son!
This suffering of mother Nurfos, who followed her husband, in the prison of Burrel, would be nothing compared to what this noble lady would experience, what the future had in store for her…?
While the communist regime of Enver Hoxha continued without a break the class war, from which not only the political prisoners suffered, but all the family members, which made even small children follow them everywhere the fierce war of class discrimination , that that regime had designed, since coming to power in November ’44.
This is how it was done with Xelal, the son of this honorable family with patriotic traditions, who the more he grew up, the more the ordeal of sufferings increased for him. While the Koprencka family lived in Shkodër, after they had expelled them from their city, the State Security followed and monitored Xhelal at every step, as happened to almost all members of declassified families, as the communist regime labeled their opponents politics.
So on December 30, 1957, just a short time after the “Hungarian Counter-Revolution”, the communist regime through its organs of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Ministry of the Interior, State Security, Investigation, Prosecutor’s Office, etc.), began a wave of arrests, against which not even Xelal Koprencka could escape!?
Xelali in the investigation of Shkodra in 1957
Accused of attempted escape, during the investigative process in Shkodra’s investigation, the investigator asks him:
– Defendant, do you accept the accusation that during 1957 you tried to escape abroad?
Jelali: – No, I don’t accept it, I didn’t want to leave. I don’t know why I was arrested!
The investigator: – You, Jelal, were arrested because you had the idea of escaping…!
Although Xelal did not admit anything to the investigator, as the accusation and the process were completely fabricated, the Military Court sentenced Xelal to ten years in prison, with the absurd motivation: “You thought of escaping abroad”.
After that, mother Nurfos was added to her son’s prison, who, with a bag on her arm, took the streets on foot, going both to her husband in Burrell prison and to her son in prisons and labor camps, as Spaci etc. The desolate old woman walked and walked, with the double-laden trunks, with the hope that a good day would come, a day where her suffering would end…! But it was not said that for her, that day would come, even the situation worsened so much that mother Nurfo, would experience other pains that she had never thought of. This happened because her beloved son, Xhelal, would not be allowed to leave the communist prison…!
While he was serving his sentence in the Borshi camp of Saranda, where Xelal was known as an intellectual and a talented translator, he was arrested and after a rigged trial held on March 25, 1967, he was sentenced to twenty years, deprivation of liberty and for a long time kept isolated. But it was not said that mother Nurfo would meet her son in freedom, as Xelal was arrested for the third time, on November 21, 1967, when he was in the Ballshi prison camp. After that, he experienced isolation in dungeons, mistreatment, being accused of “committing the crime of agitation-propaganda”!
The young man is convicted for the fourth time, accusing him that together with the other political prisoner, Veiz Çela, his co-sufferer, they had sent a letter to the two closest associates of Enver Hoxha, the secretaries of the Central Committee of the ALP, Ramiz Ali and Hysni Kapo, where through that letter, they asked them to do something good for Albania. As a result of that letter, Xelal is again sentenced to ten years of imprisonment.
The fifth sentence for Xelal came while he was serving his sentence in Spaçi prison, where on May 21-22 and 23, 1973, the “Spaçi Revolt” – Mirdita took place. After that, together with a very large group of convicts, who had been at the forefront of that revolt and its main organizers, they brought him to court and condemned him as “a raging enemy of the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which has united around them, the enemies of popular power wants the return of capitalism”.
After this event, the desolate mother Nurfo, already old and dressed all in black, reduced by her troubles, sends a letter to the competent authorities…! It was a prayer written by a mother’s heart, which asked them to release her son, her only son, her light, which was her life. But for this action, the elderly mother Nurfon was removed from the city of Shkodra and exiled to the village of Hajmel.
30 years had passed and mother Nurfo continued her journeys to prisons and labor camps, wherever her son was, loaded with trunks of food and clothing, but also of medicine, because her son was already sick. But while he was waiting for his son to reduce his sentence by a year and he would be released, another sentence of Jalal happened again…!
It is May 9, 1979. The Supreme Court of the Socialist People’s Republic of Albania again convicts Xhelal Koprencka, after he had sent a letter to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Labor Party of Albania, Enver Hoxha. In that letter, he drew the attention of the communist dictator to the deplorable situation in which the red clique had plunged our country into unprecedented misery. And at the end of that letter, Xhelal informed the leader of communist Albania that: for betrayal, crimes and misery, he or his successors would give an account one day.
After that, the answer would come with diabolical cynicism, with a flurry of arrests and reprisals. They handcuffed Jelal, so much so that his hands were blackened from their grip. He was sentenced for the fifth time to ten years in prison. However, it seems that this did not satisfy the competent bodies and the senior leadership, since that process was canceled and by “order from above”, Xelal was accused of high treason, since: he had formed a government in prison and thus had endangered “People’s Power”.
This is how Lilija, Xelal’s sister, remembers that serious event for Xelal and their family:
– “I went to Spač loaded with bags of food and medicine. Of course, I traveled in a group, with other women and sisters from Shkodra, fellow sufferers like me. I waited and waited, they all accepted the food, while at the end they said to me: – Your brother is not here, run away, take the food with you. It’s getting dark. I returned to Shkodër depressed. The next day, mother Nurfo took her granddaughter Mimoza with her and left for Tirana. He went to the General Prosecutor, Aranit Çela.
The desolate mother asked him: – Where is my son?
He answered: – He is a sworn enemy of the People’s Power; we have sentenced him by firing squad. At these moments, Mimoza started to cry, but mother Nurfo told her: – Don’t give her pleasure, don’t cry, because they are happy…! When she left the office, the desolate mother asked herself: “Isn’t this one lying?”
The poor mother could not imagine how the son was punished in prison! He returns to Shkodër and the next day, he leaves again for Tirana. A young officer was kind to the little old woman, dressed in black, who had grown to the size of a fist. He said: – They forgave him and sent him to Burrel, but first you have to get a permit from the Department of Internal Affairs in Shkodër. The mother returns happy, because she thought that they had forgiven her son.
It seemed strange to me, – says Lilija, – why was permission needed from Shkodra? Then I went to the Department of Internal Affairs myself. The young officer could not tell me, he said:
– Send your brother, or come with your sister.
– No, – I told him – I have no other brother or sister. That young officer barely said to me:
– Be strong because your brother was shot on May 29, 1979.
– My eyes went dark, my legs were cut, I fell to my knees, I was unable to walk. How would I get to mom? If I told her, she would die of despair, she was 83 years old. Then I had to invent another thing:
– Mom, Xelal has escaped with some officers. My heart was broken, my eyes were tearing, my mother did not understand why I cried so much, but her heart hoped for life. For eight years I played this comedy with my poor mother, I didn’t tell her anything, but also the people around her, all the people of Shkodran knew, but they didn’t tell her mother, no one…”!
This is how Lilija ended her confession, and her eyes were still crying for her only brother, who lost his life in communist prisons. They executed Xelal Koprencka, together with Fadil Kokomani and Vangjel Lezho, two well-known intellectuals who graduated from the former Soviet Union. They executed them together and put them in a pit, which would never be found…! After the execution, the four were photographed and their multiple photos were shown by the command of the Spaçi camp to the other convicts, in order to instill terror in them, letting them understand that: this is how all those who dare would suffer to insult the Party and the Commander…!
While her son was dissolving in the ground, mother Nurfo remained hopeful and waiting for him to be released from prison, wrote verses:
A letter to mom
Why didn’t you send them?
This very sad mother of yours
When i see your friends
With babies in my hands,
I fought for others
You let me go…!
The old mother wrote and wrote verses, until she closed her eyes forever in 1985 without being able to see her son released from prison, who was dissolved in the Albanian underground, buried somewhere in the wastelands of Spaçi, like many, many others in Enver Hoxha’s communist Albania, which “built socialism with its own forces, being a beacon of light in Europe”.
In the memory of his co-sufferers and the people who knew him closely, the petite and short Xelal remained magnificent, as it was his soul that radiated strength and will through his written eyes, his being remained free and why he was shackled, freedom was part of his life, for him it was meaningless to live without freedom. Memorie.al