By Prof. Dr. Luan Malltezi
Memorie.al/ “Teacher of the People”, the well-known historian, publicist and researcher, my dear friend, Sherif Delvina, I first knew when I was Director of the General Directorate of State Archives, in the years 1992-1997. My friend, the well-known historian prof. Ferit Duka: “The sheriff has read many books on Albanian history and culture; he is like a moving library, like a historian.”
In 1994, the Sheriff requested an appointment at my office; asked not to be hindered in his scientific research in the Archive. I was sorry for this request because I had not obstructed any scholars in the Archive until then. After the meeting, I called the head of the reading room and instructed him not to disturb this scholar. After 1997, I became friends with the Sheriff; together we published four books about Mit’hat Frashëri.
The conversations between us were mainly about history, about prof. Budën, prof. Pollon, who had led our historians to the Institute of History. The occasion brought that in these conversations, the Sheriff also spoke about the first of his family, a large old patriotic family…! Some of his memories, I began to record with mobile phones that came out in recent years. I am publishing these recordings in this article, in memory of his name, for his many friends and loved ones…!
Sherif Delvina Memories:
“I was born in Tirana in 1932. I finished the Italian primary school as a child; I did the seventh grade in Albanian. The school was on Durrës Street, opposite the Tobacco Factory, near the monastery. The school was a big beautiful building, there were Albanian and Italian students, they also taught religion there, but I was “Italian” for the school staff, so you did not participate in teaching religion.
In the Italian school, there were children of intellectual families, Shundër, Hovdarët, etc. In the meantime I have also conducted private lessons for learning Latin and Italian. Then I went to the gymnasium, but the government took us in the middle of the year, to the Pedagogical School in Tirana, because the country was in great need of teachers.
Mit’hat Frashëri often came to our house. The father was a cousin to him. Mit’hati loved me when I was little. He took me one day for lunch at home; I remember he asked me if I knew French, I said no, I have not learned yet. “How, he said, have you not yet learned French at this age?!”Well,” he said, “I will speak to my father, who has not taught you French.” Finally Mit’hati brought me something collected on paper. This, he said, you will open at home. Mit’hat had inserted a plum on paper for me.
The father, (Neki Delvina-ed.) Was a member and vice-president of the Court of Dictatorship during the period of the Zog Monarchy. His friends were prominent lawyers, such as: Andrea Sahaçiu, Hasan Dosti, etc.
The father was the son of Nedime Hanemi from the Alizoti family. Nedime had completed the gymnasium “Zosimea” in Ioannina; she was the vice-president of the Albanian Women’s Association at the time of Prince Wied, the president was Prince Wied’s wife, Princess Sofija. The people sang the verses for Mrs. Nedime: “Nedime ate / Beautiful cutlery / you forgive us today / Reign life and weather”.
The aid that Nedimeja distributed in Delvina to the Delvinians was given by large and rich Tirana families, the Begejat and Toptanas.
The father, Nekiu, had completed the English “Robert Kolege” high school in Istanbul and the “Law” high school in Turkey. He had served as a judge since the time of Ismail Qemali, in various cities and prefectures of the country; the father was a good judge, but also an honest man. When he was a student in Istanbul, his father regularly visited home, Naim Frashëri.
“Tell me that you will become a judge and serve Albania,” Naimi told him. The father replied: “Yes, I will become a judge and work for Albania.” “Give me your hand that you will do so.” And the father gave Naim his hand. The father had a division in his activity the word given to Naim in Istanbul.
The father was Faik Konica’s first cousin; at his father’s wedding, Konica had brought him a painting bought by white Russians in England. The father was friends with the brother-in-law, the wife’s brother, Asima, Esat Dishnica. Through him, the father also got acquainted with the communists, with the leaders of the National Liberation War, such as: Enver Hoxha, Ymer Dishnica, Nako Spiru, Beqir Balluku, Sejfulla Malëshova, Abdyl Këllezi. The father had Ymer Dishnica, a man of his own tribe.
In the basement of our house in Tirana, Beqir Balluku, Nako Spiru, Qemal Stafa, etc., secretly brought illegally, brochures with calls of the Albanian Communist Party, addressed to the Albanian people. In our house, Enver came and went; here he also ate lunch many times, prepared by his mother. Enver knew me, my sister, Nedon, and my brother, Xhavit, very well. In our house, Enver also met Ibrahim bey Bicakci; the former prime minister and they discussed among themselves, the fate of World War II.
The Germans, having learned that at Neki Delvina’s house, communists came and went and sent an armed patrol for a surprise search of the house.
We had the house at the ‘Palace of the Italians’, first floor. The patrol stopped near the house Malo Kodra (father of Prof. Dr. Klara Kodra), who was passing near them with a friend. Malo was told that he had his house somewhere here and I ask their permission to ask the people around; he went quickly and informed his mother that the Germans were coming for a check-up. Upon receiving this notice, Nexhmie Hoxha and the other communists who were with him quickly left the window of the house. When the Germans arrived, they did not find any communists as they had been informed.
After the liberation, life brought changes in the life of the country and Albanian families.
I was arrested along with three or four other people (by the Police) for the Qemal Stafa revolver, which was lost in the Museum. Then they kept me in prison for a few days; we were released later, because the revolver was found, the police gave us pasta to make us fat…!
I was expelled from my youth when I was in the Pedagogical School and I was without youth credentials when I finished my studies there.
After the end of the War, the father was fired and sentenced to political prison in the time of Koci Xoxa; he was later acquitted but did not start working as a lawyer; my uncle Ibrahim bej Biçakçiu also went to prison, Bimi as we called him, had been a few months in 1944, as Prime Minister of Albania.
While in prison, Bim was cared for by his uncle, Esat (Esat Dishnica-red) and Humajuni, the sister of Aqif Pasha Bicakci. Humayum was a cultured lady; she had completed the gymnasium “Zosimea” in Ioannina, where she had met Naim and Sami Frashëri. Aqif Pasha considered Humayum a close associate of his. “When I die – he had told his sister – you will accompany my coffin to the grave, so that Shefqet Vërlaci will not be able to put his finger in it”! Shefqet Verlaci (Prime Minister of Albania in the years 1939-1942), was a cousin of Aqif Pasha but they did not go between them…
Humajuni had many children: Alon, Esatin, Melin, Hiqmeten (mother of the famous gynecologist Dr. Ilir Dishnica). Humayun’s children were associated with the National Liberation War; Alo was killed during a battle in the War and after 1944, was proclaimed “Martyr of the Fatherland”. Esat was an old anti-Zogist, and then became friends with Enver Hoxha; my aunt, Meli, was also an ardent anti-fascist in the War period; it crossed the partisan ranks during the German occupation. Meli was a lively girl, she was friends with Nexhmija; Meli had also known Enver closely in the period of fascism.
Humajun was sending Ibrahim bey Bicaku to prison, the government’s pension owed to her son, ‘Dëshmorit’ Alo Dëshnica. He sent his pension to prison, (by mail), with me as a teacher. I sent Ibrahim bey to the prison, food and other things, which Esat was preparing.
Humajun goes to Enver himself, to demand the release of Ibrahim bey. Enver knew Humayum and appreciated him very much. Humayum met with Enver and his mother. “Enver mor bir, – she said- I do not sleep for Bimi, I have evlat and my heart burns, I am old now, release me from prison, because he did nothing, we worked for Albania, from the first to to the last; you also have his bread in your teeth; it is a pity, he has done many years in prison so far; I keep him in prison with my son’s pension”.
Enver, after listening to him to the end, said: “Mrs. Humajun, Bimi has been a quisling and the quisling prime ministers have been sentenced to death everywhere in Europe; the plant is not sentenced to death; I will do it for a few more years and he will be released “.
Humayun was upset by these words and said: “How ?! The plant after being against his people? It is not your fault, Enver and Bimi, you raised Haxhi Qamil now, who burned us and killed us “. “Enver’s mother also said when she heard this word. Haxhi Qamili killed us and cut us all off, what is being done like this – she said.
“You are coming out, old woman, come out…” – said Enver, “that Haxhi Qamili has been worse than you say, I need my…”!
After I finished high school, I was appointed a teacher in Gjirokastra, because the cities of the South needed teachers. Here I also taught night school officers without a break from work as it was then called. In Gjirokastra, I worked for two years in all four schools that Gjirokastra had.
Another problem for the family was the arrest of the father. After his arrest, they came from the State Security to search the house, they took the encyclopedia ‘Triccani’, the collection of the grandfather, Sherif bey (Neki’s father-in-law), a collection of old gold coins – bought in Corfu, by the ancestors, who had been rulers of Delvina; then asked the mother for the teardrop necklace (with 33 diamonds); the mother had removed this and put it in a drawer on the sofa. Mother had this necklace around her neck when Enver got married.
The mother had forgotten this necklace and, shocked, said: where do I have the necklace?! Then there was a commotion in Tirana, that the house of Neki bej Delvina was being searched. As soon as he found out, Gani Çano came home. Ganiu had been the owner of the Hotel “Internacional” which was close to our house; this house, the father had rented, the house had large basements, and two floors, this was the house of Gjon Laca from Shkodra. Chano went inside and asked the mother, what had happened?
“They ask for my necklace, but I cannot find it; oh here I am ”said the mother and took out the necklace, Chano took the necklace, put it in his pocket and left; when he went home, he gave this necklace to his wife, which she put in the well for fear that the Security guards who had killed her son would check it; (Besnik Çano, Youth Front exponent of ‘Balli Kombëtar’, killed and stabbed by some partisans of Çeta e Peza in 1944, together with his friend, Qeramudin Sulo, while going to the South of Albania, sent by Mit’hat Frashëri. Red.Memorie.al), this necklace, he then sold it piece by piece, in the Bazaar of Tirana and brought us money at home, with which they bought bread and medicine for Neki.
The father as I told you, was later released, he had broken 7 napoleons as permitted by law by the government seeking to collect gold napoleons; the Neapolitans returned to their father, and after the murder of Koci Xoxa, he also returned his pension, which had been withheld when he was imprisoned.
When our father, Nekiu, was arrested, we were taken out of the house and taken to the Roma, somewhere at the end of Ali Demi Street; then our belongings were also seized; Shaja, who once worked for us, brought us two beds and a sofa; Sejfulla Malëshova, who was a family friend, brought us a stove, wood and luggage. In this kind of house, we also took Bim (Ibrahim bej Bicaku), who had come out of prison.
Nedo, remembers this house as it was”; (Tell my Nedo how it was -, Sherfi addresses, to his sister)!
The story of Nedo, Sherif Delvina’s sister:
I was small then, I remember the house, This house was on Ali Demi Street; with this road we were separated by a well filled with garbage, across from us was the house in adobe, here lived some Roma women, such as: Bajamja, Kajamja, Synia, etc., these sold arrangements at the old bazaar, where today is the Palace of Culture, as say…! Bimi also came here when he came out of prison…! He was surprised to see the house; “Let Neki leave the house and come here to the gypsies,” he said shocked. The house was dripping from all sides; we put the basin so as not to get wet from the rain. The plant could not gather itself “More, what is this house like this; “We in prison have been better than you here,” he often said. Memorie.al
This article is published in homage to the well-known historian and researcher, Sherif Delvina, “Teacher of the People”, who passed away today (April 7, 2022), at the age of 90 and tomorrow at 16.00, will forwarded to the last apartment.
Continues in the next issue