By Gëzim Çela
Memorie.al Spaç resembled a natural “colosseum”: whose walls from the east kissed the sky, the stairs of this giant “colosseum” descended vertically down, leaving behind the black galleries like the color of death. There the prisoners in three shifts extracted copper and pyrite. The staircase continued until it crashed into the snow and stopped for a moment to breathe in front of the slave arena, surrounded by an endless array of concrete pillars lined with thousands of barbed wire and a caravan of armed soldiers surrounding the arena. of camp dormitories.
The stairs of this “colosseum” then continued downhill again to finally stop at a brook mouth that originated at the heights of Munella. And to fill the other side of these stairs, the walls of this “colosseum” climbed up again from the west, to give the sky its final kiss, thus reducing to the sun the celestial space that illuminated our camp.
May 23, 1973
The revolt was broken. On the side of this “colosseum” were gathered several hundred prisoners, chained, two by two, sitting on the ground. And in his tribune, beyond the barbed wire, at a prominent height, sat the red patricians, headed by the Deputy Minister, Feçor Shehu. The operative, with a long list in hand, read the names of those to be re-arrested as participants in the revolt, while the deputy minister’s thumb, turned down, determined who should be arrested.
Sitting on the ground and chained, along with another, I heard from the mouth of the operative loudly, calling my name. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Feçor’s thumb pointing from the ground.
Immediately a German police officer approached me, breaking through the crowd of prisoners. He untied me from a friend who was tied to the same chain, to put both hands behind my back on the German bars. He gripped me with all his might.
Two other policemen grabbed me and dragged me down, until I was put in the body of a covered truck waiting in front of the camp door. They arranged us by squeezing us like in a box of sardines, tied us once more, with a long chain, to each other, through the bars that each held behind their backs. They closed the back of the truck and the convoy of prisoners set off, accompanied by other cars full of soldiers, carrying bipedal machine guns over the cab.
The convoy took the road to Tirana. The road was long, every move we made caused pain in the bones of our hands.
We went down to the prison yard, we were lined up with our heads leaning against the wall, where several dozen investigators were waiting for us for their prey. After being told my name again, a police officer grabbed me by the neck and pushed me hard into the dark corridor of the new prison: while others punched us. They opened the door of a cell and slammed me to the floor with my hands always tied with bars behind my back.
The investigation started rapidly and it was clear that we would be punished. But my fate was unknown: would my sentence be increased, or would I be shot?… Investigators came to the cells every night and informed us that in the first trial, which took place in Spaç during the day, 4 people had been shot, waited for some of us too. And they said this ghastly mandate with a sadistic and demonic pleasure…
But something else worried me more, would my mother find out, that my sentence would be increased by several tens of years, thus extinguishing my hope that I would ever return home, next to her, as she was old. On May 21, the day the first signs of revolt began, I had a meeting with my mother. (It coincided with my birthday, so she came). This gave me some hope, as my mother came to see me once every two months. So when he came next time, after I had been convicted, I would not tell him.
The investigation sessions were conducted with concentrated blows, as behind our group were three other groups. There were two high-ranking investigators, one from the General Prosecutor’s Office and one from the Ministry of Interior. And so it happened, they took us out of the Tirana prison, after they finished the so-called investigator and sent us with a bus in the direction of the defendant.
A question mark tormented us, for where? In front of a firing squad, as they had done with the first group, in a courtroom, in Burrel prison, or would they take us back to Spaç, calling our revolt a closed issue?…
These were conversations between pessimists and optimists as the car continued on its way to the unknown. We tried with our sense of instinct to understand what direction the car was going (since we saw nothing)… As we approached the Fan’s bridge, our hopes increased. There were already two possibilities: Burreli or Spaçi… But the car went straight, leaving the bridge on the left… Rrësheni was waiting for us, so the trial.
From the branch cells, they took us to the branch culture hall, where the court hearings took place, which lasted for 20 members of our group for 2 to 3 days, sentencing me to another 15 years.
One of those days, while I was in the courtroom, I was suddenly greeted from outside by a shrill scream of a woman who was crying and screaming. This voice was coming from the street, through the window, though it was closed. A shuddering shiver ran through my whole being. It seemed to me like a mother’s voice z
When we got down to the cell, I told my friend, with whom I was sitting nearby in the courtroom:
- Did you hear a woman shouting in the street?
- He replied:
- No… surely your ears did. If it was like you say, I would have heard it too…
His words comforted me and I thought what I had heard was an auditory illusion. I also justified myself by arguing that my mother did not have to come, yet, less than two months had passed since the last meeting.
It was only a few hours later that the cell door counter opened slowly and a police officer grabbed her hole… She asked in a low voice. Everywhere there was a grave silence.
- Is Gezim Çela here?
- I nodded yes. The counter closed again slowly and quietly, just as it had opened. I could not understand. What happened to me ?! A burning anxiety and a strange premonition had overwhelmed me… something was going to happen…
The counter opened again and, this time, a small package was extended to me. I took it, with trembling hands. Yes, I could not be wrong! That shrill cry had been my mother! Finally, my mother had found me!
I had read years ago a wonderful story by Maxim Gorky entitled “Mother Power”. I was looking at myself as a character in that story, because it was really happening like that, where a mother stood proudly in front of the lame Timur Leng, the Mongol who left behind his knees rivers of red blood and built pyramids with human skulls. She asks him for her son.
- How did you get here? Asked the king of the hordes.
- You have come from far away, from the shores of the South Seas, crossing forests, deserts, rivers, mountains, how have you escaped from the savages and from the people who are wilder than them?
- The mother answers:
- The savages also have a heart, and with their instinct they realized that I was a mother and I was looking for my son, so they bowed to me and let me go.
After hearing this, Timur Lengu ordered that a son be brought to him…
The Communists had shown more savagery than Timur Lengu. They had not let my mother meet me…
A few years later, when I was released from prison, I asked my mother how she managed to find me. Here is what happened: After a few days of meeting me, my mother heard the words of our protest. She had started again terrified towards Spaç. But the camp was surrounded by soldiers in helmets as if in a state of war. No one was allowed to approach the command. However, after much perseverance, the mother received this answer:
- Your son is not here. Ask at the Ministry of Internal Affairs!
My mother had gone to the ministry, but there they refused to explain where I was. After waiting for several days at the doors of the ministries, the Branch of Internal Affairs and the prisons, with the anxiety that was added, because nowhere was they holding the package for me, and especially, since that package was not accepted even in the Rrëshen branch, my mother lost it. hopes I could be alive. She began to cry with all her might. Those were the vikams I had heard from the courtroom. These tears and shouts forced the president of the court to allow him to put the package in the dungeon. This assured my mother that I was alive.
Again I think of Gorky’s story and say to myself:
- How would he have continued this story?