By Dr. Peter Pepa
Memorie.al / On the basis of archive documents, Father Çiprian Nika’s honest testimony is clear: “I don’t have the weapons behind me. It was some rubbish left by the Germans a long time ago, since they had taken refuge and lived in our seminary”. The desolate Father Çipriani thought that it was about 3-4 random pieces of junk left as trophies after the Germans fled, and he said that with sincerity, not knowing that he would appear in the picture, next to a bunch of brand new rifles , who had entered one morning in that assembly and that church. “It is the duty of man to always tell the truth, but not to tell all the truths”, – ordered Aristotle, but it was the time of Lilo Zenels, and not of the Aristotles. “We put the entire archive with historical value into two large bins,” testifies Father Zef Pllumi. – It was an immense wealth of documents of the National Renaissance, as well as the writings, letters, memories and manuscripts of Luigj Gurakuqi, Hasan Prishtina, Monsignor Doçi, Monsignor Bumçi, etc. There were also Gjeçov’s documents, Fishta’s fund, etc.”
“We generally arranged the manuscripts in metal suitcases, which had once been ammunition boxes and were left empty by the Germans, because they were convenient, against moisture. And the painful irony consisted in the fact that in books, magazines and exhibitions they took out our pictures in front of those boxes accompanied by the signature: ‘Here is the ammunition hidden in the church, in those boxes that with their German writings, had something like this about ammunition. …’! Of course, this was a ‘small’ mischief of the Security, difficult for anyone to understand”!
“It was an ugly act, which cost us a lot,” Father Leon Kabashi testifies. – It seems to me, the order had come from Tirana. The employees of the Security of Shkodra, entered from the courtyard of the Franciscan high school, connected with a student (xhakua) and the assistant cook, who apparently had been told before that the clergy is finished, while you will reward yourself. Father Alex Bacli, who had seen the suspicious movements, stayed all night under surveillance (in the sacristy) and could see the entrances and exits of that night in the church, but because it was quite far and dark, he could not distinguish exactly what was going on it was done there”!
“When the light came out, – says Father Zef Pllumi, – the Security forces brutally broke up the assembly, gathered all the friars, organized that ‘fine control’, even between the altars, and in one of them, they found a lot of weapons…! They took all the friars out to the courtyard, most of them ended up in handcuffs, slapped and spat on, kicked and cursed, which had never been seen in any country in the world. The assembly was trampled in such a way that the surrounding residents still don’t forget it today. It didn’t take long and the guests and the authorities did it. Yugoslav television cameras were immediately present to document this event, the fire of which had just been set.”
In the face of this truth, this is how the propaganda was made: “The numerous and different types of weapons that were found hidden in the seminary, assembly and other institutions, – affirms the Franciscan provincial Mati Prendushi, – we kept them very carefully . Weapon depots, a part of rifles, machine guns, bombs and mortars and the corresponding ammunition, we took from the Italian army”. (Rakip Beqja, “Hostile activity of the Catholic Clergy, 1944-1968”, p. 72).
In the altar of the heart of Christ, in the former Franciscan church Shkodër, weapons of war (cartridges, machine guns and bombs) are hidden above and at the bottom, to be used against the popular power. (Idem. p.80).
“In the altar of Saint Ndou, in the Franciscan church, weapons were found. A few days later, even in the big church in Shkodër, German-made war weapons and boxes of ammunition were found”, – it is said in another place. “On December 16, 1946, the State Security section discovered in the Mirdita abbey, inside the church and in the cell, weapons and other compromising materials”, – announced the head of the Mirdita Security, lieutenant Bardhok Biba.
“In 1946, weapons of war, rifles, bombs and machine guns hidden by the clergy in the archdiocese of Shkodra were discovered in large quantities… Priest Donat Kurti, having broken down the wall of his room, shows the place where the cache of hidden weapons was located, which the Catholic clergy he had received from the Germans”, – it was said in another place.
In the face of this propaganda that was made in the national and international opinion, how could the truth be revealed, when the only witness was God and brother (brother) Ndou, the gatekeeper of the church? He refused to hand over the keys and open the gate to admit the new powderless guns, long rifles and polished Mausers, at about 4.30 in the morning of that black day. For this action, they massacred him as if not worse!
“We were in Ulcinak prison,” recalls Terezina Zorba. – At night they came and took Father Mati Prendushi. The next day he told us that together with Father Pal Doda, Donat Kurti and Çiprian Nika, they took them to the Franciscan Church, opened the altar of Shna Ndou, put rifles and machine guns in their arms and photographed them several times.
Everything, therefore, was organized and prepared like no other. The directors had shot specialists perfectly…! They were among those who asked: “How are you, Pope…”?! And who led this painful game. But now let’s go back for a few moments to the answer that came to Monsignor Frano Gjini’s prayer: Here is the last letter: We inform you that those sentenced to death: 1. Mons. Frano Gjini, 2. P. Mati Prendushi, 3. D. Nikollë Deda, all from Shkodra, were executed on 11.3.1948, at 5 o’clock in the morning, and the last word was:
– “Long live Christ the King, the Catholic Religion and Catholics in the world.” Long live the Pope! My blood and body remain here, but my soul and heart are with the Pope! Long live Albania”! Mons. Frano Gjini.
– “I am innocent; I am dying in the line of duty. Long live Christ the king! Long live the Pope! Long live the Catholic Church! Long live Albania! Here’s to the halal trial and those who will add to our innocent bodies”. Father, Mati Prendushi.
– “Long lives Albania! I’m killing myself at my job! Long live Christ the king! Long live the Albanian people”! Mons. Nikola Deda.
P/ the President of the Court, First Captain
March 11, 1948, 5 am…! The prison of the friars has movement and noise more than ever before…! Hand bars and door latches, noise of cars and knocking of boots, make up the background of that cloudy morning…! At the now traditional place of shootings, 16 people lined up, among them 4 are the most vocal clergymen, Monsignor Gjini and Deda, Father Prendushi and Nikaj…! The other 12, citizens from previous trials, were convicted for the Postriba uprising: Abdulla Kazazi and Guljelm Suma, Xelal Hardolli and Bilbil Hajni, Fahri Rusi and Caf Dragusha, Cin Serreqi and Dulo Kali, Kol Prela and Pjetër Pali, Paulin Pali and Murat Haxhia.
So justice and history owes it to them to finally prove the truth and to discover their innocence. They are intellectuals and engineers, lawyers and deputies, but above all, they are patriots and martyrs of Albanian democracy. A light drizzle added to that wailing background in the wee hours of the morning…! So the gray hair, tied together, clerics, Muslims and Christians, stand in front of a big pit, which resembled an open mouth ready to swallow them. A silence like the very place they were in, the graves…!
ACT TWO – THE TRUTH IS REVEALED…!
Only God knew the truth, brother Ndou, the porter, who had been asked for the keys… but now even he could not speak, because he too had been taken to God…! What could have been left unsaid, this bloody drama? Not even four months have passed since the shooting, and a new wave of arrests erupts again in Shkodër, sensational and very special, for its kind. The special thing was the arrestees. It is already a group of young people, 20-25 years old, three of whom are not only party members, but also State Security employees. On July 28, 1948 will be arrested:
- Pjerin Kçira – 25 years old, party member, aspirant in the Shkodra Security section, correspondent of “Voice of the People”.
- Gjovalin Mazreku – 20 years old, party member, captain in the security section, Shkodër.
- Lin Çollaku – 23 years old, party member, captain in the Security section, Shkodër.
- Zef Bardhoku – 24 years old, party member, clerk.
- Nush Simoni – 22 years old, bank clerk.
Even for them – the usual ritual. And what was the charge? Of course, it would quickly become a…!
“The military prosecutor’s office of Tirana, operating in Shkodër, with its indictment dated 26.5.1949, brings for trial to this court the criminal case for the defendants Pjerin Kçira… with friends that:
– They were members of a group organized in secret meetings.
– They did agitation and propaganda by word of mouth and by press.
– They made decisions to carry out assassinations against party and government functionaries and they wanted to carry out an assassination against a member of the Security, but did not carry out for fear of being dictated to… etc”.
When it formed and what was this group?
Based on the documents, it appears that the group was created on July 18, 1948, and that in a regular meeting with votes they elected Pjerin Kçira as chairman. “Koçi Xoxe did not dominate the first secretary of the party, E. Hoxha, therefore the latter is guilty and responsible for everything that was happening in Albania”.
This was the opinion of the members of this group, in that turbulent period, when a “treason” was discovered in Albania and, later (March 3, 1949), the mandate of Koçi Xoxes and Pandi Kristos was removed (Archive of the People’s Assembly) . So, the group’s activity turns out to have been discovered at the top of ten days…! Was it an enmity or a trick organized by State Security, which did not even spare its own servants when it was necessary to eliminate traces…?! And, the investigations will last eleven months, and of course the tortures with special devotion, were carried out by Ali Dhunga, Kasem Troshani and many others, who until yesterday had been their friends…!
Even during the judicial process, the defendants accuse of these tortures and the above are forced to come and testify in court, as requested by the defense. But of course, it could not happen otherwise. It was proved “forthcoming”, that the statements of the defendants were obtained “without any obligation or pressure”…! They are also accused of assassinations that they wanted to do against Abaz Laze, Lilo Zeneli, Ali Beg, etc.
And… another record:
“Today, on 28.5.1949, the jury, consisting of the first captain, Vangjel Kocani, chairman, and lieutenant Haxhi Beqiri, and captain Ali Tirana, members, with the prosecutor, the first captain, Harito Nashi, open the trial against to the defendants…”!
In order to reach the prosecutor’s claim, which sentences Pjerin Kçira and Nush Simon to 20 years, Zef Bardhoku to 15 years, Gjovalin Mazreku to 13 years, and Lin Çollaku to 8 years. The next day, on 11.6.1949, after the formal defense, the court decides for Pjerin Kçira; death sentence, by firing squad, and everything ends. This, at least officially, based on archived documents.
Pjerin Kçira is sent to Zalli i Kiri and shot, as many others were shot before him and, as many others would be shot, after him. Where is the special?! Unfortunately, the archive documents do not help us…! They have either disappeared, or have been purposely changed, so that the secret that connects these two acts of this bloody drama is not mentioned at all! Perhaps special, it had started earlier…! It started when Pjerin Kçira, from Antar-Partie, turned into an enemy of the people, but with a very big change…!
Once, a party member with privileges and favors. Formerly, State Security aspirant and in charge of the Church Prison. Once, investigator of Father Mark Harap, Dom Anton Muzaj and many others. Once, well-known and powerful with friends and colleagues, officers and investigators of the Security. Now, again a-p, but with the black stamp as an enemy of the people. So, the antipode of what it used to be; from the persecutor, to the persecuted and, so immediately and suddenly…!
For the sake of truth, it must be affirmed that the young men had shot bravely and carried out a trial that would long be remembered for its kind.
The 16 sessions would continue one after the other, to reach the climax, when the president of the court will shut Pjerin Kçira’s mouth. He, in order to clear his conscience, reveals a secret that he had been burning for a long time, but which would fall like a bomb on the judicial body and on the whole hall: “Don’t think that you are doing with me as we did with the Catholic clergy, putting weapons in them in the church and, forcing them through inhuman torture to admit that they are theirs…! To cover up your and Enver Hoxha’s ignominies, you want to punish innocent people”!
Of course, this completely shocked the chairman of the trial body, who until then was barely holding himself and mastering the situation. There was no other way. The session had to be closed.
– “For us, who had the turn to be judged after Pjerini, – testifies Ernest Përdoda, – the trial would be held behind closed doors…! His statement about the introduction of weapons into the church had instilled fear…!
– “Pjerini was my student,” testifies father Leon Kabashi. – In 1947, while I was being tortured by Anesti Kopali, to prove the false accusations about weapons, I was tied to a post without eating, drinking or sleeping. Pjerini passes by me, to whom I addressed with the words: Is this the real communism, will the innocents disappear?! He took one look at me and left without saying a word. After a while, the guard came with some water and food and untied me…! I could understand that he, something was at stake. With the last word, he brought to light the great truth that State Security himself had introduced the weapons and for this he was shot, becoming a martyr of the truth…”!
While the fellow sufferer of the cell, Mr. Ahmet Bushati, remembers the last moments: – “They came singing the national anthem and as soon as they put him in the dungeon, with the signal we had, he immediately started telling me about his attitude and the court’s decision…! I tried to convince him that they can’t shoot him, but he calmly answered: – ‘No, no! That they will shoot me, I know that well, I’m sure, because I debunked them where it hurts the most, but I did mine. – The next day we parted, because Pjerin was taken to the Gestapo Prison”.
– “It was 1949,” remembers former prisoner Gjon Ljarja. I was arrested in the State Security prison, called ‘Gestapo Prison’. Pjerin Kçira, who was sentenced to death by firing squad, was put in a prison-dungeon, where death row prisoners were usually kept, those days…! One morning I heard that the bars of the doors were opened and someone entered him and as soon as he left, Pjerini began to sing loudly: “But like the leaf of God”, and other patriotic songs…! From dinner, he was able to tell me that he had been informed of the shooting and that at lunch he had also met his mother and fiancee, for the last time before the shooting”.
– “We wanted to give him hope,” continues another witness, “by telling him that we intervened in Tuk Jakova and that his life would be spared, but again no!” – Everything is over! – Was Pjerini’s answer, – just please bring me a priest, so that I can confess for the last time. And if they won’t allow him as a priest, let him disguise himself and dress as a peasant, and come to me, because I’m definitely waiting for him for the last confession”.
Then Mr. Gjon Ljarja continues: – “Around 10 p.m., we heard the noise of keys and doors again, we lost our minds. Pjerini began to shout loudly: “Goodbye, make me halal friends”! And so, he went out into the yard, while the sound of a car’s engine starting up filled everything. Then, grave silence again…!/Memorie.al