Memorie.al/ publishes some of the unknown stories of Sajmir Maloku, a former military engineer who graduated with a ‘Gold Medal’ at the University of Tirana, who was arrested by the State Security on May 13, 1976, in the presence of 600 people in a large movie theater in the city of Burrell, accused of being a “potential agent of British Intelligence and of agitation and propaganda against popular power and the communist regime.”
Regarding the real reason for his arrest, Sajmir Maloku testifies: “Because the Albanian Public Television broadcast only 4 hours of television broadcasts per day, in 1970, reading a lot of foreign scientific literature, I managed to build a simple electronic television device. (Converters of UHF Band to VHF TV signals). This invention of mine made it possible for the Albanian people in the future to watch freely the shows of the Italian and Yugoslav television stations of the UHF Band, especially in the mountainous and coastal areas of our country.
The first question the investigator asked me in the first investigative session was: “You are a famous Western spy, just like Mata Hari.”Tell us, you filthy enemy, your agency activity with the Secret Agencies of 17 Foreign Countries of the West and the World”. This is because the State Security had great doubts about my meetings with foreign tourists over 8 years and the numerous postal correspondences with philatelists of the above countries. Today this investigator is alive.
During a search of our home in Tirana and my hotel closet in Burrell City, State Security found and retrieved the Holy Books of the Bible and Quran in English; many old English books and magazines; some dictionaries and blocks with sketches of modern television antennas; my electronic television equipment with two transistors and a television signal amplifier; etc “.
All these and other events of his life, from: childhood, schooling, youth period with life in Tirana in the early ’70s, pursuit and surveillance by the State Security, graduation, appointment as a military liaison engineer in a department of Burrel, arrest, trial and public unmasking, investigation, prison, etc., Sajmir Maloku has summarized in a book entitled “HOW I SURVIVED IN THE COMMUNIST HELL” (Publication of EMAL in Albanian and English), parts of which he has given for publication exclusively for Memorie.al
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“They chained me to my feet and walked me around with the” Gas “of the Branch through Burrel”!
In November 1976, the Albanian Army and Police were on full alert on the eve of the national holidays of Independence and Liberation of the country. For this reason, my transfer to Burrell Prison was postponed to early December of this year. One day in December, at about 10 a.m., I was taken out of my cell by the Burrell Department of the Interior, where I stayed for almost seven months. Accompanied by several armed policemen and State Security officers, they put me in a police car handcuffed and chained to my legs. This military vehicle was popularly called the “Branch Gas” through which arrests were made and people were frightened by its presence on the streets or near residential buildings.
The same thing happened in other cities of Albania. Then they after covering my head with the dirty blanket of my cell started moving with the Police car around the streets of Burrell town. The two State Security officers accompanied me mocking and laughing. From time to time, citizens on the streets were told: “This is the enemy of the people, Saimir Maloku.”We will take this filthy man to Burrell Prison, where every prisoner enters and none of them leave.” When they entered the room of the political prisoners of Burrell Prison, some of them said: “This dog was made like a living corpse and after suffering terribly during the detention”.
This showed how severe the torture and its consequences were for all Albanian political prisoners who suffered in communist prisons. So, the communist propaganda of the State Security and the Communist Party was according to their plan to discredit me as much as possible in the people and to instill in him fear of people who do not follow the teachings of the Communist Party and who express dissatisfaction with the regime. Communist. State Security along with Burrell Police took me to the infamous Burrell Prison which was about 400 feet [400 m] away from the Home Office. Behind the main metal door of the prison was a large metal scale weighing the food brought by the families of political prisoners? Taking advantage of this, I weighed myself several times and even myself did not believe I was 43 kilograms from the 78 kilograms I once had. My body weight two weeks ago when my family came, may have been somewhere around 40 pounds. This caused me a great spiritual shock. I said to myself: “I was in Albania and I ended up in Auschwitz”. Then I thanked Jesus Christ that I was alive.
“In the Nazi camps, prisoners were taken out on air, but not in Burrel!”
I also asked the prison guard, who accompanied me and told me that this large metal scale of prison food was quite accurate in weighing. So the communist gangrene had eaten almost half of my body weight in 200 days and I was done as the people say “bone and skin”. Now my face was extremely pale because for about three months after the court sentence I had not seen the sunshine. This is because even in the Nazi Concentration Camp, prisoners and captives were taken out during the day to the camp yard to warm themselves in the sun and in the fresh air.
Modern medicine warns that the “epidemic or monster of loneliness” affects the development of many serious health problems. Loneliness causes cancer, damages health, heart and brain as well as increases the risk of sudden death or premature death. But I, who was lonely and in terrible conditions for more than six months, suffered such harmful health consequences in my weakened body that, if it were made of steel, it would have rusted. So I stayed not a little but over six months in communist Hell.
I do not wish on anyone in the world this bitter and terrible fate that I experienced in the days-nights of prison in complete solitude. And even more so that I was willing to suffer these 200 days, even with life imprisonment, than to be treated so brutally and with such incredible suffering in the basement, perhaps the worst communist prison in the world. Thanks to God, I survived the most inhumane communist crimes in Albania. This is why the West called it the most brutal communist dictatorship in Eastern Europe. Every day, hour and minute that I stayed in this underground cell was an extraordinary and unbelievable torture and why not, even cruel to me. Even when I moved, sat, or sang so quietly, I closed my eyes to forget where I was in those dramatic moments of my life. I always kept my eyes open just like the wild rabbit when I prayed and focused my gaze on the cross made on the wall.
Often when the guards saw me praying in front of the cross, they would laugh and make fun of me, saying insulting words of a political or simply comic nature, but without salt. I will never forget the words of my father, who, to boost my morale, kept saying to me in English, “That is a dream.” This expression reminded me of Martin Luther King in the United States. I thank God who created man with great difficulty, but gave him the opportunity or strength to survive. It was these serious health consequences that I, with the victory of Democracy, refused to work in state institutions, despite being offered a senior position in 1992 in the National Intelligence Service that replaced State Security.
It is surprising because many former communists, when the news came that Saimir Maloku was writing stories of his suffering, as they met me on the street, said to me: “Saimir, write what you want, but communism and comrade Enver Hoxha do not rebuke them, nor use evil words against them in your book, for they were good people. I was silent and did not answer. Here are the serious consequences of Democracy from the non-communistization of Albania and the non-unmasking of communist crimes in the history books by state bodies.
“The story of Burrell Prison with its horrors and the mystery of my cell”!
Burrell Prison was a high-security prison with a capacity of about 100 people. All were political prisoners sentenced to 10 years and more in prison. During the 47 years of the communist regime in this horrible and infamous prison 1300 political prisoners have served their sentences. 350 of them died from torture, suffering, disease and lack of food. While dozens of prisoners of this prison ended up in sanatoriums and psychiatric hospitals and died after a few years from serious illnesses and their poor health, etc. This is based on the published data of the Institute for the Integration of the Former Political Persecuted of Albania and the Albanian Center for the Rehabilitation of Trauma and Torture Victims.
At Burrell Prison my roommates told me that the basement where I had been staying for more than six months had died of many political prisoners. This is because the State Security, by order of the high personalities of the Communist Party and the State Security, sought to re-sentence them for the second or third time or even to secretly eliminate many political prisoners. They were arrested and considered dangerous opponents of the communist regime. This is how far the revenge and cruelty of the regime went by hiding this horrible inhuman massacre from the world opinion. The media of the communist state hid from the people these inhuman crimes of the regime, echoing the speeches of the dictator E. Hoxha and the prime minister of the country, Shehu, who constantly said: “Forward for new victories on the path of building socialism”, “Down with the enemy” of the class ”etc.
“My roommates told me: You are lucky to be alive”!
Albania, under the dictatorial regime, was occupied by communist slogans, which you could see in every corner of the country, such as streets, shops, restaurants, hospitals, schools, stadiums, prisons, public buildings, state institutions and everywhere. Our country at that time was rightly called the State of communist slogans or slogans, dedicated to the glory of the Communist Party and dictator Hoxha. The roommates told me, “You are lucky to be alive, and to have had a strong body that has endured all the horrible suffering and torture you have gone through from these criminals.” Not a few of them found it incredible that these cruel events had happened to me and I was still alive. Weight about 43 kg. and my rather pale face were the true reflection of my sufferings. The underground cell where I stayed for almost 200 days during my detention by Burrel Prison political prisoners was considered the most horrible and worst cell in all of Albania’s prisons.
My comrades-in-arms told me that the three underground cells of the Burrell Department of the Interior were built to destroy both physically and mentally and eventually to eliminate dangerous political opponents, mainly when they wanted to re-convict them. Secondly or thirdly. We called these three cells “brainwashers and death launderers for political opponents” and where the most trusted people of the State Security served in a top secret and secret way. As I mentioned before, in April 2017, I and a group of filmmakers, with Swiss and Albanian directors and cameramen making a documentary about me, were surprised to see that the building of the former Branch of Internal Affairs of Burrell, was occupied by the families of the politically persecuted with the victory of Democracy. So even the three underground cells were not broken, but the metal door of the first floor was locked and its owners were overseas. I ask the government that these three cells, the basement of the Investigation Room and the four cells on the first floor of this building be like a museum and be preserved by the state so that the younger generation can look closely at the terrible cells of the Albanian Auschwitz. This will best prove my point.
My wish is that many foreign diplomats and ambassadors accredited in Tirana, along with representatives from the Holy See of the Vatican and the UN and European Commissioner for Human Rights, accompanied by me and the television media, watch with their own eyes these three cells of Communist Hell and the Investigation Room as well as the cells of the first floor, where hundreds of prisoners and especially revered clergymen of Burrell Prison turned into innocent victims of communist terror. The electronic and print media should cover the crimes and tortures that communist criminals inflicted on the health of political opponents. The greatest misfortune for the layer of former political persecuted and for the education of the younger generation is that the places and traces of communist crimes are disappearing. This is being done secretly by certain political circles dressed in power during these 28 years of Democracy in our country, which divide our suffering stratum into 8 associations. So, the well-known tactic was used: “Divide and rule”.
“I tell you the friends I found in Burrell Prison”
Burrell Prison was a different world to me than the one where I was then taken, where I saw people and talked to them. They were educated and cultured people with western views such as: Osman Kazazi, Pjetër Arbnori, Kurt Kola, Abdulla Sallaku, Sherif Merdani, Uran Kostreci, Daut Mehmeti, Bedri Çoku, Seit Bultica, Fatmir Llagami, Adem Allçi, Theodhori Gërnjoti, Daut Gumeni, Uran Kalakula, the honored priests Dom Simon Jubani, Dom Nikolë Mazreku, etc., who had been serving their sentence in this communist prison for almost 20 years. They told me about the communist terror that two political prisoners had previously been taken for retrial and allegedly “they had hanged themselves”. The truth was that they had been executed and it was not known where they had been buried. This is because communist terror had spread everywhere in Albania. The Communist Party launched a policy of purge and physical elimination of political opponents, whom this regime considered those enemies of the people.
From 1973 onwards, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security had drawn up a plan for numerous political arrests. Many ministers of ministries and high state personalities were arrested in Tirana, such as: Beqir Balluku, 267 Abdyl Këllezi, Kiço Ngjela, Petrit Dume, Todi Lubonja, Vasil Kati, Dashnor Mamaqi and others, as well as their children Vladimir Balluku, Spartak Ngjela, Besa Dume, Fatos Lubonja and many others. Prominent people of culture and art were arrested as well: Fadil Paçrami, directors Mihallaq Luarasi, Kujtim Spahivogli, Milto Vako, painters Edison Gjergo, Ali Oseku and Maksim Velo, engineers Hajredin Fratari, Ismail Farka, Eqerem Kavaja, Liqerem Kavaja, Nashi as well as many famous poets, writers, and singers.
Most of the families of the above persons were interned for many years in the most lost villages far from the capital and major cities of the country. Numerous political arrests and convictions caused the communist regime to cause anxiety, tension and fear in the people. So, Albania was a big political prison of Europe, surrounded by barbed wire. The political prisoners of Burrell Prison in my opinion were an extraordinary source of information about the great crimes committed by the communist regime up to those years. They were real heroes and the pride of Albania’s political prisons, because they had been suffering in this High Security prison for 10 or 20 years. So in their minds, memory and brains was the real and accurate file of these political crimes.
Many political prisoners, when released from prisons, escaped and managed to speak on the Voice of America Radio Station about the crimes committed by the communist regime, informing the world and the Albanian public. News and talk spread rapidly among the people, increasing dissatisfaction with the hated communist regime. The Albanian people and that of the communist countries of Eastern Europe understood best that communism was a utopia and that behind the name of the Communist Party was a group of party people, who created dictatorial regimes and became rich at the expense of their peoples. They turned into criminals who held power through terror, violence, arrests, shootings, imprisonment, and the deportation of thousands of political opponents.
“When I was taken to Burrell Prison, I could not move for two months!”
Burrell Prison was described by the Western media as one of the worst prisons in communist countries in all of Europe. In the three large rooms with a capacity of 24 people each housed only political prisoners who had Western views or people of imperialism as the regime of the time called them. In three small rooms of five or six people each, political prisoners identified as revisionists or pro-Russians lived. I was described as a very dangerous man and agent of the West. It was a great pleasure in life when after all this great suffering, I finally saw the sun, the moon, human society, the fresh air, the green nature, the hot water bath, the mattress, the quilt, the slightly better food, clean water, books, listening to the speaker of the room etc. Due to my deteriorating health, I did not move out of bed for nearly two months. I just slept and read medical books and some art in English. I often play chess and dominoes.
Every day I talked to my roommates who told me about their lives and the suffering they had endured over the years wherever they had been in Albanian prisons. The guards took us out twice a day for half an hour to ventilate the large courtyard inside the prison where you had the opportunity to cook something in the private kitchen. The ration of prison food was sparse but good compared to the daily food of the underground cell during the time of detention. Prison police exercised strict control over food brought by our family members. They broke our eggs on suspicion of not having alcohol. Cakes, pies, sweets, sugar, flour, fruits, etc. they checked that they did not have inside any knife, hacksaw, any paper where something was written.
“Prisoners were given expired medicines, for gradual death”!
The political prisoners were very humane people and helped each other with the food that our family members brought or bought at the prison grocery store. Medical assistance to the prisoners was lacking, although many of them suffered from tuberculosis, rheumatism, paralysis, hemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, colitis, etc. These diseases gradually over time caused political prisoners to die after medical assistance was not sufficient. For this, the political prisoners of Burrell Prison constantly complained to state institutions. The prisoners strongly suspected that even the medicines given to them were expired and ineffective. And in such cases the police when they wanted to eliminate extremely dangerous political prisoners drafted the report that x political prisoner hanged himself in his cell. The place of burial of the deceased person was not indicated. In the territory of Burrell Prison was a large cherry tree next to which were buried dozens of corpses of the dead, while some of them were thrown into the deep well that was nearby.
Here they allowed you to take 5 kg of food and 5 kg of fruit every month from family members and buy something in the inner shop of the prison with the money sent by their families. I was very sorry that many political prisoners for many years did not have contact with their families and did not provide food aid. This is because many of their families were interned in remote and lost villages of the country. Some of these families feared that they might be persecuted if they met their convicted people in this prison. The prison command allowed each month to send a letter to the family as well as another letter to state institutions. Memorie.al