By Father Konrad Gjolaj O.F.M.
Memorie.al/ Father Konrad Gjolaj were born in the village of Velipojë in the district of Shkodra in 1918. In his preparation as a cleric, there was a great influence of the priest of German origin, Dom Alfons Tracki, who at that time served as a priest in the villages of Shkodra district. After graduating from the Franciscan College in the city of Shkodra, he pursued higher studies in Theology in Rome and in 1943, returned to his homeland in the city of Shkodra, where he was appointed a professor in the Franciscan high school. After the closure of the gymnasium in 1946, by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, he served as a parish priest in the village of Mali – Kolaj and in 1947; he was arrested and tortured in the cells of the investigation of Shkodra, where he was kept in isolation until 1950 in 1958, he was arrested for the second time and sentenced to 25 years in prison, which he spent almost entirely in Burrel Prison. After the collapse of the communist regime in 1990 – ’91 and with the reopening of the churches, Father Konrad Gjolaj served as a parish priest in the district of Lezha, until he passed away in 2000. During that period of time, Father Gjolaj wrote and published the book “The Chinese, (an autobiographical work, where he describes the suffering and persecution he went through during his life under the communist regime), from which we have also excerpted this article that we are publishing below.
After speaking for a long time, the director pointed out that Viktori would leave for an answer that his brother, Njaci, had sent back to the Security Operative. Viktori said: Yes, I am not Njaci…! Then the director replied: “I have nothing to do, let’s go”!
Victor was shocked by me and said: “Doesn’t it seem surprising to you that they are taking you somewhere, because you said in court that my bones and those of the communists should never be mixed together”! I laughed and said: “Now where are you taking us, are you leaving us for Beijing”?! The director listened to me and answered: “Let them take you where they want, I got rid of you!” Yes, wherever you go, be careful.”
That night they put us both in an isolation room. Because of the trouble of where they were taking us, we couldn’t sleep all night. Victor had been paralyzed for 8 years. He was treated with special medicines, which his brother from abroad gave him. There seemed to be improvement.
At one point, he asked me: “Are you happy to see Victor walking, how is he walking, when is he young?” It was taken to the leg, and he walked all right. I was surprised.
An incredible thing, he was the best of our years. I ordered it to be saved again and I continued the game in Burrel, after understanding these, you can see their quarrel. I mainly ordered it not to trust my friends, because people are not getting to know each other.
Early in the morning they put us in the car and together with three policemen they drove us to Burrel. The road passed smoothly and without incident. We entered the prison area.
Two policemen killed us in one room. There began, as usual, the destruction of loot with the kanga: “Here they say Burrel, where you go in and don’t come out”!. After the check, Viktor and I were separated between two isolation rooms.
Around 8 am, a policeman picked me up and took me to an office. There was the operative of the prison, who asked me: “How are you, master?” I told others that I am a priest. He woke up and said to me: “Where is your other friend?” I told him that I was shot. He said: “Don’t worry, we’ve had enough, one less priest’s stench.” This was the reception in the famous Burrell prison.
I was taken to room no. 2. Gjon Perjaku was responsible there. The room had the necessities inside; it was a little difficult to set up. There I found a lot of the old intelligentsia, people with a similar culture, with dignity, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Despite all those years in prison, they were still superior to the personalities of today…!
One was surprised by the culture with a horizon, so familiar. Very polite people, and so humane, that they had imposed that education on the young people as well. Communicated only with the word: lord. Texts of foreign language methods circulated, copied by hand, the work of years. There you could understand what generation of intellectuals Albania has lost today.
Consider that this unforgettable prison has 10 rooms with 60 people each, and 12 dungeons with 20 people each. Who were these? These were among the prisons since the War period, kept among the mountain prisons, and in 1946 they were brought to Burrel.
There you will find engineers, doctors, bankers, doctors, professors graduated from the most famous universities of Europe and America, academics, politicians of state apparatuses, diplomats, prime ministers, ministers, artists, writers, famous scientists, journalists, publicists, clerics of all faiths, excellent students, to be considered criminals, traitors and enemies of communism, almost all of them have been eliminated, disappeared as if they never existed.
Only a minority of this generation of inimitable intellectuals could understand the greatness of that period, when Albania decided to have Europeans in mind, heart and soul. The turn from the East is the greatest tragedy of our nation in the 20th century. That generation of intellectuals will never be repeated.
We are the only nation that has killed itself with our own hand. Suicide is punished by God and by the slave, so he didn’t want any other punishment, for this act of historical suicide, because then there was no other option but to die as a human being. God forbid!
I was once impressed by a major officer of Enver Hoxha, who went to prison during the removal of ranks. He did not agree, and he was sentenced to Burrel.
The first few days, he was taking a bowl of soup (that’s the name of the fluid that the cook brought in), he looked at him and asked a villager for some pasta, which he had prepared earlier, from those that the house had brought him.
The officer had to thicken the cloudy water in the bowl a little. The villager said: “I won’t give you anything, because you have these terrible prisons”! The officer, who used to be the Deputy Minister, escaped without a trace.
Later this officer told me that he had never known what was going on between these countries. This was true, most of them really didn’t know, and that’s too bad for them, but for the few who thought about it, it’s too bad that they didn’t try it for themselves. .
LIFE WITHOUT A CALENDAR
We had no clue what time of day it was. Poverty was omnipresent. He lived only with his past and without any hope for the future. Vain life, without any meaning and continuity.
The only thing is rapid and incomprehensible aging. The bad thing is that we think we are, while in reality we live at the expense of someone else; even, even without thinking at the top.
We remember only when we look at gray hair and wrinkles, then we despair, we ask ourselves, why should we live, and how long? Is that life worth 10, 15 years in prison, and maybe 20 or 25?
Years go by, dreams fly with them, former desires are forgotten, young people remember illusions, how they thought about wanting and creating a family, school continued, so they thought about having, and after 13-14 years in prison, we remember that half is gone of life, so comes the dark time that brings old age, maybe one day we will be freed, followed by the class war, we are excluded from almost all the opportunities of life. So we are the people condemned by fate.
This psychosis exhausted the minds of hundreds of young men, who considered themselves cut off from life forever, committed voluntary suicide. Then God gave me a chance, don’t lose my soul!
Pessimism is very dangerous, especially when there is little or no hope for the future. There were many boys who did not think that they would be released, especially when the reconstructions started inside the prison. That is the most terrible time, where suicides were called salvation.
Even when we were freed, a man tells me, – no one takes us to create a family as we want, no school, no job, no wealth, no perspective, no social circle, no position, people with menial jobs, always with mortar and bricks, despised and trampled on, looked at crookedly, scary by changing two words, punished with a stamp, even on an ID card with a special series, separated from women and families, with thousands and thousands of people with the name : “Political convict”!
This is the name of more than half a million Albanians in 47 years. With this name, you do not have a member of the socialist society. “What a risk”! Memorie.al