Memorie.al/publikon the unknown story of Jetullah Gashi, originally from the village of Mramor in Prishtina, who in 1964, when he was a high school student, decided to flee and cross the state border in the area of the village of Zogaj in the district of Tropoja, where for several days, interrogating him in the Internal Affairs Branch of the city “Bajram Curri”, they brought him to the town of Shijak, placing him in a State Security base, which was called “The filtering center of Kosovar emigrants”, who were fleeing Yugoslavia and coming to Albania, where for several months he was subjected to intensive investigation by State Security officers coming from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and covering “Kosovo emigration”.
He was sent to the district of Korça where he finished high school in the town of Maliq and then in Tirana, where he attended higher university studies at the Faculty of Medicine, which he completed in 1971 and was appointed in Elbasan as a nearby doctor. the hospital of that city. His arrest in 1977 after some time of surveillance and persecution by the State Security organs, “as an agent of the UDB”, where after several months of inhuman torture, he was sentenced to 25 years in political prison, which suffered in the camps of Spaç, Qafë-Barit, Burrel, etc., the extraordinary gesture of Jetullah Gashi when he was serving his sentence, handing over the white shirt of the doctor and working in shifts in the gallery of Spaç, from where he was released at the beginning of 1991, with the overthrow of the communist regime.
It was August 30, 1964, when I, after cutting the train ticket from Prishtina to Skopje (where I was working with my father), all the way, I was just thinking how I would get to Albania, which I had been grinding for so many days. in head. At that time, I did not have any information about the state border, Yugoslavia – Albania and based on this fact, I went to the bus station in Skopje, where I cut the bus ticket to Gjakova and arrived there in the late hours of the night. I got off the bus and did not know where to go, as I had never been to Gjakova. I made every effort to avoid people and took the road that had less traffic. At the end of this road, I saw a bakery, bought some buns and continued the same road direction in the dark of night. On the right side of the road, I saw a fence, which I crossed and entered the garden. I decided to sleep there. Near the siege, I found a safe place that protected me, as occasionally there was dog barking, but after a while they ceased. Tired I had fallen asleep. I woke up in the morning, after looking around the place, got up, crossed the fence and went out on the street again. My cousin Kadriu had told me that the border to Albania crosses the tops of some bare hills “. This is how 75-year-old Jetullah Gashi from Kosovo remembers the moment of his escape from Yugoslavia to Albania, where he was arrested after graduating from the Faculty of Medicine in Tirana and serving as a doctor for several years in the hospital of the city of Elbasan, in April 1977. by the State Security, being charged as a “UDB agent” and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Torture during the investigation and the sentence of 25 years in prison, the long ordeal in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha until the beginning of 1991, being released with the last convicts who came out of the “communist hell”, leaving for Switzerland to his relatives, returning to Albania and finally leaving for Kosovo, where he still lives with his family. Regarding these and other events and facts from his painful life, doctor Jetullah Gashi, testifies exclusively for Memorie.al
Continued from the previous issue
Mr. Jetullah, you were then sent to Burrell Prison, where you were again assigned as a doctor?
Also, in Burrel prison where I was serving my sentence working as a doctor, until 1988, when I was then transferred to Qafë-Barit prison.
What about in the prison of Qafë – Bari, as a doctor you were appointed?
I was also assigned as a doctor (because that regime in the camps and prisons did not keep paid doctors), and I stayed there until the beginning of February 1990, a period when the prisoners stopped working and did not obey you. on command to work. At that time, at the end of 1990, all the political prisoners I and I were transferred to were transferred to Burrell Prison, where on February 6, 1991, we were all released by decree, from the decision he had taken. The People’s Assembly, after mass demonstrations and numerous protests of the opposition of that time, we led the Democratic Party.
During your time in prison, did you correspond with your family?
Throughout my sentence in the camps and prisons, I corresponded with the family, but the letters were very formal, with me just trying to ask about their health and nothing else. As for my part, that is, for what I suffered and experienced while suffering the punishment, I simplified it as much as possible, by not showing anything, but I wrote to them saying that I am a doctor and I am in very good health. I knew very well that these letters were checked, so I wrote very briefly.
Remember any of the vicissitudes you went through in prison?
Definitely yes, and there have been many, but in my memory, great sadness (almost ready and fear) brings me even today that we are talking, the period of investigation in the cells of the Elbasan Branch of Internal Affairs, where three investigators, monsters are I mean in the fullest sense of the word, I was tortured in the most inhuman way. This has been very, very difficult and as long as I am alive, I cannot forget what they did to me, no matter how much I fall asleep! One of the most difficult events I remember was that of Selim Kelmendi, my compatriot from Kosovo.
Before you tell us this, can you tell us something (for readers who do not know him) who Selim Kelmendi was and under what circumstances he had come to Albania, and why he was in prison?
Selim Kelmendi, together with a friend, in 1956, at the height of the UDB repression in Kosovo, (during the action of collecting weapons), escape and come to Albania, where the official authorities place them in the city of Lezha. After a lot of work where he was assigned, at a young age, he began his higher studies at the Faculty of Philology, in the branch of Language – Literature, at the University of Tirana, which I graduated with honors and then was appointed as a teacher. in Fushë Krujë. Selim Kelmendi, was a loving person, not only with his students, but also with their parents. After I was transferred from Spaci to Burrel, I had the opportunity to meet him in prison. As a doctor, I met him to treat him from the shocks he had suffered during the investigation, as he too had been inhumanly tortured in the cells of the Internal Affairs Branch of the Kruja district, and as far as I remember, one of his investigators , was NS, a hangman, like those who tortured me in Elbasan. Selimi, suffered from a series of heart diseases and tension and constantly kept his mind on the sentence given by the court, without doing anything wrong, to the people and the homeland. He once said to me: “Jetullah, how is it possible that: when I was waiting to be decorated in the Education sector, in the city where I lived, on the other hand, the State Security was preparing my arrest”?! Then I explained my case, almost the same as his, where during the investigation, I was accused of all kinds of accusations and tortures to admit those monstrosities! “I was also sentenced to 25 years,” I told him, “so keep your mind off these things, because that was our ‘fate'”! I often said to Selim, that we: ‘must endure and live to the end’. While Selim Kelmendi was in prison, he did not stop writing to state instances, from the President of the High Court, the General Prosecutor, to Ramiz Alia. He was one of those men of Rugova, who could not stand injustice. He was regularly visited by his wife, who had not stopped seeking justice for her husband. Selimi told me that when she came, she often debated with the officers and police officers who performed the service. Her screams could be heard all the way to the prison cells. She was from Shkodra and never agreed with his sentence. But Selimi could not stand the injustices done to her.
How do you remember the death of Selim Kelmendi in Burrel prison?
Unfortunately, Selimi would die in despair in Burrell Prison. At that time, in one of those cells, where Selimi was, was Adem Allçi. The night that Selimi, the shower room officer, died, there was a policeman named Agim. He was very kind and told me that if I needed anything, I would be free. That night, Agim comes and picks me up and takes me to Adem Allçi’s cell, where I see him and two others trying to calm Selimi, who was having difficulty breathing. I removed the three of them and after noticing the pain in his heart, I gave him a sedative. Then, the guard opened the door and I went to the counter on duty, to tell him that the prisoner Selim Kelmendi had just had a heart attack. Then I came back and I was waiting for the answer that his superior, the guard officer, would give me. Meanwhile the minutes passed and he seemed to be recovering. His condition stabilized and I ordered my cell mates not to move him out of the way in any way. I assured them that I would go to the cardiologist tomorrow and do my best to get an ECG. After greeting them, I went out and went to the doctor’s room, where I would visit the other prisoners. When five minutes had just passed, the guard opened the door and told me to hurry, because Selimi was not well. I ran to the cell and found him leaning against the wall with two pillows that his friends had placed.
What had happened to Selimi?!
I asked that question to my cell mates: ‘What happened’ I said? They all stunned and had their eyes fixed on me. Then I heard the voice of Adem, who said to me: “Selimi asked me for a cigarette and as long as he reached for his cigarette, he suddenly fell to the ground.” So, the second heart attack was fatal for Selim Kelmendi, who took his own life.
Was there a possibility of salvation, then, if there was more medical care?
Under normal circumstances, if he had had the care of the prison medical staff, after the first heart attack, Kelmendi would have survived. But the prison command ordered that after 9 pm, no inmates should be taken out of their cells, not even for personal needs. They had to be performed in primitive conditions inside the cell. I say with conviction that: the real cause of Selim Kelmendi’s death was the Burrel Prison Command, not his comrades. He was transported to a room that was adjacent to that of the guard officer and the next day at 9.00, came from Burrell, the forensic doctor along with his assistant. They came and picked me up to go to the room where Selim’s lifeless body lay. The forensic assistant, prepared the cutting tools and the forensic doctor, after taking out the heart and placing it on the makeshift table, began to make the findings. In those findings that came out, my convictions that myocardial infarction was caused by a disorder of blood vessels as a result of blood pressure also resulted. This diagnosis exactly cost Selim Kelmendi his life.
During the long period of serving your sentence in camps and prisons, have you had any provocations?
I remember that in a period of two – three months, I had many provocations, from the collaborators of the command, with whom I worked in the galleries of Spaç, where I realized that something was being prepared against me and I tried to avoid them as much as possible. While working as a doctor, I got to know some of these guys, who when they came to visit, in case they had health problems, I treated them the same as the others. I have treated and visited hundreds of thousands of convicts and prisoners, and this thanks to the numerous movements from Spaç prison, to Burrel prison, from Burrel prison, back to Spaç prison, from Spaç prison to Qafë Barit, from the prison of Qafë Barit to the prison of Spaç, and so I knew many accomplices, this also my profession.
Who were some of your comrades whom you still respectfully remember?
I remember a considerable part of them, such as: Sander Sokoli, Rexhep Koçi, Nuredin Skrapari, Xhaferr Agaraj, Shefqet Kaçaniku, Ymer Llugani, Namik Luci, Shefqet Kelmendi, Petrit Bazelli, my closest high school friend, Qani Sadiku, Avni Aliko, Sytki Hoxha, Pjetër Arbnori, Daut Gumeni, Vladimir Balluku, Skënder Shatku, Spartak Spahiu, Spartak Ngjela and Fatos Lubonja (who had both parents in Burrel prison, Kiço Ngjela and Todi Lubonja), Kurt Kola, Kapllan Resuli , Selim Kelmendi, Adem Allçi, Dhori Gërnjoti, Mark Gjini, Hazbi Lamçe, Nesti Nase, Muhamet Prodani, Fadil Paçrami, Rrahman Përllaku, Sadik Bekteshi, Gjergj Titani, Mihallaq Ziçishti, the two sons of Mehmet Shehu, who were in prison , Skënder and Bashkim Shehu, and hundreds of thousands of others, whom I find impossible to remember their names and surnames.
How do you remember the event in Spaç prison, when the command told you not to give many medical reports on the bed rest of the convicts?
Since the Spaç galleries were staffed by prisoners in three shifts, from the Command or even from the office of the Organic of Convicts (which was a tool in the hands of the Command), in one way or another, they pressured me not to not giving leave medical reports, after which they should not go to work. As a professional I was, every patient who presented to me, after visiting him and I was convinced of the disease he had, I gave him medication and rest (report), but according to the classification of the disease. To the sick, it definitely belonged to three days of rest and medication. One of the events that I remember even today, was once in Spaç, when during three days it rained so much that the water that we used to drink on a daily basis, from time to time, was rusty. After two days, the convicts started to add to my doctor’s room, with symptoms such as: abdominal pain, vomiting, high fever, loss of consciousness, etc.
What happened after that, how did you do it?
The condition was very serious and very alarming and, in this context, I was giving the convicts medical treatment and rest opportunities for the three shifts that were working in the gallery. I, together with the assistant doctor, Isuf Hoxha, (who, regardless of his personality), was at work non-stop with me and we stayed close to the convicts who came to visit and treat us. All of these convicts were waiting in line to be visited, even though they had a high temperature and were in very poor health. Meanwhile, the Command had a problem, that the right tons of copper and pyrite were not being produced by the mine and for them it was not a problem at all, the health condition of the convicts was aggravated, because they, the Command, looked at us and treated us as slaves. Thus, based on this fact, the Command gathered the many sick people on the terrace where the appeal was made and at this time, they also inform me that you have to appear there at the request of the Command. As soon as I was notified, I left as I was with my white T-shirt and stethoscope in my pocket. Meanwhile, going down the stairs, I saw all the representatives of the Command, who had become like rabid beasts! I realized that for those ‘beasts’ the lives of these convicts did not matter in the slightest, only that, at all costs, they had to work for the extraction of copper from the galleries of Spaç. Going towards them, they were reminding me how many times they had taken me as a camp doctor, for those convicts who were taken out of the Spaç gallery, as they could not fulfill the norm and the police, near the barracks, beat them to death, after tying his hands with wire, on a pole at the exit of the gallery, which police used as a place for torture of convicts. Approaching the Commander, he angrily said to me: “Why did you leave them all alone”?!
How did you respond?
“Comrade Commander,” I replied: “over 95% of the convicts have a temperature of 40 degrees, I could not put them to work, because their lives would be endangered.” At that moment, the Commissar and the Security Operative intervened and started asking me about each of the convicts. At one point, when I was answering all the questions, I addressed the commissar: “Comrade Commissar, do you not see for yourself that the condition of the sick is serious and they are barely standing, leaning on one another? the other so as not to fall”?!
How did he answer you?
At the height of his nerves, he said to me: “Shut up, convict, do not tell us!” “No, Mr. Commissar, I, despite being one of them, am a doctor, and my main task and the ‘Hippocratic oath’ do not allow me to act differently, but only to serve the people.” “We will look at him, we will look at him,” said the Security Operative, pursing his lips and addressing me, saying: “You have many words, you convict!” Then I removed the white T-shirt from my body and handed it to a policeman, telling him: “Tomorrow I am ready to go to work in the galleries of Spaç, together with all my accomplices”.
And then you started working in the gallery?
Yes, definitely, I started working in the gallery, just like the other accomplices working in extracting copper ore with wagons. At this time when I entered the mine, I remember that in a conversation with the brigadier, Zef Nis, one day I asked him where he got his last name, Nis, and he told me: “I do not know doctor, but we are some families in Mirdita with the surname, Nishi ”. “You come from Nis in present-day Yugoslavia,” I told Zefi. Zefi had intervened in the office of Organika, and had placed me in the group of Rexhep Koçi, as his assistant, running away from the process I was working on until that day which was very difficult.
Rexhepi, has he been serving his sentence for a long time?
Rexhep Koçi was from Tropoja and when he was arrested and convicted, he left his wife with a young son. The boy named Perlat, who had already grown up, came to the meeting with his mother, from Tropoja. Rexhepi had been serving a prison sentence for 18 years, but he was suffering from kidneys and once, he could not see well. Rexhepi worked hard, only to earn 4-5 days, to be deducted from the penalty and he had to achieve the norm and exceed it to 130%, to earn these days discount. On one of the usual days in prison, I saw Sander Sokoli, whom I knew, that he was from Elbasan.
Did you know Sander Sokoli?
In Elbasan I knew him only as a face, as I had seen him constantly and we had houses opposite each other. Sandri, was married had two daughters. Sander Sokoli was a pilot by profession and had worked in the Military Aviation, but during his career as a pilot, he had vision problems and was fired, appointing him director of the Elbasan Medical Plant. Sandri was the nephew of Sadik Bektesh, and after his arrest, Sandri was also arrested, with all sorts of fabricated accusations and was convicted and brought to serve his sentence in Spaç prison, leaving his two daughters and his wife. Rexhepi, Sandri and I, we ate everything together and sharing the bitter experiences of the investigation period, as well as the injustices that were done to us. I do not remember exactly at the end of 1981 or the beginning of 1982, the convict, Lirim Pëllumbi, a former senior official of the State Security, had come to Spaç, who had a direct influence on my sentence. I received the news from some of his accomplices, who had also been his victims.
Did you face Lirim Pëllumbi in Spaç?
No, I was never given the opportunity, as the Command placed him in an ordinary prison cell, which was the second area. This area did not communicate with the first area we were, political prisoners. These two areas were separated by welded iron rods, so that political prisoners could not communicate with ordinary prisoners. Lirim Pëllumbi was also convicted as a “traitor and enemy of the People and the Party”, and he worked in the galleries of Spaç, with ordinary prisoners.
But after your release from prison, did you have a chance to meet Lirim Pëllumbi?
When I was released from prison, some accomplices told me that Lirim Pëllumbi had passed away, but I was not interested in where, in prison or when he was released from prison. I was disgusted with this man, because of the drama that caused me and many others like me./Memorie.al