Memorie.al publishes the unknown story of Tom Mërnaçaj, originally from Selca e Vermoshit and born in Tuz, Montenegro, where the family of his father, Gjek Mërnaçaj, had settled since 1948, after they had fled Albania to ‘escaped the persecution of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, who had declared their family a’ reactionary family ‘. The rare testimony of 68-year-old Tom Mërnaçaj, starting with the history of his anti-communist family, the circumstances of the acquaintance with Avdul Banushi in the United States of America, his invitation and the reason why he agreed to come with a secret mission to communist Albania Enver Hoxha, the concrete tasks he would perform, the itinerary of his travels with Banushi in different European countries, the incident with the border police in the Port of Dubrovnik, where they were seized the propaganda material of the organization ‘Albanian Anti-Stalinist Resistance Front’, the trip to Greece and their stay in Igoumenitsa and Ioannina, in the luxury villas of Nikola Plasoti and Lufter Guveli, where Banushi was received with honors and was like a man of the house, the failure of the first mission to enter Albania, on November 28 ’74, the return to the USA and the train incident in Skopje, where the Yugoslav police seized their bags with weapons, the second secret mission to come back to Albania, the physical conflict with Banushi, near the clone near Hani i Hotit, the arrest by the Albanian border guards and their sending to Shkodra and then to Tirana, the investigation process, imprisonment and then leaving Albania again, until the vicissitudes of big wandering in different European countries, to arrive back in the US, after that crazy adventure ?!
After Avdul Banushi and I had failed in an attempt to enter Albania illegally in November 1974, the “comrades up there” of the “Albanian Anti-Stalinist Resistance Front” organization decided that we should go back to Albania in April. of 1975 and I accepted such a thing, thinking that I owed him a debt to repay him. After leaving the US by plane, we arrived in Greece, where we were supplied with weapons by Mr. Lefter Guveli, who was a close friend of Avdul Banushi. From Igoumenitsa where Lefter Guveli lived, we went to Athens where we took the train and went to Yugoslavia, from where we then traveled to Podgorica, where my family lived, my father, mother and brother. In the evening of April 6-7, 1975, after sleeping one night in my house, the next evening late, we crossed Tuz and set off towards the Albanian border, about two or three km. near him. There I told my father, Gjeka, to return home, as I more or less knew the place, since we were there near my uncle’s village, where I had spent my childhood. After my father returned, Avdul Banushi and I crossed the border and, under the sound of high voltage wires, sat down in the direction of Hani i Hotit. After walking about two or three kilometers, we reached the clone. When I saw the clone, four meters high, I forgot the pride I had set off for and fear entered my heart. It is understood that at that time I was twenty years old and apart from hatred for communism inherited from my family, I had no other reason to enter Albania. There I told Avdul to return as we had returned a year ago and to keep secret our “entry” and “exit” from Albania, until the Albanian border guards catch us and kill us. At that moment, Avdulit, revolted and aimed his pistol muzzle at me. When I saw the pistol aimed at me, for a moment I was shocked, but I collected myself and reacted by… “!
This is how 68-year-old Tom Mërnacaj, who lives in the United States of America, recounts, among other things, that distant event and his crazy adventure, who tells the story of his family and his 1975 adventure, when he was starts with Avdul Banushi, from the USA, to cross the border and enter Albania illegally, with a secret mission, following the task and occasional instructions they had received in the committee of the organization “Albanian Anti-Stalinist Resistance Front” in New York.
Who is Tom Mërnaçi, what is his family’s past and why did his father and uncle escape from Albania in 1948 and settle in Tuz, Montenegro? What were the reasons for his escape from Yugoslavia to the US and how did he meet Avdul Banushi? Why did Toma agree to work with Avdul, and what is the history of their travels from the United States to Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia? What is the truth of their last trip in April 1975, when they left the US to enter Albania illegally with a secret mission? What was the itinerary they traveled during that trip, who were the people they met in Greece and where were they supplied with the weapons they would need with them when they entered Albania? What is Tom Mërnaçaj’s assessment of Avdul Banushi and why did he decide to speak publicly, giving his versions in this interview, which Memorie.al is publishing?
Mr. Mërnaçaj, the Albanian reader knows you only through a description given to you by Mr. Avdul Banushi, in his interview, published these days on Memorie.al, can you tell us something more about your life?
My name is Tom Mërnaçaj and I was born in 1953 in Tuz, Montenegro. My family is originally from Selca e Vermoshit in Shkodra district.
You were not born in Albania as it is said in the interview of Mr. Avdul Banushi?
No, no, I was born in Tuz, Montenegro.
When did your family settle in Tuz, Montenegro?
My father, Gjek Mërnaçaj, together with his brother and at the same time my uncle, Kol Mërnaçaj, in 1948 fled from Albania towards Yugoslavia.
What were the reasons that forced them to flee Albania?
The main reason for their escape was the persecution by the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, who had declared our family a reactionary family and had fought, in the harshest way, as an anti-communist family. Based on this fact, the father and uncles decided to flee Albania, because if they continued to stay in their homeland, their lives would be seriously endangered.
Where did your family live during the period you lived in Yugoslavia?
My father’s family and I, together with them, during the period we lived in Yugoslavia, we lived in Tuz, Podgorica and Ulcinj.
What did you do during that time?
During the period we lived in Tuz, I was a child and at that time I learned to self-teach to read and write in Albanian. Later, I was able to enroll in the Construction High School in Ulcinj, which I completed in 1972.
Have you been married since you lived in Yugoslavia, as Mr. Avdul Banushi says?
After finishing high school, in October 1972, I married in Tuz to my wife, who I still have today. In March 1973, we fled with him to Italy, where our son was born in Rome. Then, in December 1973, we came as refugees to the US.
What were the reasons for being forced to flee Yugoslavia?
Like many other Yugoslav Albanians from the Tries region, we immigrated to the United States for a better life.
Did you have any connection with Kadri Hazbiu or the Albanian State Security and did they help you to leave Yugoslavia for Italy and the USA?
Absolutely not, because I have never lived in Albania.
When and how did you meet Avdul Banushi in the US and who introduced you to him?
In the summer of 1974, through some of my friends in the US, I met Mr. Avdul Banushi.
What are the names of those friends who met Avdul Banushi?
I think that the names of those friends of mine who introduced me to Avdul Banushi do not matter, because even if I tell you, it does not constitute anything new, because they are not public people.
How did they introduce Avdul Banushi and what was said about him?
From the first meeting, my friends introduced me to Avdul Banushi, as an ardent anti-communist and fighter against the regime of Enver Hoxha. In other meetings, I learned about his deeds, such as: the bombs he had planted in the Albanian embassies in Paris and Rome.
In addition to what your friends told you about Avdul Banushi, can you tell us your impressions, how did you get to know him and what do you know about his person?
Mr. Avdul Banushi was a very intelligent, brave man and looked like an ardent patriot. As for his past, at that time I did not know anything more and had no information, as he was very reserved in the details of his life.
Did you know anything about Banush?
I knew that Avduli had become a political prisoner in Albania and that he had fled to Greece, from where he had come to the USA. I knew this about Banushi, and then when I met him, I learned from him that he had dedicated his life to the war against the Stalinist regime in Tirana and was one of the people who had created the anti-communist organization “Anti-Communist Resistance Front. According to Avdul Banushi, the Organization” The “Resistance Front” stretched not only among Albanian political emigrants in the world, but also in Albania. It was a very amazing thing at the time, when we heard what Avduli was telling us, because the anti-communist movement at that time was almost gone and the news They came from Albania, they were very rare, Mr. Banushi spoke to us in detail about his secret trips to Albania and I and other friends listened to him with curiosity and admiration and believed him for what he told us./Memorie.al
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