By Bedri Çoku
Memorie.al/ publishes the unknown testimonies of Bedri Çoku originating from the village of Muçias in the district of Lushnja, who at the age of 19 while performing compulsory military service in the district of Gjirokastra, was arrested by two senior officers of the State Security and after a “unmasking” public trial on charges mounted in that city’s cinema, he was convicted of agitation and propaganda along with his brother, Chaushi, for the sole “fault” that their father had suffered for several years as a political prisoner in forced labor camps from where he was released in 1959. Rare testimonies of Bedri Çoku who spent 24 years in the prisons of Spaç, Burrel and Qafë Barit and together with his two brothers, Esat and Çaushi and their father, Azem, suffered 64 years in prison in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, being released only in February 1991. Memoirs of Bedri Çoku skillfully described in his book “The uprising that shook the dictatorship”, which and where is mainly added to the Spaç Revolt in May 1973, where he as one of its main organizers, sheds light for the first time by making public some unknown events and facts from that revolt where the flag was raised without the red star of communism, and until his work as General Director of Camps and Prisons after the ’90s, where he “arrested” his close friend, the accomplice of the dictatorship’s camps and prisons and sent him to the cells of’ Prison 313 ‘. Tirana, where most of the former Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ALP headed by Ramiz Alia and Nexhmije Hoxha were serving their sentences.
The uprising that shook the dictatorship
(Based on a true story)
“To raise the flag, without the communist star, I expressed the opinion that, unable to find a red sheet, we would break our hands and, with our blood, paint the white cloth…! The first to cut his hand with a knife was my brother, Çaushi, the second Gëzim Medolli, Bedri Çoku, Gjet Kadeli, Ulsi Pashollari, and others…”
We very much hoped for European Security and Cooperation which was being carried out at a dizzying speed under the special care of the United States of America. Rightly all mankind was eagerly awaiting the great historical moment. Signing for the Understanding of the Peoples of Europe, Western Democratic States and Eastern Communist States, which were still suffering from dictatorial regimes, to establish together a new order of peace and cooperation in the world. We hoped that Albania on this occasion as well. She would sign in Helsinki this Act for the Fates of Humanity, as a representative of this International Political Organization. We were convinced that our country, although incomparable to the countries of the East, would, by grace or by accident, join the Treaty of Peace and Cooperation with Europe (OSCE).
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We were all in agreement that the unexploded dynamite during the explosions by the state firefighters, across the work fronts, we would collect together with the undamaged capsules. This would be the beginning of the accumulation of material base for combat operations, if in the created situations the use of dynamite would be required. As for the axes, axes, and levers, we were sure that, as a cold weapon, we would assemble them without difficulty. They were our tools of daily work. We had a reason to put them in the camp, as we took the tools to the camp as well, in case it was impossible to secure them temporarily in a warehouse near the gallery where we worked.
Due to my acquaintance with the political prisoner, the mechanical engineer, Kostandin Papa, born and raised in Durrës, I was assigned to have a secret conversation with him, to convince him to join our secret goal. We hoped that he could provide us with the production of pipes the length of a dynamite plume, in the workshop where Constantine directed most of the workers, who were our accomplices. Koçi, as we called him briefly, accepted without hesitation. Not only because he himself was burned and scorched to achieve something related to our condition, in the conditions of forced labor, dressed and fed badly and not worse, with the exploitation of work in the mine, without reward, we, to convicts of conscience. But, especially, after the ominous news about our country’s non-participation in the “European Union and Security”, whose negative echo had caused a lot of sadness in Koçi’s soul.
On the other hand, he and I had known each other since the time of the investigation, in the dungeons of Tirana, between communication with knocks on the wall, as is constantly the case with isolated people in detention dungeons, who get along using the “alphabet”. Later, also by chance, we met physically in Kaushi of Tirana, (where you were already gathering convicts with a final decision), waiting for the transfer to the labor camp, or to the terrible prison of Burrel. I was convicted of agitation and propaganda in collaboration with my brother, Chaushi, against the regime, while Koçi, convicted of “High treason against the Fatherland”, in an organized manner.
He was sentenced to be shot for the third time, accused of spying on a large group of ten people, for giving information to foreigners, regarding the number of planes and tanks that Albania had, an accusation fabricated by the State Security, for eight Albanians. and two Polish women, married to two of the accused, the engineer Vasillaq Orgocka from Korça and the other, to Lefter Tika, the director of the Korça hospital. For the Pole, Barbara and her husband Vasillac, as well as Kostandin Papa, the prosecutor’s claim of the hearing was a death-shooting, which the trial panel upheld. But the Presidium of the People’s Assembly spared their lives. The cause was the brave Polish, Barbara Orgocka, who categorically denied the accusation of espionage, in cooperation, in favor of the Polish state, keeping silent the whole time of the court session, without opening her mouth in any case to answer questions. of the prosecutor and the trial panel.
She stamped her feet forcefully on the floor without interruption, demonstratively, to show the party judges of the dictatorial state in Albania that what was said about her and her husband, as accomplices in the act of betrayal of Albania, was a dirty fabrication. for political purposes and against the People’s Republic of Poland. Undoubtedly, the echo of her stay in the courtroom, bravely rejecting the accusation, caused the intervention of the Polish state in the decision of the Presidium of the People’s Assembly, which spared the lives of those sentenced to death.
Therefore, I was sure that I would not be disappointed with the approach of Koçi Papa, who, within a few months, provided the pipes for dynamite, usable as hand grenades, in case their use would be necessary.
Surprisingly, at that time, some information entered our camp that multiplied our hopes. The news was introduced by the relatives of our accomplices, in the special meetings that the command organized for some prisoners for commendable work, or for cases of family disasters. These were people with state positions who had begun to express deep despair over the situation created in Albania, after the opposition of the Politburo, to participate in the treaty on “Security and the European Union”, which would soon be signed in Helsinki. It was even said secretly, as if a group of officers were preparing to attack the prisons, to liberate the opponents of the regime to, together with them, overthrow the communist clique of Tirana …
“Zeri i Popullit” gave a slightly more strange news about the time, immediately after the Pope’s statement against the Albanian state and government, on the occasion of the unjust shooting of the Catholic priest, Dom Shtjefën Kurti, why he had baptized a newborn child, as well as the imprisonment of dozens of Albanians of the Catholic faith, who had expressed indignation at this murder of the pious man of the Divine faith. On this occasion, Albanians fleeing, for political reasons from Albania, were gathering in Puglje, Italy, from all the countries where they lived, to launch an attack on the anti-national regime in Albania. The news of “Zeri…” was hopeful for other clerics, believers of all religions, but mainly, for the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who were lying in prisons and internment camps …!
We worked secretly, almost every hour and every day with our accomplices, to increase the number of participants in the revolt we were preparing, unfortunately, we were not able to secure an army officer, imprisoned, to have as our leader in hostilities, if this were necessary. There were such in our camp, but no one gave assurances of sincere cooperation. They were soldiers who had served in the army of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but molded with communist ideology. Even though they suffered like us, convicted of doing nothing, as they themselves admitted, with their families interned in remote villages, where they barely ate, in terms of agricultural or livestock cooperatives, they still called popular power their creature earned by sacrifice, as an irreplaceable thing. They never admitted that the ideals and blood of the martyrs of World War II had been betrayed by the ruling clique.
They even called it treason if they accepted the same judgment with the Ballists and Zogists, the bitter communist reality in Albania, even in these conditions, the cooperation with the nationalists and their sons. They admitted that they had not fought for this Albania full of prisons and internment camps, isolated from the advanced world, bloodied by the developments of the class war, with this anti-national social system, however, their mouths did not tell them that the savage system, inhuman, for all Albanians, had to be overthrown. They defended this with the alibi that what had happened and was happening in Albania was a consequence of the mistakes of the leaders, because they were fighting only for their personal interests, since Albania had seceded from the great Socialist Camp, led by the Soviet Union… Not at all as a result of the system itself based on the seizure of power by force, the disappearance of private property, the market economy and the incitement of terrorism through class warfare …!
While imprisoned servicemen, as nationalists, laureate through western countries, some of them had either died in prison, or were rare, but stunted by suffering and long inhuman treatment. It would be a pity to ask them something beyond their means. Anyway, we had made our decision without the military leader, for the actions we would take, if combat action were necessary. Our motive was engraved daily in our hearts, with the motto: “Better dead than slaves in the communist dictatorship!
The circle with the camp youth had expanded satisfactorily, with the best boys tested for loyalty. So, we waited impatiently for the moment to act. Some elderly and experienced people had approached us as under standers of our purpose, but without giving any concrete help, except for some intellectual who advised us for prudence and strict secrecy (until the moment came, which would decide the fate of life our): “Alive or dead! With honor, or eternally ashamed!”
Believers say, “If something is destined to happen, it will happen even if we work day and night to prevent it.” I rightly say that Our Angel, learned the command of the prison, to order the tellall of the camp to inform the prisoners that, from next Sunday, we would be obliged to go to work, for an indefinite period, for the only reason: “We are behind with the plan”! They definitely wanted to kidnap us one more day of the week, which we had to relax and clean …! On Sunday morning, according to the order, the first shift brigade had to go to work (!) … From what we had managed to talk to the accomplices before, only half lined up. Command and alarmed pretty. However, she did not cancel the order. He fired those who showed up. With the others he became a blind eye and a deaf ear.
A short meeting in the yard with the ward commissar was enough, who described the prisoners’ opposition to carrying out the order, the behavior of unscrupulous people, who still did not feel remorse for the political crimes against the state and the Albanian Labor Party. …! With the second shift it happened differently. Most of the prisoners who were there quarreled and were beaten by the multiplied police officers in the camp yard. The men of the command withdrew from the fierce resistance of the prisoners, according to an ill-conceived logic, that all that was happening to them was but a proof to prove who exactly were the prisoners who remained the sworn enemies of party of the Albanian state … a proof to prove who exactly were the prisoners who remained sworn enemies of the party of the Albanian state …!
The next Sunday what they say happened: “… It is the hand of God”! We waited for him day after day … Before the prison police entered the camp, to get the prisoners to work, Pal Zefi, one of the rare boys in the camp, who had been suffering for months in inhumane dungeons because he had openly declared and bravely that, no longer wanting to work as a slave, in the interest of the communist government, he took advantage of the negligence of the on-duty police officer and abruptly left the dungeon, where he had been suffering for four months, to join his brother and other accomplices. …! Paul was a Catholic, originally from Dukagjini, convicted of agitation and propaganda and attempted escape, along with his brother, Gjoka. A few months ago, he had supported the decision of Tomor Allajbeu, from Lapardhaja in Berat, the son of the sister of the well-known nationalist, Abaz Ermenji, not to work anymore for the interest of communist families.
Both of them, outside of any law and regulation in the political prisons of Albania, suffered for several months in the illegal and inhuman dungeons of Spaç prison, without a second coming out of there, contrary to what was written in the law and in the prison regulations, where it was clearly stated that no prisoner could suffer in prisons for more than a month, despite the guilt committed in violation of the law and the prison regulations, where he was serving his sentence … Exactly, both of these boys had become the inspiration for all of us, young people with their righteous and invincible attitude. Even though they could not see and meet each other, because the police kept them apart, leaving them to suffer solitary confinement in cold dungeons, they heard their voice from friend to friend, every time the police cursed and cursed loudly. high, when he was beaten and tortured mercilessly, the enduring accomplice, in the other dungeon.
It was May 21, 1973, when the prison police, alarmed, poured all over the camp, to catch and return to the dungeon, Pal Zefi, “escaped”, but encountered resistance from the human wall of the prisoners, already organized. This was the beginning of our uprising. This is the first, bloody clash with police and prison guards, which took place according to a detailed and long-awaited program. Probably, for the first time in the history of the prisons of the communist dictatorship in Albania, the prison guards were beaten by political prisoners and taken out, becoming those in power, inside the camp …! It is true that they fled insulted and humiliated, but they would undoubtedly return with other reinforcements, more numerous and more determined, to take fierce revenge against us …!
By the afternoon we became full owners of the camp. The urgent arrival of the director general of the Republic’s prisons, accompanied by reinforcements from the staff of the Rrëshen branch of internal affairs and his request for our understanding, to be allowed to enter the camp, caused a heated debate between prisoners, especially young people organized for their purpose, and older prisoners, precisely in connection with the decision to allow or not to allow the general director, Sulejman Manoku, for talks in the camp. The incessant insistence of the majority to allow the General Director to enter the camp, became such that it could cause great disruption within the prisoners. Thanks to the compromise reached, accepting the condition that the General Director enter the camp, accompanied by only four or five prison police officers and no police officers from the Rrëshen Internal Affairs Branch, saved the camp from the inevitable disruption. Proposals by the director of prisons to abandon the revolt, return to work and resume normal life in the camp were heard. He listened attentively to the complaints of the prisoners, about the inhuman treatment they received, especially to realize their extraordinary norm, about the food cooked with water mixed with sulfuric acid, which was destroying their health day by day, about the difficult meetings with their families. and inhuman tortures for any prisoner who did not fulfill the forced norm, etc … etc. /Memorie.al
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