By Bedri Myftari
Memorie.al / Bedri Myftari was born in the village of Sklav in Chameria, on December 11, 1938, and as a result of the Greek genocide on the Cham population of Greece, he and his family, in 1945, came to Albania as refugees. He completed primary school in Fier, and secondary school at the Technical College of Economics (Finance branch) in Tirana. Bedriu had cultivated his passion for writing since he was a teenager and when he was 16 years old, he began to publish his first stories and poems in the literary magazines and newspapers of that time, also influenced by his close friend his, Bilal Xhaferri. After making a name for himself as a young writer, in the early 60s, Bedriu started working as a journalist and editor in the newspaper “Zëri i Rinija”, where he stood out as a journalist and writer. Based on this creative career, in 1966, he was accepted as a member of the League of Writers and Artists of Albania. In this period of time, i.e. at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s, Bedriu published the volumes of stories: “Look here and smile”, “Snowflakes” and “Evenings of my city”. With which he received second and third prizes in national competitions. During this period of time, he together with a group of young people, such as: Suzana Selenica, Bilal Xhaferri, Namik Mane, Zyhdi Morava, Faik Ballanca, Roland Gjoza, Kostandin Dhamo, Sadri Ahmeti, Ahmet Golemi, etc., started writing with free hand against socialist realism and occasionally spoke openly against the communist regime. Based on this fact, this group caught the eye and was discovered by the State Security bodies, being considered as “The group of young people against the party line in art and literature”, and as a result, most of them, with the leader of the group, Bedri Myftarin, was arrested and convicted on the charge: “for agitation and propaganda against the Party’s line in art and literature”. After the fall of communism at the beginning of the 90s, Bedriu returned to his youthful passion, literature, being very active in the press of the time, and engaging with the Association “Chamëria” and its magazine “Krahu i Eagle”. During this period, he published many books, among which we can mention “Death Chronicles” (1994); “Graveyard Guard” (1995); “Spring that never returns” – poem (1998); “Black and white” (1999); “Fairy Tales” (2000); “The forest ranger’s daughter” (2002). Bedri Myftari passed away in Tirana on November 8, 2013. The part that we have selected here for publication is taken from one of his stories, which is based on a real event, which talks about his arrest and investigative process.
Descent into hell
I walked as if intoxicated by supernatural passions. At the top of the alley, three people cut me off. They were dressed in black suits and all three had dark glasses. I remembered Kafka’s “Process”.
– Your name is Shandor Petef? – one of the three addressed me.
We met once a week at “Colombo’s” house. It was a one-story house on the outskirts of the city, in the middle of an orchard of the “Gjergj Dimitrov” Farm. We turned off the lights, lit candles, drank wine and read our freehand creations. We had baptized this house, where we met once a week, with the name “Klubi Petef” and I was called Shandor Petef.
– I am Saimiri. Saimir Derveni! – I answered.
– We know, we know who you are, we know you by heart. Let us also know how many spoons you have at home. But without making the slightest move and without giving a hoot or a sigh, get into that car over there. It was “Gaz 49”, Soviet. The one who ordered me sat in front with the driver, while the other two put me in the middle.
– Where are your bracelets, – said the one who was sitting with the driver. He who was sitting on my left arm took out the handcuffs and said to me:
– In the name of the people, you are arrested!
He tied my hands behind and the gas started. I had gotten on the state insurance gas.
At that time there were few vehicles in Tirana. The black “Zim” of the senior leadership of PPSh, which lead to heaven, were more noticeable. This is how they talked about the “Block” of the leadership, it is a true paradise, but we had never seen it guarded by police and soldiers. In fact, we were afraid to even turn our heads there.
Then they came one after the other: the death car that took you to the Saw Bunch, from where you never came back, the Security “Gas” that took you to the “Old Prison”, “New Prison” or to the basements of the Ministry of Internal affairs, that there was no return, the auto-prison that took you to Burrel, Spaç, Qafë Bar, from where you could return after three or twenty-five years.
“Gaz” stopped in front of the gate of the new prison. The “new prison” was located at the end of Bërraka. The prison building was built during the Italian occupation and is surrounded by a three-four meter high wall. A barbed wire net, two meters high, is placed on the wall. Every five to six steps, guard domes rise. Below, in the prison yard, are the domes of the border dogs and the dog trainers. The building has two floors. There are 22 cells on the first floor, while on the second floor there are 27 cells and the investigation rooms.
The first Iron Gate was opened, the second Iron Gate. They took me down to the prison yard. They grabbed me by the arms; we went through nine gates with two padlocks and two locks each from the back, until we reached cell number forty-seven, just like in Simba the sailor, the character of the movie “One Thousand and One Nights”. When they put me in the cell, it seemed to me that I had fallen to the bottom of a deep well, from which neither the entrance nor the exit was visible. Up on the wall was a palm-sized turret, crisscrossed with bars. On the ground were two torn blankets, the gourd of urine and the gourd of water.
The smell of ammonia, humidity and mold, which covered the blackened walls of the cell, took your breath away. On the door of the dungeon, all kinds of words were written by the inmates. At the top I read: “Here is the world of silence and death”, “if you enter here, you are deleted from the list of the living”, “In this dungeon 132 people were shot, 13 people were hanged, 87 people died from torture, 6 people have gone crazy. Then below were written the names of film artists and the names of inmates who had passed through this cell.
I sat in a corner of the dungeon. The sound of a boot could be heard from the end of the corridor, and along with the sound the footsteps of the guard. I had heard more macabre stories about the dungeons. When I heard the flow of the tap, I said to myself: – what if they let the water into my dungeon? At first the water will cover me up to my knees, then up to my waist and finally up to my throat, then it will cover me completely. What will death be like when you drown in water?!
A ray of moonlight came through the squares of the turret bars and fell on the blackened cell wall. I looked at the moonlight and remembered all the events of that night. In a few hours, all those events, just like in fairy tales. The film “Kasta Diva” is the realization of all my youthful dreams about love.
The scent of linden flowers, the moon like a playful bride on Dajt, the puffs of the spring breeze, the nectar on the lips moistened by the juice of the forbidden apple. The intoxicating aroma of that virgin body named Violet and then an evil dream, Security officers, handcuffs and cell number 47, of the “New Prison”.
My head went blank. No thought in my brain, no sound. The world died. I looked like an idiot at the moonlight on the black walls of the cell. I was brought to life by the crack of the log on the cell door.
In front of my eyes I fantasized a lifeless, colorless face, with two fingers on the forehead, with some gray eyes, small and deep in the hollows of the skull. He was standing in front of me with handcuffs in his hand. I looked straight into his eyes, not a single vein moved in that face, no color stood out, not even his eyelashes moved. This will be the executioner, – I said to myself. I had read somewhere that all those with a narrow forehead and eyes like two hookahs, inserted deep into the cavities of the skull, have sadistic tendencies.
– Get up! – came a call from the ghost’s mouth. He did not open his mouth at all, nor did he move his lips. Where did that voice come from, which seemed to come from the depths of the dark abyss? Only in the throat did the gong of the throat move up and down.
I was taken. He tied my hands behind my back and led me out into the hallway.
– There is someone! There is someone! The throat gong was raised and lowered twice. The corridor was dark and narrow. On either side of the corridor were dungeon doors like tombstones. Behind every door, a human soul was writhing, buried deep in the dead and uncorrupted skeleton. I was waiting moment by moment for the torture chamber prefigured according to me to appear. – There is someone! There is someone! – I was woken up by the cry of the one holding my arm. A door opened. We came out on a porch and in front of us was a wide corridor full of light. On both sides of the corridor, there were doors to the interrogation rooms. He stopped and knocked on the door of room number four.
– Come in – answered someone from inside.
In room number four was a boy with yellow hair, about my age. Two tables facing each other. On the opposite wall, a photo of Enver Hoxha, in military uniform with the rank of colonel-general. The room was spacious and ventilated by two large windows, from which the garden of the State Archives could be seen. All this, I photographed, as soon as I entered the room. My companion gave a fist bump and left.
The two of us remained in the room, me and the boy with yellow hair. He looked at me with furrowed brows. Then he ordered me:
– Sit down! – showing me the chair and the table.
I sit. He also sat in front of me. The chair and the table where I sat were concreted with the floor. On his desk was a thick folder with a gray ink cover. He opened the folder and started browsing. He was flipping through a page and looking at me out of the corner of his eye.
– My file – I said to myself. How fat she is. Even Matahari, I don’t believe he had such a thick file…!
He walked, made two or three rounds around the room and then turned to me:
– I am your investigator. From now on, your life is in my hands. I am reasonable, but with the enemies of the Party, I am ruthless. The day I received the Party tessera, I swore on the ideals of the Party, on the blood of my comrades, that anyone who dares to raise his hand against the people’s power, I will crush him like an insect, without a trace of mercy, as if he were my own man the closest.
I have been told about you. We have time to study ourselves. You are a fox without a friend. But know well that the chair where you are sitting has never defeated the chair where I am sitting. In that chair where you are sitting, there are criminals sitting in front of you, whose eyes did not see light, but we made them speak like whistles. Therefore, I advise you not to be fooled. Does it right and you will have facilities. The party has a big heart. She also spared the life of the criminal Hetem Çako, only that he was humbled and repentant.
After this lecture, he went and sat in his chair across from me. He started browsing the file again. He put the file down and stared at me. I looked him straight in the eye too. His eyes squinted at first. Then they lost their shades and turned into an icy desert. The wilderness of the investigator’s eyes stayed like that for only a few seconds. Then, deep within his being, a host of reptiles swarmed over the icy spaces of his eyeballs.
In those eyes I saw all kinds of snakes: cobras, vipers, even crocodiles. I felt shivers all over my body and my hair stood on end. In the glassy pupils I also saw my portrait, lying naked in that icy desert. All the reptiles rushed over my body and began to suck my blood. I also saw the inquisitor’s thick lips clinging to the open wounds of my body.
– Oh God, this little sadist – I said to myself. At that time I remembered my childhood friend, Adi. When we gathered at the lodge on the outskirts of town to read our freehand creations, he would talk to us about the origins of communism.
– Communism comes from prehistoric times – he started the story. From the time of the dinosaurs. Cancer also comes from these times. Communism is a direct descendant of cannibalism. In communist societies, those who have inherited cannibal cells in their genes from generation to generation turn into sadists, and when they become leaders of communist parties, they turn into vampires. If we take all the historical periods of human development, it turns out that during the communist rule, there were more dictators than in all the times put together.
– Look me straight in the eye – mentioned the voice of the investigator. I looked him straight in the eye. His eyes had cleared and taken on their usual colors.
– Do you know why we arrested you? – he told me.
– No I do not know!
– We arrested you for agitation and propaganda against the party line in art and literature. The party raised and educated you and you, as the baker you were, rewarded the party with betrayal! What did the party do to you?! Where their interests are affected, the party gave you a hand, but you hate the party.
Now tell me since when did you hate the party?
– I have hated the party since its foundation.
He marked it down.
– Do you know a writer who escaped, I forgot his name, what do they call him…
– Hey, Baudin. Now tell me what do you know about him?
– I had Baudin as a friend. A year and a half ago, he escaped.
– How did you escape?
– For this, ask the competent bodies that monitored him, that he was interned in the Sukthi Tower.
– After he escaped, you went to Konispol. Why did you go?
– The editorial office of the newspaper sent me a service.
– You’re lying, you degenerate enemy, because you’ve stuck your foot down yourself, – he told me.
His eyes became bloodshot. He walked and came to me.
– Where do you think you are here? To find out, let’s tickle you a little, – he said and put the lighted cigarette on my forehead. There was the sizzling of flesh and the burning smell. He looked into my eyes happy and proud. I stared at him too. He read hatred in my eyes.
– You hate us from the depths of your soul, he told me.
– Yes, it’s true – I told him.
– Oh, we were brave! Don’t you know that I make you babble like a cow, then apologize and kiss my feet?
He put my knee in the middle and started moving my handcuffs. I bit my tongue hard to keep from making a sound.
– Huh, huh, do you want to say sorry or cut off your hands.
I clenched my tongue even tighter. My mouth filled with blood. The irons went deeper and deeper into my flesh and I moaned under my breath.
– Uh, uh…!
The veins in my hands turned black, swelled, then burst. The blood that burst from the veins of my hands splashed the walls, the floor, the table, Enver Hoxha’s photograph and the investigator’s face. He pushed me. Handcuffed I crashed to the floor. Enver Hoxha came out of the frame and came and put his lips on my wounds.
His lower lip hung down and blood began to drip from the dog’s two teeth. In the eyes of the investigator, all the snakes came out and rushed to my wounds. I also saw the interrogator’s lips attached to my wounds. Then came Count Dracula.
Oh God! How similar the three were: Enver, the investigator and Count Dracula!
When I was mentioned, I was in the cell. I tried to move my hands, but I couldn’t. They were heavy lead. I heard the faucet running and the guard’s footsteps in the hallway. The moonbeam was coming out of the cell. An emptiness filled the cell and with it my being. The owl screeched a bad omen for me. Memorie.al