The rare testimony of Muhamet Zhuli from the villages of Korça: “In the camp of Spaçi, when we could not do the norm, they beat us with whips Preng Rrapi, Pjetër Koka and Zef Gjini, there was also a Lazar, but he was different…”!
Memorie.al / Five years in prison because he had defended his father in the village meeting. Five years of hard labor in Spaç, while his father, even though he was old, was sentenced to 7 years, which he served day after day in Ballsh prison. Muhamet Zhuli, originally from the district of Korça, recounts the dramas of the family, where the escape of the brothers became the trigger for exile, poverty, imprisonment and numerous persecutions.
Mr. Muhamet, how did the persecution of your family begin?
I was born in May 1945 and in 1965, due to the family needs we had, because we were very thin, we sent a son, my brother, to Stravaj in Elbasan, in the exploitation enterprise to work. There, he, together with his surveyor, a Marko Bicaj from Vlora, (he was a road engineer), after they had talked about the border, how far it was, did he know, escaped. This was a 19-year-old. Because of his anger, they come to us, they deport us. When they came in to deport us, they told us: “You will only take the kitchen and sleeping utensils, lock the other spoils in a room where you have yours; this is where you will come back”. They even followed us from room to room with automatic weapons in hand, because who knows what we would do.
How many people were you at home?
We were the six children and the two elders, eight.
How old were you?
I was 23 years old and had been a soldier since ’65. In 1967, my brother left and we were interned. I wasn’t at home.
Where did they deport the family?
My family was interned in Rosover in Moglica. I hear, after three months of being a soldier, that they sent me a letter. The guild knew, they didn’t tell me. When I received the letter, those from the guild were watching me because two of my friends were communists. They were bigger and when they held the Party meetings, they presented the issues. I remember when I was reading the letter, one of those soldiers. He says: What’s wrong with your face? “No, nothing”, I told him. “Oh, you broke down in the face. What’s wrong with you? Tell the commissar to give you permission”?!
“I have nothing”, I told him. Then, I told him: So-so I have a letter. Yes, one of my brothers escaped and they exiled the family. The commissar calls me to the ward. He tells me: “Muhammet, we knew about this matter, it was three months ago, that’s why I told you; did you get a letter, didn’t you get a letter from the family? Yes, we have great respect for you, you behaved well. The old man, it is good to say that the way you have behaved, behave, because every man hangs by his own feet. He betrayed his family, betrayed his country, everything. We will look at our work”.
Then, after a couple of months, it was the last year, I was removed from the telephone liaison department where I was a switchboard operator, in Fushë-Kruje, they stabbed me in Kamze in Tirana, just to spoil my biography, which has been mobilized here, is mobilized there. I was released from the army, I was in Nikolica, I didn’t want to go to exile. They come to arrest me.
You didn’t go to Nikolica, when you finished the army?
I went to Home Branch to complain. I told them: Leave me alone; because I have no fault, I was a soldier. I behaved well. “No,” they said, “one eats garlic, but they all smell.” You will wear it in the family”. After some time, they arrested me and took me to my family, I was also exiled. We got out of there; they had turned the house into a warehouse. Completely destroyed.
How many years was the family in exile?
Five years in exile. We received 30-40 ALL per working day. I was 23 years old, the other brother was 18 years old, and one was 14. We didn’t have two kilos of sugar and two kilos of peanut oil and bread. We got to the point where there was no place for the dog to take us, with patched, with that…! We are released, we completed 5 years there, and we come home. We found the house completely destroyed. How we fixed it, for some 3-4 people…!
We had another brother, who was interned with the first internment in Bofje of Dushaji. In 1975, a law came out that; that are from the village, go to the cooperative. There, they entered the city. We were in a very bad economic situation. He knew where he was coming. From there, together with one of his friends, (he had been in prison for a while in Spaç…), he also escaped. They come and tell us that: “We were notified at the company that your son is missing. Be interested, ask, has he fallen in love with someone, has he taken a wife, has he run away with some other job”.
They did it to provoke us, because they knew. When he left, that day they were surrounded by soldiers, from Bilishti and Korça, the armed men of the village…who knows how long they had fled. “You will come looking for it”, they tell us. I’m here from Cologne. My father is from Tirana, we had people in Librazhd and in Elbasan… we went there. Where would we find it?
We came home. When those from the Internal Branch came to us, they told us: “Your son has escaped.” Because of him, we deport you again. Quickly! We only took the kitchen utensils and the sleeping belongings, what was in the house then; we left them, the cattle, and all…! We even got into the car to take us to Dushar in Moglica. There, after a couple of weeks, they organize a meeting of the Party organization in cooperation with the Internal Branch, to call Sabri Zhuli, my father, to: “Give us an autobiography, so that the brigade, the people of Dushar knows what “It’s about people”.
My sister and I went. I was 27 years old; my sister was 16 years old. We went to the meeting. “No, they said, let the father come.” Father, I said, has given up everything now, meetings, work. He is old now. He was 68 years old. We left it like that, so what you have to say, tell me. “No, he will come”, they said. However, my father was quick to get angry, upset and irritable. Better to eat his head, but when he got hot…! They called the father, he came there. “Do you know why we called you, O Sabri?”, they said. “No, I don’t know anything”, he said. “We have called you to write an autobiography for your family, for the boys, how is it that they ran away…”?!
“Since when I start it, since the liberation, or should I start it now late”, said the father, “Yes, since you want me”, they said. “Since liberation, I, until 9 years ago, when my son ran away, when I was interned in your cooperative, in the village below, in Rosover, I did not participate during the War, neither with the partisans, nor with ‘Balli’ . 9 years ago, I had a son in Stravaj of Elbasan, with a Greek geometer, Marko Bicaj. He lied to me, that he was more mature; my 18 year old son was. He lied to me, he ran away. For that job, I interned for 5 years. Now I had another son at work, here on your mountain, in Bofje i Dushari. You fired him, he didn’t come home, where should he come…?! We are not full of dry bread. He also left me.”
“Listen, people of Dushar,” said the Party secretary, “he has given two soldiers to the Greek.” This is Sabri Zhuli, who educated the children like that, sent them to the Greek”. “Listen,” said the father, “I didn’t send it to the Greek.” He was a child, he was lied to. This one, you took him out of work, he ran away, but it is not the fault of my education, the parent can keep the child until 18-19 years old, who is at home, then goes to the army, goes to the enterprise and works. Will I keep it there by myself? They don’t listen. What is my fault today, 68 years old? Or the wife, 60. Or these children from 12-13 years old, these chupats”?!
“Oh, it’s your fault, because it’s dangerous, you didn’t show them the way.” “Listen – said the father – most of them are family members here. There is no parent, because you know the clone of Nikolica, the frontier, which is full of soldiers, what if he was killed, what would be left of the parent if he said: go, go, go”?! “Hey, that’s how you speak, but that’s all your education,” they told him. “Well, I educated them badly, but did I educate Liri Belishova, Beqir Balluk, Petrit Dumen, Hito Çakon, Mehmet Shehu and these others?” said the father. – Until yesterday, if you put them in your mouth, you would hang me by the tongue”?
That’s where the father went, he told them… that’s how he felt: “You stink from the head; it’s not your feet’s fault”! I didn’t like it. “Did you hear him, people, what did he say? That the government stinks.” He didn’t say that, – I told him, but he said that they were people with their heads and the government found a place for them, let them find a place for these of mine as well. “Here’s the son, he’s holding it. He says: Oh father, you are doing well”, he continued. I didn’t say “you’re fine”, but he didn’t say the way you say, I replied. I wanted to protect him. Even as he started to run away, his father said: “This is my biography, all of it.”
He turned back and spoke to them: “Listen, I’m old, I don’t have school, but I know only from experience: only Enver Hoxha has held him for 40 years at the muzzle of a rifle, by putting him inside, by killing him, by cutting him. No one else lasts more than 5-6 years, but still I remember, I have heard from other elders that every government, when it comes to death, has gone out of its head. When it comes to you, it will come from your head. Never fear the working class…! Who would find you from me and my sons? Nothing. They neither killed nor cut”.
“See how he told us, that death will come from your head”, said the Party secretary. Even the father left. Then, at dinner, they had another meeting. They gathered: the all-powerful was already in the morning, and a couple of other policemen, the chairman of the cooperative, there was one Ilmi Zhuli, one of our cousins, he lived in Vloçisht of Maliqi…! The Party secretary stood up and discussed. “What do you think about Sabri Zhuli and Muhamet Zhuli”? – He says. – We are of the opinion, he said, that these two, he and his son, should be arrested”. The chairman of the cooperative and the chief of police also stand up and speak. When the chief of police finishes, one of us put the irons on both of us.
What happened next?
There was a “Jeep” there, it had arrived. They pushed the father, because he was old, he was tall, all of him. My mother and sister were interrogated, they were also arrested. They brought them to Dega: “But why did you speak? Why did you say”? Tormented them…! A younger brother, Bujari, was a soldier. It was released while we were in exile there. Even from there, he found out that his father was in prison, and so was his brother. He was alone there, the old mother, that 16-year-old sister. They beat the brother 2-3 times. Even from the torture they did in exile, from the most difficult jobs, he played from his mind in exile; he lived for 16 years and died at the age of 36.
After you were arrested, where did they take you?
In Dega, they put us there, my father alone, me alone in the dungeon. They were not even 80 ponts. They made us two because the dungeons were too tight, from 1975 onwards, it became black. Even in a dungeon father, a me. We stayed there for four months. Without help, absolutely nothing. Only crotch water. You couldn’t find pasta; look for it on the plate. For who knows how many days we sat, we drank the spoonful with a plate, even 600 grams of bread, and a slice once per meal.
Who was your investigator?
Our investigator, Luftar Malile.
Did they use violence during the investigation?
We both had an observer, L.M. I don’t know where it was from. I didn’t hear that. There were two other investigators: one Asllan Duro, one Seit Duro from Miçani i Skrapar. That investigator of mine, he only hit me once here, on my feet, it became such a pain for me, ten years up here, he was moving me…! And the two of them, because many investigators gathered, then, when my investigator took me to the investigator, they entered, one by one, the two of them and as they were near the door, as they entered, they punched me in the stomach.
How long did the investigation take?
Father, four months, four months me. Then, they gathered us in “Prison 313”, in the Great Prison in Tirana, which divided them into camps.
Where did the trial take place?
They pierced us again in Dushar. They held our trial there, in Dushar again.
What was the charge?
Father for what was said before. Agitation and propaganda.
What about yours?
Agitation and propaganda…!
How many years were you sentenced?
Me 5 years, my father 7. I was stabbed in Spaç, my father in Ballsh i Fier.
Did they separate you both?
Yes, we were separated
How many years did you spend in prison in Spaç?
I did the five, because there was an amnesty then, it was done from ’82. I earned 4 months of work. Five years, without four months.
What job did you do?
I worked in the mine, in the gallery, just advances and production fronts, fill materials, get out. They were large spaces, the plane could fit inside. They even put a tin plate in it, we filled a lot of wagons: 30-35-40 tons, for three people. But the advancement is the opening of the gallery. I also worked in those, in the third area.
How were the working conditions?
It was very difficult, especially in the advance, to open the galleries. There was acid mine, that the rail that is so thick, then for two weeks, he ate and made teeth. The wagon would shake, it would go off the rails and we would lift it up with a ton, with our horns, throw it on our backs.
Did the police use violence?
In addition to the work that was difficult when we left there, the first two years, there were no bathrooms to wash, or showers, at the mouth of the mine…later they did, three years before I was released. After the revolt of ’73, I went at the beginning of ‘76; the camp was condemned because the condemned had no right to raise his head. If you raised your head, looked up at the policeman, when we were lining up to eat, or to read the newspaper, he would say: Go up! Whip! Boom, boom with the whip!
Were you punished for holding your head up?
If you raised your head, you would look the policeman in the eye, the whip behind his neck. There was only a whip.
How many people slept in the shed?
Yes, from 50 to 60 people. Over 60 were no longer accepted, but up to 60 people were once in a while.
Were the beds bunk beds?
A room 5 m. with 5 m. With three floors. My head, the first one below, was hanging on the spring of the other, on the other spring; his head was hanging, up to the ceiling. The third floor, the head was on the ceiling.
How big was the room you slept in?
5 by 5 m. How could a man go like this, a row of beds here, a row there?
How were the hygienic conditions?
We kept it clean, because they wouldn’t let you. The police came with the whole condemned brigadier. They came at night, at 11.00 at night, they waited for him to fall asleep, and they came, saying: “Put your legs out!”. Wake you up. If you had them painted a little, at the tap, but the tap was here and at the river.
Do you remember the names of those who used violence against you?
If I don’t remember them, where are they forgotten! Preng Rrapi, Pjetër Koka, Zef Gjini, there was also a Lazri, but it was different…! But these others, when they took the whip, when he was the director of the prison, it was hard for them and they put him in like nine coats. But they had it from time to time. Anyone who did not follow the norm and went out there, the police called him to his barangay, there in front.
The brigade was here, they called them up, put the irons on them. Even a donkey doesn’t have that much. He was so angry that he tightened the bars with his hand, and then shot them with the corner of the hood. If you started to sweat, fall into the cold, you didn’t feel them. As long as the cold sweats fell from the evil, he would squeeze them. Then he would shoot you with the corner of the hood, then he had the right to put his foot on the bars, then the man defiled.
While you were in Spaç, did your relatives visit you?
No, no, there was absolutely no one to come to me. I had them interned, my father in prison, my mother and sister in exile, I had no one.
How were you notified of the release?
They called me. They had it, that when the deadline was reached, they would call you: So and so day, you come out. I knew a month and a half before that I would be released. I knew how many days I had earned, I asked the head of the organization there, how much I had earned, how much I had been punished, I subtracted them and I knew roughly.
Did someone meet you when you came out?
No, no one.
Where did you go after you were released?
Then, the next day, they announced: “Go to the village”, they told me. Then he took me, drove me home, in Moglica.
Who did you find at home?
Only the sister and the mother. In the first sentence, in the second I left the prison and went directly there, to Dushar.
Was the father still in prison?
The father was in prison, because he still had two more years.
What did you do after you were released from prison?
I started work, in the cooperative directly. Another four months, then we were released from exile.
When was the father released?
Father in ’82.
After the exile, where did you go?
Again, in Nikolica. We didn’t want to come, but they didn’t let us. Back in Nikolica, they told us.
What did you do in the village?
There, then I started working. A couple of years after we fixed the house a bit, because it was destroyed again for the second time, I started working there. I wanted to go to the mine, because we couldn’t do it with the cooperative work, with the flowers, we wanted to eat. Then, I went in to get a transfer to the mine. They gave me three months once. Bezhan mine had been opened, Sefte had been opened then. They told me: “Go, take the relocation for a year and come here, with any course or anything, to the mine of Bezhan”.
They didn’t give it to me. They gave it to me for the Drenova mine. In Drenova. Then, with prayers, I went 7-8 times to the chairman of the United Council in Bozhigrad, I barely got it, I went to the mine of Rehova, of Vithkuqi, for two years there. Then I found a wife here. His father had escaped from this. The wolf had eaten some sheep. He spent three months in prison in Gjirokastra.
In what year did you get married?
Did you marry into a classy family?
Yes, outclassed. He had a fugitive father, in Sweden.
During this time, were you monitored?
Yes! She was safe! Even if someone came closer, that game was there. With someone you used to hang out with more, you would be more careful than not to hang out with me Castile, to open me that I talk, or do you really love me? And I, with 3-4 friends who worked in Nikolica, said to them: Listen, I’m talking to you, but you’re going to take me by the neck. They will call you, tell you: “what are you talking about with Muhammad, what is he saying”? I used to say to them. “Are you in your right mind Muhammed”? They told me.
Did the father live the advent of democracy?
We dreamed of that for a long time. We expected it in time. Especially the father, he went lame. That my father died in ’86. In ’82 he was released, in ’86 he died, he lived for four years. I’m just happy that I covered him, he didn’t die in prison. He was released at the age of 74; he died at the age of 78. For that alone I’m glad I covered it myself. By myself, when I say by myself, by myself. No one stepped on us at home. When I had married a sister and the brother of the wife I had here, we took the initiative ourselves.
I took the pick and shovel to open the hole. When some of my cousins meet me, one was dressed as a border chief from Pogradec dei in Leskovik, cousins from the mother’s side, those three boys. One of them stands up to me: Where is Muhammad? When we all die, you’ll dig your own grave. Those three brothers stood up, a couple of his uncle’s sons and two or three other people, there were ten of us who covered the father, all of them from Nikolica, most of them did not come.
How did you experience the regime changes?
Then we, and when Enver died, we were listening to the radio, we were very happy to say he died, don’t go downhill in ’85. We were afraid to say that he “died” because if we were to say that he is not really dead, they would tell us: where did you find out? In the 90’s, I suffered only for my father who did not make it. Memorie.al