By Vasil Qesari
Memorie.al/ The overthrow of the great totalitarian edifice in Albania would leave behind, not only the change of the system, accompanied by lots of hopes, mirages and cries of happiness but, unfortunately, also many wounds, dramas, victims, dust, milk and disappointments from the most different. Ten years and more after that event, which deeply shook society, completely overturning many previous codes, rules and concepts, people still continue to ask themselves such questions as: What really happened in society Albanian, during the last 50 years of the dictatorship? How was it possible that the system managed to warp everything? Why did people accept it? What was the totalitarian logic of the transformation of society and the individual? How were the structures of totalitarian mechanisms conceived and functioning: propaganda, secret police and the exercise of the ideology of terror? How did it happen that among all the communist countries of Eastern Europe, Albania was considered an exception or a special case? Why did Enver Hoxha remain blindly, fanatically loyal to Stalin until the end, turning the country into a prison where violence, fear and purges continued until the end of the 80s? Why was the country so insanely isolated, locking people up between bunkers and barbed wire? Why, then, did all the above phenomena happen…?! The book “Post-scriptum for Dictatorship” does not claim to provide definitive answers to the above questions, or the complexity of the reasons that brought and maintained the totalitarian power in Albania. Nor is it a complete, deep and comprehensive fresco of the life and suffering that people experienced during that system. Its author, perhaps, has the merit that together with the retrospective view of the totalitarian period as well as the zeal of a passionate analyst, he has tried to turn his head back once again, to give not only his personal memories and opinions, but also to return once again to the vision of that era with the simple philosophy of preserving the Memory and supporting the Appeal to never forget the well-known maxim, that…the corpse’s nails and hair continue to grow even after death! Ten years or more after the great revolution, the book in question has current value and we hope it will be appreciated by the reader because, as an Albanian researcher also says… the greatest evil that can happen to a people comes when he fails to analyze his own past. An amnesic people are forced to be constantly neuropathic and repeat their painful experiences…!
THE MYSTERIOUS SPHINX OF CRIME
In Vlora, the headquarters of the State Security was hidden somewhere on the outskirts of the city. The shadow of that building, surrounded on all four sides by high walls, was so frightening that people, when they passed by, instinctively threw their feet in haste and full of anxiety. Within its surrounding walls, you could see only the peak of a huge roof covered with red Marseille tiles and, a little further, to the right, the terrace of the isolation cells, full of barbed wire. Nothing more..! Only those who had crossed that threshold, (and who had worked there) could tell what was happening inside that silent and mysterious fortress. At night, the lights were constantly on, while during the day, the large iron door was opened only when the infamous “Jeeps” of the Security came and went. (In the beginning, the Soviet “Gaz” and, then, the Chinese “Xing Fu”). But, of course, the Security people didn’t just stay locked in the offices. Because their concrete work took place among people. They were in every cell of society. In every work center. In every family. To each individual. Wherever he lived and worked…! This was the reason why no one could call themselves protected, exempt or impervious to the eyes and ears of the Security.
It was enough, simply, to pronounce his name for anyone to feel an immediate feeling of fear and doubt. A kind of tremor, a strange vibration of adrenaline, mixed with a desperate instinct of self-defense. A feeling accompanied by fear and suspicion that; perhaps, you too had done something, which could serve as a reason for surveillance. (Maybe there, in his cold and dark offices, you also had a denunciation sheet Do you have a file? Or, even worse, were you on the arrest lists? Among the suspicious and dangerous people) because, as the people also expressed, the Security made you a Gemma. The strike of his Poison was instant and deadly. Same as that of ‘COBRA’. He was the Vigilant Eye of the Party
Under his control, daily life resembled a state of siege which instilled not only fear, but also mistrust towards anyone. This was the reason why, everyone tried to lead a life as withdrawn and closed as possible. Consequently, the company and visits were few and limited, mainly between friends and intimate companions or between old and stable connections created in family circles or in other special conditions. New friendships were constantly viewed with suspicion. Because no one would want to fall into a trap and rot in prison, as you had happened to many others. (From credulous sincerity or excessive trust in a friend, neighbor or work colleague). Because Security is present everywhere. He listened to every whisper. Organized in the most diabolical way, no movement or word escaped him, no opinion, no confession, idea or way of thinking…!
In such circumstances, oppressed and colonized within them, people had lost all hope of finding a way out. Consequently, silence and self-isolation were also the collective characteristics of society. (The few intimate conversations were conducted only between two people). The declassified, who were aware of being eavesdropped step by step, had built a sophisticated self-defense system. In their free time, it is said, in order to avoid provocative conversations, which could have serious consequences, they devoted themselves to interests in such areas, where the possibility of implications or being trapped was smaller. . I had the chance to know many of them, who, precisely for these reasons, practiced different hobbies or sports. In our city, for example, the famous ex-footballer S.I., for years devoted himself to the study of the theory of football tactics, the dentist with an Armenian orgy B.J., spent his free time practicing swimming, the generic of the park A.XH., every weekend went to Jonufër for fishing, the designer L.K., dealt with landscapes and painting, etc.
But, with all the careful system of self-defense, arrests through denunciations or false testimony, (or even for a single word expressed in opposition to Party policy), were more than common, leading to prisons and concentration camps work, with hundreds and hundreds of people…!
Year 1972, political arrests and punishments in Skrapar…!
I was a teacher in Çorovodë in Skrapar…! It was quite by chance, like for the first time, that I followed a political trial. The accused was P.L., a 50-year-old bachelor with a construction technician profession. During a military training, he had confided to a friend that Western weapons were much more modern than those of the Albanian People’s Army. Of course, that was enough for him to be immediately put in jail.
I followed the process from start to finish. It was revolting, edited, funny and, above all, very tragic. The judge, a young man, could not support the accusation with facts and took care of the poor man, reciting threatening quotes from Enver’s speeches. Finally, with three fabricated testimonies, the former construction technician was sentenced to 8 years in prison for agitation and propaganda. In addition to the above accusation, during the process, among other things, he was considered an enemy for the sin of having graduated from the technical school of Kavaja, which, in the 30s, had been set up and directed by the American Harry Fultz. (Harry Fultz was considered by the communist regime as a very dangerous spy who recruited most of the students of that school into the services of foreign agencies).
That year, in Çorovoda, after being charged for arrests. Not a few months passed when, on charges of agitation and propaganda, the only pharmacist of the city, a minority named K.P., was put in prison. After him, it was the turn of the minority educator S.Z., from Gjirokastra, and later, L.D., the engineer of the Alcoholic Beverage Factory. (Whose parents had left him since he was young and he fled after the liberation from Vlora to Italy. Excellent in studies, he had been able to secure a right to study and had finished his higher studies in Chemistry. Then, for many years, he was named where he lived alone and unmarried in old age) Çorovoda, at that time, was a very sad, gloomy and scary town.
Pretty much, a typical place of internment. Compared to the number of the population and the lack of productive activities, there was a large and excessive presence of intellectuals of various specialties. In fact, the reason for that loss lay elsewhere. Most of them belonged to the category of people with blots on their biographies. They were appointed or transferred to that town – prison, simply to isolate themselves and spend their youth years in a kind of exile, or to be under control and to be monitored as best as possible by the Security.
However, it was not only the declassified that usually fell victim. No one was sure that he could stay out of the web of suspicion, surveillance and punishment of the Security. No one, without exception. Even the most trusted people…!
One summer afternoon, I was in the office of a cadre of the Party Committee of the district of Vlora. It was 1989 and, partly for the sake of the so-called democratization of the Party’s life and partly out of a certain confidence, our discussion on some delicate topics seemed to take place more freely. (Since the period of pluralism of opinions launched by Ramiz Alia. This had made it possible that on special occasions and in privacy, one could speak clearly about some topics, which were previously considered harmful) The person in question, as soon as who returned from a trip to France, where he had accompanied the Polyphonic Group “Labëria” and, among other things, he was telling me that he did not expect it and was surprised by the honor that was paid to the martyrs of the Anti-Fascist Resistance in that country.
“Not only in cities, but also in every village – he said – we saw memorials, tombstones and commemorative plaques in their honor. They were constantly wearing wreaths and bunch of flowers. This surprised me a lot, since I believed that only in Albania, martyrs are honored more than anywhere else, with tombstones, monuments and commemorative parties”. Then, after some of my indirect questions, the conversation expanded to other areas of life in that capitalist country. The cadre of the Party Committee, P.P., started talking about order and cleanliness in the cities, the development of agriculture, about the grain fields and the hills with vineyards. After a while, suddenly, as if waking from sleep, he was shaken by the pathos of the story and fell silent.
– “You know that, in a way, what I do is propaganda for a capitalist country”? – He said after a short pause, with a feeling of dissatisfaction on his face. Then, looking up from the ceiling of the office, he added next to my ear, in a low voice: These are not conversations for here; these are what I do…! Better talk some other time. We will drink a coffee somewhere…! Because, you know? Don’t you know? I wonder if there are eavesdroppers in my office…!
Eavesdropping? Here…? In your office? – Dumbbell me.
“Yes! Yes…! Do not be surprised! – He added.
I was silent and made no comment. After a while, I found an excuse and left. To be eavesdropped with microphones, the Party Committee…?! No! This is incredible! Security, the beloved and faithful weapon, spying on her head, brain and heart? The boss you created and blindly served? (…At that moment, I remembered the well-known expression of the Frenchman Tol, whom all the people of Volodya considered stupid, but who was not mistaken, when you say: Here in Albania, there is Insurance but there is also Over-Insurance …)
Actually, P.P., you were right. He knew the root of things…! A few years later, in 1996, when the totalitarian system had long been eaten (as the people say), and when most of the operatives and collaborators of the former State Security, had changed the profile of the work that had once been done businessmen, peddlers, boatmen, smugglers, traffickers, agents of pyramid firms and why not
SEE, I happened to meet one of them. There was a boy from Tropoja, whom I knew from afar, long ago. On the sidewalk, coincidentally in front of the former building of the Department of Internal Affairs, where he had opened a café, I asked him the following question: Yes, you could, tell me something that I doubted, but that I believed…! Was it true that, at that time, you also eavesdropped on the highest cadres of the Party? The interlocutor was embarrassed. However, after a sad smile, he said: “If you wanted, don’t ask me questions about that time. Not even for the work I did…”!
Please! – I insisted – It’s really a mystery. I am very curious…! The former Security operative finally surrendered. I had the impression that, even though at first he was categorical and negative, something inside pushed him to speak: “Yes, it’s true! – He affirmed – Yes, that job became even easier for us when a quantity of miniature listening tape recorders arrived from China. Now it’s no longer a secret, that’s why I’m telling you that, with such devices, we even eavesdropped on the first secretary of the Party Committee. Meanwhile, a local journalist whom you know quite well, we managed to place the eavesdropper inside the vats of Xiavento. Thus, in addition to the recorded conversations, which were of interest to our investigative work, we also listened to every intimate dialogue that took place in his family.”
State Security Mysteries…?!
No one, until today, even though more than ten years have passed since the dissolution of the totalitarian state, has managed to do a complete autopsy of that “poisonous hydra”. In the early years of the post-Stalinist euphoria, many hoped that perhaps some repentant security guard would have the courage to go public through the publication of a book (albeit anonymously, as has happened in many countries of the former bloc (communist), its structure, organization, operation and full activity.
But in vain…!
The first attempt (and this happened when the regime was in agony) to shed some light on the labyrinth of crimes of the Security was, perhaps, the novel ‘Knives’ by Neshat Tozaj. It was published a year or two before the change of the system in Albania and dealt with the arbitrariness and brutality of the secret police (of course in the genre of fiction). After him, several books continued to be published with memories of suffering in prisons and camps, written mainly by those who experienced communist repression.
Nothing more…! No edition, really complete. No serious attempt to autopsy the plague. However, the reader of these series can say, quite a lot has been said and written about these things… But as much as has been said and written until today, it is really very little! Even if it is simply to appease the souls of tens and tens of thousands of victims whose graves are unknown. Without talking then, about the lack of shedding light in a deep and complete way, on one of the blackest mysteries of Albanian history…!
However, from various publications and sources, most of which are foreign, we manage to learn some details, about which I am not sure if it has been written so far. Thus, for example, it is known that the Albanian State Security had a force of more than 20,000 officers or, as they were called otherwise: operatives. On the other hand, each such officer had a network of secret informants of 10-15 people, not including paid ones, who eavesdropped and collected information in every nook and cranny of Albanian life.
Three specific categories of individuals were usually recruited into the ranks of the safety collaborators: The most trusted who, in general, came from very pure communist families, were paid a monthly salary and carried out special missions. Volunteers, who informed without reward. (Simply, to assist the Party in detecting enemies). Informants with bad biographies, most of them, recruited by fear and pressure. But, many also voluntarily, with the hope that, by serving the Security, they would be able to breathe more freely, they would be able to live without problems, and why not, they could also be seen with more tolerant eyes by the regime.
Currently, it is not officially known how many people had secret files in the Security vaults. For this, all the governments so far in Albania, right or left, have surprisingly kept complete silence. A mysterious and inexplicable silence. However, one thing is certain. Even for the smallest suspicion, even for the most ordinary notification, even for the most absurd information, records were kept and files were opened in the Security offices. It has even been said that there were even black lists with the names of people who were considered as a reserve contingent and real potential of the enemy. According to the instructions, such individuals, in case of emergency, had to be physically eliminated, urgently and without the slightest hesitation…! Memorie.al
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