Memorie.al publishes some parts of the voluminous autobiographical book in manuscript “Beautiful land, ugly people” (memories from hell) by the author, Kasem Hoxha, originally from the village of Markat in Saranda and living in the USA since 1985, when he fled Albania after suffering ten years in the prisons of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime. The whole sad and painful story of Kaso Hoxha, from the life and hard work in his village in the southernmost part of the country, the dissatisfaction with the regime and the first poems of a political nature, how they fell into the hands of the State Security and who were his relatives who spied on him, the arrest in the office of the Chairman of the People’s Council of Markat village, by the State Security on June 21, 1973, the investigation in the Saranda Branch of Internal Affairs, the trial against him and the sentence with 10 years in prison for “agitation and propaganda”, staying in “Kaushin” of Tirana (Ward 313), and the prisoners he found there, being sent to Spaç and working in that camp with criminal and “soft” police officers, the accomplices of description of their “portraits” with positive and negative sides, release from prison and return to the countryside, escape to Greece and stay in the Lavros camp, gaining political asylum in the USA, correspondence with Amnesty International, e London branch, inf information with the data he sent to the prisoners of Spaç and the communist regime in Albania, to the creation of a new family and life and work in that distant place with the Cham community divided by the intrigues of the people of the State Security from Albania operating there.
Excerpts from the manuscript book, “Beautiful land, ugly people“, (memories from hell) of the author, Kasem Hoxha, sent by him exclusively for Memorie.al
Do not pay attention to the title I am presenting to you, I mean, if you are not patient to read this collection of memoirs, if you want to forgive the author, that his style is pale, uninspired before this drama of great, of my people, of my martyred nation.
My characters are not created by my imagination, but are real people, they are your brothers, your fathers, your relatives. The events are not fictional, but real and lived. You will convince yourself, only after reading this summary with memories. You will find something from your life, something real from the lives of your fathers, your mothers, your brothers, how they suffered and how they died.
I wrote this collection of memories about the legacy left to me by my friends, for the world to learn the truth, how innocent people were tortured, how they suffered, how they died, in the camps and prisons of the executioner, Enver Hoxha!
I go with the hope that any reader, Albanian or foreign, is not left with hatred, from criticism, beating opposing opinions, as it is the best way to find the truth. The title of the book, “Beautiful land, ugly people”, will anger the reader, but in the end, I will conclude that I have the right to call it “The 45-year era of the satanic communist regime of Enver Hoxha”: Ugly.
I, alas, for the misfortune I had, saw and lived the great drama that happened before my eyes. I am neither a poet nor a orator, I will need hard work to escape the literary mistakes in this historical book, which can inspire future poets and writers, on the tragedy of our time, of the darkest time of my nation !
Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you all freedom and peace…!
Llavrio, Greece 1985
Continued from the previous number
He introduced me to his daughter, Katerina, who later became my wife. Really dear man, with whom we brought to life three children, two daughters and a son.
My villagers, as we said above, were informed about my escape from Albania, through the Greek press and everyone tried to call me, but I was not in the camp. They were worried, because they knew that the agents of Tirana could do everything possible to shoot me in the hand!
In Llavrio, I learned that my fellow countrymen in the US were divided!
Hundreds of letters flowed to my address in the Llavrio camp, from my fellow villagers in exile. I did not have enough time to answer! Everyone welcomed me to the “free world”. It was a special pleasure for me, but at the same time I was upset about what I had learned from the agent of Enver Hoxha’s communist regime, K. A., who was with me in the Spaç prison camp.
I knew they were divided and lived with gossip and hatred with each other. (This is very true and, in this book,, I am also publishing all the photocopies of the letters they sent me). Selfua did not talk to Bilal Xhaferri, Rexhepi did not talk to his brother-in-law, Veizi, Skënder Shuaipi did not talk to Bajram Shuaipri, and many other grudges between them, that the agents of Tirana had achieved their goal.
That was the reason why later, he pushed me to abandon everyone without saying goodbye.
Interview at the US Embassy in Athens to obtain political asylum
The office of a Catholic Charity in Athens assisting refugees in emigrating announced that I would be interviewed at the US Embassy on October 20, 1985, at 10:00 AM. I looked forward to this day that would decide my fate.
The American Embassy was not far from the Monastery where I was sheltered and showed up early in the morning at the gate of its building. A crowd of more than 100 people waited for the iron gate to open at 9.00. The police officer guarding the embassy reported from time to time that it was not allowed to carry a bag or items that were prohibited. This was done more to avoid any terrorist case. America was hated in Greece and also by Islamic countries. Islamic terrorists had carried out many acts of terror against American interests and the terrorist act in Beirut where more than 200 US Navy soldiers died was the reason why people there came under close scrutiny.
I went inside and presented myself with the entry letter at the Information Office counter. The clerk, after reading the letter, told me to wait until my name was called. I sat in a chair in the large waiting room. Inside, this building that represented America, shone and everything seemed so perfect, from the style, architecture and decoration with a luxury that I saw for the first time in my life.
My name was called. A policeman was waiting at the door to accompany me. He told me in Greek to get on an elevator. After a while, the elevator stopped, the door opened and the policeman invited me to follow him to a spacious living room full of light. He knocked on a door that read: “Mr. Monteagle Stears”. The door was opened by a woman dressed in jumpsuits, who was apparently the ambassador’s secretary. A well-groomed man shining his skin from health, stood up and introduced himself shaking my hand and welcoming me.
I replied in English, “Thank you and it is a pleasure to meet you.” He was impressed that I answered in English, but I told him that my English was poor and he laughed assuring me that I would learn it very soon. He asked me about the bitter experience I had had in Albania and I told him in general about the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, and in my hand I had a bundle of Greek newspapers, where they talked about my life and the life of the Albanian people.
I asked him as much as possible to give me political asylum, as I saw that the agents of Tirana could physically liquidate me. The ambassador listened intently to my confession and finally encouraged me to publish this story in the American press. Mr. Stearns, without hesitation signed my visa.
I parted with a heartfelt thank you and immediately called my relatives, Selfon and Rexhepi, to inform them that I had received my visa. They were overjoyed and assured me that they would talk to the Immigration Office to pay the price of the plane ticket. A week later the office informed me that on October 31st at 8.00 am, I would show up at Athens Airport.
In Ioannina and Thesprotia, to say goodbye to my friends!
I immediately went to Ioannina and Thesprotia to say goodbye to my friends who made it possible for me to live to see these good days in my life full of suffering. They were saddened and at the same time glad that I was running away. I promised myself I would come back again and I could not easily forget those people dressed in black who brought me back to life!
I returned to Athens two days before leaving for America. At 7.00 in the morning, I showed up at Athens airport. Employees of the Immigration office gave me the travel ticket. The Olympic plane “Boeing 747” was going directly to New York and from there I would take another plane to Chicago.
At 10 a.m. the door opened and a large bus waiting outside, as it was crowded, took us to the plane. I did not believe myself, was I in a dream?! I thought: more than 350 passengers filled this giant plane, while I was wondering how a whole mountain could rise in the clouds?! The pilot made the presentation and wished us good luck, in Greek and English.
Service personnel, two beautiful girls, demonstrated what to do in an emergency. My seat was near the window. The engines started and the plane shook with a deafening roar. The pilot announced we were wearing seat belts for downs. The plane took off, my ears ached, I noticed from my window below the big city that whitened under my feet and then everything was lost behind the white curtain of clouds.
Again, I thought: I Kasua inserted two thousand meters deep in the ground, now I am ten thousand meters high in the sky!
On the plane, to America!
Incredible “Glory to God”!
We were served lunch and dinner. The sun was not moving from the place, even though we had spent many hours! Time passed quickly, on a big screen where various feature films were shown. After 10 hours of travel, the pilot announced we were getting ready for the discount. The plane landed slowly and I gazed at the nature of the American continent. I was impressed by the large greenery, streets and buildings in perfect symmetry. The weather was clear and the plane landed on the runway, and after making a few turns, it stayed at the terminal door.
I had to change planes to Chicago, but first we would cross the checkpoint where passports were checked. I had no idea what time it was in America, the watch I had on hand showed the 8 o’clock in the evening in Greece. The plane to Chicago was leaving at 3pm and I had to go to another door. I asked a Polish immigrant who was also going to Chicago, what time he was in America! He looked at a large screen hanging on the wall and told me it was lunch, 12.00. I calmed down, as I had time to find the terminal for Chicago.
Immigration officers stamped my passport with my visa and released me. It took me a while to find the terminal from where I was going. Upon arrival, it was not long before the entrance to the plane, which was much smaller, was made. There was only one corridor in the middle and my seat again this time was near the window. I liked it, as I longed to see.
Two hours later, the plane arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport. I did not know that Rexhepi was waiting for me with Selfo and I went after the crowd of people rushing to get out. I had lost it at all and did not know how the public telephones he had in every corner worked.
A boy, I believe about 18 years old, was standing in the corner of the corridor watching the newly arrived passengers attentively. I do not know how to explain, what made this guy ask me in Albanian:
– “Excuse me, do not be Kasua”, said the boy I did not know and blushed, thinking it was not wrong.
– “Yes, I am, who are you”, and I extended my hand to greet him, thinking that he was not an employee of the charity. The boy threw his arms around my neck and kissed me very fondly:
“I am Isufi, the son of Zeqo Kola, your uncle,” he replied sadly.
“I asked the security for permission to come as close as possible, as I knew it would be difficult to get out,” Isufi continued, and snatched a small bag from my hand to help me. I asked him about the dad and all the relatives, how were they. Isufi answered my questions briefly, in fluent Albanian that I liked so much.
– “Selfua has come with Rexhepi, they are waiting at the main door”, added Isufi
Meeting with my two cousins at the airport, Selfon and Rexhepi
As we were leaving the terminal, in the large living room where many people were waiting for their relatives, I met Selfon, even though more than 15 years had passed. Next to him stood another man with a mustache, gray hair, half hairless.
Incredibly emotional moments!
– “Welcome to our cousin”, in one mouth they both congratulated me. We hugged between joy and tears, tears of longing.
Isufi left and told me that he would come another day to pick me up to meet the dad and the other family members.
I got on Rexhepi’s “Mercedes” and after 20 minutes, we arrived at his house in the north of Chicago.
Many relatives were waiting for my arrival, I did not know them.
Difua, Rexhepi’s wife, had prepared dinner, a large table set with all the goodies. Rexhepi invited all the guests to sit down, to raise a toast to me who came out alive in the free world, after all those unthinking sufferings!
I told the whole story of the Markat village, that they wanted to hear how those who died died and how those who live live.
It could have been 2-3 o’clock the next morning. I was tired from the long trip, while the guests who came to congratulate me, were not satisfied to hear what was happening in Albania!
The next day I woke up late after falling into a deep sleep! Sejfullai came and took me with his old brown “Kadillak”, a big and heavy car, and took me to his apartment where he lived. A small one-bedroom apartment. Selfua showed me the bed he had made for me, which he had placed in the corner of the living room. He advised me that: I should not stay for a long time with Rexhepi, because he had a large family, 2 unmarried boys, and 2 girls who were still going to school.
“Yes, brother it is reasonable, I will stay with you until I find a job,” I tell Selfos. Now, being alone with Selfon, I ask him about Bilal, how he is doing and what is the social situation of the villagers and other Albanian emigrant friends, because according to KA, an agent from Tirana, who as we said above was in America for a long time with a certain mission, to introduce disunity in the organization of the “Cham League”, he had told me that the Markaqots live in hatred and hatred with each other!
The “tips” of my cousin, Selfos
– “First listen to your brother’s advice”, Selfua began to speak:
– “I have a very bitter experience here in exile. I sacrificed my family, I abandoned them to save Bilal, Bilal is a friend of a shit-shit. It has put us all in big trouble, we live in great fear, so listen to my brother here:
- Give up the publication of any material with anti-communist character, anti Enver Hoxha!
- Do not speak in public about life in Albania
- Stay away from Bilal Xhaferi…!
- In a word, give up politics!
A man from Tirana came to me, he found me here in the park, where I was selling soft drinks, please talk about this, do not talk to anyone else, not even to Rexhepi, Rexhepi is a fool who speaks from Muço Manaraj, listen to my brother: I want to tell you that this man told me:
– “Selfo we have your family in hand, if you continue this hostile activity against the Albanian government, we will put your three sons in prison, you have only two ways with Bilal or your family!”…
So as far as I understand, Selfua left Bilal for the sake of his family, maybe indirectly serving the agents of Tirana?! Selfua told me about everything that had happened during the years in exile. I was very disillusioned with Selfos’s attitude. I left such people in Albania. After thoroughly investigating the situation and the environment around me, I came to the conclusion that: Selfua and his friends could sell me, just as he sold Bilal, and I knew this from the stories of Kipe Avdiu!
I had been living in Chicago for almost a week and had not heard from Bilal, a man I admired so much in the past even now that some patriots like Selfua, wanted to throw mud on his name! Memorie.al