By Maksim Rakipaj
Part twenty three
Memorie.al/ Maksim Rakipaj, originally from Përmet, whose family had helped and supported the Anti-Fascist National Liberation War, after graduating from the Navy School in Vlorë, in 1972 he was appointed an officer in the Merchant Navy, where he served with dedication until in 1977, on the “Durrësi” steamer, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in political prison, as part of a “group”, which also included his colleague, Aladin Kapo, the son of Hysni Kapo’s brother. Family biography was also the reason for his punishment. After the end of the war, two of his uncles were sentenced to political prison, his grandfather was declared a kulak and in 1976, his father was expelled from the party. Maksi began serving his sentence in the Ballsh camp and in 1979, he was transferred to the Spaçi camp and then to the Qafë Bari camp. He was released on September 12, 1984, benefiting from a reduced sentence, from an amnesty. After being unemployed for a long time, with many hardships, he got a job as a miner in the Mzezet mine, he worked until 1991. After the 1991s, he started working in the administration of the Municipality of Durrës, he served until 1997 and after that, he returned to the Merchant Navy (the last captain of the transoceanic ship “Vlora”), until he left Albania for Italy, (illegally on a dinghy), where he currently lives for many years. Since the 90s, in addition to various jobs, Maksim Rakipaj has also devoted himself to writing, such as; poetry, prose, fiction or documentary, translations, etc., publishing several books, such as: ‘Prophet – Khalil Gibran’, (translation from English ‘Toena’ 2003), ’20 love poems and a song of sadness’, (translation from Spanish, ‘Toena’ 2003), ‘Alive after the shipwreck’, (published by ISKK, 2014), ‘Bukowski – poetry’, (translation from English, ‘ENEAS’, 2015), ‘Trilusa m’Tirône’, ( translation from Italian, ‘UEGEN’, 2015), ‘Anthology of Arabic-Persian Poetry’ (English translations, ‘UEGEN’, 2015), ‘The Complete Sonnets of Shakespeare’, (English translation, ‘ADA’ 2016′) , ‘Survivor’ (autobiographical novel, ‘2 East, 2 West’ 2018), ‘Nobelists – poetic anthology, (UEGEN 2019), ‘Hymn of happiness’ (‘JOZEF’ 2023), etc. From the creativity of Mr. Rakipaj, Memorie.al is publishing the book “Survivor”, (published in 2022 by “JOZEF” Publishing House in Durrës, directed by Mr. Aurel Kaçulini), where he has described his life chronologically, where the part the main one is that of serving the sentence in camps and prisons, as well as various characters, his co-sufferers that he met in the communist hell, etc.
Continues from last issue
There are days that are special for convicts; this is the day of meeting people who come to see them in prison. According to the regulation, meetings are allowed once every 15 days, but those families who have the opportunity for this are very rare. They rarely come to most of them; they only send some packages of food and tobacco. These are the ones whose families are in exile or, they also have other people in prisons, their brother, father, wife, son. And there are not a few of these.
Some of them, from the little they earn in the mine, help their families, or their brother, father, in the prison of Burrel, or elsewhere. Even the girlfriends remember the prisoners, as they can. A friend of mine, his ex-girlfriend, sent him a pipe after he got married; and he didn’t smoke cigarettes after that, he only used the pipe.
His girlfriend, Jola, sends packages to Zydi from time to time. They don’t allow Jola to meet him; the commander of the camp, has a special order from the Director of Prisons, Kasem Kaçi. Good Jolë comes several times to Spaç and returns without being able to meet her lover. Finally he managed to get a special permit and they were able to meet for 5 minutes. Only 5 minutes that made our friend happy, and not only him and Jola. All of us, his friends, have a holiday on this day.
It is the festival of love that manages to break the barbed wire of Spaçi and the tar heart of the criminal Kasëm Kaçi. Islam Spahiu, who is also an old friend of Zydi, seems more excited than this one. Even Visar’s brothers come to him one after the other, they know that he loves books more than eating. And they also bring him books so that he can feed himself and prepare his books that will make him known outside of Albania when he is released from prison. “You, Visar, will receive the Nobel Prize in literature,” I told him then in Spaç. And I’m still convinced of that.
Ahmet Kolgjini has his family in exile, he hasn’t seen them in a while, but they keep sending him packages and letters. Ahmeti keeps her daughter’s first letter in her wallet, together with the children’s photos. Hiqmet Myzyri has only his mother in Tirana, who is also sick. He sends packages to his only son and meets him when Hiqmeti goes to the hospital in Tirana to be operated on for the umpteenth time for hemorrhoids. Muharrem Lila writes to her granddaughter, who is with her family in exile in the village of Kulle, near Manza. Mark Shkreli is not separated from his sister; she regularly comes from Shkodra to the Ballsh camp.
Even bassist Luk Kaçaj has a sister in Ballsh, from Shkodër. Luke sings all the time that day; in a low voice, of course, but the glasses of the mens still vibrate. An old mother from Manza sends a package to Gëzim Çela. Nikol Daka’s son comes from Shkodra. They come to meetings, bring packages by mail, send letters from all over Albania. They bring love. Not only for their relatives, have they brought love to all the convicts. And the condemned are longed for. They calculate how much everything costs them, the road, the food…everything and ask: how did the calculation come out?! How do they do it?! Our families have suffered. They endured their suffering and ours. They also endured hunger, to save something and help us.
My grandmother, mother and Dashi, my brother, come to the next meeting. The meeting point in Spaç is only 5 minutes away, on foot to the big gate of the camp. A policeman stands and eavesdrops on the conversation. It squirms when my desolate grandmother tries between the bars of the gate to kiss my dry, pyrite-blackened cheeks. Two other policemen are going through the bags of food they brought me.
“She also brought you 30 fresh eggs, the bad thing is that they are good for you,” my grandmother says when she sees that the policemen have the eggs in their hands. The policemen release a plastic bowl from its contents and throw an egg into it, which they break. Then, another egg. “And why do you break them, break their heads, break them, I brought them for my son to eat… I brought them from Korça…! Avash de, what are you doing, you will break them whole “Jalla, don’t ever do hair, hey, shave your head, hopefully”!
The policemen are impressed by the grandmother’s Korchar dialect and the Gayanese. “Laugh, laugh, you know, I’m cursing you with my soul and remember, our hacks will get you. The mother’s curse is the hardest, you know…”!
The dictator’s chief legal adviser, in prison
From the beginning of 1983, in the mining camp of Qaf Bari, they bring a convict, completely different from the others. He is the chief legal adviser of the dictator Hoxha, or the head of the Legal Office of the First Secretary of the PPSh, Vait L. It is natural that the interest aroused by his arrival in prison, not only because of the position he held, but also because he has known from near the dictator and his gang. Many of us tried to approach and befriend Vaiti, but all efforts were in vain. Vaiti stays away from everyone, behaves with everyone with a kind of politeness, which annihilates from birth, any attempt at close friendships or, to extinguish at least some desire, for example: how is the vampire’s health and mind!?.
The only one who can do this is Aladin Kapo, as the grandson of the former number two (Hysni Kapos). Aladdin does not have any kind of relationship with his familiars, as for Hysni Kapo, he never had sympathy, even though his uncle had him. We also talked about Hysniu when we were working at sea. When I told him once, that; in case of Enver Hoxha’s death, Hysniu remained to be his first possible deputy, Aladdin categorically ruled out such a possibility. As far as Aladdin knew, Enver – Hysni relations have always been more than normal, even cordial. Aladdin told that, when you had once gone to see uncle Hysniu, you had entered the waiting room, the officer on duty and said to him:
– “Comrade Hysni, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but Comrade Mehmet (Shehu) wants to meet you at his house as soon as possible.”
Hysniu, even though he was not feeling well that day, stood up with a smile, like a young man: – “Thank you; tell your friend Mehmet, I’m going to see him right away”!
“I noticed, or rather I felt, that Hysni was afraid of Mehmet…?! I shot there even when Enver Hoxha himself informed him about a meeting and he didn’t break the conversation, he got up only after finishing his coffee and never left the conversation halfway, as happened when Mehmet called him that afternoon”, he told me once Aladdin.
…But we are in 1983 and M. Shehu has “killed himself” for a couple of years and the indisputable number two in Albania has become Ramiz Alia. Aladdin seems quite interested in getting to know Vait, the legal advisor of the “Vampire”. He asks me for coffee and the coffee cutlery: – “Make, (only Aladdin calls me that, I call him “buçko”), that friend agreed to have a coffee with me. I’ll see if I can learn anything new from him.
Meanwhile, until Aladdin comes with new news, I try to translate from English some of the poems that Sherif Merdani brought from Burrel prison. After two hours, Aladdin comes smiling: “All new things, I learned from Vaiti. First, Enveri has almost lost his brain for a few years; he is completely fucked, as they say. Since then, he has the brakes on only Nexhmija’s hand; no one cares to double her word. She speaks and signs, in the name of Enver. What about Ramizi, you say?! Oh, Vaiti also told me about Ramiz Ali. Ramizi, that’s enough fed up with Vaiti”!
Here’s what Vaiti told Aladdin:
– Several years in a row at the head of the Legal Office of Enver Hoxha, I have never had any disagreement with the other lawyers who work in that office, under his orders. But the situation had changed, when 6 months ago, another lawyer started working in this office, completely incompetent and very arrogant, ready to be caught with fists even for the smallest remark. The last time, they barely shared his fight with an office colleague”.
Commenting on this event, Vaiti made this comment: “And who will be that dog son of a dog, that donkey that brought me this idiot”. The one who brought that “idiot” to Vait Lama’s office was Ramiz Alia himself… Two months later, in November 1981, the 8th congress of PPSh was held. Vait was arrested in the hall of the congress. The delegates of the congress were told that he was preparing an assassination attempt against the glorious leader… “You have no idea how vile Ramizi is. The worst thing is that he also has the support of Nexhmije and will be he, number one, as soon as Enver dies”!
…At the end of the conversation, a friend of ours, who has been in Burrel, approaches?
– “I knew in Burrel, he says, one who was a courier of the General Staff, during the War. He told me something very shocking, about the massacre of Tivari. When he went to the General Staff and said in alarm: The Yugoslavs are killing all the Kosovar boys, who were handed over to them by Ramiz Alia!”, …Shefqet Peçi burst out laughing, Enver stepped on Shefqet’s foot, down table and had calmly said: – “It must be fake news, that’s why comrade Shefqet laughed… don’t worry, you can go. This problem is dealt with directly by the commissar of the Corps, comrade Ramiz. You have to see it that he solves this job…”!
He solved it, as Ramizi knew; he let the skis kill thousands of young Kosovar boys in Tivar. But before they reached Tivar, where they killed those who remained alive until then, there were hundreds of corpses of Kosovars, who remained within our borders.
– “I told Vaiti to tell me how I should write a letter to Enver, to be released from prison”, Aladdin tells me, when we are alone. – “Absolutely not”, Vaiti told me. “These kinds of letters end up in the trash. When you will be released from prison, you only have to write to Nexhmija. She opens and reads the letters addressed to her herself. You will write that letter, as I tell you, leave me a few days to think. I’ll tell you when we write it, don’t worry. And you can be sure that that letter will do the job. I know Nexhmija’s mind, I know what she likes to be written to, how to they write, as long as they write to her. She gave an order for one thing, it’s over. They all go to pieces to get her word across and she doesn’t leave any work half done. I don’t know what it has to do with Ramiz. ..”?!
Two weeks after this conversation, Aladdin tells me that he posted the letter to Nexhmije Hoxha. Less than two months later, it was June ‘83; Aladdin was called to Tirana for a meeting with the Deputy Prosecutor General. The very next day, he called her to a meeting. Seriously, quite preoccupied Prosecutor. On the table, there are stacks of our investigative files. Looks like he worked all night on them, some are still half open.
– “Hey, boy, how deep, how far you have gone with your enmity”! – The prosecutor starts the conversation, showing the stack of files. But Aladdin, who before leaving for Tirana has had several training sessions with Vaiti, does not spoil the blood. Goes on the attack, at the behest of Vait L.:
– “Comrade Prosecutor, I am clear that the more times you read those files, the more times you must punish me. But keep in mind that those files were compiled by master, who took into account that someday these files will be reviewed by someone else. Shall we do a test together? Go to the window, pick out whoever is passing down there about their business, arrest them and give them to me to investigate. Tell me why you will punish him and within a month, you will see him in court, repentant, with accepted guilt, he has even found witnesses against himself. I agree with you, this is a farce. But be sure, that this is the charade that the investigator has made with me and my friends. Enemies?! Not at all! As long as I’m alive, I will say that we entered the prison, because someone had the idea that we are enemies! I have nothing to add. We were not angels, really, but not if they sentenced me to 15 years in prison”!
In December 1983, Aladdin was pardoned for the remainder of his sentence and released from the Qaf-Bari camp. When we hugged, before leaving he said to me in tears: “I will do my best, brother, so that you can get out of here as soon as possible. From tomorrow, you will be in your home, call it that you have also left prison, with me. Save yourself! Goodbye out of jail”!
From less than 20 people, in December ’82, within a year, we have become over 400 prisoners, in Qaf-Bar. I am glad that Aladdin was released; I believe that he will keep his word, which he gave me that day, he has always kept. Aladdin starts work in the foundry of the “Traktori” Plant, but before the month is over, they inform him that he was fired. The head of the factory staff, shrugs his shoulders, when Aladdin asks to know the reason for the dismissal: “How do I know, they told me to fire you and I fired you… with the papers you have, wonder how they let you live in Tirana …where to ask, why…?! I know?! Find where your friends, relatives are, come together”!
The tribe of Kapove, which was very extensive, in all the links of power, had decided to lay hands on the “prodigal son”. One of them, Th., who worked together with Nexhmije Hoxha, calls him to a meeting. He welcomes him very warmly: “I know, I know everything, Aladdin, don’t be upset, you were fired, you’d better settle down, what about you, we won’t leave you behind. But we have a small problem with you. You were sentenced as a group: Max, you, Roland and Edmond. Max is still in prison, you can be forgiven the remaining sentence, Roland and Edmond, and they were forgiven with the amnesty of ’82.
For you to start a job, to suit yourself, is not easy. According to the laws, your file is still open, until this Max is in prison and there is no head of staff who cares to keep you at work, much less as an employee. We need, therefore, that this Max be released from prison. Thus the file is closed; you will be free, and we will have the opportunity to organize you without much embarrassment”!
– “Yes, very nice, release Max”, – says Aladdin who couldn’t believe his ears.
– “Hey, you’re doing well, how are you?! Do you have a chance to hook up with Max? ‘Yes’? Business solved, so tell his people that Max must make a written plea to the Attorney General or the Supreme Court, where he says that he has realized the guilt he has committed, etc., etc. and ask for forgiveness of the remaining part of the sentence. It can mean egg; since everyone from my group was released, why should I continue the sentence?! Our people, who work in these institutions, are ordered, as soon as this letter comes into their hands, to urgently start the legal procedures for his release. They know it’s about you. What?! Didn’t Max agree to write that prayer?! Why, is this possible!?! Okay, it’s okay let someone from his family do it, that’s it. Go now, do what I told you and good luck. Goodbye”.
Mine come to my appointment, earlier than I expected. He always brings them here, as in Spaç, the unforgettable Hiqmet Mullaj, with the “Gaz” truck. I object to writing that letter. They had written to me, before they came to the meeting that I had to have it ready: “No, I do not ask for any forgiveness from them. If they want to release me, very nice, let them release me. With my hand, they will have never written a letter, where I apologize to them”!
They sent that letter to the addresses Aladdin told them. He wrote it as he dictated and the sender was my grandmother. And so this work was done. In my ward council, a letter arrived from the Supreme Court, asking for the ward’s opinion on me and the family. Sotiraq Dimo, the chairman of the People’s Council, said to me: “I replied, Xhafer. I wrote the best words. I say that soon, you will have Max at home…! A couple of masquerades in the Council did not agree, you know who they are, but don’t break your head. And don’t talk about it with anyone, what I told you about”! Are you saying that you are returning for my good fortune?!/Memorie.al
The next issue follows