By Bedri Çoku
Memorie.al publishes the unknown testimonies of Bedri Çoku, originally from the village of Muçias in the district of Lushnja, who at the age of 19, while performing compulsory military service in the district of Gjirokastra, was arrested by two senior State Security officers and after a “unmasking” public trial with accusations mounted in the cinema of that city, he was convicted for agitation and propaganda together with his brother, Çaushi, for the only “fault” that their father had suffered several years as a prisoner in the forced labor camps from where he was released in 1959. The rare testimonies of Bedri Çoku who spent 24 years in the prisons of Spaç, Burrel and Qafë Barit and together with his two brothers, Esat and Çaushi and their father, Azemi, suffered 64 years in prison in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, being released only in February 1991. Memories of Bedri Çoku masterfully described in his book “The uprising that shook the dictatorship”, which where is mainly added to the Spaç Revolt in May 1973, where he as one of its main organizers, sheds light for the first time by making public some unknown events and facts from that revolt where the flag was raised without the red star of communism, and until his work as General Director of Camps and Prisons after the ’90s, where he “arrested” his close friend, the accomplice of the dictatorship’s camps and prisons and sent him to the cells of’ Prison 313 ‘. Tirana, where most of the former Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ALP headed by Ramiz Alia and Nexhmije Hoxha were serving their sentences.
The uprising that shook the dictatorship
(Based on a true story)
“To raise the flag, without the communist star, I expressed the opinion that, unable to find a red sheet, we would break our hands and, with our blood, paint the white cloth…! The first to cut his hand with a knife was my brother, Çaushi, the second Gëzim Medolli, Bedri Çoku, Gjet Kadeli, Ulsi Pashollari, and others…”
We very much hoped for European Security and Cooperation which was being carried out at a dizzying speed under the special care of the United States of America. Rightly all mankind was eagerly awaiting the great historical moment. Signing for the Understanding of the Peoples of Europe, Western Democratic States and Eastern Communist States, which were still suffering from dictatorial regimes, to bring together a new order of peace and cooperation in the world. We hoped that Albania on this occasion as well. She would sign in Helsinki this Act for the Fates of Humanity, as a representative of this International Political Organization. We were convinced that our country, though incomparable to the countries of the East, would, by grace or by accident, join the Treaty of Peace and Cooperation with Europe (OSCE).
Investigator in ‘Ward 313’, Tirana Prison
I did not even wonder why they were so cluttered. I realized that I had fallen asleep as soon as I had taken the bread out of Xhavit’s mouth, because when the police lifted me by the arm, his bite fell out of my hand. As they lifted Xhavit in their arms, it was so impossible. They were cursing him because he smelled of pee. I too had become porridge, but because I walked on my own feet, they did not notice me.
This time in the bathroom, they removed the irons, mocking us: “What kind of men were we who had pee in our panties…?! But we did not want to know at all, as, for a few minutes we would have our hands free to perform personal needs. I was convinced from the experience of the first investigation in this high security prison in Tirana, that this release would not happen because we were in pain, or after they had received orders to wash and clean, so as not to disturb the investigators with the wind. stinking of our sweat and pee.
So, the investigation would begin. I was not wrong. The first, in our dungeon, took Xhavit. I was amazed that, even though several hours had passed, he was unable to walk on his own two feet. After he was returned from the investigation, he told me that he had not been asked at all about the revolt, but one of the investigators who came from the districts, to help the investigation, had read his name in the long list of detainees and, as a family friend , had asked him in the office, presumably to see the possibility of how much Xhavit could help him with the investigation he would carry out with him. On this occasion he would see the possibility of what he could do with Xhavit, to reduce his sentence or release him altogether. But, it also depended on his contribution, to release him, as a penitent, or as innocent. But this thing would happen if Xhavit would be able to cooperate with him…?!
So, he had called the prison doctor to visit him…! They had given him sedatives for headaches and bones.
– Do you know the investigator who he was?
– Posi. It belongs to our tribe, but we have not done with them, they have considered us class enemies. It seemed to me a fart from the way he spoke: “Look, it came in my hand…! Now, help me to help you”! I did not speak at all, I did not say yes or no! I do not doubt that he will try to help me…! To boast in the tribe that it will save me from retribution. I was impressed by something: walking down the long corridor, through the many offices of the investigation, I heard the shouts and screams of our people torturing them … The most frequent words that were repeated were: “Dog!”, “Mascara!” “Flag!”, “Flag!”
– Our flag had burned the ass, without their star
Stinking…! He rested his head on his forearm, because no blanket had been brought to us yet, and stammered: “Forgive me, I cannot speak anymore…! Hopefully, the sambo wrestlers do not come to us … I saw … Outside yes darkens…! And closed his eyes. I could not sleep. My swollen hands were burning and itching. The domestic police officer again brought two servings of bread, with grease-colored jam. I waited from moment to moment for the sambo wrestlers to come. I could feel them passing by our dungeon, but, strangely, they were not coming back to give us the “reward”, as they ironically said, to the thug …
God forgive me, because at first, I suspected Xhavit of any mischief with the investigator of his tribe, but no. I do not know what time it was, perhaps in the middle of the night, when two policemen came and fell asleep and grabbed me by the arms and handed me over to one of the many criminal investigation offices. Five years ago, in ‘High Prison 313’, in Tirana, I had spent over nine months with the investigator, together with my brother, Çaushi. But then it was different. We had done nothing to be detained, except because we were the daughter of an anti-communist family, with a father convicted as such and declared a kulak, with confiscation of movable and immovable property … We were both committing compulsory military service and, one fine day, they arrest us. I will probably be transferred from the NBU (Military Agricultural Enterprise) unit, Hormovo, Gjirokastra, to Librazhd.
We could not be called soldiers, because we worked from morning till night, in agriculture, 18-19 years old, from families called “hostile class with the power of the dictatorship of the proletariat”. But we were also the first contingent to go to jail, if the clique in power wanted the interest, from the political circumstances caused by American imperialism, or the Soviet revisions. As such they arrested us. It was 1968, when the Warsaw Pact invaded rebel Czechoslovakia, and the Tirana clique acted, whatever happened, that, according to her, the people who could become a contingent of “liberating” invaders, would surely be us, suffering from the genocide of the dictatorial regime.
However, we were arrested without any evidence and convicted only because during the investigation and the conduct of the military trial in the city of Gjirokastra, we openly expressed our courageous views on the “hostile” treatment of our anti-communist class and especially us, the suckers. of that layer … While this time I was responsible for what I had done and I felt proud of the investigator, as if this cost me my life…!
They let me wait for almost twenty minutes, with their hands tied behind their backs, with the irons as they handcuffed us in Spaç. I did not even turn my head when I heard voices and opened the office. I only raised it when one of the two who confronted me was saying: “I was surprised that your name was on the list of the” Counter-Revolutionary Organization of the Prisoner Revolt in Spaç “! According to him, I had two years and a few months left to suffer…!
– Pity! – I did it! The one who spoke to me was Koço Josifi and the other, who only moved his head, in agreement, was Irakli Kocani. I knew them and they knew me very well, from the first investigation.
– We will conduct the investigation together – continues Koçoja, because Irakliu and I know each other and can, together, find a solution, where the meat is cooked and the porridge does not burn us, the people say, right…? We are not smarter than the people…?
– Really, because you know the wisdom of the people, without being with the people, for the people, but … without the people…?!
– But, did you start?!
– You can give me an aspirin because my brain went out of place, I have so much headache. You drowned us in wood and with Hitlerite irons. As much as it seems to me as if I lived, since I was born with these bars…!
– Do not exaggerate that you were not born like that…! We have valued you as a real, direct opponent, who says things without fear…!
He ordered the policeman standing at the door to find an aspirin and take me to the fountain to fetch water.
– Since you are not able to talk tonight, calm down, we have the days ahead – continued Koçoja. He gestured to the policeman and he took me by the arm. I drank aspirin and the two policemen accompanied me to the dungeon. According to the order they had received, they tried to remove my irons…! Pull and pull, to pull them out of swollen hands, but impossible. I felt pain from the force exerted, until I lost even that little nervous sensation I had in my crushed hands, for three days. Only when one of them put the kick on my back, with his hands clasped on my irons and the other tied behind his body, to pull them together, only then did they manage to pull them out of my hands. They crashed their backs against the wall, along with the bars, while I crashed to the floor, unconscious…!
In the morning Xhavit woke me up. His irons had also been removed, and since my arms were left frozen behind my back, he tried to pull them forward. Every movement of the arm to bring it to its place, gave me a stab wound in the shoulder. I must have screamed, until he, moving them slowly, brought both my arms to their place…! On the fourth night, without iron bars in our hands, we ate the bread with jam and, we were surprised that we had not noticed before the noise of the cars coming and going so often inside the territory of the prison…! What about their dense movement inside the prison?! But I solved this enigma, right after I came back the second time from the investigation, with Koço Josif…!
Two policemen came again and picked me up at midnight. Only Koço was waiting for me. I did not expect him to speak first. I spoke for myself and he did not interrupt me.
“The corridor,” I said. – I heard the groans and threats of the investigators who are torturing my accomplices, regarding the raising of the flag, without a star on the double-headed eagle…! On this issue, I speak with my full responsibility, so as not to torture others. I conceived, prepared and raised the flag, of course with the consent and help of my anti-communist comrades…! On the way here, the screams of the investigators in the offices, and the groans of the accomplices, force me to tell them this truth…! Here you have me, do whatever you want with me …
He rose to his feet, noticed as if he had been informed of any death, by the people of his house, without taking his eyes off me. That’s how we sat, looking at each other, glued…!
– He repeats to me once more, what did you say? – He spoke heavily, with a more irritated face than before.
I told him, literally that I had raised the flag…!
– Because it was a big ass! he shouted, snorting like a rabid bull. What, you remember you did great bravery, eh?
Ignorant! To keep you awake too, weed!
He called the police to take me to the dungeon immediately. He came out with a kidnapping in front of us, from the office…!
I was not sleeping. I expected his reaction differently, when he would learn this truth, but I was spiritually prepared to endure any kind of reaction, no matter how savage and consequential.
When I was little, in the summer, every time I lay down to sleep, I listened to the song of frogs, through the water canals, until I fell asleep…! This time, I slept in the dungeon only when I noticed that the movements of the cars, inside the prison, were magically faded…! I told this to Xhavit in the morning and he was surprised that he did not feel me at all, when they took me and brought me to the dungeon…!
I felt relieved, as if I had lifted a heavy burden. It made me scream loudly from the spontaneous joy of my soul. I finally faced those who imprisoned me because I was born to anti-communist parents, with no evidence of antigovernmental activity. Whereas, now that I was really arrested for an activity against the dictatorship, which shook the criminal state, I would go with pleasure and happiness in front of the gunmen. I wanted to tell Xhavit this too, but the counter opened and one of the policemen called my name to get ready…!
Again, two policemen took me by the arm up to the investigator. This time I found both, Koçon and Iraklinë…! As soon as I sat down in the chair, Koçoja asked me:
-Why does he raise the flag? What was your purpose? And why without a star?
– Yes! I will say it, I said: First, the flag is raised because it is a symbol of the unity of the nation. We were in an antigovernmental activity, we necessarily demanded that the Albanians join us, who demand freedom and democracy, just like us. As for why we raised it without a star, this is very clear. We suffer in prisons because we are not communists, internationalists, like you. We are patriots. We know the flag of Skanderbeg, the national hero and of Ismail Qemali, who, with the flag without a star, declared Albania independent, in 1912, after five hundred years of captivity…! With this flag, the Albanians fought against the invaders, for freedom and independence.
– But you did not tell us the purpose? – Irakliu intervened.
– I told you, but you are not happy that the flag is for the unification of Albanians against your degraded state…!
– Listen, Bedri Çoku! – He fell on the table with his fist and thickened his voice, Koçoja – Without telling us what was your real goal to revolt, with the national flag, without the five-pointed star…! Measure the answers to our questions well that … Here I am saying it. Your life is at stake … It has not happened until today that anyone has dared to do what you have done against socialism…! Enver Hoxha, for our ideals, did not spare even his comrades-in-arms, in the liberation of the country, not for you, the sworn enemies against the Albanian minority…! He has crushed the heads of beys, landlords and kulaks, and will cut off anyone who violates the unity of the people around our party. Do not sell us bullshit! Speak, answer our questions: for what purpose was the revolt with the flag without a star?
– It seems to me that I spoke clearly about what you asked me. I have no other answer…!
Irakli ordered the police to send me to the dungeon.
– We have it easy with you – continued Koçoja, before I left the office – I admit that you are one of the leaders of the revolt and raising the flag without a star. The bullet awaits you to join the shot comrades. But, first, we will peel your skin on these hooks we have here, in our office…!
I wanted to talk, but the police forcibly pulled me away. I did not find Xhavit in the dungeon. Surely, he would be in the investigator…! I started crouching on the dungeon floor: Front-back, front-back…! What a premonition I had that made me impatient. I definitely wanted to talk to someone. I waited for Xhavit, but he did not come…! There at dinner they brought me Lochen, instead of Xhavit. I was overjoyed to join Hysen Xhani, alias, Locen. We hugged tightly. He was crying and could not look me in the eye…!
– What are these tears, more Loçe … Why is the man crying?
– They showed us the photos of the four shot. What about you, did they tell you?
– No, I do not know anything…! Four were shot?
– Yes Sk, Skënder Daja, Dervish Bejkon, Hajëri Pashaj and Pal Zefi. The four youngest. He, the scumbag, my investigator, Irfan Shaqiri, told me that we would remove other heads. Mention your name you raised the flag…!
-Hahaha… – Laughter. And I hugged Lochen. /Memorie.al
Continues in the next issue