By Filip Guraziu
The fourth part
Memorie.al / in my youth, sport was everything for me; it was the biggest investment of my life. Sport was joy, satisfaction, pride, sacrifice, faith and optimism for life. Sport was political security, job security, security for family consolidation. Sport was life itself! In the fall of 1966, at the age of 23, with work, sweat, discipline and sacrifice, I arrived with a degree in mathematics at U.SH.T (Tirana State University, 1964) and at the same time carried on my shoulders, a baggage of sports results, with a very large weight in the field of basketball.
Continues from last issue
Exclusion from sports…!
Sports results and honorary titles:
-Twice national champion with the representative of Tirana secondary schools, years 1959, 1960.
– “Gold Medal” in the First National Spartakiad, year 1959, as a basketball player, I stood out with perspective.
– Member of the Albanian basketball team (up to 22 years old), in the Bucharest Youth Games (January 1960).
– Four-time national champion in basketball (adults): with “17 November” of Tirana, for the years 1961, 1962, 1963, and with “Vllaznina” of Shkodra, in the years 1966-1967 (the fourth medal, with Vllaznina, not I took it because I was removed politically from sports).
– Winner of four cups of the Republic; with the team of “17 November”, from Tirana for the years 1961, 1962, 1963, and with the team of “Vllaznia” from Shkodra, in 1966.
– Winner of three cups of the Liberation of the city of Shkodra, in 1961, 1962, 1964.
– Winner of three city cups, of Tirana, in 1961, 1962, 1963.
– At the age of 19, member of the Albanian basketball team.
– “Master of Sports”, in Basketball at the age of 19.
– Winner of the Survey of the “Popular Sport” newspaper, as a player of the “best five”, who would represent Albania in the Balkan Basketball Games, in 1965, in Tirana.
– Main player (even in the first five) of the Albanian representative in the Balkaniad of Basketball, which took place in Tirana, in December 1965.
After the collapse of the communist system itself:
– “Deserved Master”, in the sport of basketball, 1994.
– “Honor of Albanian sport”, year 2000, honor from the President of the Republic, Rexhep Mejdani.
– “Medal of Appreciation”, Albanian Basketball Federation, 2006.
– “Knight of the Order of the Flag”, President of the Republic Ilir Meta, 2021.
With the intervention of the representatives of the government and the party, in Shkodra, in 1964, I was appointed to work in the city of Shkodra, as soon as I finished U.SH.T. Two years that I played with “Vllaznina”, as a main player, we had very high sports results.
In December 1966, I went to training as every day in the afternoon, with the “Vllaznia” team, at the sports field of Kandi Spartak, Shkodër, and before I arrived at the dressing room, outside, a bit like in the corner, coach Esat was waiting for me Haxhi, who approached me and told me that he had something to communicate with me. Esati was numb, he was trying to avoid eye contact, his lip trembled, he spoke in a low voice:
“Filip, I am authorized to communicate your exclusion from the sports activity of basketball, for political reasons”, – tears escaped his eyes. I felt so sorry for the professor, for whom I had and continue to have special respect, that for a moment I forgot my trouble and tried to calm him down big, than today’s! God bless him”.
I turned back and with chiseled steps, I started towards the house.
No team mates approached me to greet me…?! Maybe…, it was the fear of being infected by the “scab disease”, that the dirty class war was infecting the politically affected. What makes me not feel good, even today after so many years, is the fact that some of my teammates in Shkodër, with whom we spent every day so much effort and sacrifice together in training and with some of them even the free hours, they did not become alive anymore!
One of them, whose name I am sparing (he remembered me when he reads these lines), with whom I had a lot of confidence and considered him a true friend, the day before he had forgotten his sports jacket in my bag, which my mother had left, along with my sports clothes, the “husband” didn’t come to the house, he didn’t even take the bag and talk to me, but he sent a third person!
Although we both lived in Shkodër, I did not meet him for a period of many years…! The behavior of my sports friends from Tirana was different, with whom, regardless of the troubles that fell on my head; they maintained their friendship as in the old days.
After a few weeks, from my exclusion, with a political motive from sports, I asked for a meeting with the first Secretary of the Party Committee for the Shkodra District, Pjetër Kosta, to present to him the injustice that was happening to me. I met “comrade Peter” in his office and the argument I presented to him in two words was very simple:
“How do you explain, friend Pjeter, the fact that a person like me, with the biography I have, the merits I have demonstrated, in the field of sports, and the results I have achieved (I briefly listed them), who, until yesterday, he was applauded and respected by everyone, but one day back, without any reason or motive, he is punished with exclusion from sports?
I was deeply convinced that the order for my departure from the sports activity, with a political motive, had come through him (perhaps…, it was ordered by someone in Tirana, with the aim of weakening the Shkodra team, which at that time was the most strong in Albanian basketball) and he knew that, I understand!
The question stuck, because he, who had ordered the injustice, could not give the answer. This made him nervous, or I pretended to be nervous, because in a loud voice, and arrogantly, he shouted at me: “What do you remember, brother, that the first Secretary has been busy with idle work, did he play, and did the player not play? Don’t go, because I don’t have time to waste with these things!”
That’s the end of the meeting!
For this character, with such arrogant behavior and without the masculinity he demonstrated in communication, I formed and maintain a very negative opinion. The bad taste of that day still lingers in my stomach!
P.S. After two years of suspension of sports activity, thanks to the intervention of Bilal Parruca, then Chairman of the District Executive Committee, Shkodër, I won the right to reactivate in the sport of basketball. Unfortunately for me, probably as a result of the cessation of training, for a period of two years, after a while, I had an accident in my knee, incurably)
“Ikja” from Breg Lumit school, Dukagjin
In Kallnuer, in 1967, I was transferred to work at Breg Lumit School, Dukagjin. During that year, the teachers of the mountain areas would serve without interruption for almost 12 months until the end of August, for the completion of the curriculum of the summer system and, in September and back, for the beginning of the next term, the same as all the schools of Albania.
The first season, of the 1967-1968 school years, ended on Saturday, December 23, 1967, after which we had two weeks off. You can imagine how impatiently we waited for the beginning of the winter holidays, which for us meant: family, home, city, society and…!
We agreed with the school director that we would leave for Shkodër on Saturday, 23.12. We would travel on foot, for about 8 hours (there were also two teachers in the group…), following the footpath of Kaprreja, going up towards the Thores Pass at an altitude of 1,720 m. Back the road was downhill, until Boga, where we found the car road. Those heights were full of snow, so the road was difficult, but no one cared..!
During the week before the departure, the teaching body was mobilized for the completion of the curriculum, as well as the closing of the registers. The atmosphere was enthusiastic, but on Wednesday, 20.12, the news circulated that a team from the Prime Minister’s Office would come to Dukagjin on Monday, 25.12, to complete the data of a study on the economic and cultural condition of the Albanian mountain areas, and this news , got us thinking…!
We were completely convinced that in order to complete the data of the study, family by family, the team of the Prime Minister’s Office, in cooperation with the locality (Local Government of Dukagjin), would order the teachers to go out in the field, who were also on vacation, so free…!
This was very difficult for us, who were spiritually prepared to return, for two weeks, to our homes. The concern opened the debate, the debate used logic, logic found a way out: we decided to keep the departure date for Shkodër a secret, so, perhaps, the location and others, who had enough trouble and trouble with the problems of Dukagjin, would not have their attention theirs to the fact that the teachers of the River Bank are located or not located in Dukagjin. They could have remembered about this matter, only on the day of the meal, when the team was coming, but on that day, we would be in our homes in Shkodër…!
For the moment we calmed down, but this did not last long, because on Thursday, later in the day (21.12), came the second news (not official), but reliable, that the team of the Prime Minister’s Office would come to Dukagjin on Saturday and not on Monday, so we, who were going to leave on Saturday in the direction of Boga, met the prime minister’s team on the way, which was coming from Boga…!
This was not advisable, also due to the fact that they (the Prime Minister’s team) could, with a word of mouth, order us back, back to the Riverside! So, what about me?
There was only one option left: until we had an official announcement from the locality about the mobilization of teachers as per the Prime Minister’s project, we could leave for Shkodër whenever we wanted, even on Saturday, but in order not to meet with those of the Prime Minister’s Office, we would follow the other road, that of Guri te Kuq, which was longer, but more suitable, for the specific case…!
On Friday, in the morning, there was no lesson, we had finished the teaching tasks, we were only dealing with the organization of tomorrow’s departure. For our trouble, the weather worsened, the first snowflakes began. Talking to our local friends, who were experienced in forecasting the weather in their area, convinced us to take action and set out on the journey as soon as possible, because tomorrow, the roads could be impassable, from the snow.
We planned to make the road from Breg Lumit to Nicaj-Shosh, which in normal conditions would take three and a half hours. In Nicaj, we would find hospitality and accommodation in the homes of the locals. The next day (Saturday), we would have to walk only the crossing of Mount Shoshi (1300 m altitude), and then the descent on the road of Guri i Kuq, to Prekal, where the car road to Shkodër was.
The increase of snow also prompted the urgency for departure. Since the departure had been predicted a day ago, we didn’t even have food, we only packed bread with sugar and water, and just like that, in a hurry, we set off. There were five of us; Lena, Aishja, Gjovalini, Muhameti and me. The principal and teacher Skenderi did not come with us, they stayed at the school for a few days.
Experience had taught us that on those long marches, through footpaths with constant ascents and descents, the clothing should be light; woolen sweatshirt, jacket, scarf and hat, on the back a small bag for water and street food.
My friends also wore pajamas under their pants, while I used my pajamas, during walks in heavy snow, over pants that could be tightened with a belt; the constant contact with the snow, during the long hours of walking, raised the pajamas that took the shape of the spore tubes and the warm pants underneath, protected the body heat…!
It was 1:30 p.m. when we left school. The snow was thick; some locals we met on the way greeted us and shouted in a loud voice: “Where are you going men, turn back, and don’t take the road in this weather”!
Below the place, where Ura e Lotajt is today, there was a “vada”, where the river could be crossed on foot, then the walk took the elevation, to the right of the flow of the river, until it met the traditional road towards Kodër Sh’Njergji, Ndrejaj and up to Nicaj -Shosh.
Crossing the river meant complete undressing, but that day, since our friends were with us, we crossed the Shala River with ice water, up to 0.8 m deep, in our panties, on top of which we carried our body clothes and bag. The two teachers, Aisha and Lena, crossed the river, climbing in turn, on my back.
During the trip, heavy snow fell non-stop, but it did not hinder us so much, because it had not yet formed a thick layer. Sometimes he talks and sometimes he laughs, almost 4 hours passed and it got dark.
The information we received on the way, the terror that occupied us, made us change the destination of the night; instead of going all the way to Nicaj-Shosh, to the houses of the locals, who were still far away, we stopped at the campsite of the actionists in Lushnjara, “who, inspired by the heroic act of Shkurte Palë Vata”, had volunteered, actionists to help the people of Dukagjin…!
The leaders of the action received us well, provided us with sleep, and gave us the ration of dinner food; bread, cheese and tea.
Maybe, due to the fact that in the afternoon we had bread and sugar and at dinner, bread and salty cheese, we were very thirsty, but that night, where we were, there was no water. We tried to melt the snow, put it in a glass of water, but the glass broke and the snow did not melt, then only the version with a spoon of snow remained, which relieved our thirst a little.
The sleeping place was organized in some old warehouses of the cooperative, without electric light, but with kerosene lamps. The environment was very cold. As soon as we were dressed, we covered ourselves with blankets and immediately fell asleep from exhaustion. Late at night, after maybe 6 hours, I fell asleep, I opened my eyes where I was lying on the bed, I was surprised to see that above me, in one position, the stars were twinkling…!
The next day, as soon as the light dawned, we got out of bed before the stockists, because we were on our way. We found the ground outside to be full of snow, the weather was very beautiful, the sky was cloudless, but the wind was cold and the temperature was very low. The first thing we asked for was water. They had told us that near the square, where the silos were at a distance of 30 m, but further down, was the natural source where the shareholders were supplied with water. Memorie.al
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