By Neim Pashaj
The first part
Memorie.al / “He hit me, cursed me and teased me. He asked while shooting me. I just squirmed. When he heard my moan, he made the strokes more frequent. From the few movements I made, I was hit by the belt on my stomach. This was the biggest pain that almost threw me up. The legs, which I had under the table, from the efforts pushed it away and after the shock, fell to the square that were on it. After this uncontrolled action, “friend Todi” left me lying down and sat on the chair. He took out the handkerchief, wiped the sweat, threw the belt at the window and began to collect what fell from the table. Disfigured as he was, he was talking to himself like a madman. I felt like if he came near me one more time, he would eat me alive. “I will make you tell not only the conversations with your uncles, but also how many times you drank milk from your udder. Never tell, but know that I will bring them all here, and they will tell the plan, in their mouths…”!
The author of these lines on the front of a file with hundreds of pages is called Neim Pashaj. It’s in the 60s, it’s telling. The hard life has aged him prematurely. He spent 20 years in the cells of Tepelena, Tirana, Laç, Elbasan, Repsi, Spaçi and Qafë-Bar, but he was able to survive. Fate, it seems, was with him. “I stayed alive to show what I saw with my own eyes”, says the survivor of the communist prisons from Lopësi i Tepelena.
Convinced of his favorite mission, Neim Pashai feels privileged to have been able to keep the diary of the hellish years. There are 7,200 pages in it, which belong to 7,667 days and nights of hell. The first page bears the date June 4, 1966, the day he was handcuffed at the entrance to the Memaliaj mine. The days of the 20-year ordeal continue. Notes kept in the cell, in moments of rest after work. Sheets filled in the notebook, when friends slept. Names of convicts, martyred in camps, heartless investigators and prosecutors, tragedies and terrible dramas. An authentic and rare testimony of the history of the prisons of communism…!
SUNDAY, MAY 15, 1966
In Memaliaj, the day off for the miners, especially for those who live in the dormitories, is different from other days. It is not the usual noise and silence reigns in every room and on every floor. Uncle Peçua, the roommate, was the first to get up, which went to the door and returned immediately, telling me that there was an armed policeman at the entrance.
A shiver took over my whole body. Who else but me, you had problems with the police. Right then and there I thought of my uncles plan to escape and the conversation I had a few days ago with the head of the District Branch. I got up and opened the door. Behind her was the city policeman.
– Are you Neim Pashaj?, he asked me when he saw me.
– Yes, I returned it. Sakaq informed me that some friends from the Tepelena Branch were looking for me below the hotel. I got dressed quickly and went with him to the city police offices. They were located in the center of Memaliaj, a residential building surrounded by trees and a barbed wire fence.
The policeman who was at the main door escorted us to the office where they were waiting for us. The two people who were inside, one lying on the bed and the other sitting on the chair, I greeted them “good morning”. The first got up and approached the table. The other didn’t move.
I met with the latter a few days ago when the head of the branch called me. Before long they told me that my uncle, Hamdi Sulejmani, had tried to escape and was caught at the border. Earlier, the Branch officials were interested in me about my connections with him and his social circle.
Hamdiu was once a soldier and was convicted for agitation and propaganda. When he was released from prison, he settled down to live and works in a village near Delvina. The news shocked me; I didn’t give up right away.
After they talked to me and advised me at length, in the end they communicated to me the order not to leave the city of Memaliaj, without the permission of the police. This is why we called you; the one who was lying down closed the meeting. I stood up and was about to shake his hand, but I changed my mind. I was satisfied with just a “good day”. I left that building terrified of what they asked me and asked me to know. But the strangest horror and surprise were those words they told me about my uncle. What had happened to him…?!
SATURDAY, JUNE 4, 1966
A beautiful, calm, bright day. How long has the sun risen over the top of Shëndëllia. In the center of the city I met two close friends, the Warrior and Jorgo. We took a picture together. When we finished, we were approached by Bamja, Nalua, Besija and Miri, my cousins whom I hadn’t met in a while. We also took a picture with them. Then I went to the office to collect my salary, but the money had not arrived.
After having lunch in the canteen, I left for the mine. At 2:30 p.m., I entered the gallery. For hours I worked on the fifth floor of the second washroom. Around 7:30 p.m., the Party secretary and the city’s plenipotentiary called me. Together with them we went to the entrance of the mine. Todi Keqi, the head of the Tepelena Internal Branch and Memaliaj’s operative, was waiting for me there.
“Did you bring it? – asked the chairman without moving from his seat and looked at me with narrowed eyes. For a moment, he motioned to the two policemen to come closer. So, with an angry look, he pronounced in an authoritative tone: In the name of the people, you are under arrest! The policemen started handcuffing me. I turned to the mayor and told him: At least stand up, respect the law, face the arresting man!”.
Todd couldn’t stand it, jumped to his feet and slapped me in the face. Then he ordered me to get into the car. We left with Dega’s “Jeep”. There were five of us in it. Todd was in first place. After a quarter of an hour we arrived in Tepelena. In the Department of Internal Affairs, they searched me again and then put me in the dungeon. As I sat there for a few moments, someone opened the door and threw me a piece of bread and a piece of cheese. I was 19 years, 3 months and 4 days…!
SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 1966
A creaking of bars woke me up. I was immediately taken. The policeman on guard in the corridor opened the dungeon door, ordering me out. He showed me the bathroom at the end of the corridor and escorted me there. I washed my eyes and went out. I went back into the cell.
The policeman closed the door. After a while I heard the other doors creak. There were others, I thought. I got up to look through the thickly barred window. From there you could see the exit road to Tepelena…!
“You shouldn’t sit at the window – advises the guard, who was listening to me from somewhere. – I heard a noise from outside, – I replied. – You have no business there, – ordered the policeman. – Look at your condition inside your house!”. Then he told me to go out to shave.
At the entrance to the corridor, the barber was waiting for me, who, standing as I was, put a napkin on the back of my neck, took a special haircut, as he himself said, shook me well after making a “brick” and whispered in my ear : “Whether it’s the first and the last time, I have a son”…!
TUESDAY, JUNE 07, 1966
I have been in the cell for three days. It is small, very small. I measured it several times. It is 7 feet wide and 13 feet long. There is a thick wooden door, a small window with bars and wire netting just enough to breathe.
It’s getting close to 10 o’clock. The policeman on duty took me out into the corridor and, with my hands tied in front of me, took me up one floor. We entered the office of Todi Keqi, who was sitting proudly in front of a large desk.
Somewhere in the corner were a fire stove and a pan on it. The chairman closed the curtains of the window, looked at me and began to sing a song: “Stones on the sea shore / cry o shore cry O River / eat a lot of agallars / Neim Pashan with seal…”! So he went to the table, opened the drawer, closed it again, crossed his arms over his chest and was looking at me.
– Hey Neim Pashaj, what did you do to the rascals? – He spoke sarcastically
– I don’t know, – I answered immediately.
– You don’t know, but I do. I wanted you to know where they went. I didn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say.
-They betrayed the country and you…!
– I don’t know – I answered without thinking.
– How do you know – he continued and approached the stove, took the mashan and shot me with it on the left side of the head, exclaiming: “Here they are, take a dog”! I felt a great pain. A few drops of blood fell on the shirt.
For a moment I wanted to put my hand to the wound, but I didn’t have time because another blow came suddenly. I fell to the ground unconscious. When I was mentioned I felt that I was drenched with water. Someone had taken me to the cell…!
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15, 1966
It’s been 10 days since I was in the cell. I started to go out in the sun for the 20-30 minutes that we get out. As far as I could tell when I came out, I noticed that there are 7 dungeons, all locked.
I heard a little noise in them, which means there are people inside. At 10 o’clock in the morning, a policeman entered the dungeon. He put irons on my hands and pushed me to the second floor in the office, where I was tortured a week ago.
After taking me inside and untying my handcuffs, the policeman left, leaving me face to face with Vangjeli of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Todi Keqi.
The first, namely Vangjeli, was sitting on the right side of the second’s table, while Todi, like the first time, was sitting in his chair.
– Here is Dorza’s flag, friend Vangjel – Todi directed you.
– Huh, how are you now? – did the other.
– Good – I answered, moving my head a little to the right.
– Not only are you better, you have also become beautiful. Your face turned white, you shaved your head, and you wore a shirt with red flowers…!
After this cynical lecture, he informed me that he was going to start the investigation with “friend Todi”, then he turned to him and the two of them together started to take something out of the drawer, put it back in, talk in a low voice and look at me. For a moment, Vangjeli turned to him with disdain:
-Hey, Neim, where are your uncles who wanted to go to heaven?
– I don’t know – I told him.
– You have no way of knowing, you are listening here – and he crowed like rooster carrying manure. When I ask you, friend Todi, answer correctly, because lies do not go here. The others were men with a pair of mustaches and when they wanted to hide the truth, they left them here with the other hairs. You’re no longer a sparrow.
– Meanwhile he turned to Todd. – For everything that this pigeon won’t show, take it, confront those maskers. If he was honest, call me, after we have a conversation with the minister and we take some relief measures because it is a new sprout…!
– I think so too, – added Todi.
– Now, – Vangjeli looked at me again – I don’t intend to continue with you, since today the road took me here, but since I happened to be here, tell me, did you tell the uncles to escape, or did they say
-Neither I nor them – I answered on the spot.
– Well, so be it – said Vangjeli and stretched out his hand, opened a desk drawer, took some papers, read something or pretended to read and threw them away, continuing. – Yes, those friends of yours have clarified these things; they have spoken at length and said everything. Why don’t you tell him, or will you keep it a secret? – and he turned to Todd again.
– If he didn’t speak, break his ribs. He says that he will have an easy time. Then he got up, opened the door and motioned for the policeman to come inside. He took me and put me in the cell. Overwhelmed as I was, I fell over. Different thoughts came to my head. I didn’t understand what they wanted from me.
At the end of the day, their main word remained the uncles. One time they tell me that they ran away, the other time they tell me that they were caught. In fact, in order to escape, I had only spoken with uncle Hamdiu, who lived in Delvina. I had not said anything to the other uncle. What happened to them, only God knows…!
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 1966
The time is approximately 9 am. I am in the office of the criminal Todi Keqi. He addresses me in a softer tone than other times.
– Listen to Neim! We have to get along amicably, without using violence. We know the plans you made with the uncles. We need to prove your sincerity. You really don’t understand, but you will be convinced that those who you thought loved you have made your grave and from there, there is no mother’s son to get you out. So speak straight and open. This is the only way you will have facilities.
– I have neither killed nor stolen, have I not committed any crime, – interrupted Mayor Todi.
– Don’t you know, boy, that in this book called the Penal Code, there is an article that says that escape, attempt or talk about escape, are punished with…! If we agree together, I will help you stay on the minimum sentence. On the contrary, it will take the river with terrible trials and imprisonments. Well, let’s start…!
– Who proposed the first to escape?
– I don’t know anything; – I replied and looked into his eyes, and how he would react.
– If it turns out differently, how will we talk together?
– As you wish, – I answered.
– Agreed, – he continued – in a word, you will remain loyal to your uncles and crime.
– No, this is the truth. I know nothing about these conversations.
– Surprise! – he returned to me.- You are young and you don’t have the shoulders to carry the crimes of your uncles…?!
The phone rang and he said something to the voice on the other end of the receiver. When he finished, he addressed me again:
– Think carefully about all this and we will talk again tomorrow. Sakaq took me away with a palm and opened the door, calling the police to take me to the dungeon…! Memorie.al
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