By Fatmira Nikolli
Memorie.al / The children left alone at home, 9-year-old Shemsedini, his 13-year-old sister Mine, and an 11-year-old sister, became objects of communist hatred and violence: they were imprisoned and transferred to prison after prison, until they ended up in exile in the Tepelena camp. Shemsedini was interned at the age of 9 in the Tepelena camp, where he suffered 3 years unjustly and was killed there in the camp by a landmine. Being under daily surveillance by the communists, Shemsedin Mulosmanaj’s father, Gjete Mulosmanaj, escaped so that the communists would not imprison and kill him and his adult sons, as they had done with his brother and cousins. Crossing the border was very difficult, due to the very rugged mountainous terrain. For this reason, it was impossible for him to take the whole family. He thought of taking with him the two grown-up sons, who were directly in danger of being imprisoned, and his wife, in order not to leave any adult in the family on whom the blow of the communist power would fall. Thus, the small children would not be affected, so they temporarily left them alone at home. Even though they were lonely children, they were imprisoned and interned in the Tepelena camp.
The children suffered for 3 years as internees in the Tepelena camp, until someone raised their voice that these children had no head of the family and should not remain in internment. Then they were released, but they had no means to return from Tepelena, to their birthplace in Tropoja, which was far away, in the north of Albania. Waiting for a car to leave, they stayed in the Tepelena camp for over a month.
Unfortunately, while playing, Shemsedini found a war mine and was accidentally killed. His body was torn apart. His head was not found. Mine collected all the parts of his body and buried them somewhere on the outskirts of the camp. She asks for her brother’s remains to be found and to be able to make a decent grave for that child who suffered unfairly in exile and whose life was cut off since childhood!
The testimony of Mine Mulosmanaj, Shemsedini’s sister
Mrs. Mine, hello. Thank you for coming to talk to us about the tragedy that struck your family when you were still a child.
My name is Mine Çel Mulosmanaj (Balaj), born in Bujan i Tropoja, in the tribe of Binak Ali. Father’s name was Gjete, mother’s name was Gju. They, together with two adult brothers, ran away four.
In which year did your parents leave Albania?
What happened in 1947 that your parents made that difficult decision?
An uncle of mine died in prison, as well as my father’s brother. A cousin of mine also died in prison: in the prison of Shkodra and in the prison of Durrës. So we were afraid for dad. They eavesdropped on him everywhere, where they taught him and where they taught him closely, so that they could put him in prison. He was careful even when he crossed the yard. I was a child. My father called me and said: “We have to leave.”
I said: “What escape”? I didn’t know what “escape” was. The father continued: “I, mother and both brothers will leave.” I shouted: “Ku-ku! Where did they leave us”?! I burst into tears.
He told me: “You are 13 years old, Elmija is 11 and your brother is 9. Tonight we will leave, but tomorrow don’t report to the police”! The father told me that if he left the mother with us, then they would deport us, because the mother was called the head of the family, and we would not be deported alone, because children under the age of 13 were not taken into deportment. They got ready and I escorted the four of them to the door myself.
They came out, we escorted them and left. We went and huddled together with the little sister and brother, like chickens. The next day I didn’t report anything. Some came and asked the brother: “Where is the father”? He was just knocking on a piece of wood to get the sparks out: tac and tac…! “Where is”? He didn’t speak at all and just looked at me.
The next day, we went to the police and I told them: “I don’t know where my parents are! Today when I got up, I didn’t find them. I don’t know where they are. I am left with 2 little ones, a sister and a brother…! I don’t know where my parents are”! Phew, it fell on the table. “Aww,” he said, “they didn’t run away last night, but the day before last”! Then, I replied: “Since they ran away last night, why didn’t you tell me? Did they run away last night? And I, when I went at night, I found them gone”! My father told me this lie so I could tell them.
They kept me there for a couple of hours, and then I went home. After three weeks, the police came and took us and sent us to Tropoja. When we went to Tropoja, they put us in a prison where there were many Tropojas. It was Drane Jaku, a Xavit from Paci, full. I spent a couple of weeks in Tropoja prison.
A cousin of ours came and took us for a week, and then they took us to prison again. The police took us and we walked from the land of Tropoja to the land of Kukës. The brother’s shoes were opened. We spent three weeks in Kukes prison. From there, they took us to Berat prison.
Even there for a couple of weeks, all in one room. After two weeks, they took us to Tepelena, in Turhan. There came the time when I became a woman, 13 years old. We had not seen bread with eyes. And when they gave us that ration, I took it away to give it to my sister and brother. When the bread machine came, ohoo… I shared the cornbread: I gave most of it to my brother, and then I shared it for my sister and myself.
Then they took us to Tepelena, to the barracks, down there. Barbed wire, they guarded us with police. The bread was full of worms, flies, the dishes… I don’t know how we lived! We went out every day…! Drane Jaku’s son died and he was buried in the ground. Once, the brother was sick for six weeks and day and night he screamed: “Oi, my nana…”!
I used to say: “Here is your mother! Why are you shouting? Wait, you’re sick! Here’s your mother, she’s helping you”! I don’t know how I took it to Gjirokastër myself, to check it twice. I don’t know how I managed it. I took some medicine for three days. We stayed there for a month. We are back. They barely gave us a piece of bread, that’s all. We have barely postponed it.
When November 28-29 came, all the heads of families called. They all went in turn. It was my name’s turn. Went. When I entered, they said to me: “Why did you come, daughter”?! “I came because I am the head of the family.” They said: “There is no way! You must have some old man or old woman in the barracks! I told them: “I myself am the head of the family”!
“How? How old are you”?! “13 years old”! “Like mine, you are the head of the family and they sent you to exile”?! “Yes, I have a sister and a brother with me.” Then he shouted “uuiii…”, put his hands on his head. “After having a Party or power or organization that comes and takes the child at this age into exile”?! Then they said they would let us go.
In what year were you released?
So, from 1947 to 1950, you interned him in Tepelena for 3 years?!
Yes! It was November 28-29 that we were released. But, after that, we waited for a month and several days without a single car coming to Tropoja. Nothing nothing.
My brother came out. “A car came”! – He said, but nothing. When they released us, we were even worse; better to keep us in exile altogether. The brother would come out and say: “No car is coming.” “Hey,” I said, “they will come now.”
The brother wanted to play with his friends. “Mine, I let him go out in the city”, he told me. I didn’t know what they did. They found some like grains, like pots and played with them. Thus, the brother also saw one, he eroded the ground…! There were two friends. The other one was called by his mother to give him bread and he was the only one left to eat, except when he made a boom-booum…!
I ran away. When I went, I didn’t see anything, I just cut a few pieces…! I don’t know how I acted. I pulled out my hair and they grabbed me two or three at once. I went and collected the pieces that were left of him in the dress. I took off a sheet and put everything I had gathered in the dress on the sheet.
How did I collect them all, I don’t know! Ah! Even if they give me the whole world, I don’t know, it was left to me! Until I die, this event will stay with me.
When I die, all the bequests have to find me and put it in the ground with me! That no one looks at me anymore, no one looks at him anymore! Listen, I’ve got it in my head. When I put it in the ground, I put some birches like that, bad birches. The sheet was stained with blood. I don’t know, are the bones mixed up? His head was removed from his body…! Has anyone found the head that was removed? But who asked for them?
When the explosion happened, you were inside the barracks and after hearing an explosion, you went there and realized it was your brother? Did you collect his body alone?!
Yes Yes. When I went, I saw the body, the body there…! I screamed at the oil and started to collect those pieces. I myself collected the pieces in the dress and then put them on the sheet… I also put those birches. I don’t know if anyone else has collected it. He has one sock left…!
Do you remember where you buried your brother’s body?
Bury there after…!
After the barracks?
I don’t know where to go now, but it wasn’t exactly behind the barracks.
Did you open the grave yourself, or did they help you? Did you have any coffins?
No, no, others opened it, not me. I don’t know who opened it. There was no cash register. I put it like that, with sheets. I removed him from the bed – a white sheet, put those pieces there, wrapped him and dropped him in the grave. No coffin, just like that, with that sheet. Not planks, not concrete, not anything but those birches, just like that.
Two brothers have died, two sons of my sister have died, and many have died. I am upset and mourned for them…! I will never forget this, that he entered the world for the devil. The others have entered with a coffin; after all, the sister has it.
It was December 29, 1950, when did this disaster happen?
How long did you stay there in the barracks?
During this time, did you go to the grave?
How could I not go?! Even, I came to my senses late, if I had these thoughts like today, I would have picked it up and brought it to the land of Tropoja, but there was no permission and I was a child. I had set up a tent for him, because we covered him with a tapestry that was covered in blood and dirt.
Only from the sister I had, that I had never left that place, because it was a great horror. After 1 month, the car came to take us to Tropoja. The road went round and round in Tepelena, it comes out once more where the grave can be seen from there.
The car took us to Has in Shkodra and dropped us off there, four families. What were we to do there? They left us there, don’t waste the car anymore. What are we doing? My sister’s brother-in-law passes by with a policeman, from that sister’s village, because at that time food was taken on horseback in Shkodër, and he asked: “What are you doing here”?!
“We are interned and they released us here”, we told him. “But what are you going to do”?! “What should we do now, but stay here?” When he tells me: “Stop, because I am your sister’s brother-in-law.” He took us from the land of Shkodra, me and my sister, and to the land of Lushnja, where the other sister was.
How did we walk with our feet? How old are we? Now I say to myself, how long have you been walking from Shkodra, uneaten, paperless, we left my brother…?! How old are you? I had my sister on horseback. Walk and walk…! When we arrived at my sister’s, our feet hurt from walking. Since we came from exile, with lice, with slime, we had become like us.
She washed us, cleaned us, looked after us and talked to her husband. He told us that the father had come to get us, but he had not found us. Father died in Yugoslavia. When we went there, the mother had also been dead for 14 days. Went. I couldn’t take my brother, but I couldn’t find my father and mother either!
That is, your father, since 1947, after sheltering his older brothers, came back to take you too?
Yes, he didn’t find us there. The second person had come, but they had found the house burnt. The police were on guard at night…! We stayed three days at our sister’s and returned home, because we were afraid that our father would come.
In the evening, the police came and guarded all night. My uncle came to pick us up. He asked for bread to eat, but I only had a piece of cheese and a piece of bread. He asked: “Do you have another”? “No, I have a handful of salt.” Then, the uncle went straight to the city, on Bajram Curri, and asked the authorities to take us, because we didn’t have anything to eat, so he took us over by contract. The father wanted to take us, but the uncle refused, because they would put him and his family in prison. We stayed with my uncles and got married here.
Not a letter, not a single thing from them: we didn’t even know what they were like, nothing, only in God’s land. I’m 46 years old, I don’t know if I have a brother or a sister! When I found out that my father had died in Yugoslavia, I fainted. These are the sufferings of this 85-year-old woman today!
After the 90s, when communism fell, did you connect with the rest of the family that was abroad?
Yes. We went and entered the American embassy. I was with my two sisters, and one of our cousins…! An Albanian and an American asked us. My eyes were dripping with tears, when I mentioned that I was in exile for 13 years, that I was called the head of the family. When I went to America, my father died in Yugoslavia.
They wrote us a letter and they took the guarantee that we went to. And when we went there, the mother had also been dead for 14 days. We found two married brothers: one had no children, except his wife, the other had 3 daughters and 2 sons, 5 children.
Went. I couldn’t take my brother, but I couldn’t find my father and mother either! Besides making them happy, as if I enjoyed myself…! I was happy that we saw my brothers, my brother’s children, but I didn’t take my brother, nor did I find my mother and father. It was very boring! We met, we hung out, I’ve been going since 1992.
When did you go to Tepelena after the 90s?
How old did he does? I always said that I don’t want to die without going to where my brother died…! When Simon Mirakaj says that we will unite and go as an association, I went as an association that day as well. When I went there, I rode on that road with the two sisters and that brother.
I looked around the whole place and said to the boy: “come here” and showed him the place where I slept with my brother. “How am I, woe is me here! Here where my brother died, I died bro!” We went and…! “Look, right there, – I told them – that’s where my brother was killed”! I couldn’t go to the grave, but I remember it.
Did you really remember the grave?
Yes, I remember it as a place! When I go there, I say: Here it is! While we were sitting there, I saw all those places: where my brother was killed and where I was myself and when I was released…! He got sick for six weeks and days, almost without eating bread.
I would tile his ration, dry it and put it in a white bag so that, when he was hungry, I could give him as much bread as he wanted. I boiled oak grapes…! I don’t know how I lived! No one has taken me a single ALL!
How do you remember your brother?
After all these years, I remember my brother, but I can’t describe him. There were no pictures. He was white, I remember, he was white and had that white hair. Do you know how? He had blue eyes. He was white and he was not small, but he was fat. He was very good, very wise, that’s how I remember him. There was no photograph. Ah, if only there was a photographer with me, I would have a picture!
During the time you were there, after you were released, you told me that he was waiting for the car…?
Yes Yes. He was waiting for the car to come and pick us up, because 800 of us had been released. At the beginning, 9 thousand people were arrested and 800 people were released. He was waiting for the car every day: When will it come, when will it come? How many cars were from other districts? He said to me: “Mine, didn’t the car come?” I told her: “She will come too.” The day he was killed was Thursday, the next day was Friday, and the car arrived on Saturday. They caught me and barely put me in the car…!
So, two days after my brother died, the car came?
Two days, two days after he died. He died on Thursday, Friday; the car came on Saturday…! I don’t know, nor do I think now. I fall asleep and wake up, I saw his spirit, every day and every night, as I have become for so many years, if I have fallen one night, just one night without thinking about it, or just one day.
There is nothing that can take my mind from how I left him on the ground that he died of starvation. Everyone has had someone, but this mother, sister, father and brother had me. I have been with him. I made them to eat. I have it in the ground…!
He got sick for six weeks and days, almost without eating bread. I would tile his ration, dry it and put it in a white bag so that, when he was hungry, I could give him as much bread as he wanted. I boiled oak grapes.
I didn’t eat it myself, but in order not to lose my stomach, I added a spoonful of sugar…! I don’t know how I lived. No one has taken me a ALL! Even, once, I see, they had fallen full of money there, on the ground. I didn’t know who they fell to, but they fell to someone. I took them and put them in my pocket. I was walking to go to the barracks, when there was one screaming.
“What’s wrong with you, Sab, that you’re yelling at,” I told him. – what do you have”?! “I have lost something”. “What have you lost”? “I lost a thousand ALL”. I had wrapped them in a white striped cloth. I said: “I found them.” I gave it to him. This is my life…!
They called us reactionaries. The children were not given school. My daughter went to school with tens of them in the whole town and they didn’t let her go to school: “You are persecuted”! I have 6 children. All only with high school. They didn’t let them go to any other school, except to go to night school.
Now my brother also died, and my brother’s two sons. The sisters’ two sons also died…! The first brother who died was younger than the other. When I went there and saw him, I said: “Where are you, brother! With one date, one day and one hour, you also died, like the brother in Tepelena!” No one knows, except me, that I will never forget that hour and that date!
And so, after some time, the brother died there, the two sisters died here, the brother’s two sons died there, the other son also died…! Those I had there also died and went. This is my life”! Memorie.al