By Keze Kozeta Zylo
-As a tribute to the former political prisoner of Spaçi, prominent son of Arrëza e Madhe, Tepelena-
Memorie.al / While the mediocre and the unengraved are raised on a pedestal and your gills are weighed down by decorations, the learned, true patriots and former political prisoners, like Xhaferr Agaraj, are left in oblivion by the state and the media. I remember him today from New York, Eng. Xhaferr Agaraj, the former political prisoner, with the greatest respect and gratitude, for what he gave to the Nation, Tepelena, education and the class of political prisoners.
With customary law and legitimate pride, Eng. Qemal Zylo, as fellow villager with Eng. Xhaferr Agaraj, from Arrëz e Madhe, brings his memories and claims that his two-story stone house, built by his father, Dervish Agaraj, such a patriot and warrior, turned into a school for Arrëz e Madhe.
And turning your residential house into a school means being a true disciple of the renaissance and spreading the Albanian language as a divine light. While his house was humming with the Albanian tweets of the children of Arrëza, a large village full of culture and patriotism, engineer Xhaferr Agaraj had been handcuffed and was suffering in the prisons of the dictatorship.
Ing. Xhaferr Agaraj was born on June 10, 1931, in the village of Arrëz te Madhe in Tepelena and died in Tirana in 2018. On December 5, 1976, the Tepelena Court sentenced him to 10 years of imprisonment, accusing him of “agitation and propaganda”! (Combined punishment, according to the Encyclopedic Dictionary, of victims of communist terror).
Ing. Xhaferr Agaraj never stopped working, after his release from prison, in the post-dictatorial regime. Xhaferr Agaraj was elected the chairman of the Association of former “Political Convicts for Integration with Justice and Unity”. On the website of the Supreme State Audit, it is stated that: “Within the Open Week organized by the Supreme State Audit with the citizens, from October 28 – November 4, 2016, the activity of presenting the audit of the Performance Department took place ; “Rehabilitation of Former Political Persecuted, in the Transition Period”.
In this meeting, representatives of all Associations of former Political Persecuted people of our country participated, the director of the Institute of Integration of former Political Persecuted people, Mr. Bilal Kola and other representatives of the staff of this Institute, the director of the Institute for the Study of the Crimes of Communism, Mr. Agron Tufa, former political prisoners, several NGOs, media representatives, researchers, journalists, etc.
Ing. Xhaferr Agaraj, in his speech, evaluated the Audit Report drawn up by the working group of the SSC, but he also took a very critical position on the work of governments during the democratic period. He expressed that; the parties promise before the campaigns to solve the problems of this layer, but the facts show that until now, only demagoguery has been done by the governments.
“You haven’t lived the prison of Spaç, he said – you haven’t seen the suffering of the prisoners in the time of communism, you haven’t seen the galleries of this prison, you’re not familiar with the amount of pyrite extracted from the prisoners and now in In old age, the prisoners did not receive a pension as former miners, due to the lack of documentation, which must be administered by the Directorate of Prisons.
Our sufferings have never stopped. Suffering in prison, suffering after leaving prison, to wander from office to office, to find the relevant documentation, to benefit from our rights, rights that have been missing until today. What else can we do? The layer of the former political persecuted is the noblest layer of society and this society is still not appreciating it”.
In this meeting, Mr. Agron Tufa, director of the Institute for the Study of Communist Crimes, said in his speech that; “AL-SAI” made a great contribution in terms of analyzing the situation and that this report should be published to bring to light the sufferings of the former political persecuted.
Other discussions were held by Mr. Tanush Mulleti, Mr. Xhaferr Agaraj, president of the Association of former Political Prisoners for Integration and Dignity, Mr. Ndrec Gjoni, a former political prisoner, Mr. Gjoc Gjoci, president of the Association National Association of the Descendants of the Politically Executed and Mr. Bedri Blloshmi, former political prisoner.
Former political prisoners have gone on several hunger strikes. Once their representative, Xhaferr Agaraj, was received in a meeting by the Minister of Justice at that time, Bujar Nishani, but it seems that even the talks did not have a positive result. The demands stemmed from the inconsistency of the laws made by former Prime Minister Berisha and their implementation, said the former political prisoners, who had already entered the 8th day of their hunger strike. Among other things, they demanded the implementation of the law; for the financial compensation of former political persecutors, evaluation of securities and compensation of their confiscated assets, according to “Info Arkiva”.
I am for building and not destroying the country
(How his fellow villagers and friends remember him)
For the first time with Qemali, we met him in Tirana, at the “1 Maji” flower garden. It was hot July, the year 2010. No one can guess the emotions that two fellow villagers with generations of acquaintance and with a love and respect that came peacefully, feel when they meet for the first time. Their embrace was with tears in their eyes, it was painful, but a beautiful pain, as the national poet Ali Podrimja says. “I am meeting said Eng. Agaraj, with the grandson of Selamet the first, the brave who fought with the Greek hordes, do you hear Arrëza’s daughter-in-law”?! – told me. I was completely stunned, surprised, surprised by their tears, as well as his simplicity to the point of sanctity.
“While I – replied Qemali – I am meeting with the outstanding son of Arrëza and Albania, engineer Xhaferri, the indomitable resistance of the communist dictatorship. How proud I feel in front of you”! Meanwhile, in front of me, there was a heavy mountain, which had undiscovered treasures, even. They talked about the school of Arrëza, a school established very early and full of history, the beautiful places, such as Gurra, the high mountains, Trebeshina and Shëndëllia, the Shore of Shkalla, the famous Qafa of Kiçok and Arrëza, the villages, according to the surnames of Arrëza, tall walnut trees, mountain tea, lawns of natural flowers, as well as drowned in nostalgic memories of their origin, of the first ones, which were a source of inspiration for generations.
His arrival at the promotion of my two books at the National Museum in Tirana was a pleasant and unforgettable surprise. After receiving my two books; “A Ribbon of the Sun from New York” and “Spiritual Reflections”, among others, he told me: “Enjoy Freedom in the most democratic country in the world.” They have won their freedom and their lives with war, because together they knew how to beat the storms, according to the famous German writer and statesman, Goethe”, quoted Eng. Agaraj. I will keep this statement in my memory for a long time, as it contains a great meaning. He loved freedom and said that; he was still not enjoying it, based on European democratic principles!
I read this dissatisfaction of his almost protest later in the written media, in the same year, when 100 former politically persecuted, warned that they would protest, chained, in front of the European Parliament.
In these first 100, 15 were members of the leadership of the association, such as, for example, the 82-year-old chairman of the association, Xhaferr Agaraj, Fatmir Lamaj, Bedri Blloshmi, Edmond Halimi, Haxhi Baxhinovski, Gjon Kola, Mëhill Gjini, etc. Xhaferri radiated and expressed a high cultural level. Excited for America, he said that; “We are very grateful to the outstanding American educator and writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, because he wrote about our National Hero, Gjergj Kastriot Skënderbeu, neatly translated by Fan Noli as: “King Ladislav roars/ Like Hell, like death waits/ Day of the Rushajevs/ And from the blood-red field/ Flee, fall before him/ Of Murat’s army/ To save the one who fell into the noose”.
A fellow villager, Mr. Besnik Hoxha, (who is very active in writing his memoirs on social networks), which I greatly appreciate since the real story is from ordinary people, who are so original with their pen; he remembers it with pain and nostalgia.
And this is how he writes: “Since I was a child, in our house in Arrëz te Madhe, I heard talk about Dervish Agaraj, or as we all called him Uncle Isha, about his three sons, about his wife, about his daughters. I could hear almost virtually, just from the conversations that took place and about his houses, which we called schools, but the village and especially our neighborhood, which were not even 50 meters away, we always called them: ‘Dervish’s houses’. I heard that Dervish, and I knew very well, that he had fled the village, since the beginning of the 1960s. Dervishi himself had property, several hectares of forest and land, in the North of Greece, together with his cousin, Sako Haider Agarajan, until the liberation of the country.
Then the borders were closed, Saku remained there in Veria, Saku’s children and wife remained in Arrëz. Whereas Dervish built the house that is still there today and lived there, until he fled to Laç, where his eldest son, Dylberi, worked as a manager. For the first time, I met the three brothers, Dylber, Xhaferri and Vero (Enver), in 1992, when the three of them came to our house together, calling from the main gate: ‘O Esat Latifi’. The father came out and recognized the three brothers and they didn’t wait any longer, but they jumped into each other’s arms, embracing each other with tearful eyes.
What emotions those old men were experiencing, after a meeting, for more than 30 years. They had grown up with each other, had left against their will and had gone through the ordeal of suffering and persecution. Longing for the village, you had burned them. They entered our room, sat down and couldn’t contain their joy. On the wall, there was a photo of the grandfather, they took it and kissed it, whispering: Hey Uncle Latif, uncle Latif, here we come again, to your house.
We can never forget you! Lunch was served and the first toast, it was for the grandfather, followed by Xhaferri’s endless stories, from his childhood, what he remembered, about everything, between Dervish and Latif, that had been together, for every good and bad, but also as a collaborator in the war. The song rang out, accompanied by brandy and they did not hold back from the joy.
They were finally free, to come to their village, to meet people without fear. They went up to Gurra, a mountain spring with cold water, with them and me. There at Gurra, they did not leave anyone without meeting, children, women, girls, elders. As soon as someone came out, they asked him who he was, and they let him meet them. Then they also met many of their peers, they also went to houses, for visits. This was a return after many years, to the place where the three sons of the good old man, Dervish, Uncle I, grew up.
Xhaferr Agaraj, in the memories of fellow villagers and Tepelenjots
Xhaferr Agararj was born in 1931, in Arrëz and distinguished himself as an excellent student. His father sent him to school at the University of Tirana, for Civil Engineering, and after graduating with high results, he started working as a civil engineer, where he was accused of “sabotaging works” by being imprisoned twice, but he stayed invincible, in the face of false accusations and witnesses, declaring that; “I worked for the construction and not the destruction of the country.”
After the fall of the communist regime, he showed his professional skills in the field of construction, becoming one of the best quality builders in all of Albania.
Teacher Bashkim Hazizi writes with pride that: “They were a noble family, with roots and soles. A few days ago, I was in the village and stayed above Uncle Dervish’s houses. What did you see, those houses that did not fall from the War, had become ruins?! We went to school in those houses and they reminded me of my friends from that time”!
While Dr. Agron Çibuku speaks with respect about the family of Dervish Agaraj and his wonderful children.
Mr. Myzafer Zeneli, says that: “The building shows the great heart and soul that those people who lived in that house had, respected the rest.” Yes, that building has also educated a lot of idiots”. Ms. Lida Çibuku Gjati, says that; “They were a noble family with wonderful people, I remember them with a lot of love, especially Xhaferri, one of the dearest people in my family, I will never forget him, neither me nor my mother, nor my sisters”
In the newspaper “Trebeshina”, Mr. Eqerem Osmani, director of the “Trebeshina” newspaper, remembered him with a tribute article, under the title “A year without Xhaferrin”, in honor and memory of Eng. Xhaferr Agaraj. Among other things, he writes: “Ing. Agaraj stood out among his friends, like at the University of Tirana, where he graduated with honors from the Faculty of Civil Engineering, and everywhere. He finished with top marks and was an innovative engineer and very good designer. He worked in Tepelena, Tropoja, Saranda, the Ministry of Construction and mostly, where there were national works. He had manly looks and also had an exemplary family, built with his noble wife, Angelus, where the son and daughter-in-law enjoyed. On the holy day of the teacher in Kombinat, he was awarded a gratitude award (posthumously) from the “Tafil Buzi” association, for his financial and ideas contributions.
The teacher and researcher Xhezo Cana writes that: “Xhafer Agaraj is a man of high culture and great democratic spirit. His father, Dervish Agaraj, was one of the most influential people who contributed to the liberation of the country, in the liberation war, 1942-1944”.
Engineer Petro Done, a well-known intellectual from Tepelena, claims that: “Whoever studied and worked with Xhafer Agaraj, during communism, knows him well! A learned man, smart and for the sake of these skills, he suffered a lot! Keep impressive memories, as far as I was able to stay with him! Unlimited respect!
Researching this article for Eng. Xhafer Agaraj, an erudite, innovative in ideas and works, humane in every field of life, former political prisoner, active activist and ardent patriot, I take the opportunity to propose to the Municipality of Tepelena, chaired by Mr. Earthquake Peçi, to appreciate him with the high title: “Honor of the city of Tepelena”, as well as to the President of the Republic of Albania, to appreciate him with the award that belongs to a patriot, as he really was until the end of his life, Eng. Xhaferr Agaraj./Memorie.al