By Shpend Topollaj
Memorie.al / Nushi, with a cup of coffee in front of me, was telling me: Today it is quite easy to go to Spaç of Mirdita. Riding in Rudolph’s luxurious, air-conditioned car, in those seats covered with expensive leather, the road with modern parameters is not felt at all. He sees rare beauties of nature and as the sweet sounds of Albano’s voice come to his ears, “Liberta…”, he feels a satisfaction in his soul. The satisfaction increases when you think that you are going as a free man. And again, the mind flies to that day when, with handcuffs in my hands, ten years old, beaten and cracked as if not worse in the narrowness of a van they called auto-prison, with his head loaded with the most confused thoughts, on which the policeman’s machine gun stood menacingly. You couldn’t turn left or right, or pull or stretch your legs.
So one of my legs became numb and became cartilage. Who could you complain to and who could help you out of that torture?! The hours, until we arrived at the prison yard, seemed like a century. I don’t know, I went down by myself, or someone hit me like a sack. All I know is that the terrible pain has already begun. At first, the numbness appeared to me like a fly – a fly, and then I could not touch my leg.
I wanted to scream, but out of shame I held back. When at last the blood began to circulate, and the condition almost passed, I was looking with curiosity at the mouth of hell, where I had been led after that strange trial. They had gathered us in the large hall of the Seaport, which also served as a cinema.
The secretary of the district Party Committee came and spoke, who, telling us that; the enemy works in forms from the most refined, throwing from a romuz here and there, or showing some jokes, as if without any bad intention, taught the words when he said that; there are such among your collective.
I was saying to myself, who will this code be, that we don’t know, when from behind, a stranger, after falling lightly on my shoulder, asked me: “You are Prenush Paloka”? He raised his voice: “In the name of the people, you are arrested”! I stopped and didn’t know how to react. Of course I was yellow, partly from fear and partly from shame, but I also saw that the sweat started to drain.
And the thought, like lightning, went to the woman who was waiting for me at home. I was physically strong and sporty, because I was also involved in mountaineering, but they grabbed me by the rags, as if I were a puppet, lifted me up and handcuffed me. They grabbed me by the arms, carried my weight, so much so that my feet did not touch the ground and straight to the Department of Internal Affairs. The investigator was waiting for me there with the typewriter in front of me.
After weighing me once with his eyes and starting to ask me those standard questions, not my name, not my surname, not my mother, not my father, he came out where he was expected: “You have been arrested on charges of agitation and propaganda against the People’s Power Party.” I saw that he himself had emotions, so I dared to ask him: “What can I, a piece of welder, due to the people’s power”?! “We know that, and you shut up, you will speak when I tell you, that these are also typed.”
Then I learned from him that I said about the Great Commander that he is a pederast. “But I’ve only seen it on TV, when it comes out for May 1, or the parade, how can I know this”?! “I know, I know, your mouth has licked, so let’s cut it short; accept the charge”? I had nothing to accept, except who the hell had reported me, if he had ever spoken to me with a friend.
The investigator did not misbehave with me even in the following days, until they took me to court, there in front of the collective, where more than punishment, I had a problem with discrediting. Two or three cuckoos came out, dressed not worse, who said something like that through their teeth, even though I had never talked to them. That job also disappeared and I was given eight years in prison, and the removal of the right to vote for five years, you say that without my vote, the Democratic Front would not have won.
And here, together with some others, they bumped into us here in Spaçi Prison. In prison, there is nothing worse than the first day. Thousands of questions torment you. A word of mouth for eight years, where even the sun only rose for two hours a day. Let’s see how winter should have been. In the meantime, a large man, also a prisoner, approaches me and with a northern dialect, he says: “How long have you been sentenced”! “Eight” – I say. “And what is eight, for an Albanian”?! “Why do they look so small”!
And you…”! “I am twenty-five”! “And how much have you done”? “Twenty-five and I have twenty-five more to do.” When I told this to Socrates Manes, from Durrës who had also been convicted before me, he said: “Don’t be surprised. Here you are sentenced to eight years, but you can be sentenced to another eight years, to make sixteen. This is how it works…”!
“But have we been condemned as enemies who are here? What do they expect from us, to love them, when even if you weren’t against them, here you will be against them, because you won’t do it”. And then the work began, there in the gallery. I don’t even know how I got out alive. The first day I made a wagon of ore, when the rate was eight. I didn’t get eight. But there were consequences of not realizing it. No one wanted to know that I was not used to such work and my hands were blistered, bleeding.
The policemen took me and killed me in a tree. At first they laid me upside down on a table, tied my open hands at my sides like Christ (forgive me, God!) and put a dirty, needy swab in my mouth. The next day, you don’t believe it; I made ten wagons. Not that there were no policemen who behaved like people, but most of them were cruel, animals in the truest sense of the word.
Where did they get all that hate for us?! We had done nothing to them, because we had never known them and they saw us as savages. Then the Albanian, the Albanians…! In prison you meet all kinds of people. One day, I was sitting at the foot of the wall as if to warm myself, with someone who had been sentenced for an escape attempt. Coincidentally, he had also performed his military service here.
As we looked up at the rows of barbed wire and the guards with their fingers on the trigger of their machine guns, ready to open fire, on the observation towers he told me that when he was a soldier, the commander would tell you during the briefing that you must immediately shoot, as the prisoners they are hypnotized, if they approach them. And those semi-illiterate deserters really believed that.
But what I will never forget was when they shot Vangjel Lezho and Fadil Kokomani and put their massacred photos on the walls, to terrify the rest of us. And one day the General Director of Prisons came. After we were lined up to that sloping square, where the appeal was made, and climbed somewhere higher, a speaker took to holding us.
He cursed as much as he could, who remembers him. But what stuck in my mind is what he said: “You should say thank you to the Party and Comrade Enver, for treating them with kindness and humanity, because if it were up to me, you know that I would do anything to them; I would crush everyone with tanks”.
However, at this very moment, one of the prisoners, from the seat, spoke: “With permission”? And without waiting for approval, he continued: “Do you know that whatever I would do to you, I would have it in my hand”? “And what are you going to do to us? Without eating…?! “I would let you live, so that you would understand how wrong the path you are following is.” That was enough and the police beat up Kastriot, that’s what I think they called him, that boy from Vlora.
We did not see him for two months; they had isolated him and left him with nothing to do. When we asked him, he told us that; he didn’t remember anything. He was silent and avoided people. But listen to me: there were plenty of brave men there, but my eyes have not seen the Volhonites.
Here, to remember these stories and many others, I told Rudolph to take me there. That often even myself, I don’t believe what I and my friends have removed there. I think it was just a dream. A dream so ludicrous that I wish no one would ever see it again. Memorie.al