By SKANDER ZOGU
Memorie.al / Qazim Preni, from Mati, served in the Royal Palace in Tirana. When Prince Leka was born on April 5, 1939, King Zog appointed him as a guardian for the protection of his son. Qazimi traveled with a Swiss governess, all the way in exile: Tirana – Greece – Istanbul – Sofia – Bucharest – Poland – Sweden – Paris. The mission given by the First Bird was for him to guard the Crown Prince. During the war in London, when the German bombings were carried out, the Royal family spent part of the day through the subway tunnels, with the entire population. Qazim risked his life and went to the hotel to get the milk for the Prince and the apartments, even though it was very dangerous.
One morning, when he entered the Prince’s room to get the food, a bomb exploded and the hotel’s lights went out, however, Qazim managed to escape and arrived at the security tunnel where the Prince had taken refuge. I met Qazim in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1947.
There, as a guardian, he continued to have the duty to protect the Prince. He was an honest, noble and brave man. When we went to the beach in Alexandria, near King Farouk’s Palace, and swam, Qazim, with binoculars, would check us and not let us leave.
When we went to school, he was always with the Prince, even during the school period, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., he stayed in the school’s flower garden, smoked cigarettes and read the Albanian newspapers that came to us from America. The Court’s driver, Mr. Ali Temali, came to pick up the Prince.
Once, when we went to Luna Park as children, we rode the Big Wheel. Qazim, when he saw that we were settled and the wheel began to move, took out the cobra and out of concern, forced the operator to stop the wheel. The children are in danger, he shouted, scaring her and got us down.
I had good relations with Qazim. I was older, but the Prince, with my sister, Vera, were making fun of each other, and Qazim said to me: Ore Bubi (the Queen Mother, Sadije Zagolli, gave me this name, which in German means little boy), please don’t let them climb the tree, because it is dangerous!
Thus, during the eight years we spent in Alexandria, Qazim was not only under the care of the Prince, but also gave us advice. He took part in the holidays, especially on November 28. It was arrogant, when together, we sang the song: “And the red and black flag will wave again in Kosovo and Cham”.
When we left Egypt in 1955 on a French ship, Mr. Shaqir Sula was in charge of taking the tickets. The Greek firm Phenos took the money for the Royal Family cabins and suites. They gave us only four cabins and there were no other seats except down there in the last classes. I was a student and the officers there would sleep with me.
Qazim refused, but found an armchair and stayed outside the Prince’s cabin with a blanket for 3 nights. We made him bread, we told him; come with us, but he did not accept, telling us that; I’m the Prince’s guard, I don’t move. We came to France, settled as a family in Cannes and each settled in their own rooms. Qazim, as soon as he found out that the communists of the Albanian Embassy in Paris, intended to kill King Zog, slept on the balcony with a gun in his hand.
He was determined to give his life for Prince Leka. “I am the son of the King, I have dedicated my life to the Prince and there is no way for the enemies to approach”, he said. In Cannes, various dignitaries came to meet the King, the Queen, the Royal Family, and Qazimi controlled them with care and courtesy.
There he taught Prince Leka how to shoot with a rifle and a rifle. We were invited to take part in a competition: “The Knights of Antibes”, with other members of the Royal Families, from Egypt, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, Italy and the French Counts and Dukes.
Qazimi represented the Albanians, with Prince Leka, and won by coming out first and Prince third. In Paris, the King, Queen, Princesses and suite were stabilized in January 1961, but unfortunately, the King was hospitalized. At that time, Qazim accompanied the Prince to the Sorbonne, where he continued his studies in Political and Economic Sciences, and spent the night in the hospital where the King was staying.
When the King, Bird I, died, Qazim was in the first line of the funeral as the guard, with the officers; Muharrem Gjoka, Ali Çupi, Bajram Neli, Jusuf Begeja and Sefedin Çollaku, for 3 days and 3 nights, holding the red and black flag. The Prince, Toti (Kryeziu), Salih Doshishti and the King’s nephews, we stood in turn, during these difficult days, before the burial.
Until January 1979, King Leka I stayed in Madrid. When he left for Rohdezi (Zimbabwe), Qazim said to him: “I will stay in this Palace of yours and I will not leave it to anyone, give me this duty”. The king accepted him and said: “Take care of the Queen Mother, who is staying here.”
After some time living alone in the villa in Pozuela (military base) he fell ill and passed away, with the photograph of King Leka in his hand. The Queen Mother and commander Hylle Spahija, who visited him 3 times a year (coming from Paris), took care of his burial, in a flower garden of the Moroccan mosque.
His memory is in our hearts and we honor him even today. During the exile of King Zog I and his family, there was a group of officers who dedicated their lives not only to the service of the King, but also to the national cause. These loyal and patriotic officers, who left their Motherland and their families, with great piety, were an example that amazed many foreigners, who visited the Royal Family in England, Egypt and France.
In Turkey, the high-ranking officers who stood next to the King were: Colonel Hysen Selmani, Colonel Shefki Shatku and Major Allaman Çupi; other officers; Zejnel Shehu, Halil Sufa Branica, Ali Çupi, Bajram Neli, Muharrem Gjoka, Adem Shehu, Faik Elmazi, Halil Driçe and Qazim Preni.
After the murder of the girl in Istanbul, Colonel Selmani, in 1946, went to the Royal Family in Egypt. In Turkey, the officers who lived there, continued the national activity against the fascist occupiers and with the Albanian emigrants, formed a forum, under the chairmanship of the diplomat Asaf Xhaxhuli, who was in charge of the work of the Royal Legation in Turkey, which remained open until in 1950. When he came to the head of Turkey, as President, Adnan Menderesi, the Turkish government closed the Legation and Turkey recognized the Albanian communist regime.
Here it is interesting to mention the memory of His Excellency, Asaf Xhaxhuli, who was a close friend of Mustafa Qemal Ataturk. When Ahmet Zogu was proclaimed King, Ataturk was worried, as he was an ardent republican, and thus coldness was created in the relations between the two heads of state.
Asaf Xhaxhuli continued his meetings with Ataturk and filled his mind with great patience. Atatürk’s question was; why the Monarchy and not the Republic for Albania, Asaf told him: “The title is not the King of Albania, but the King of the Albanians” and the King’s goal was to unite our territories, such as: Kosovo, Chameria, a part of Skopje and Presheva.
When he understood the details of Ahmet Zog’s intention, Ataturk officially recognized the Albanian Monarchy and wished success to King Zog. Captain Jusuf Begeja, Captain Sefedin Çollaku and Captain Hajreddin Halluli came to France to serve the King. When the Royal Family left for England, Jusuf Begeja and Sefedin Çollaku joined the forces of France, the others continued with the King. In 1946, the King and his family came to Egypt, where King Farouk welcomed them with great friendship.
Nana, Mrs. Hurijet Allaj, and I came to Egypt in October 1947 and during my 8-year stay there, I had the pleasure of getting to know the family’s Royal Guard officers. In addition to two senior diplomats, as Mr. Sotir Martini and Kemal Bey Messarea, the adjutant of the King, Colonel Selmani, often came to visit us and gave us the news he received from Albania. Bajram Neli, had the task of internal organization, connections with the security services and performed this task very carefully. Zejnel Shehu was a very careful person.
He had learned English and French and performed his duty with high conscience. He and Halil Branica volunteered in Albania, against the communist regime, and gave their lives for the country, the nation and the King. In many cases, we honor these two martyrs, together with thousands of Albanian martyrs.
Muharrem Gjoka, the guardian of Tat (Esat Kryeziu), the King’s nephew, was the first guard. He wrote his memoirs at the end of his exile in England, where he died. Adem Shehu, Zeneli’s cousin, was in our care, of the children and waiting for the guests. He passed away in America.
Ali Çupi, a very kind and devout person, asked me to read the news from the newspaper that came to the Palace in French and spoke to us nostalgically about his village in Mat. We used to call Ali; Ali Baba, died in Paris, we mourned him. When in July 1955, we left Egypt for France, with the Royal Family; the officers came with the French ship “Marechal Joffre”, where we landed in Marseille.
A little while later, the King was stabilized in Cannes, while Jusuf Begeja, with Sefedi Çollak, welcomed us with pleasure. Zejnel Çami, a soldier, also served us in Paris. He cooked for the family, was Cham and had suffered in a prison camp in Albania. Likewise, Captain Hakik Elmazi also stood next to the King. These two patriots died in Paris. In January 1961, King Zog and his family came to Paris as the King’s health deteriorated.
The king was placed in the ‘Foche’ hospital. The Guard, led by Colonel Selmani, stayed at the hospital, in their duty of guarding the King, until the last minute. A red and black flag was placed in the great hall. I went to the hospital on April 9. As soon as we entered the room where the King was, he breathed his last and passed away.
The large hall of the hospital was put at our disposal. The officers stood in guard of honor around the body of King Zog I for three days and three nights. Hundreds of Albanians came with tears in their eyes and bowed before his body. I organized the funeral ceremony and the officers helped me. Memorie.al