By Hysen Selmani
Memorie.al/ European and American press have often addressed the subject of the memories of the Albanian King, Zogu i-r, which he wrote and dictated during his exile from Albania. Considering the notes and syntheses that his assistant, Colonel Hysen Selmani, compiled over the years in his service, – always, next to the King of the Albanians, both at home and in exile, these notes, more or less with parts of detached, without strictly following the usual criteria of memoirs, and without having the definite, final form of an edition, they are prepared by Hysen Selmani himself, who has dedicated most of his life, as in Albania, as well as during the exile, serving the First Bird, the King of the Albanians.
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The king laughed and said to me: “tell us to bring us coffee, it’s 1 after midnight. I went out and ordered coffee, and at this time, the prime minister also arrived. I went upstairs to see the Queen, where all the doctors were there and princesses. I asked about the Queen, and they told me that she is trying very hard. She is quite sick, I asked Dr. Mokini?! He told me that no, she is not sick, but of course she is in pain, that the baby is coming. That is nothing else, but we gave him medication and he doesn’t feel anything.
Is it fast, I told him?! Yes, he told me, not even 10 hours have passed and apparently, hopefully is a boy. It seems so, the doctor told me with a laugh. I went downstairs and when I entered, the King asked me: “Where were you, get the coffee”. Prime Minister Kota shook my hand and, laughing, I answered the King that I was here.
There the conversations started, and I wanted the King to fall down and sleep a little. This is because he had been without food and sleep for two weeks, day and night. He was so tired that all the work depended on him. We were also shot by this birth of gratitude, and here Mussolini’s manhood was proved, that even in the 15th century, barbarism was not done in this way.
I begged the King, saying: “Tomorrow morning you have Hugh Grant and go and sleep a little, because here we are with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and we will talk at length about everything. “No – he told me – my colonel, because I have no sleep”. The salons were full, waiting for an heir from the Queen. While the people shouted in the streets, they sang national songs.
Colonel Ali Riza Topalli is looking for me on the phone, from Vlora. He informs me that he has given all the orders, but the National Defense Command has not given any order to the Vlora Garrison, as far as food is concerned. “I asked the Command on the phone, but they did not answer me. And I gave them two numbers. I have not received an answer, until now. This behavior of the Command puts me in doubt because the personnel of the Command are not safe. Apparently, they are are asleep and don’t want an activity to be implemented. Also, there is talk about the Command headquarters and the Prefect of Durrës, Mark Kodheli. Be careful, since they are connected to Meloni, the Italian Consul, it is very dangerous “.
“Until now, said Ali Rizaja, I have Captain Dod Nikolla here, with a company of the Border Guard, with 40 gendarmes, as well as the Liaison platoon, and nothing else. I ordered the Border Battalion in Korçë of Instruction, under the command of Captain Rexhep Radomirës, to come to Gryka e Këlcyra. Also, I ordered Major Gjek Marashi, with the Gendarmerie Battalion in Gjirokastër, to be ready at any hour, to go where the place will be assigned to him. Captain, Haxhi Gilagolli, with two companies of the Border Guard, is in Jorgucat. I have ordered him to be ready to support Saranda. In Saranda, there is a platoon of the Border Guard, with 20 gendarmes, under the command of lieutenant Taifur Dibres and likewise, in Himare and Kuç.
As for the Kreshniks, of Vlora Prefecture, I still haven’t arranged anything. All the weapons, I have them here at the command. Major, Bilal Nivica, has gone to Kurvelesh and has not yet returned and has not informed me when he will come. Here the propaganda is very widespread among the people and it is said that; warships are gathering in Sazan, and are expected to unload in Vlora. And for now, I am alone with Captain Dod Nikolla and a company of the Border Guard.
Mr. Colonel, I am old in these matters and I am not mistaken. The National Defense Command is very complicated by the Italians, be careful that a part of the Command’s staff is closely connected with the Italians and that they have worked for this day. Not just the Giro, but everyone. Don’t expect the Command to implement what was ordered because, when I was in Tirana, I looked at them upset, when I told you something that was not communicated to you, they told me that; we will call you.
These are the truths until today, please intervene with the Defense Command, to complete the instructions they gave me, both for the troops and for the food,” concluded Ali Rizai.
When I returned to the Palace, the King called me. He was with Koço Kota and Ekrem Libohova. He told me what I had. Nothing, I told him. But he saw that I was upset and got up saying; come on We went to the end of the office, where I told him what Colonel Ali Rizaja told me. Yes, I was not impressed with the Command, as it was that the weapons have not yet been distributed in Vlora, and so on. I found out, said the King, and we went and sat down, where the prime minister and the foreign minister were.
After that, I got up and went to the National Defense Command. It was 2 past midnight. I was calling Colonel Xhemal Aranitas to come to the Command. The king said to me; colonel, where are you going?! I told him I was going to see General Aranitas. “Very well, remember to call Musa Juka and Shefki Shatku and explain to everyone, openly. I also want that within this night, there will be a confirmed answer from all three”, said the King.
The king told Koço Kota and Ekrem Libohova what the situation was in Vlora, according to Colonel Ali Riza. After this, the King said: “Colonel, it is necessary that where there are doubts, suspicious personnel should be removed.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” I told him, “it’s a little late, but we will do everything possible to fix this situation.” The Prime Minister stood up and said to the King: “Allow me, Your Majesty, the colonel is right, because as it turns out, time does not promise a change. But, in any case, better late than never, for this, and I have understood in time”. “You are right, Mr. Prime Minister, but all the blame lies with the colonel, since three months ago, if we were today, we would have had a small army, but like a golden napoleon in hand, but no, now this is it. ” Yes, my colonel, – said the King, he gathered the three together and explained and insisted, how the truth lies, not in secret words, one like this and the other like that, but manfully, in each other’s eyes, and not remember that they will escape responsibility”.
With these words, I took leave and went to the Command. General Xhemal Aranitasi met me there, and after we greeted each other, I told him what Colonel Ali Rizaja told me. Then, I told him many other words. For this, it would be good if Musa Juka and Shefki Shatku were there, and we will talk, about everything openly, that the King is definitely looking for tonight, all that exist.” I called them; they don’t come”. Then I picked up the phone, called Minister Juka, and he told me that within 10 minutes, I’ll be there.
Minister Musa Juka came immediately, as did commander Shefki Shatku. I immediately pointed out the three of you, above all what Colonel Ali Rizaja told me, as well as that of Stamati and the Prefect of Durrës, Mark Kodheli, and I told you manfully, openly, that; now we need an exact answer, which the King is looking for from you, the three of you together, confirmed, because time does not wait. I said these words in a very serious tone. These three were shocked to remember that I am forming the curfew. But time did not allow, because I had done it according to the King’s orders. But I told you, – no no – in wisdom and without fear, the truth should come out, that it should be according to the King’s orders.
Tirana, on April 5, 1939
On April 5, at 5 o’clock in the morning, Prici, the Heir of Albania, was born. As soon as the news was given to the people that a “Son Heir of Albania” was born, all the anti-Italian demonstrations that continued everywhere, immediately turned into an indescribable roar of joy, showing sympathy for the Royal Family, and shouting: “Long live the King, Long live the Crown Prince, Long live our beloved Queen” and from the great joy, they lost the anti-Italian character they had.
At this time, from the great satisfaction that was felt, and that they saw an Heir in their lineage, after 500 years, an indescribable enthusiasm erupted in the hearts of all Albanians. This joyful news immediately spread to all parts of Albania. So, the celebrations started immediately everywhere. The people of the capital, full of joy, the boys’ and girls’ schools, the general public and the army that was in the capital, began preparations to parade in front of the Palace, gathered and surrounded on the boulevards around the Palace, singing national songs and dancing national.
At 8 o’clock in the morning, Prime Minister Koço Kota arrives with the entire government and also the Speaker of the Parliament, Pandeli Evangjeli, with a delegation, to present happy birthday wishes to the Heir of the Nation. All dressed in large uniforms. Meanwhile, the Queen is very ill from an infection.
At 10 o’clock in the morning, they started firing cannons, 101 times and exactly at that time, the parades started in front of the Royal Palace, inside the flower gardens, lined up, schools, the people dressed in national costume, the army, and the bands playing the national anthem Royal Flag. King Zog, together with the government and the Parliament, had gone to the flower garden and the King was thanking all the paraders.
From all the Prefectures, people’s delegations had begun to come to the capital, to show the cheerful congratulations, that God brought the generous people an Heir, after 500 years. Everyone was dressed in national costumes. Right at the time when the boys’ and girls’ schools were passing in front of their King, singing in the parade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekrem Libohova, came quickly with a letter in his hand and presented it to King Zog. It was the Mussolini ultimatum.
At this time, the minister of Italy, Jacomoni, dressed in a large uniform, came to present his congratulations to King Zog. When he was shaking his hand, Zogu said: “Thank you, Minister, for the beautiful and friendly congratulations that you are presenting to me, because this is how you become an ally.” After giving him his hand, blushing, Jacomon turned and ran away. This was the ally and friend, and the man full of false promises and guarantees, of Mussolini. Apparently, now our neighboring countries, who did not believe it, would understand.
Tirana, on April 5, 1939
On this date, at 11 o’clock in the morning, when all the Albanian people were passing by congratulating and honoring their King, Albania’s ally and friend, Fascist Italy, gave the threatening ultimatum. In the meantime, the Army and the Battle Fleet launched against Albania. These were Mussolini’s friendly wishes to his allies, with thousands of promises and guarantees!
The first bird, the King of the Albanians, immediately received Prime Minister Kotta with the Government and the Speaker of the Parliament with the parliamentary delegation. And as he thanked the people, he entered the Council Hall with them. After studying the ultimatum, it was decided:
The Albanian Royal Government, assembled under the chairmanship of the sovereign, with the Speaker of the Parliament, with a parliamentary representation, decided not to accept the requested conditions in the copy of the treaty, since the conditions in question destroyed the integrity and the sovereignty of the Albanian State. So, he was rejected and answered you immediately. And in the case of the landing of Italian troops, on Albanian soil, this will be called violence against sovereignty and will be opposed with weapons. In this way, he gave you the answer to the verbal ultimatum of Minister Jakomoni.
Inside the Council, King Zog called the commander of the National Defense, general Xhemal Aranitas, the commander of the Gendarmerie, Colonel Shefki Shatku, the head of the General Staff, general Myrdash, the deputy head of the General Staff, lieutenant colonel Sami Koka, and ordered them to stop any parade or celebration But immediately, the Army should be put on its bases for war, and be ready to perform the sacred duty that belongs to you for the Motherland and said: “May God help you, and honor the Albanian Nation” and rose to legs, shaking your hand and added that he had full faith in their manly activity.
The commanders honored the King and went out together. At this time, every preparation for the celebration turned into a completely warlike appearance. But alas, without fruit, because they had nothing but the chest to take the Duce forward, without weapons, without means, without support. The Ministerial Council, united with the Parliament, continued the talks, under the chairmanship of the King, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ekrem Libohova, was ordered to immediately inform all foreign legations and the League of Nations, and later, about sent protests against Italy, for the actions it is developing, against small Albania, a member of the League of Nations.
At this time, King Zog ordered me and the Minister of the Interior, Musa Juka, to go to the National Defense Command and the Gendarmerie Command, and see if the actions have been completed, and how far they have reached, quickly the first lines are set up in Vlora, Durrës, Shengjin, and Saranda. They must, for this whole night, put themselves on the defensive. Then, you should go to the Ministry of the Interior and inform the Prefects.
Galeazzo Çiano, Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, in his diary, shows the details of the organization of the invasion of Albania, on April 7, 1939, where it is stated that; should benefit from the birth of the child. Mussolini, this time with these works, passed his compatriot Machiavelli, violating every moral principle and human feelings, in betrayal of his small ally, Albania. “The leaders of fascism, as Ciano says, did not know King Zog well enough to sacrifice his homeland for the sake of his family. No, King Zog had his homeland above all else, because his family was equal to the family of the Albanian people, both in joys and sorrows”.
Çiano, says in his diary, that: “The Yugoslav Prime Minister agreed to the dismemberment of Albania, of course by giving some Albanian parts”. After Mussolini and Ciano were assured, they started preparing for the invasion of Albania. Their goals were to provoke riots in Albania, to paralyze any resistance. But King Zog realized his manly treasonous behavior and gave orders to ensure the peace of the country. On the day that Crown Prince Leka was born, on April 5, King Zog delivered Mussolini’s ultimatum, as noted above. The King immediately gave Koço Kotta to the Prime Minister to present to the Parliament, and he himself saluted the people who passed in front of the Palace’s flower garden.
The Parliament, together with the Government, studied it, but the Italian demands were unacceptable with the sovereignty of the state and were unanimously overthrown, and both of those institutions did not accept any threat, even with war, and the Mussolini ultimatum was rejected. At this time, the dedication was given: “Homeland in danger”, all that cheerful demonstration turned against Italy. Both the people and the high officials had gathered in the Town Hall Square, giving speeches to mark the importance of this day, the birth of the Crown Prince Leka, and the crowd poured out to ask for weapons, to die for the Motherland, being gathered in the flower garden of the Palace, they were looking for King Zog. The king came out with a smile and said: “My sons, we are trying to resolve this incident through diplomatic means, but I assure you that neither Albania nor the Albanians will be tarnished by nobody”.
On April 6, 1939, with impudence, Mussolini sent airplane teams everywhere, over the sky of Albania, dropping threatening tracts and, on the other hand, he sent non-stop telegrams of promises and friendship, and Ciano himself assured the foreign embassies in Rome that we have nothing against Albania, when the Italian organizers were still in Albania. These were the fascist friends. Memorie.al
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