By Bedri Çoku
Memorie.al publishes the unknown testimonies of Bedri Çoku, originally from the village of Muçias in the district of Lushnja, who at the age of 19, while performing compulsory military service in the district of Gjirokastra, was arrested by two senior State Security officers and after a public “unmasking” trial with accusations mounted in the cinema of that city, he was convicted for agitation and propaganda together with his brother, Çaushi, for the only “fault” that their father had suffered several years as a prisoner in the forced labor camps from where he was released in 1959. The rare testimonies of Bedri Çoku who spent 24 years in the prisons of Spaç, Burrel and Qafë Barit and together with his two brothers, Esat and Çaushi and their father, Azemi, suffered 64 years in prison in the camps and prisons of the communist regime of Enver Hoxha, being released only in February 1991. Memories of Bedri Çoku masterfully described in his book “The uprising that shook the dictatorship”, which where is mainly added to the Spaç Revolt in May 1973, where he, as one of its main organizers, sheds light for the first time by making public some unknown events and facts from that revolt where the flag was raised without the red star of communism, and until his work as General Director of Camps and Prisons after the ’90s, where he “arrested” his close friend, the accomplice of the dictatorship camps and prisons and sent him to the cells of’ Prison 313 ‘. Tirana, where most of the former Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ALP headed by Ramiz Alia and Nexhmije Hoxha were serving their sentences.
The uprising that shook the dictatorship
(Based on a true story)
“To raise the flag, without the communist star, I expressed the opinion that, unable to find a red sheet, we would break our hands and, with our blood, paint the white cloth…! The first to cut his hand with a knife was my brother, Çaushi, the second Gëzim Medolli, Bedri Çoku, Gjet Kadeli, Ulsi Pashollari, and others… ”
We very much hoped for European Security and Cooperation which was being carried out at a dizzying speed under the special care of the United States of America. Rightly all mankind was eagerly awaiting the great historical moment. Signing for the Understanding of the Peoples of Europe, Western Democratic States and Eastern Communist States, which were still suffering from dictatorial regimes, to bring together a new order of peace and cooperation in the world. We hoped that Albania on this occasion as well. She would sign in Helsinki this Act for the Fates of Humanity, as a representative of this International Political Organization. We were convinced that our country, although incomparable with the countries of the East, willingly or unwillingly, would join the Treaty of Peace and Cooperation with Europe (OSCE).
Continued from the previous issue
How did I “arrest” my prison friend, Luan Burim…?!
– Where does it come from that I can orient myself somehow? – I told.
– From the printing house “Naim Frashëri”, he returned it to me as if with pride.
– Ah, it’s you! How dare you pick me up today, on the phone? Did you forget that you cheated on me a year ago and have not yet apologized?
It was Daut Gumeni, the director of the only printing house in Albania.
– E, mo ‘… forgotten past…! We discuss this conversation next time. I took you for another job…! Here, in my office, is one of the accomplices…! An ex-friend of yours…! A legend of Spaç revolt. A man very dear to you…!
– Oh! – I cried out in astonishment and shock. Not without purpose he mentioned the word “Laçko”, a word that Luke had in his mouth, whenever he addressed the people he wanted and respected. The colonists have the word “Laçko” abbreviated to “brother”, with pet…!
– Lukia, Lukiaaa…., In your office?!
– Will you talk to him?
– No no! Please, do not say anything…! I’m coming there myself. For ten minutes…!
– Come on, you also have a four-wheeled car! We are waiting.
I informed the guard officer to immediately prepare one of the bus drivers, with three or four escort police…!
– And send me to the office right away, cops! – I ordered it. Luke was called “Laçko” in prison, because every time he did honor, or gave advice, he said: “You have Laçko here…”, or… “Listen to Laçko for this…”!
“Listen here,” I told the large, agile policemen. We will go to the Publishing House “Naim Frashëri”, to “arrest” a dangerous person. It is a bit strong and prepared, as it is effective with the Rapid Intervention Forces in Germany “. – I broke it. “You are four strong. You will defeat him in the blink of an eye. “But please, without hurting him, he is one of my dearest friends, suffering in the prisons of the communist dictatorship.”
– Good that you told us, boss, that we prepared to tear it with our hands…!
Not without purpose we went with sirens and lights on, until the auto prison and my car were parked near the three-story building. We climbed the stairs with one breath to the second floor. The cops, two in front, two behind, escorted me down the long corridor. Suddenly, someone moved quickly and disappeared at the entrance in front of the director’s door. From the walk, I noticed that it was Luke. My heart pounded, but the desire to “punish” him in some way increased. I ordered the police to pick up the man who entered the office in front of the director’s office…!
Lucia later told me that he was hiding because he wanted to surprise me when I was looking for him in the director’s office. He himself, the director, had told him to hide after hearing the car sirens. He came out into the corridor shocked and surprised when he found himself at my feet shaken by the powerful hands of the cops. I could not believe my eyes. I was his close friend, of years in communist hell, or some other ruler, misunderstood for his arrest…!
– Are you, Luan Burimi? I asked him with a heavy and serious look. Dressed in a cream-colored, cream-colored suit, Lucia looked younger in age. He opened and closed his eyes, bringing his head close to my face.
– What about you, are you Bedri Çoku, my friend… my friend?!
– I do not give an account to people like you, with criminal records. You are under arrest and must come with us…! He made me laugh ostensibly about the game on my part, but the powerful arms lifted him up and took him away.
-Or, you are on your own, aren’t you? … You have confused the address…! It’s not me, you’s looking…! I live in Germany…! I was a political prisoner…!
Going down the stairs, the cops carried in the air the weight of his slender, tall body, so much so that the tops of that body, in flight, could barely touch the stairs. Every time he passed the stair break, he turned his head away from me with pursed lips. He was so upset that I did not recognize him and the policemen were pulling him down the stairs…! He made me laugh as I watched him stand in the air. But I overcame it by talking to the police not to have mercy on a man who has betrayed his fellow prisoners, who did not know how to keep his word and disappears from his place, like a criminal…!
“If it is you, Bedri Çoku, whom I have known, where men are known,” he said aloud, “knows that you are doing something wrong and you will regret it.” If you are another person, let the cannon fire! Enver Hoxha ate me with his greyhounds, not me…!
– We will see him when you are once again in the dungeon of ‘Prison 313’…!
I was convinced that he was not completely sure that it was me, Bedri Çoku. He was right. Dressed in fashion suit and collar, ten years younger than him. Under normal conditions, healthy, with the appearance of a senior clerk and grown hair…! Unlike in prison, wasted, always wearing a uniform, beheaded, after so many years, everyone would change. Luke had also changed. Shaved and dressed like a European citizen, slightly bent, I only knew him by walking. In the corridor I noticed that the brothers of spiritual suffering were still on his face.
We took him straight to the high security prison, where the leaders of the communist dictatorship were in detention, including Ramiz Alia, former first secretary of the Central Committee, after the death of Enver Hoxha and Nexhmie Hoxha, the dictator’s widow, the General Prosecutor. of the dictatorship, as well as some of the bureaucrats of the Central Committee…!
I ordered the police to take him to the office of the director of Prison 313 and wait until I was widowed. I had a hard time sticking to the idea, which came to me on the way to the “Printing House”, regarding the surprise I would give him. Because it seemed to me that I was overdoing it for my way of behaving, until I brought it here, I could hardly bear to hug it now that I was so close, and alive gj!
However, the guards told me that he was sitting in a chair and smoking. He lit and extinguished his cigarettes, anxious and anxiously waiting. I counted the steps to near the office door where he was. Then I counted the seconds until I decided to enter the principal’s office. I did not even understand why I kicked the door to open it with a rattle.
Instinctively I imitated the former dictatorship investigators. He stood up bravely, seeing the powerful cops lined up on both my arms.
– You controlled this man well, didn’t you? – I asked ostensibly nervous – He is one of the political prisoners who jumped nine meters in the air and took the machine gun from the bodyguards in the siege…!
– How well did you know me, Mr. Commander of Prisons…!
– Do not offend me that he pays dearly, then…!
– I’m not offending you. I’m telling the truth. Only a political prisoner in the dictatorship knows these tales of that time by heart. Fortunately, today I am in power, with guards, to arrest and torture my accomplices…! Shame on you, if you are Bedri Çoku I once knew…!
– Shame on you, if you are Luke, the one who had made a trust with your best friend. Ike from Albania as a believer. And you did not have enough money in your pocket to make a phone call or a telegram…! Leave the bullshit and take what you have out of your pockets!
– You are right. It was my fault again that I came to Albania to meet my friends. To publish poems created with blood and tears in the stinking galleries and between the thick walls of Burrell Prison…! But I wasted not only the suffering, but also what we did for 25 years. We were told that true democracy had won. Oh, beautiful democracy … iii! And he shrugged, disappointed.
– Take out all your personal belongings and keep a record, to get it regular when he is released from prison!
– I will put you in prison! Because you terrorized me, a citizen of the German Republic…! We will see!
– Citizen of the German Republic, he has become a… today, just like you. Great patriot, who left your country for your personal interests…!
– Posi, I would stay here, with you communists, to become democrats overnight. See what a Democrat you are! Surely, you have been a party secretary, or Branch President. Otherwise you would not have been so happy about my re-incarceration…!
– Definitely, because the prison for traitors is…! Take them and transfer them to the dungeons where we hold the detainees. I want to close this traitor with my own hands, because he came from Germany to overthrow our democratic state…!
– Ha, ha, ha…! Do you have a democratic state, you? To imprison innocent people like my job…!
– Exactly, that’s why I arrested you, to show…, who are those innocent, like your work that we arrest. But go where you need to go once!
The police took him angrily and he walked looking at me, repentant and ready to cry…!
I found it where I ordered the cops. The inner guard stood by the door with the dungeon keys in his hands.
– Open it! – I ordered.
The heavy door slammed…! Inside the dungeon stood an old man, white, stripped in the face and with eyes glaring with rage. He was looking at us with suspicion and curiosity. I said to Luke:
– Do you know this man, O Prometheus of the communist prisons?
– Why should he know her? Surely a traitor as my job should be?
– This is Ramiz Alia, the second dictator of Albania, the successor of Enver Hoxha…! Luke raised his eyes and could not speak in surprise. For a moment it became as if it were made of marble…!
– Ramizzz Aaaliiaaa…! -cried.
– Enver Hoxha and he, slaughtered your father, tore him to pieces, just because he was a nationalist and wanted Kosovo and Chameria. They also drowned your mother in the Narta swamp, left her a coward when they imprisoned you and took away your wife and children. Ask the dictator, does this man deserve to be in prison and you to live free, in your country?
Surely, Luke was experiencing extraordinary moments, in the face of the dictator, exactly where he himself had suffered for decades. In his flushed eyes, the black babies magnified. He turned to me: – Yes, yes! You are Bedri Çoku my friend…, my unforgettable friend! Oh, what a gift you have given me, O true God! What is happening to me is only your will!
Returned by Ramiz Alia.
– Please, come because I want to see you in the light, O Emperor of the Twentieth Century! O world leader! Come come! I want to touch you with my hand…! How I dreamed of being so close to you, of chasing you with these hands that have been thinned by German handcuffs. Man, it seems to me, of meatyyyy! From You are a bone! Yes, yes, that’s right you can now become known as a Lord of the Rings! I saw the black page that I believed in god! O god who is looking down from heaven! Make halal the insults that I have given him every time I put the knife in my heart, with the hands of this Albanian emperor…!
He turned to the policeman and asked: -Does this man go to the bathroom, policeman? Is it fed like us? Do you eat beans, rice and pasta with worms, as we ate them? Long live me, you cop! My wishes that you told me such a big secret…! Yes, yes, just like us ka!
He came back from Ramiz: – Did you have a mother, did you take Ramiz Alia? Yes baby? Yes baby, did you leave it behind? Where are they? Have the current government deported you? To hurt the children now that their father is in prison…? Do your children have to raise? What about sleeping where the deserts lie? Are you small or adult? Pity, they are innocent. What is their fault because their father is a criminal, he has killed and imprisoned people, he has hung them on a rope because they wrote poems or stories against popular power? Or have they put them in a goat hut, to suffer from hunger and cold, like the sons of a kulak…! Excuse me…, of a dictator who has ruled over his countrymen? What if they were taken to Spaç prison, or Qafë e Barit, where they are forced to work in the mine, just for a piece of bread and bread cooked with margarine, just because their father has a “Bad Biography” ”
Now that you are here, do you think of Luke, Bedri and hundreds of thousands like us, who were imprisoned, interned and left their children without a father, without a mother? How many times have you stated in the meetings of the political bureau, before “falling off the horse”, in order not to let the enemies take power and their children, to possibly remove them from Albania as much as possible; when you said: “Forty years in a row we have killed and imprisoned your fathers.”
You ruled for half a century and destroyed three generations of noble and patriotic families of Albania. Rob the owners and exterminate the best, educated intellectuals in western countries. You killed the core of the nation, which had made the history of our race through the centuries, preserving with many sacrifices the honor and tradition of the people from whom we had come. Why did you betray this people so viciously? Who taught you that being against the Albanians and Albania, you could rule over this people for a long time?
Why did you invent the “Class War”, condemning Albanians from the womb? Who served that accursed war that divided Albanians into “good” and “bad”? Why did you embrace class division and hatred so much? Invent the proletarian class, when 70% of Albanians lived in the countryside. With a handful of workers you justify your power and your ominous goals…!
– Please, Mr. Director…!
– Do not beg the director, because he and I told you these things even when we were surrounded by thorns and muzzles of cannons and machine guns…! I was surprised to learn that you, and your friends, have been accused of drinking bulk coffee. As for my friends, we have no opportunity to read the real indictment to them.
Gentlemen in power, those who have the decision-making, have been neither in prison nor in exile…! They do not know that you drink most of your coffee out of pleasure, but also out of bitterness. You drank it out of pleasure every time you caused bloodshed with your political opponents and you drank it out of grief, every time the master of bloody power rebuked you for poor vigilance in the class struggle…!
– Mr. Director, it is not fair…!
-Why did you fall so low, O Emperor, that you ruled Albania for five decades ?! How did you agree to come to these stinking dungeons, where a simple prison policeman orders you, when you sit down and stand up, how many times you like him… !!? You, who terrified the children in the wombs of mothers, to be covered with flowers and laurels by the hungry people, frightened and terrorized by the class war…!
Better to have died at least, as long as you lived powerful and tyrannical. Neither I, your eternal opponent, would be so happy to see you in these stinking dungeons, where hundreds of thousands of Albanian boys and girls, from the best of the nation, were left to suffer in these conditions why they , unlike you, they wanted the freedom of the Albanians, the democracy and the progress of Albania. God willing, I met you today and told you these things, that I would be held hostage in my heart. God did what I could never do…! Thank you, my God, I took the spirit that now, if one day I become like this, the communist emperor, to take revenge on the children and parents of my political opponents!
He turned to me, hugged me and said: – If you wanted, my friend, Director of Prisons of Albania, to imprison me, to release me, from now on I will be happy, not that I met you and the Emperor – dictator of my people, but, I finally believed, the existence of a Major Power in the universe, which keeps its eyes on humanity…!
– Do you want to go? I asked her
– Please do not spoil the taste of happiness I experienced!
– I want to show the “Black Panther”, as you called it in your poems, which ate its own servants.
– She is here too…?! Let alone honest men do not deal with women prisoners. Let the “Panther” rest and enjoy the cauldron soup that she forcibly gave to her ideal friends. In this world repays all…, all. Wait, I almost forgot…! I want to close the dictator with my hand! Then I passed him from dungeon to dungeon, deliberately, so that he could see from the counter the bureaucrats, Simon Stefani, Muho Asllani, Besnik Bekteshi, Hekuran Isain and…! He did not want to see others. He stood for a few moments without speaking with his lips pursed, shook his head and said:
– Terrible! Who killed us and imprisoned us. These slanderous idiots! You are terrified when you see them today covered with blankets like miserable. Reptile people, without personality. We were completely different. Proud of these! Bobo, what people have ruled Albania! As we passed the last dungeon, I said:
– Are you curious to see the former chief prosecutor of the dictatorship?
– This, yes. I’m really curious! The policeman opened the door and Luke came in as the master of the house.
– Who are you, you ugly old man?
– Aranit Çela, sir. Who are you?
– Luke Burimi, son of Qemal Burimi. A quarter of a century of political prisoner, your opponent. Why are you in prison?
– For nothing…! Those who have imprisoned me know…!
– Were you imprisoned for the crimes you committed?
– I did not commit any crimes. I have correctly implemented the laws of the state. The constitution of the state.
– Which country?! Which constitution?!
– That state it was.
– The laws and constitution of the dictatorship?
– Call it what you will…!
– You brave men who threatened America and the Soviet Union, if the superpowers of the world dared to touch, even a hair of Albania, according to you, would find fatal destruction. Today, you do not have the courage to say, “Yes. We were not for democracy; we were for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Against America, against the Soviet Union”, or…!
– Yes. I, Aranit Çela, have tried and sentenced to prison, and to death thousands of Albanians who did not like our regime. I declare that I do not accept to be punished as an ordinary, for stealing the property of the people. If democratic laws condemn my actions and inactions, here I am, proud of the laws of my state.
– But you handed over the “Red Castle”, hiding like rats from the hatred of the people you used for decades as a slave to labor. Get up, do not cry like a mangy cat! God bless the state and the dictatorship you have implemented! Do not accept to be punished for ordinary actions. You were Zeus, your firm was death to all the “enemies of the people”, the most important man for the implementation of the laws of the anti-national and anti-human state…!
– Definitely, I have condemned people. Hostile activity with words or deeds against popular power, according to the Constitution of the People’s Republic, were prohibited by law.
– It deceives, why the constitution did not prohibit by law free speech and the desire to practice faith in God, until 1976. But you have wreaked havoc with religious clergy, especially when you demolished churches and mosques, in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty seventh, as in no other place in the world. What about these actions, that you signed the imprisonment and death of the clergy, who practiced the belief in God in the people, did you violate the constitution?
– They were condemned by the people. It was the wish of the people that churches and mosques were demolished.
– To ask if you committed crimes against the clergy in violation of the laws of the time and the constitution of the country, before and after 1967?
– I did not commit crimes because I implemented the will of the people and all the decisions of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, the Albanian Labor Party, which for me were equivalent to the constitutional laws.
– So, after carrying out the orders of the party, to punish innocent people, right?
– Then do you admit that you sentenced people to death – shooting, hanging on a rope, according to the interests of the party and not according to constitutional laws?
– I just said that. I was just an enforcer of the laws and decisions of the state and my party.
– I am glad that you, the criminals of the Albanian people, have accused you of being thieves, for drinking more coffee than the law of the time allowed. For this you do not have to apologize for the savage nails you used during your rule. You will be held accountable only for stealing a few kilograms of coffee consumed and your descendants will have the right of God to seek “Revenge for Justice” after their parents have punished them, not for what they did, but for those who have not done. Otherwise, they would not have the courage to raise their heads for life.
We got away from the stench of the stinking air of the dungeons. Outside, in the fresh air, Luke stopped with his eyes from the sky e
Said: – Although I rejoiced to the point of crying my friend, after seeing the persecutors in the dungeons where we suffered ourselves, a feeling of sadness still weighs on my soul. They are scared, gloomy, but still convinced that they will escape the justice of the rule of law. Their punishment will be ridiculous. It will be a farce. There is no case in the history of mankind when justice punishes the rulers stained with the blood of their compatriots, only for excessive coffee drunk.
He threw his arm around my shoulders and pulled me with him.
-Now find us a good restaurant, where we can eat and chat with each other. Hunger is eating away at my intestines worse than at Burrell Prison.
– You are emotionally hungry, because I punished you as a “Traitor of the Fatherland”
– I will continue to “betray” the homeland, until I am convinced that people of political crimes in Albania are no longer punished as ordinary.
– They have not been overthrown, they have just left power. Democracy is a number of votes. The country will remain in their hands again, as long as the Albanians leave constantly. As things stand, they will return to power, more dangerous than ever…! Memorie.al