By Dalip Greca
The first part
– The unknown story of the Qypi family of Kurbin, which lived for 3 years as a fugitive in the mountains and lost 9 of its members, in the fight against communism –
Memorie.al / A few years ago, when on the pages of the Albanian-American newspaper “Illyria” I had just finished the third article of a cycle dedicated to one of the most enigmatic figures of the Albanian anti-communist nationalists, Professor Alush Leshanaku, Hysen Blloshmi called in the editorial office. , the son of one of those whom the Americans threw in the Albanian mountains, in the early 50s of the last century, to overthrow the regime of Enver Hoxha, Xhevdet Blloshmi. Hyseni, it drew my attention that; there was a conspicuous inaccuracy in that writing; Alushi, after the treacherous murder, falling into the trap set by the State Security through a woman, the next day, the dead body was placed in the Pedagogical School, to terrorize the citizens. “You didn’t describe it like that,” he said, from the other side of the phone.
– I have seen it with my own eyes, Hyseni insisted, then added: I know a man who sheltered Alushi, he confessed the paths; helped him when the Pursuit Forces injured him; was together with him in an action, when equipment was expected to be dropped from the air, where besides him, there was also Gjon Gjinaj, as well as the “Group of Kosovars” sent by Xhaferr Deva. It’s an interesting story; they were surrounded by numerous Security forces and in the attempt, the Kosovar commander, Ali Rizaj and Pashko Suma, were killed, Alushi was wounded, Gjon Gjinaj was also wounded”. The story sounded interesting and we left on the day of the meeting.
Together with Hysen, we knocked on an autumn day in 2003, at the apartment of Bardhok Ndreu, in Queens, who told us the following story; What happened to Bardhoku, added Ndrec Gjergji, an expatriate who spent many years in Belgium, and spent three decades in New York.
In the footsteps of the Qypi family
The Qypi family, in the White Mountain of Kurbin, is among the oldest and most traditional families of that province. It has produced brave and loyal men, who have made a name for themselves in the history of the Kurbini area and of Albania. The archives prove that, since the time of the Ottoman rule, the Qypi tribe has been distinguished for its patriotism and resistance. Nikolë Gegë Qypi, has led an anti-Turkish uprising, which shook the High Gate. Turkey poured endless camps of soldiers between those sides and suppressed the uprising, but Nikollë Gegë Qypi did not fall into the hands of the Pasha who led the Sultan’s camps; he climbed the mountains and forests and remained a danger to the Turks. With the force of arms, the Turkish general could not capture the Arnauts, as the High Gate called them, but what the arms could not do, the trap accomplished; Pashaj told them to surrender their weapons, that there would be no consequences, they would return to their homes and he would not do them any harm. The Albanian is connected by words. Turku, proved unfaithful; he tied them with irons and put them on the rope, at Arat e Vromi in the field of Milot. Thus, one of the brave men of this tribe died.
From the Qypi door, another pinjoll would come out, which was heard; He was; Nikoll Ndre Bardhoku, the late leader, who in any case, has left his mark on the history of the tribe. Nikollë Ndreu, was a close collaborator, both on matters of faith, as well as on canonical and national issues, of Gjin Pjetër Pervizi. Without the participation of Gjin Pjetri and Nikollë Ndreu, the elders would not have gathered in Kurbin.
The name of Nikola Ndreu can also be found in the events that led to the independence of Albania. In those difficult times for the nation, when the Slavs in the North and the Greeks in the South tried to tear off large pieces from the body of Albania, the patriots tried to get every piece of Albania to God. Nikollë Ndreu was also one of the men who did what they could for the flag day. Known for his influence in the area of Kurbin, Nikolla was called by Monsignor Vincens Prenushi and the future deputy prime minister of the Government of Vlora, Dom Nikoll Kaçorri, to the cell of the Dilbneshti Church.
There was a long talk about the blessed day of the Flag, about the wise old man Ismail Qemali, who had undertaken the historic act of independence. The question was posed quite openly: What can we do here in Kurbin? Nikollë Ndreu intervenes: I will ask for the help of Gjin Pjetri, whose heart is burning for the Fatherland and the Flag, he can’t wait for the country’s independence. Act quickly; they make a flag, like Skanderbeg’s, taking a piece of red and a black handkerchief, with which the eagle was imitated. Nikola takes this flag and goes to Gjin Pjetri in Skuraj. This gathers the elders of Kurbini and there in the assembly, the decision is made that Kurbini should stand in solidarity with Vlora and make independence a fait accompli.
On the same date as Vlora, on November 28, 1912, the Kurbins gathered at Simon Koka’s Sterporja in Milot and through rifle shots, announced the act of independence and celebrated it together. On the side of the patriots, Nikollë Ndreu would also be during the anti-Albanian Uprising of Haxhi Qamili, who would sentence him to death for rebellion. This was the reason that together with 20 members of the house, Nikollë Ndreu, left the family hearth and moved to the village of Lukth in Kthella. Locals give him a house. He stays there illegally until Haxhi Qamili is annihilated.
How did the communists separate Gjin Pjetri from Nikollë Ndreu after his death?
-“For Gjin Pjetri, the communists spoke and wrote with respect, while for Nikolla Ndreu, no, on the contrary, they blackmailed him. They could not forgive him, the anti-communist feeling. Because of his anti-communism, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1949”, – intervenes Ndrecë Gjergj in the conversation, who adds another detail: “Gjin Pjetri, as long as he was alive, was not separated from Nikollë Ndreu. But communism separated them. This, Gjin Pjetri, did not leave a picture, where he had gone out together with his comrade in arms, the friend of reconciliation and old age, Nikolla.
The communists forced Pjetri’s family to cut the photograph, which they had left in their tower, in the village of Skuraj, where they had gone together with Nikolla, in half with scissors; they took Nikolla out of the picture and left Gjini, which was the same as removing his arm. What can I say, no no, it was like taking away half of his heart? Even to this day, Gjin Pjetri’s photo is half standing, waiting for his brother Nikollë Ndreu, who when the communists sentenced him to life imprisonment, he told them: I’m sorry, because I still owe the government yours, since I don’t have many years left to repay the punishment you gave me…! I’m sorry, that I haven’t learned to remain in debt to anyone”!
He would die in Tirana prison. Nikollë Ndreu was convicted even though he was one of the pillars of the region. The Nalte Council has just elected that councilor of the Kruja Provincial Council…! When the Italian fascists sprung up like flies in Durrës on the day of the invasion of Albania, the house named Qypve sent three rifles in support of Abaz Kup; Gjergj Nikollan, Llesh Gjok Lala and Frok Preng Ndreca.
Bardhoku, tells me that; Nikollë Ndreu, had five sons: Ndre Nikolla, Zef Nikolla, Gegë Nikolla, Gjergj Nikolla and Gjon Nikolla. One of them, Gjoni, graduated from the officers’ school at the time of King Zog and earned the rank of captain in the Albanian National Army. John was killed in 1944, in Peja, Kosovo. It was war time and the body of the dead could not be brought near the family. A friend of the Qypi family, Lek Tun Gjidoda, with his sister and friends, mourned him according to custom and buried him in Peja. Even to this day, his grave is unknown, since Albania and Kosovo were separated by communism. Nikoll Ndreu was waiting for a safe return at the Qypi house, and when they consoled him to cheer him up, he replied: “I owe a boy to Kosovo”!
Why and how was the mayor of the municipality (locality) of Milot arrested?
Life was tough, with Nikollë Ndreu, who was left with only one son, Gjergjn. The Kurbins show that; George was enough for a hundred boys; wise, brave, a man of the Canon, generous, honored and respected throughout the province of Kurbin, mentioned in friendship, in the family, eloquent in the assembly, the word took place, prudent, a man of only good qualities. Perhaps all these were enough that the communists, when they took power in 1944, appointed him mayor of the municipality (locality) in Milot, and a member of the Council for the Reconciliation of Blood in Kurbin.
The Qypi house had close relations with the Kupi family in Krujë, with Saje and Sana e Rustemi, against Haxhi Qamili, with Abas Kupi, Ibrahim Kupi, and others. This was the reason that Abbas Kupi, with all his staff, together with the English mission; Julian Emrin, David Smailin, with the Caucasian experts who were with them, as well as with the leaders of the “National Front” such as; Mid’hat Frashërin, Abaz Ermenjin, including Fiqiri Dinen and Preng Pervizi, stayed for more than three weeks in the Qypi house. When Abbas Kupi left, he left a lot of weapons at the great Qypi house; heavy machine guns, bombs, rifles, cartridges, asking them to believe that these weapons would be kept there until he returned. Many of the nationalist leaders fled, thinking that the return would be quick.
-“In order to preserve the bequest to Commander Abazi, together with my cousins, we hid the war material in the forest”, Bardhoku tells me. But when the communists took power, the first thing they did was to disarm the population, especially in the areas that were not dominated by them. At that time, whoever did not hand over their weapons was punished and shot without trial. Gjergji was the mayor of the municipality of Milot and the chairman of the commission for the collection of weapons, so the communists could not forgive him that his house housed the weapons of Abas Kupi, declared an enemy “in the name of the people”. One night with rain and wind, the Qypi house is surrounded, Abaz Kupi’s weapons are found and they immediately go to the municipality office, where Gjergj Nikolla is found and arrested. At first, they wanted to shoot him in Milot, but since he was a man of great influence, they spared him some trouble and sent him away to Shpal i Mirdita. There they wanted to shoot him again, but Bardhok Biba refused, saying that he was friends with the Qypi family and that it was popular in the whole province.
They send him to Shkodër, where Tuk Jakova practiced law with her brothers. Not even Tuku, did not take that decision, reporting to the top in the government that; the Qypi family had patriotic traditions, that it had fought against all invaders, that it had participated in the events of independence and those against the fascist occupation and against the Germans. Since she is a religious family and related to the Kanun, she does not waste her friend’s trust, it is not in our favor to do it against us, argued the communist leader from Shkodran. Under these circumstances, Tuku manages to release him on bail and send him home, with orders not to get involved in the war against communism.
Gjergji returned home, but he did not give up meeting with the nationalist leaders who wandered around the mountains, such as: Mark Gjomarkaj, Sif Merlika, Frrok Mëlyshi, Fran Miri, and others. The communists follow his tracks and arrest him again. Then, in the family, there is another mess that catches the eye of the government; Gjergji’s son, Prenga, runs away from the army, then escapes…! The family is punished; all are interned in Berat. After Prenga was killed, in 1948, the family returned from exile. Gjergji is also released from prison.
Why did Gjergj Nikola leave the house and climb the mountain, the sixth himself?!
The pressure and persecution from the Security was not shared with the Qypi family. Life became unbearable, the house almost turned into a prison or an internment camp; strict surveillance, pressure, traps, blackmail. Precisely for these reasons, in 1949, Gjergj Nikolla, with five sons of the Qypi family, left the house and climbed the mountain, never to return there. Thus, the anti-communist squad was created, consisting of members of a tribe: Gjergj Nikolla, Bardhok Ndreu, Ndue Lala, Zef Gjergji, Pal Lala and Marka Gjoni. The first measure taken by the State Security was the deportation of other family members. All of them were subjected to the infernal conditions of the extermination camp of Tepelena, while the oldest of the house, Qypi, is sentenced to life imprisonment. Bardhok Ndreu is the only one of those six left alive, that’s why I’m talking to him.
– Who is Bardhok Ndreu?
He answers my question after a silence that seemed to me to last a bit too long…!
– “Here they call me Bardhok Çupi. It is a surname that remained with me after I crossed the Albanian border and jumped into Yugoslavia, together with my wife, to then take the road to America.
– There they asked me what is your last name?
– I told Qypi.
They apparently confused “Q” with “Ç” and I was left with Çupi. While my friends and colleagues know me as Bardhok Ndreu”.
Bardhok Ndreu was born in Mali e Bardhë of Kurbin, on May 5, 1915. His father left him small. He was only 1 year old when his father died in an accident. The mother raised him and she married him. Nikoll Ndreu and Gjergj Nikolla loved Bardhok just like their sons. From his youth, Bardhoku, does not single out any events, except marriage at a young age.
He spent the years of the Second World War doing agricultural work and taking care of livestock. Qypi was a big family and it was the other members of the family who lined up in Abaz Kupi’s formations to fight against the invaders. However, in some way he also got involved in the war, especially when Abaz Kupi’s staff, together with the English, settled for more than two weeks in their house.
– “With these hands I have served Mid’hat Bey Frashëri. I used to make and lift his mattress myself. He was a noble man. I served him with pleasure. Abas Ermenji was a conceited kid, but Mid’hati was very well-educated and very kind. Both the legalists and the ballisticians have been in our house”, says Bardhoku.
Mr. Bardhok, the communist government declared you a wanted person, an enemy of the people, why did this happen, when you had not participated in the war?
– “Because in 1949 I had left my family and climbed the mountain with a rifle in my hand.”
How did Bardhoku get the woman out of Kruja prison and how did he keep her for 1 year in the mountains?
-“I stayed in the mountains for three years. I believe I am an exception in the war of the mountains. Maybe I’m the only one who stayed on the mountain for a year with all my wives”, Bardhok Ndreu surprises me with this secret.
– How did it happen that you also took the woman to the mountain?
Ndrecë Gjergji intervenes, to clarify this detail: – “When all the members of the Qypi house, started towards Tepelena, Bardhok’s wife, Bardhë, Sigurimi left her with her father, in Fushë-Krujë. This was a trap that they had set up with the idea that Bardhok would go to meet the woman and they would arrest him, or kill him outright, but Bardhok did not fall into that trap. The security lasted a year, keeping the house under surveillance, and when they saw that Bardhok was not falling into that trap, they arrested Bardha on the charge: You met with Bardhok and you didn’t notify the government!
The difficult days and nights of the cell and torture began for Bardhë. Bardhok was not occupied by the place where he was free on top of the mountains, while his wife was sent to the cells of Kruja prison. After this moment, comes the action for her release from prison, an action organized by Nikollë Gjergji and Bardhok Ndreu, with their friends they had in Krujë. Cheta was in support of the action. Thus, one winter night with rain and strong wind, with lightning and thunder, the door of the cell opens and the “inside man” takes out Bardhë, who was waiting no more than 100 m away. her husband, Bardhoku with his comrades of Ceta.
As in fairy tales, Bardha flies from the cell to the mountain and thus escaped the torture of the communists. The government gives the alarm; how could a woman break the cell door and escape?! Security pursuits multiply. He wanted to be captured alive, but he was protected by the detachment. Bardhok, who had been on the mountain for two years, stayed another year together with his wife and then crossed the border and made their way to America.
– Why did you leave your homes and go up to the mountains? How did you come into conflict with the government?
– “Trouble took us up the mountain. Our life was shaken from the beginning by the regime of the communists. Since September 1947, I have been interned with 14 family members, including my grandfather, Nikollë Ndreu. They sent us to Berat. The life of the camps is still in my memory, so heavy and full of horrors. The reason for the internment was that a son of Gjergji, who was a soldier, ran away from the army. The consequences fell on all members of the family, who were subjected to exile.
In the Berat camp we found all the big Albanian families declared “enemies”, the nationalist families, who were declared losers of the war, together with the invaders even though we had fought the invaders with weapons in hand. There, we found the families: Kupi, Blloshme, Lleshanak, Hami Matjani, Previz, Bajraktar, Dinet, Kalosh, where are they all counted…”?!
– What did you do in Berat?
-“We worked in the fields, then they took us to Kučovo, in the field of aviation, in agriculture, in canals, planting and harvesting”.
– When were you released from exile?
-“A deceptive amnesty, as if to put us to sleep, freed us from deportation in March 1948. But it wasn’t long before Ndrec Gjergji’s father was arrested. Our fate and his, the whole circle of friends intervened and he was released. But it didn’t last long and they caught him again. “Why did you help the reactionaries”? He was arrested with this question. They took him to prison in Durrës, Tirana”.
Security gave Zeff poison to poison Mark Piroli
“But we still did not share our problems with the government. They investigated a son of Gjergji, Zefin” – Bardhoku continues the story full of surprises of the Qypi family…! He was accused of supplying bread to the committees that wanted to overthrow the communists. They caught him and took him to Nuri Luçi, tortured him, then invited him to cooperate. They ask him to wait in faith for the committees he had fed with bread. For this purpose, they gave him poison to poison Mark Piroli. Indeed, that of Sigurimi had its own Mark Piroli, but above all, they believed in the ideology of communism…! He took the poison and signed a statement, which was written in black and white: If Mark Piroli was not poisoned or killed in two weeks, Zefi would be shot. They ordered him at home not to reveal anything, otherwise he would be shot.
When the boy came home, he told the people of the house, from start to finish, the conversation he had with the Security, about the conditions they had set. After telling them everything in detail, he asked for an opinion in the family assembly: What should I do now? What are we doing? Should we be afraid or get crazy? – asked the elders. The family made the decision not to take, that is, not to believe the komitas, which were fed with bread. The decision was definitive: “Let’s run away from home, let’s go to the mountain, where the Security does not climb”!
They went to the mountain, Bardhoku, Gjergj Nikolla with his son, Zefi, Marku, the son of the other aunt, Bardhoku’s cousins, Ndue and Pal Lala. So, six people decided to oppose the government by climbing the mountain.
– How was life on the mountain? I ask Bardhoku.
-“With great problems, we had the sky as shelter, we had the earth as a bed. God made the end of that winter, heavy snow, frost. We didn’t even have bread. The bases, as time came, were reduced. The security was crazy. We had turned out to be a large group and for communist propaganda, this was an extraordinary loss…! The wrath of the government, was emptied upon the innocent; the family was exiled again to Tepelena, to the death camp. The Security Forces were looking for traces of the hostile group that had dared to challenge the state.
Day and night, the Pursuit Forces searched through the mountains and caves, but without being able to reach the nest of the gang, with 6 opponents of the regime. They followed them closely. At the top of the Troll Mountain, Sigurimi did not think that normal people would risk living in that snow, with many layers, in that freezing cold. Memorie.al