12. Towards a free life – in the mountains
After being on duty with the partisans in the mountains, I left Tirana on March 20th; the city I would not return to until its liberation. Along with my joy, I also felt an emptiness in my soul. I was leaving the city in which I had grown up and gone to school, I was really close to the people of Tirana. I had fought with them for their freedom, their happiness and for a safe future for its youth. I had also helped in their struggle for the emancipation of the Albania Woman and for the independence of our long-suffering homeland. Would I ever come back to see a liberated Tirana, free from invaders and spies, without the terror, the curfew, the arrests and the imprisonments?
I was quite sure that this day would eventually come, not only to Tirana, but also to all Albania, because we were fighting a war with the backing of the entire population. However, at this particular moment, was the day of liberation in the near or distant future?
With a false identity card in my pocket and my mind loaded down with all these questions, I took the bus. I left behind the Tirana where, the Party, the guerilla units, and my life as an underground activist had been founded and headed for Korca. With me was a comrade (whom I never met) who was taking a letter from Gogo Nushi and Nako Spiro to Enver. He had been appointed as the courier who made the connections between the Korca district and the Center in Tirana. His name was Arsen Leskoviku.
Our journey took us passed Elbasan and, up to this moment, we had had no problems. However, just before entering Librazhd, we were stopped by an armed patrol. There were three of them; one was a German and the other two Albanians who were wearing the uniform of the Albanian militia. They asked for our identity cards. The German took mine and began moving it in his hands. He raised his eyes, and looking straight at me said, “Yugoslav?” I nearly had a heart attack! The name on my identity card was Vera – a name that the Slavs use as well. I thought that they would ask me to get off the bus and take me for interrogation to the post office nearby and who knows then what would have happened. I hastened to explain. Although he was not Italian, for some reason I spoke to him in Italian, thinking that I could better communicate with him. I remember telling him,
“No, no, albanese, Vera, stagione, estate o primavera”
(No, no, Albanian, Vera is a season; summer or spring).
So I waffled on a bit. Finally he returned the identity card to me. I breathed a sigh of relief, and, after a while, I turned my head and glanced at the comrade who was with me. He had recovered himself and was quite calm; he just closed his eyes as if to say: “Good…”. I smiled slightly as if to say: “We’re safe…”.
We arrived in Korça in the evening and stayed that night in the home of a school friend. The next day, at dusk, we set off for Panarit, where Enver and some comrades from the Central Committee and General Headquarters were. A team of 4-5 partisans was waiting for us outside of the town. They knew the area very well and were to accompany us on the journey from village to village. After we had greeted each other, the partisans told us that armed frontists had been seen in the area and this was why we had to talk softly and walk carefully.
We walked in a single file for a very long time without stopping in order to get away from the town. The worst thing was that the night was so dark that we were not able to see and it was difficult to follow the path. One comrade fell. He apparently walked too close to the edge of a hole in the ground, slipped, uttered a sharp ‘oh!’ and then there was silence. We were shocked. We went to the place where he had fallen but we couldn’t see anything. We called out in low voices; “Arsen, hey, Arsen!”, but there was no reply. We became even more worried. Down in the hole nothing was visible. We tried to locate his body with the butt of a rifle, but it was in vain. Then the partisans found some long sticks and, in the darkness they measured the depth of the hole with them. After coming up with the idea of holding one another hand-by-hand, one of us managed to get down into the hole. When we were told that Arsen’s body had been located we were very relieved and we hoped that he was alive.
They managed to pull him up with great difficulty. I remember when they laid him down, they gave him a drop of raki that one of the partisans kept with him in his water bottle and used as medicine for various wounds. Arsen groaned. They checked out to see if he had broken a leg or an arm but he screamed only when they touched him on one of his hips. They held his mouth closed so as not to be heard. As he told us afterwards, he had been hurt badly in one hip when he had fallen because he had had a tin of meat in his knapsack and it was this knapsack that he fell on and severely bruised his hip. What could we do? The comrades carried him on their backs in turn to the nearest village where we would spend the night. As soon as we entered the specified base, the women of the house put a bed near the fire and laid Arsen down on it to help him rest up. With the light of an oil lamp the comrades checked him for any other injuries and massaged his hip with raki and olive oil until he felt somewhat better. When we realized that he didn’t have any other serious injuries, we started joking with him.
We told Arsen that we would sequester his tin of meat because it was “cold steel” that kills and might take prevent someone from fighting.
“Look, this has interrupted your journey with us; you must stay here and will have to eat chicken soup of course, that is, if the frontists have left any chickens in the village.”
Laughing, he fell asleep.
We slept for three hours and, after taking the letter from Arsen, we set off before dawn in order to avoid any confrontation with the frontists. After so many years I don’t remember which villages we passed through or the length of the journey.
In Panarit – to Enver
We finally arrived in Panarit, where Enver was living. This village was located on a mountainside. It was said that this was a big village, but I didn’t share this idea, because I couldn’t see many houses.
The house where the headquarters was located was quite big; it had two or three floors, together with a barn, and was completely built of stone. They led us into a big room, in the middle of which was a large fire, where entire trunks were turned into fairly hot embers, and which gave the room pleasant warmth. It was able to bring one back to life and make you feel relaxed after the long and tiring journey. In such a place, the warmth created a feeling of satisfaction, something that I had not felt before in these years of war. This room in Albania is called a ‘room of fire’, and around the big fireplace with no chimney, the women cooked and stayed. These rooms didn’t have any ceilings, but only roof timbers which were blackened by the smoke). Around the fire sat several comrades who worked in the headquarters along with partisan guards and companions. I recognized among them, comrade Behar Shtylla. He stood up immediately and went to inform Enver about our arrival.
You can imagine how impatient I was to meet Enver. But Behar came back and told me that Enver was in a meeting.
Meanwhile the comrades found us a place near the fire and, one after another, brought some homemade bread, which was very soft, some fresh sheep cheese, honey and nuts. I especially enjoyed the fresh cheese and the toast. Then the friends began talking and joking. They even had an argument as to whose life was more difficult; that of the partisans in the mountains or that of the underground activists in the towns. I myself thought that the life of the underground activists, under the continuous worry of fascist encirclement, repeated controls, the dangers of arrest or the maltreatment of the families who sheltered them, was more difficult. But the partisans were correct because they lived in the mountains, marched and fought in very bad places, in the winter’s cold and frost, usually poorly dressed, in bare feet and with empty stomachs.
One of them said: “This fire and this food are like a dream for us…”
Of course he was right, and the local peasants didn’t spare what they had in their houses, in order to honor and respect the partisans of the mountains.
While we were talking, Enver came in. He was smiling as always. He was really surprised when he saw me. As he told me later; he had thought that Naxhije had come. She was a leading comrade of the Party in Korca. So after the first surprise, we hugged each other with nostalgia, forgetting to keep the “secret” of our relationship. Seeing us that way, the comrades laughed… Just to give a formal meaning to my coming, in front of the others, Enver asked:
“Did you bring the letters we wanted? Come.”
He took my hand and we went out. We went to the house where he was living and sleeping with the other comrades. The house was up in the hills so we had to do a bit of climbing. It was a small bungalow, but to go inside you had to go up some stairs built over a rock, which was covered with wide stone slabs. The house was painted with lime, and the doors and windows were made of pinewood, which, in that fresh mountain air and under the heat from the sun, gave off a pleasant scent that allowed you to breathe freely. There were too many things there that made me feel very comfortable and happy.
We went into Enver’s room. It was white because the walls were painted with lime. The sheets on the bed were snow-white, so were the embroidered curtains. On the settee was a fringed haircloth; while on the floor was a small carpet. Enver asked immediately about the letters. He looked at them quickly.
“I will read them carefully later”, he said
and then wanted to hear my report about the situation at the Center. I told him many things, and then we talked a bit about ourselves and satisfied our yearning. The women of the house brought us corn bread, sheep’s yoghurt and eggs. In that fresh and healthy climate, one had had an increased appetite and I very much enjoyed the food. I said to Enver jokingly:
“I saw in the house at headquarters that you don’t live too badly…”
Enver replied, “The peasants are friendly and hospitable and, although they are poor, they are very kind and we owe them a lot”.
The next day I went down to some of the buildings. I don’t remember if they had been a school or a cantonment. A course was being held with party personnel from the field and the army, at which, political and ideological lectures were being given in order to increase the educational level of our comrades.
During the three or four days that I stayed in Panarit I met many comrades I had known in Tirana. Here in the mountains among the partisans, comrades and peasants I felt different. Here you could move calmly and freely, something that could not be done in Tirana, because it was filled with terror.
During our talks in Panarit for three-four days, Enver told me that they had started preparations to set up a meeting larger than the Second National Liberation Conference of Labinot. (He meant the Congress that was going to be held in Permet).
“In this meeting we will make very important decisions for Albania.” But we will have to work hard in order to do this. So I think it is not necessary that you return to Tirana now. I think that you should go to Permet and from there to Zagorie. There you will find the Headquarters of the Gjirokastra-Vlora Area, and you will work there, dealing mainly with the youth and the organization of anti-fascist women, in the field and near the units acting in that area.”
I was happy about this because in this way I would continue living a free life in the mountains, villages and areas where the breeze of liberty had started to blow.
I set off for Permet and Zagorie and, for two months I worked very hard and joyfully in these two areas from which I have unforgettable memories. Memories from the historic Congress of Permet (24 May 1944) where I took part as a delegate, and from my activities during the German Operation of June in the Zagorie mountains. But I will not refer to them in these notes because I do not have many memories about my personal and direct meetings and conversations with Enver, who, during this period, was very busy. He had much of the responsibility for the preparations, development and compilation of the resolutions for the Congress of Permet, which was to be of great historical importance for the victory of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Movement, and for the future of our people.
13. Unforgettable days in Lireza – among the youth
After the Nazi operations of June, Enver, together with the leadership of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council, the main members of the General Headquarters and some members of the Central Committee of the Party, left Odrican and went back to Helmes (a small village in Skrapar district, with 10-12 houses situated on a mountain side below Marta Pass).
After the Congress of Permet, in early July, while I was working in Zagorie, I got news from Nako Spiro telling me to set off immediately for Helmes in the Skrapar district. In time of war orders were not given to discussion. So although I was used to the wonderful people of the Zagorie region, with whom I had worked and lived for a long time, I set off to Helmes. We walked from village to village and after two days reached the destination.
Helmes village seemed to me like a beautiful relaxing oasis. It was full of greenness, with trees that gave it a special grace. The apple trees were full of fruit and the branches were nearly breaking. Also, the grapes, even though they were not properly ripened, made your mouth water when you saw them. We sat for a moment near the drinking fountain. The water was very cold and it flowed freely along the side of the cobblestone street. We refreshed ourselves and relaxed there from the long journey. After a while some comrades came and took me to the offices where Enver and his comrades worked. It was a two-floor stone built house.
In one of the offices, on the first floor, was Enver with Nako. We hugged longingly. They asked me about the affairs and the situation in the regions in which I had been. Then they told me why they had called me there: The First Congress of the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth had to be prepared. Enver told me of the importance of this Congress, which, as he put it, would give new ardor and strength to the union of anti-fascist youth for the final war to liberate the whole country. It would also create new perspectives for the youth in the construction of a new, democratic national Albania, and its future. Nako talked about the procedures we had to follow for sending out notifications, for choosing delegates, for the preparation of the Congress’ documents, and reports that would be held, etc. Then the next day he asked me to go to the Lireza field (the place where the Congress would be held) in order to see the field and to decide what measures had to be taken in the construction of some work cabins and also to see where to put the tents for the delegates to sleep in. He also wanted me to see what we could do about the equipment and decoration of the Congress setting.
Lireza was a large plateau surrounded by mountains. I thought that it was a suitable place, because it was so large and many people would be able to stay there. Also, quite a few activities could be organized. During the construction and modifications that I have already mentioned we stayed down in the village. The comrades who worked there slept in two houses. Enver and two other comrades slept in a small bungalow, which was a little down from the center, where the offices were. While I was staying in Helmes, I slept in the common room of Enver and his comrades. The landlady, Nuriham, had two nice swarthy sons. They wore long shirts that reached and covered part of their legs because they did not have anything else to wear under it. Nevruzi who was four or five years old used to collect cigarette butts that the comrades and partisans threw away and, wanting to imitate them, he would sometimes put one of them on his mouth and laugh. Enver lit a butt once for him and he nearly suffocated because of its smoke, so he never put them on his mouth again. He also has a photograph of this embarrassing moment with the cigarette butt on his mouth. We laugh whenever we see that photograph.
During a visit to Skrapar, years after the Liberation, we saw that Nevruz had become a Party instructor. He looked different, was serious, handsome, neat and tidy and was wearing a suit. We were really glad to meet him again. We reminded him of the difficult days during the War in his house and the jokes we shared with him. Of course he didn’t remember many things, but we talked about what his parents had told to him.
When the first buildings in the Lireza field were built, such as the kitchen and the hut,we went up there. Here the comrades of the youth leadership would work in the preparation for the Congress. Everything was built with timber and planks taken from the nearby forest, with the help of the peasants and some partisans who were skilled in these kinds of things. We stayed in a relatively big hut. There was a wide wooden bed above the floor in one part of it, in which we would sleep. Naturally, we couldn’t even think about a mattress, but we were able to lay a piece of carpet or a hair-cloth down that the peasants had brought, and we used blankets that we had taken from the defeated Italian army as covers. The blankets were necessary up there in Lireza, because, although it was summer (late July, early August), it was really cool, especially at night. The beautiful Lirez was enhanced even more when the delegates started to arrive. If only you could have seen that beautiful field. The tents looked like white flowers and, at night, were lit up by the partisan’s fires. That field bubbled with the songs and voices of the youth who had come from all over the country. In this way, warming themselves by the fire, talking and singing, the youth often stayed up till the early hours of the morning.
This was understandable because the majority of the delegates were partisans. It was their custom, after the long tiring marches, to get together at night around the fire, where they were able to relax and spend some precious moments after battling with the enemy. It was also a time to remember, to meditate and honor fallen comrades and family members who they had buried. That is why their songs were full of, not only grief, but also of optimism and the joy for the future, nostalgia and honor for missing comrades, and also their promise of revenge. These partisan songs, sung around these fires were, at the same time, hymns for the glory of the fallen, and also hymns for the faith and determination to accomplish the liberation of the country and the rebuilding of a new Albania. This is why my generation remembers with nostalgia, those partisan fires. They were marvelous moments that generated feelings of an inner happiness for everyone and for the special reason, that they were part of the big war, the war for Liberty, for the Motherland, for lofty human ideals!
Now, as I write this in my dark prison cell, my eyes are fill with tears when I remember the bright flames of those partisan fires, which will be forever remembered, not only for me, but by all my contemporaries who were part of that glorious time of songs around the partisan fires. It is also memorable to those of the younger generations who keep alive the glorious work of the partisans and martyrs, who risked their young lives for Liberty. The attempts of those who try to distort and deny this glorious history of the National Liberation Anti-fascist War are failures and will not have a long life…
The blissful environment in the unforgettable Lireza continued for nearly a month. This was because many delegates from the North arrived late due to the difficulties in moving around the country at that time. Many cultural activities were organized; lead by our good comrade Pirro Kondi and some other comrades. A Field Radio was set up as well as a Press Table, where news, announcements, literary creations of the delegates such as poems, songs, caricatures etc. could be read by the youth.
While the delegates were entertaining, singing and playing, we were working without rest for the preparation of the Congress, and not only for the Congress’ documents, but also preparing and giving lectures to the youth on different topics. We were really pleased because the delegates were very interested in all of these matters.
After some days, other comrades of the youth leadership in the field and in the partisan brigades such as Liri Belishova, Ramiz Alia, Alqi Kondi, Fadil Pacrami etc., arrived. We all joined the delegates. We sat and stayed with them, talked, played, sang and joked together because we were young and had the same ideals. There was nothing better than that populated Field with the flower of our people, with the brave and beautiful youth, who knew how to fight, to sing and dance and to learn about the preparations for the nation’s future.
I remember very well the reception of Major Ivanov, the chief of the Soviet military mission to the General Headquarters of the Albanian National Liberation Army. He had come from the Greek border, had crossed the Marta Pass, and went down to Helmes where the Headquarters was. The Albanian youth gave him a warm reception because they considered him as the representative of Stalin’s Red Army, whom we loved and admired for the defeats being caused to Hitler’s armies on the Eastern Front.
The anticipated day, 8 August 1944, finally came. The Congress for the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth opened its proceedings. I, along with the other participants, still remember today that beautiful “hall” with no doors or windows, built with the timber that still emitted the fresh forest scent and with its roof of fern branches. The chairs for the delegates were made in a similar fashion, with new wooden planks taken from the forest, as was the long table of the Presidium. The pathway to the hall’s entrance was lined with lime painted stones. A group of young partisan boys and girls stood along the sides of the pathway, with rifles and submachine guns as honorary bodyguards. This gave a special solemnity to the entrance of the delegates to the Congress hall and to the beginning of its proceedings.
The hall immediately became full of the lively voices of the youth, who were very enthusiastic and were not able to restrain themselves from singing and cheering. Their enthusiasm was, however, indescribable when Enver Hoxha, together with Dr. Nishan, accompanied by Nako Spiro, came into the hall. Many delegates were seeing the commander for the first time. Some of them couldn’t hold back their tears of joy. Then, after the applause and ovations, silence reigned in the hall, until it was interrupted by Enver’s sonorous voice and his passionate words. He talked to the youth’s hearts as only he knew, touched the delegates, and made opened their eyes to the marvelous future that was waiting for them; Albania’s future and that of its long-suffering people.
The impressions from this Congress are many. I remember I remember returning to Lireza on the 45th anniversary of this memorable event. I found the Lireza field just as beautiful as I remembered, however, many of the delegates of that first Congress in those unforgettable days, were not there for this anniversary. Some had died and some had not come because of old age, disease or some other inability. Even those who had come now had gray hair and were bent because of the years of war and hard work. But something had remained unchanged: their hearts and their souls were the same as they were 45 years ago. That’s why when we met together, along with the tears of nostalgia there was much joy and cries of happiness. Some remained embraced for a long time because they had not seen each other for decades. Each of them were reminded of those beautiful days and, in bringing back their memories, they behaved like those young boys and girls of 1944. They were very happy and spoke with honor and respect of each other.
The organizers of this meeting had tried to create the same premises as those of 45 years ago during the Congress; the wooden huts, the tents etc., whereas, the “hall” of the Congress was somewhat improvised. We experienced the same emotions and memories as then, but something was missing. Enver was not there, but even though he was not there physically, he was present at every moment and at every talk, because all remembered and talked about him lovingly, and, with much longing. In the evening the atmosphere was the same as during the Congress, because the partisan fires were lit, and around them boomed again the beautiful songs of the youth, intertwined with the beautiful songs of the people from all regions, south and north, since the participants came from all around Albania. There were not only some of the former delegates of the Congress, but also young school boys and girls, workers and peasants, who had given their souls, their zest and their joy to the Party. We looked at these young boys and girls and tried to follow their songs and dances, and, even though we were old, we felt young again amongst them. To tell the truth, while they stayed near the fires till dawn dancing, singing and joking, we elders took naps. It was the passionate youth to whom we had turned over the baton in order for them to continue this beautiful party, which has remained memorable to all of us. Near the end of the party I couldn’t help but go to visit Helmes. The comrades joked:
“You will go on foot as then, or…?” “Aha – I said smiling – I can’t…”
There was now a modern mountain road with many bends, which was needed in order to utilize forests in those parts. During the Youth Congress, there used to be a goat trail leading to Helmes, it was so steep that you could not walk upright. But, in those days, I flew from stone to stone because there was Enver who was attracting me like a magnet. I stayed there, alone for an hour with a gun in my arm. Then I walked up. I walked slowly, not because it was tiring, but because it was difficult to be away from Enver.
When I went to Helmes now, after 45 years, I didn’t have my previous vitality. The families that used to live there had moved to new places. There were only two or three of the old houses remaining; those used as offices by the Central Committee and the General Headquarters and the house where Enver used to sleep. Going around these houses, the streets and under the shade of the trees, it seemed to me like I was witnessing a silent film. The silent and unvoiced view of these places could not bring back the happiness of those days; on the contrary, it created within me a grueling emptiness. Those who give life to a place are the people who live there.
But old friends would never let you get bored. Old people, women and children came towards me, holding my hands, everybody wanting to take me in their house. It was difficult to choose where to go first. If I visited only one, the other would be annoyed. Those people who, during the war, gave us shelter in their houses, risking their own lives, giving us food and whatever they had, had great hearts and were very generous. I found these things again among these good and friendly people, who even now were doing what they could to please me. They gave me grapes, nuts, and delicious liquid honey in honeycombs. They had heard I was coming to the village and had cooked many things. They had also cooked pancakes to be eaten with the honey, and buns with fresh cheese, and many other things.
After the Congress, the chosen Secretariat (Nako Spiro, First Secretary and other members: Nexhmije Xhuglini, Liri Belishova, Pirro Kondi, Fadil Pacrami, Alqi Kondi, Ramiz Alia) was called to a meeting by Enver Hoxha, who was the Secretary General of the Albanian Communist Party.
In my opinion this was the most important meeting of the Youth leadership, for its analysis of the activities of the Communist Youth and also for the perspectives revealed by Enver for the future work of the organization of the Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth. At the end of the meeting Ramiz Alia and I were designated to work with the youth in the field and in the partisan units in the Central, North and Northeast of Albania. On October 2nd, 1944, in Priske, the activists of the UAAY (Union of the Albanian Anti-fascist Youth) for South and Southeast Albania gathered and there were 86 delegates. The meeting was successful however; the offices of the Nazi invaders were informed immediately about this meeting. Priska was hit by German field artillery, and the shells fell around the house where we were sheltered. This was often done by the Nazis who knew where the First Corpus Headquarters of the National Liberation Army (whose Commander was Dali Ndreu and Commissar Hysni Kapo) was. Also located in the same area was a part of the British Mission led by Smith. In one of these shellings, within the family of the patriot Hysen Hysa (uncle Ceni, who is immortalized so well by Shevqet Musaraj in “The National Front Epic”), 11 people were killed.
14. In Berat – Meeting with the Prime Minister
In the historical liberated town of Berat I found an extraordinary enthusiastic and joyful atmosphere. The streets were crowded with partisans wandering in the streets that were full of citizens and many children. You could also see many women with black headdresses embracing the partisans as if they were their sons.
I was taken to the building where the General Headquarters was located, which, as I was told, was also the seat of the new Democratic Interim Government, chosen a week earlier, at the historical meeting of the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council. During the proceedings of that meeting, I was marching with the Congress delegates when I heard that the National Liberation Anti-fascist Committee had been reorganized into a Democratic Government, and that, Enver was its Prime Minister.
I am unable to describe my feelings at that moment. I was very happy that our National Liberation Movement, the war, the activities and sacrifices of our people in these years, under the leadership of the Communist Party, were being crowned with the creation of a new democratic power of the people and were going towards the final victory against the foreign enemy and their collaborators. On the other hand, seeing that Enver was given other high responsibilities, I was a bit worried and not too clear. This is something which I can’t explain even now. When I met and fell in love with Enver I had never thought he would become leader of the country and its prime minister, etc. I was worried and I asked myself this question:
“Would I be worthy as his friend in life, in his work, and to the public…?”
The idea of this responsibility burdened me, and made me feel insecure and skeptical about myself. A new complex was added to my timid nature; that of being a responsible and worthy wife for Enver Hoxha. I have to say that even 45 years after our marriage, I wasn’t able to free myself of this complex. In everything that I did or wrote, I tortured myself because of this insecurity:
“Is it OK? How can I improve it?”
It may seem strange, but these emotions became even stronger when I had discussions or I had to speak in plenums, and in Congresses, etc. in the presence of Enver. I was afraid of bothering him or of raising issues with which he disagreed. To avoid this emotional feeling as much as I could, especially in solemn moments, I asked sometimes asked Enver to look over my speeches or I read to him some parts of it that I wasn’t sure of. Even though he was very busy he seldom refused the help I asked. As he was for everyone, he was a teacher for me too, anytime, and for anything.
When I arrived at the location of the seat of the Democratic Party I saw that it was a big house that had been the house of feudalistic large landowners. Opening the door of a big room on the second floor they told me:
“This is Enver’s room, stay here and relax until the Government meeting finishes. We will inform Enver about your arrival.”
The room was small, simply furnished, well lit from a high window, and had white curtains. There was a bed in one corner; near it were a night table and an antique lampshade. Along the opposite wall were a desk, a chair and nothing else. I waited there for a while but I had nothing to do, so I went out into the wide hall, lit by some large windows. In the middle of hall was a large heavy wooden table. In the wood of this table were carvings of some mythical animal images. Near to the table were some big heavy doors. One of them was open and I was able to see the well-furnished room inside. I returned to Enver’s room and saw that he had chosen one of the smallest and most simple rooms. I waited, for what seemed to me, an endless amount of time. It was three months since I had last seen Enver, when I left Helmes. At last the door opened and I saw Enver. He had put on a well-sewn military uniform. We hugged with longing not wanting to be separated. We were very happy. After a moment, I said suddenly:
“Congratulations comrade Prime Minister…, but I liked those partisan shirts and breeches more and…when you were called Commander.”
We joked a bit and then started talking about various and numerous problems. He told me about the developments at the National Liberation Anti-fascist Council meeting, about the decisions taken and the importance that they had for Albania, which was on the verge of liberation, and its future. I told him about the situation in the areas I had been and the work we had done.
After talking about these things he took my hand saying:
“Come, I will show you the house so you can choose a room.”
As I mentioned, they were big, with curtains, rugs, heavy covers and furniture, which I didn’t like because they gave the rooms a medieval suffocating atmosphere. So I said to Enver laughing but hearty:
“I like your clean and simple room…”
He laughed and said: “I can understand that quite well…….. It is getting near the day when we should have our own house…”
The following day I went to the offices where the comrades who had arrived early for the organization of the First Congress for the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Women were situated. Comrades such as Liri Gega, Naxhije Dume, Fiqret Sanxhaktari etc. Four partisan comrades from Yugoslavia had come to take part in this Congress. They had grades and were wearing smart military uniforms. Their appearance was much better than that of our partisans, who were no less brave, but did not have any grades.
Liri invited me to meet the guests in the Yugoslav military Mission. There I was introduced, for the first time with the new representatives of the Mission, Velimir Stojnic and Niaz Dizdarevic. I knew that Dushan Mugosha had left Albania and at the request of Koci Xoxe we wrote some letters of greetings to him, but I didn’t know that Milan Popovici had also left. During my visit I noticed that the Yugoslav Mission resembled an inn without gates, where our comrades came and went as they would in their own houses. It had become a club for meeting and talking. This impressed me a lot.
When I got back home I asked Enver immediately about Miladin. He said that he had left in a very depressed state because the new comrades who came to the mission had criticized his work in Albania with regard to our Communist Party. They had said that the Central Committee of the Yugoslavian Communist Party had decided to remove them from Albania and that they had come themselves as substitutes him and Dushan in their relationship with our Party. They would also perform the official function as representatives of the Yugoslavian Military Mission like the British, Soviets and Americans during the war. While talking with Enver I told him that, like many comrades, Liri Gega also went frequently to the Yugoslav Military Mission even though they didn’t have any important duties to complete, and that they behaved as if they were in their own houses. Making no comments Enver said:
“They can do whatever they want, but you do not have anything to do there…”
I was impressed by the way he said that. From his tone you could feel discontent and disapproval. But while I was in Berat, I wasn’t aware of what was happening around him and against him, in the background.
On November 4th, the First Congress of the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Women was opened. All the preparations had been made by Liri Gega and Naxhije Dume. I was not called upon to view the documents, nor was I to be presented with the organizational measures, even though I had been appointed as a supervisor of the commission that the First National Conference set up for the organization. This was, I thought, because I had come late to Berat. These comrades did not inform me or call me to come to the Congress and I thought that this was unintentional because of the difficulties of communication in this time of war. If I hadn’t received Enver’s letter in which he wrote: “See you at the Women’s Congress…” I wouldn’t have gone to Berat and I wouldn’t have taken part in the Congress, because I wouldn’t have known about it. I received another surprise when the Congress’ bodies were chosen. I was not proposed to be in its presidium, but I was appointed, along with comrade Vito Kondi to the Congress’ secretariat. I decided not to bring all these matters to the attention of Enver.
Enver did not say a word to me about what was happening in Berat. I am unable to say if he did this so that I would not be worried, or to respect the principle that the affairs of leadership affairs were things that should not be discussed with one’s wife.
Being at that time a member of Central Committee of the Communist Youth and of the Secretariat of the Union of Albanian Anti-fascist Youth, I remarked to Nako Spiro that, it had been a long time since we had held a meeting; perhaps, because like me, some of the comrades had been kept very busy since the Youth Congress in Helmes…
Nako stood up and invited me to walk with him alongside the river. We walked in silence for some time. Apparently he didn’t know how to begin.
During our walk along the Osum bank, he finally broke his silence and said:
“Well, you are not going to work with the youth anymore…”
Greatly surprised by this sudden news, I interrupted him and said:
“How come? Now we are on the verge of Liberation I can hardly wait to get back to Tirana to work with the Youth…. When was this decided?”
I was continuing to speak in this manner, rather hastily and somewhat upset.
“Just a minute,” he said, “The Central Committee has decided that you should take part in the Ideological Commission at the Central Committee of the Party, led by Sejfulla Maleshova.”
Then he told me about the importance of this commission, but I was getting angry with Enver too, because he hadn’t told me anything about this change. When returned to the seat of the new Government and General Headquarters, I told Enver what Nako had said to me. Enver tried to calm me down, telling me about the functions of this commission, its relationship to the Central Committee, and, at the same time, that it was part of the Ministry of Culture, whose minister would be Sejfulla, and I would deal with Tirana Radio, education etc.
The treatment I had received at the Women’s Congress and this sudden news left a bitter taste in my mouth, but at that time I did not understand why they were happening, because no one, not even Enver had told me what was going on backstage in Berat. Later, everything became clear. Apparently, they wanted to leave Enver out of the State and Party leadership, and they didn’t want to have me among them informing Enver of their actions against him.
15. Capital Liberation. The new Democratic Government in Tirana
On 17 November 1944, after 19 days of violent fighting, we got the long-awaited news of the Liberation of Tirana. We were very happy that day. While Enver was greeting the partisans and the people in the yard from the window of the Seat of the General Headquarters, I went to his room, locked the door and cried for all the dead comrades, remembering each one of them. Some were killed heroically in fighting at the barricades; some were massacred, hanged or tortured. It seemed unjust that they were not there, that they were not alive celebrating and enjoying this victory. Although I didn’t swear an oath at that moment, I have never forgotten those strong feelings of love and pain that I felt on that day. Not even when I was tired, when I was facing difficult moments, including these tough years of loneliness in prison, and my old age. I have told myself:
“That’s OK. Their dreams for the liberation of the nation were realized, and I will continue fighting for those friends of mine who were killed during the struggle and will die with honor, like them.”
The day after we got the wonderful news of the liberation of the capital, Fiqret Sanxhaktari (Shehu) came to Enver and asked permission to go to Tirana. Since the fighting had ended, she wanted to be near Mehmet because she had become engaged to him in Permet, during the Congress. Giving her permission, Enver turned to me and said:
“Nexhmije, why don’t you go along with Fiqret? I will be very busy here, so meanwhile, you can stay with your parents,” he added laughing, “because it is getting near the time we will be going to our own house.”
So I decided to leave Berat.
We set off in a mille cento car. A comrade came with us. I remembered that the Ura Vajgurore bridge or whatever it was called at that time was completely destroyed, so we crossed the river by raft. From the Krraba Pass until we arrived in Tirana we past many smoking burnt-out tanks. We also saw quite a few German corpses. We arrived in the centre of Tirana at Skanderbeg’s square, and decided to take walk in order to see how badly our capital had been damaged and also because we had missed it a lot. What I noticed immediately was the beautiful minaret of the mosque near the clock tower. Only half of it remained because a shell had damaged it.
The Germans had built a bunker in the centre of the square where all the streets intersected. It was nearly level with the ground, with holes for looking out or to put the muzzles of the machine guns through. I wasn’t able to see the entrance for the soldiers because it seemed too narrow to enter from above. Perhaps they had built a tunnel under the square, connected to the town hall, which stood where the National Historical Museum is today. It was said that in this bunker, the enemy had put up a strong resistance, and had killed and injured many partisans, who had bravely attacked that bunker in the middle of the capital. Finally it was captured, and one of our artists had painted a picture of the victorious partisan on the wall of the bunker, as a memorial to their courage.
In Royal Street, now called Barricades Street, you could see the rubbish left from the harsh war fought in that streets – as I was told – by the guerilla units, in cooperation with professional partisan teams, and helped by young volunteers and anti-fascist women from Tirana.
I left Fiqret in Bami Street, later called “Qemal Stafa”. I hastened to my house, in Saraceve Street, thinking to surprise to my parents. But they weren’t there! They hadn’t yet come back from the free areas, where they had had to go with my sick brother. He was an underground activist. They left Tirana when they heard the news that they were to be arrested. As I was later informed, my house had been searched seven times, often under the direction of Man Kukaleshi, the number one in the Qazim Mulleti. The reason for these searches was that there had been a report of a spy living in our alley, who had said that we had a radio transmitter in the house. Maybe he had noticed the activities going on with the people who exchanged letters, communiqués, and leaflets, etc. with my mother. And also, many who stayed there, such as the couriers of some districts used the house as their base, as I have written earlier.
As I didn’t find anyone at home, I headed towards the house of Enver to surprise his parents. They lived in a bungalow with two rooms with view of the ring road, opposite Bije Vokshi’s house, where the Albanian Communist Youth Organization had been established. I entered the house happily and when they saw me they were really surprised and very pleased. Immediately they asked me numerous questions about Enver. The father, uncle Halil, was interested in knowing about the new Government which had been created in Berat, and also about the ministers, some of whom he knew, because they were from Gjirokastra: such as Dr Nishani and others.
One time Ane said to her husband:
“Why don’t you tell the bride what that frontist said about the Government?” “Come on, forget that bastard,” he responded angrily.
It was understood that he didn’t want others to remind him of that frontist so he didn’t talk about it. As I was told later a former friend of his from Gjirokastra, who was a frontist now, had told uncle Halil ironically:
“Have you heard Halil, Enver has become the Prime Minister of the new Government”. “
“He has done his best,” uncle Halil had responded, “Don’t you like it?”
“Heh,” said the frontist on leaving, “a mountain Government, a wet Government…”
That’s why uncle Halil was angry. But the frontists and their friends have now seen for 45 years what this mountain government is and what it could achieve. They have tried for so long to destroy it but they can’t take from the people’s souls the conviction about the benefits that the government brought to the country…
Now the liberated Tirana would wait for the new Democratic Government to come from Berat. The long-awaited day came. The government arrived in the capital on November 1944. It was a nice November morning, when all the members of the Government leads by Enver, arrived in the square between the ministries and walked to the Dajti hotel where, in front of the hotel steps was placed a simple tribune decorated with flags and laurels. The inhabitants of the capital were overwhelmed with an indescribable enthusiasm. The partisans helped to give the atmosphere a sense of great liveliness. They had fought for the liberation of Tirana, felt proud of their deeds and celebrated by singing partisan songs.
A group of martyrs’ mothers went up to the Government members. The moment when these mothers embraced Enver and the other members as if they were their sons was very touching and moving. They wished them heartily:
“May you have a long life…may free Albania have a long life!”
then the mothers sat in front of the tribune where there were many people waiting impatiently to see the leaders of this new democratic state. Among them were a group of young women dressed in beautiful and varicolored national costumes. One of them was holding a red flag with the sublime eagle in the middle. Below, at the side of the Avenue’s bridge over the Lana River, were lines of partisan battalions who had taken part in the Liberation of Tirana. They were to parade in front the members of the Government and the General Commander, Enver Hoxha.
The moment came when the members of the Government, of the National Liberation Front Leadership and of the General Headquarters reached the tribune. Enver Hoxha, Dr. Omer Nishani, Myslim Peza, Haxhi Lleshi, Baba Faja Martaneshi; Mehemet Shehu, Medar Shtylla and others were presented to the cheering and applauding crowds. Along with some comrades, I watched the ceremony from the balcony of the Dajti Hotel.
From the tribune in front of the cheering crowd, Enver Hoxha delivered his first historical speech before the people of Tirana. In his speech as the Prime Minister of the Interim Democratic Government in Berat, Enver had issued the call:
“More bread! More culture!”
Whereas in his speech in the liberated capital, among other things he said:
“Today opens a new page in our history, and it is up to us to make it as glorious as our war against the occupier. This will be a war for the reconstruction of Albania, a war for the boosting of the economy, for the increase in the cultural and educational levels of our people, for the progress of its political, economic and social levels… Let the whole of Albania become a building site, where young and old people understand they no longer work for foreigners, but for themselves and the construction of their own country . . . No honest Albanian citizen should remain out of the Front. On the occasion of the 28th November festival, on the occasion of the liberation of Tirana, the leadership of the Albanian Antifascist National Liberation Council gives a general amnesty to all the members of the National Front, Legaliteti and other organizations who were cooperating with the occupier. From this amnesty are excluded all the war criminals who have killed, burnt, dishonored or stolen the people’s wealth.”
The people looked at the leader carefully, the Commander, for whom they had heard so much during the war. They followed him with an unseen enthusiasm. Together, with the people of the suffering population and who were broken by the war, but whose eyes sparkled because of the joy of freedom and the presence of the members of the Government, had come some of the defeated, who, with the end of the war, had lost political and economic power.
I remember that during the ceremony, when the leaders of the state mounted the tribune, a rather ridiculous incident occurred. We saw that on one side of the tribune there was a former minister of Zogu, Ferit Vokopola, and also a merchant from Tirana, Ali Bakiu. I knew both of them. In the merchants shop we used to buy notebooks and other school items. I had also bought a violin there, because this was wanted by every student preparing to become a teacher. The former minister was the father of one of my classmates. When the organizers of the ceremony saw them both they laughed but became somewhat concerned as well. Actually, the merchant from Tirana was allowed to stay because he had helped the National Liberation Movement; he was an anti-fascist, whereas the former minister left the tribune after they told him politely that his place was not there.
On the occasion of the arrival of the new Government in the liberated Tirana, in the evening of the 28th and 29th of November a large reception was organized in the Dajti Hotel. In addition to the new authorities, of the Government and the Front etc., there were Commanders, Commissars, and distinguished partisans from the battles with the Nazis and Fascists long with martyrs’ mothers and relations. All the Allied Missions in Albania were invited, the British, Soviet, American and Yugoslav.
At this reception, for the first time, I was with Enver, making our matrimonial relationship official. The main authorities of the country and the foreign guests sat in one corner of the big hotel hall. In the middle of it, where we were, and in all the other halls of the hotel, people sang and danced with uncontrolled enthusiasm.
All the members of the allied missions were enjoying themselves, especially those of the British Mission who were represented by quite a few. At this time it was their right to be happy. For months they had wandered in the mountains, sleeping in towers and Albanian huts, far from their families and living under the terror of being bombed by Nazi planes. They looked a bit ridiculous but it was also very nice – when they joined in our southern folk dances dancers and tried to move their legs as we did. Of course they wanted to dance the modern dances, as well; the tango, waltz etc. but most of those who were in the hall had come from the mountains, and those young partisans knew that those dances were not appreciated by the general population at that time. One of the British officers thought that Madam Hoxha knew one of these couple dances, and, according to the rules, asked permission from Enver. Unfortunately, I had never danced that kind of dance so I felt really embarrassed until the music ended.
In the corner where we were sitting, Enver and Dr. Nishani engaged a representative of the British Mission to see if he could handle Albanian raki. They themselves drank two glasses for the big festival and then told the waiter to fill them with water. So while they were drinking water, the Englishman was drinking raki until he was completely drunk, and everyone started laughing heartily. The guest tried to hold his liquor but, in the end, he vomited. While he was vomiting Dr. Nishani made one of his sarcastic comments: “The Englishman vomited the colonies.”
It is a well-known fact that after the Liberation, the relationships of our state leadership with the allied military missions were close and correct, and not only with the Soviet and Yugoslavian mission but also with the British representatives but somewhat less with the Americans, whose rank was lower. The United States had thought it would be “reasonable” that their emissaries should be of Albanian origin, failing to predict that the local Albanians would not put up the haughty advice and interference of these Albanians, who were rather pompous and came from over the ocean.
Enver as the leader of the new Government and Foreign Minister, taking me with him, decided to make some goodwill visits to the allied missions. I remember the visit to the British Mission chief, Jacobs. The Mission was located in a villa between “Qemal Stafa” stadium and the now Albanian Television Station. He was a good host to us. They served their famous tea and biscuits. At that time we had serious problems with the western allies in such matters as the recognition of the Government, the upcoming elections, the conditions for the UNRRA aid etc. As far as I remember, we didn’t mention these problems during this visit, because they might have caused some irritation to our relationships. We discussed the role of the allied missions during the war, about the British Mission and their members who had been in Albania and near the General Headquarters. Enver talked about them and Jacobs told us where some of them had now moved on to other missions; to Egypt near the Mediterranean Allied Headquarters, to Italy, and, in some cases, back to England.
In the second half of 1991, when my children and I had left our house and were settled in a flat, two English journalists came to visit me. At that time I didn’t wish to receive journalists, but they informed me that they had a “last will” from a former officer of the British Mission during the National Liberation War. I became curious so I accepted their request. One of them was a journalist, the other a photo reporter working for “The Sunday Times”. The journalist took from his pocket and showed me a photo of a young officer, who, as he told me, was his father, a former member of the British Mission in Albania during the war. This man, as his father had told him, had jumped with a parachute somewhere near Elbasan (maybe in the Biza field where the allies dropped supplies), but while landing he had been hurt and had been sent to a partisan hospital. According to them I had helped him and I had given him a toothbrush. His Dad had told him about the life in Albania, the partisan’s war and had told him that he had been at the dinner party in the Dajti Hotel for the wedding of Enver Hoxha and myself. Before dying he had told his son to visit to Albania and to come and thank me, and as a souvenir he gave me a toothbrush, new of course.
His father had confused me with someone else, but I couldn’t disappoint his son, so I said: “…Thank you…” and some other friendly words about the Englishmen I had known in Elbasan, Berat, Helmes etc. I also told him that we did not organize a dinner for our wedding at the Dajti Hotel, but that it had been a welcoming reception to celebrate the new Democratic Government in the liberated Tirana, and I told him playfully that maybe I had danced with his father.
When I was sent to prison, I read a small newspaper from our foreign friends and also saw the photographs of these two friends of Albania with some others. They had organized a demonstration with placards etc., demanding my release, in front of a building where there was a delegation of the Sali Berisha Government.
16. Our partisan wedding
When the new Government came to Tirana, the majority or, better to say all of its members, stayed in the Dajti Hotel. Enver had a bedroom with an anteroom. I remember staying there all December, until the relevant offices were set-up, and we got our house. We were given a house in New Tirana, on “Ismail Qemali” street. It had been the house of an engineer or director of the “Belloti” firm. We lived there for 30 years.
Enver and I decided to hold our official wedding on the New Year Eve (1944-1945), and we told our families this. They were surprised and said: “Wait a minute, we’re not ready!” We told them that we didn’t want a wedding ceremony or anything special. In fact, our families were correct because they finally had an opportunity to marry off their only son to me, an only daughter. That is why they insisted that we should celebrate twice, because we had survived the war. Enver said:
“Many young comrades like us were killed in the war that is why we can’t have a wedding ceremony”.
So they had to accept our partisan wedding. Nevertheless they did manage to do something.
On the 30th of December my family invited the family of my uncle to dinner, Arif Xhuglini, and his children. I remember that, after dinner, my uncle’s wife took me aside and wanted to tell me about the mysteries of the first night of the wedding, as it had been done to her. As she started talking I felt very embarrassed so I interrupted her saying:
“No, no I don’t want…” and left.
It seemed banal to me to stay and listen those things, maybe I felt ashamed at that time. Later when I became more interested in traditions and social customs and it also become part of my job, I said to myself:
“Why didn’t I let her talk in order to better understand the knowledge and concepts existing then about the relationship between man and woman?”
Because, I think that, the simpler the people from the cultural point of view, the more simplified are these intimate relationships. This doesn’t mean that simple people do not fall in love, do not have passions, what I mean is that, along with the expansion of the cultural horizon, intimate relationships “get complicated”, are cultivated and smartened up more than nature has given to us humans, more than nature has given to the animals, and much higher than the natural instinct of every living being to breed.
Something nice happened the following day, on December 31st. in the morning, when some members of Enver’s family had come to take the “bride”. They were Enver’s sisters Farihe and Sano. We waited on them hospitably and treated them with different kinds of sweets, according to the custom. We laughed very much when they told us what Enver had done:
“We asked him to give us his car, but he wouldn’t allow this. Now what should we do? We had to take a brougham…This is what your Enver did to us…”
and my sisters-in-law laughed. What could they do because there were no taxis then?
The moment of my leave came. It was more emotional than I had imagined. This way of leaving and separation from my family and my little house created strange impressions and caused strong emotions to me. “The partisan bride” was leaving her house. I had put on a military fabric jacket, which I had used as a coat. At the end of the road there was a hidebound horse and an old carriage waiting for the “Prime Minister’s bride”.
While the brougham was walking in the streets of the city, many ideas came to my mind. Maybe that was the strangest journey I have ever had and …the most beautiful. A strong pen is needed along with a calm spiritual state to describe the movement of that carriage carrying a bride who had just come from the mountains, to describe the minutes of that December day that were for me, a wedding day, but for Albania a real spring, the spring of freedom. The further we journeyed from my house the more confused my thoughts became and my heart beat very quickly… I have remembered this strange journey all these years; a journey that was taking me towards a new life.
Enver’s parents, his other sister, and her children were waiting for us at home. What about the bridegroom? He didn’t come to get me and he didn’t wait for me at the house either. He had gone to the office! This wasn’t acceptable.
My mother in law, whom I called Ane as did Enver, gave me a wedding ring of her own. It had white precious stones, but, as a partisan, I felt ashamed to put on my finger. I did put it on my finger but I gave it to my daughter later when she got married. For all of my life I haven’t worn a ring. Enver never gave me one and I never gave one to him either. He said playfully:
“Why do we need them; they are like chain links.”
The truth is that neither he nor I had the possibility to buy them. Enver’s father gave me a pendant with multi-colored stones, which had been an earring. He kept the other earring for Sano. Ane had made a satin quilt. Whereas my mother came with a necklace that she had had when she got married, and had also bought me some clothes at Bege’s, which, as I remember, was a small shop, but the most modern for those time. She also bought some pajamas there for Enver, which he never wore because they were too small for him. Because of this he teased my mother saying that she didn’t buy fairly for the bridegroom! According to the customs of the time, my mother sent to my parent’s in-law and sister’s in-law, towels, handkerchiefs, socks and other items. So, after everything, I didn’t leave without a proper ceremony. On the New Years Eve, Enver and I were alone. I will never forget that night, which was not only the night of a New Year but also of a new life.
As we had planned; the following day we held the official celebration of our marriage. Two employees, who had civil status, came to officiate in this. At the small ceremony that had been organized where two close friends of Enver; Dr. Omer Nishani and Baba Faja Martaneshi, who had come for the New Year and had been happy to be the witnesses of our marriage. From that time on, Omer used to call me “Enver’s wife “. On January 1st and 2nd, comrades from the political bureau such as Mehmet with Fiqret, Hysni, Vito, Nako and some others, came to congratulate us on our marriage and also to wish us all the best for the New Year. An unexpected self-organized “delegation” from Dibra also came to visit us. A group of my father’s cousins and some other citizens had come visiting. They were five or six people, lead by my father’s cousin, Mersin Qyflaku. He had known Enver from the time the Zajmi Mosque was being used as an undercover base and Enver had used Mersin’s yard to get into a “mile cento” car that would take him to Peza. Also in this group was one of the leaders of the Muslim Community, whose name I am unable to remember, but he was from Dibra. I was surprised to see that one of the visitors was Zija Dibra, who was a cousin of my father on his mother’s side. He was the brother of Fuat Dibra who, during the German occupation, was chosen to be Regent, together with Mehdi Frasheri, Lef Nosi and Pater Anton Harapi.
During the war, the Nazi invaders wanted to organize this Regency to fool the Albanian people into thinking that they were being governed by Albanians. The comrades of the Central Committee, Gogo Nushi, Nako Spiru and Sejfulla Maleshova sent me to talk with him (because I knew him) and appeal to him on behalf of the National Liberation Front not to accept this function.
Both brothers, Zija and Fuat Dibra, were not permanent residents of Tirana. They lived in Istanbul, where they had their palaces. My grandmother had told me that they were so rich that they didn’t count their gold, but weighed it using a large measuring cup. Fuat Dibra spent most of his time in France and Switzerland, and as I have heard from my father that he spent his fortune recklessly, not only in helping patriotic societies with emigration matters, but also living a life of luxury in Swiss hotels and sanatoriums, where he had gone to be cured of tuberculoses. One day the gold ran out and his family were destitute. Their old wooden house in Istanbul was even burned to the ground.
The brothers came very often to Albania especially since the time of Zogu. Fuat Bay Dibra lived at his cousin’s, Fuat Shatku’s wife, who had been a former minister during the time of Zogu. She was the aunt of Shyhret Turkesh, who had married the well-known scholar, Professor Eqrem Cabej. So we were related. I had been in this house at an earlier time with my mother. Shyhret’s aunt knew I was a communist and underground activist like her niece, that is why she welcomed me. I told her the reason why I had gone there, and she said that he was ill, but nevertheless, they hadn’t left him alone. She said that Mehdi Frasheri went there almost every day and pressed him to accept the post of regent that they had proposed. She took me to see him in his room. It was a half room, very dark, lit only by a small electric lamp, which was weaker than a candle. He was lying in a narrow bed completely covered with a dark blanket and his face turned to the wall.
Razia said slowly:
“It is useless to talk to him, he is tired because of the illness, and most of the time he feels sleepy from the medicine, and he doesn’t want to talk to anybody.”
I understood that it was impossible to try to talk to him in the state that he was in, so I left. I told this to my comrades. After a short period of time, he died. However his name was listed as a member of the quisling Regency. Nevertheless, Sejfulla Maleshova wrote an article about him in the newspaper of the National Liberation Front “Bashkimi” (The Union), where he mentioned his patriotic activity in the past, without mentioning that he ended his life as a quisling regent.
And now in our house came the regent’s brother, to congratulate on the Liberation of Albania and our wedding. We didn’t behave badly towards him, we treated Zija Dibra like the others, considering also the fact that he had not been involved in politics but had tried to keep his family’s capital. Actually, like his brother, he was a failure in politics.
The press of the time wrote that Enver had made a political marriage; marrying a girl from the North.
Understandably it was impossible to think of a honeymoon at that time. We had hardly had the chance to live together and find a house of our own. This is why we started working immediately.
17. New bride – In Enver’s family
After leading a nomad’s life for three years –as an illegal and a partisan – I finally was part of the family. When Enver was dismissed from his job in Korca and came to Tirana, he opened his shop “Flora”, and brought his family; mother, father and his single sister Sanije from Gjirokastra. They rented a house, a short distance from the place where Vojo Kushi was killed and close to the house where the Communist Youth was founded. This was quite a small house with only two rooms. In the garden was a small hut that was used as a kitchen. Enver lived at this house for only a short time until the end of October 1941, when he was obliged to go ‘underground’ to avoid arrest. He never set foot in that house again.
After the liberation, when we moved to the “Belloti” house in ‘Tirana e Re’ (New Tirana), Enver sent for his parents and sister to live with us. His middle sister, Haxhire, continued to live in the small house with her three fatherless children; her husband having been killed in his shop in Berat. Later, as she had nothing to live on, we sent for her and the children to come and live with us. Zylo, the daughter of his uncle was also invited by Enver to come and live with us. This was because he thought that he owed his uncle a favor as he had helped him with his education and also because he was a well educated patriot.
The house that we moved into was not so spacious. The women and the children slept in the largest room, while, in a smaller room slept Enver’s father. One of the other two rooms was our bedroom, whereas the other became Enver’s studio, where he welcomed comrades and held meetings with them. Koci Xoxe moved into a house close to ours. He lived with his father, stepmother, wife and her mother and his two children, who were born before the Liberation. He had two other children after that. Koci’s family was a modest one, his father was a tinsmith by profession, a craft passed down to his only son. Koci’s wife, Sofika, was a kind woman, who, even at a young age, was rather stooped, because of working hard at the handloom, making carpets for others. She could not get used to the high post that her husband had and said smilingly:
‘Wow, Xoxo has become… a celebrity!’
Indeed Xoxo put on great airs, which he always did in a very serious manner.
Koci’s father, called Barba…, I don’t remember his full name, seemed to be hardworking, able-handed and still kept working in his old age. Uncle Halil, Enver’s father and Koci’s father became close friends. Over a glass of raki or a cup of coffee they told old stories about their families or about the cities where they had lived. Uncle Halil, out of curiosity had asked him one day:
‘What’s the matter with our sons? They keep arguing, I have heard them shouting when they get together at our home…’
However, Barba minded his own business.
We did not get our monthly payment until some months after the Liberation. Some of the comrades of the Party leadership, members of the Government and of the Anti-fascist National Liberation Council continued to live and eat at the “Dajti” Hotel, others at another hotel later called the “Vollga”. Canteens were set up by Naku Spiru, such as the one for the Youth Central Committee and its administration, where people could eat for a low nominal charge..
However, our family and that of Koci Xoxe had only the one cook, a middle-aged man, called Lluka. He was supplied by a state managing center and he cooked the same things for both of the families; a first and a second course for lunch, whereas, for breakfast and dinner we each had a glass of milk, an egg and some cheese.
The house where we moved was unfurnished. It had belonged to an Italian engineer, who had left with the Italian army after the surrender of the fascist Italy, and a merchant from Korca called Petro Katro had removed the furniture. This furniture was taken away from him and became state property and was then distributed to various places. Later, many comrades, bought some pieces of this furniture from the government. We bought the bedroom and the dining room furniture. While we settled down with these items, Koci’s house was empty and had only some old bits and pieces and some small carpets, which had been brought from Korca. Noticing this situation, Enver said to his mother:
‘Ane, what about cutting the rug of the hall in two and give one part to Koci?’
She replied, ‘It’s a pity to cut up such a rug, it will get spoiled, let them find another rug for Koci.’
They found and brought two rugs to Koci’s, which were so thick that they had to saw off the bottoms of the doors.
There’s another funny story about this rug, which Enver tells. Two peasants from Elbasan came for a visit; Ali Disha and others, who had hosted and protected Enver and some friends in their house, during the war. They wanted to take their shoes off before entering the house but Enver smilingly said,
‘No, no!’, and, taking them by the hand said ‘Do come in and walk comfortably on this rug because it used to belong to Shefqet Verlaci”.
Actually, it wasn’t his but he mentioned his name because the peasants from Elbasan had suffered a lot because of Shefqet Verlaci a landowner, who, right up to the end was in the service of the fascist invaders, and even became a Prime Minister under them.
During the first 3 or 4 years after the Liberation, the meetings of the Political Bureau were held in our house. This was rather uncomfortable because of our large family. Therefore, Koci moved to another house nearby. Into his old house, which was next to ours, Enver and the family moved, however we all dined together. A woman was employed to do the cooking for us. She boasted that because she was from a big house, she would be able to do a very good job for us. She, thinking that perhaps she was a great cook or perhaps that we, as communists, would treat her as an equal, decided to sit down with us at our meals at the other end of the table, facing Enver. And this was not all. She kept up a constant chatter at the dining table! Enver once looked at me as if to ask ‘Where did you find her?’ I did not know her at all; those who dealt with our houses and related matters sent her to us. She did not stay long. When Enver’s sister, along with her children, came to live with us, she did the cooking for quite some time.
Sterjo Gjokoreci, a senior communist, who had been for several years in the Soviet Union, was responsible for matters of supply and other economic issues. He was fluent in Russian so he was also Enver’s translator at the meetings with Stalin, even at the tête-à-tête ones and also at dinners and walks, which Enver describes in his book “With Stalin”. Sterjo was totally honest and systematic for whatever expense or object that he brought into the house. In his special file you could read about the shirt, tie or socks that he had bought for Enver or the specific authorization that he had made for to buy me a suit for my wedding etc. With this authorization in my hands, I went to the store of the big merchant from Korca, Sheko, where I picked up some blue cloth, which I am still wearing, even in the photo on the cover of this book. The off-the-peg white shirt was a wedding present from Koco Tasko, from his shop, which he opened with the money of Sano’s trousseau, given by Enver to offset the expenses of the activities of the Korca Communist Group.
This photo has a story of its own, both beautiful and painful at the same time. That is the first photo after our wedding and is a memory from a Soviet camera operator who was in Albania to film the most gripping moments of the fighting for the liberation of Tirana and of the historic events to come. Unfortunately, the plane in which he was flying was shot when passing over Montenegro and thus he lost his life and all the work he had done in Albania. I do not know if any examples of his work still exist, or even if he sent some of it to Moscow in batches.
I don’t remember after how many months, the state began to pay us on a monthly basis and I don’t recall what our salary was after the Liberation. However, I do remember that at the time when Enver was the prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Minister of Foreign affairs, he earned 35,000 (old) Lek. I earned 20,000 (old) Lek when I was the Director at the Ministry Of Culture and later as a Director of Propaganda, Education and Culture at the department in the Party Central Committee. Each of us earned 2,000 Lek as deputies. Later, Enver suggested cutting off this honorarium for the deputies living in Tirana, and were paid only for the usual mileage when they were on duty. For the out of town deputies who came to Tirana for the meetings of the Assembly accommodation and mileage costs were given to them. Later the salaries were reduced to that point that, at Enver’s suggestion and in accordance with Lenin’s recommendations written in his books; the salaries of the highest Party and State functionary could not be higher than 2 – 21/2 times the average of the salaries of the workers in the top category and therefore Enver received 16,000 leks while I received 13,000.
During the early years our salaries were quite enough for us, but we could not save anything. This was because, in addition to Enver’s family, we had to maintain my family, including my father who had a low pension along with my mother who was a housewife and my brother who was studying in the Soviet Union. We also had to maintain the two families of the two widowed sisters of Enver; Haxhire, with her three children, and Fahrije, and her two sons, Luan and Fatos who attended the university.
Earlier I have mentioned that Enver loved his eldest sister very much and admired her cleverness, wisdom and the culture. This she had picked up from her husband Bahri Omari who had emigrated to Italy some years earlier because he was an anti-Zogist. When Italy invaded Albanian, Bahri Omari returned to his home country, he socialized with his immigrant friends, many of whom had been appointed as members of the High Council, which was set up by the invaders. When Balli Kombetar was created, Bahri Omari was at its center. Enver in his book ‘Laying the Foundations of the New Albania’ has described in detail his efforts to convince intellectuals and politicians to join the Anti-fascist National Liberation Front and fight to liberate Albania. He did the same with Bahri Omari.
Enver send word with his sister and her son, Luan, in order to convince him to withdraw from his circle, and come up to the mountains to fight as some of his friends had done, such as Dr. Omer Nishani and others. However Bahri Omari held fast to his position.
In one of Enver’s letters that he sent me after there had been an ambush by a partisan unit in which Bahri Omari was wounded in one arm, he wrote
‘I do not feel sorry for him as a political figure, but I do for Fahrie and her sons. I am not going to intervene in any way… This is not particularly nice of me towards Fahrie…but there’s nothing I can do. I struggled for two long years trying to show him the correct way, but his head was like a cave..’
However, Bahri was not only an activist of Balli Kombetar, he also became Minister of Foreign Affairs under the quisling Nazi Government of Rexhep Mitrovica.
Thus was created the deep conflict between his sister, Fahrie and our families. It has been asked; ‘Could Enver really do nothing to rescue him?’ The charges against him were very serious; not only was he a quisling, but, just as important was the fact that he had signed the order to blow up Durres Harbor after the Nazi forces withdrew. Couldn’t his friends have done something?
Koci Xoxe asked Enver
‘What we are going to do with Bahri Omari?’
Enver replied ‘I did my best, he wouldn’t listen, now it’s up to justice.’
When Bahri was sentenced to death, Ane said to her son, Enver:
‘I am going to Fahrie for some days…’
She said this not as though she was asking permission but as a decision that was up to her.
While Sano also asked ‘Can I go too?’
‘Do go!’ Enver replied.
Some days past and I asked the same question,
‘Enver, may I go to Fahrije?’
‘Surely!’ he replied and he added sadly
‘I am really sorry for Fahrie and the family…’
When I arrived, there was Bahri’s sister and many other cousins from the Omar family. They were motionless, when I came in. I do not remember if I shook hands with them, but I hugged Fahrie. She kept a straight face, and, being a wise woman she never argued about this, but she did not set foot on our house for a long time afterwards. She came only when her father was sick. Enver also went to see her. It was easy for their mutual brother-sister affection to bloom again. Enver asked her about her health, because, after the war, she had problems again with tuberculosis, which was cured by the well-known pulmonologist of that time, Petraq Leka. Then she came occasionally, then later, more often and, finally she came regularly as a daughter of the house. She stayed for days and satisfied her longing for her parents, sisters and brother. She loved me too, and opened her heart to me about any problems that worried her. She showed her wisdom and self-control again even though she was going through a very difficult stage of her life.
It was Enver’s 60th birthday. She welcomed and kept the house open for the guests. The following morning, before leaving, she came up to my room and after a while told me,
‘Vera (one of my pseudonyms in the war, which the Enver’s family still uses), I have got something like a small ball, here at my breast. I felt it for the first time when we were at Durres beach. At first I thought it was just a minor injury from the mattress or something but now it seems to be something else…’
I was completely taken aback. I stood up and as I checked her I noticed the lump which was hard to the touch. I kept a straight face, and said calmly
‘You should see the specialist to check it. Don’t worry, you know that such lumps can sometimes occur and they can be benign”.
I arranged the medical check up and the tests for her, but unfortunately, it was malignant. She was operated on. Enver did not want to send her abroad (he was rather strict with his family, in every aspect). The chemotherapy for the tuberculosis affected her health, and, even after she was sent abroad, she did not recover. After languishing for six months, she gathered all her spiritual and physical strength and welcomed Enver, standing and smiling assuring him that she was all right. She, and we knew that this would be the last time that we met her. By midnight, she closed her eyes forever, while in the arms of her sons. In the morning, her sons came and consoled Enver, maybe thinking that he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to go to their house. On the contrary, as soon as he had met with the comrades of the Political Bureau who had come to console him and who also went to see her sons, Enver, and all of the family, went to Fahrije’s house to console them. Enver went there prior to, and after the funeral, and for two or three days he stayed there during the afternoons and for hours he welcomed whoever came to console Fahrie’s sons.
Enver’s mother was gentle, calm and patient. She had lost her son, Beqir, at 27, due to tuberculosis. He was older than Enver and, whenever he was mentioned, she wept. She wore a ring, which had a photo of him in it. She was illiterate, but very clever. She had a natural cleverness. Her memory was extraordinary, and this was something that Enver inherited from her. It was nice to interact with each other. I have written about this in the preface of Enver’s book ‘Childhood Years’. I was told that she was hardworking around the house, a good hostess and cook. Now she did not do any housework. Sometimes you could see her sitting by the fireplace sewing or patching clothes for the family. She could thread a needle even when she reached her nineties. Although she had difficulty with her hearing, one could not tell this even when she was chatting with many women within the same room.
Enver made time to take care of his parents, especially Ane (his mother). Almost every morning, with his bag under his arm leaving for work, he would go into her room and to say good morning or chat with her for a while. In the evenings, as well, half an hour prior to dinner, we went together to his parents who we usually found by the fireside; Ane sitting on the corner ottoman, and, at the other side was the uncle (Enver’s father) sitting on a soft pad. In the evenings, Enver’s father wore his nightgown (not pajamas) and a black fez on his head, as all the Moslem men did before Zog in 1936 after which the law made it compulsory for the men to wear a trilby hat and for the women to take off the yashmak (an example set by Qemal Ataturk). During these evening get-togethers I found out that Enver’s parents were married from the cradle, as usually happened in Albania. The way this happened was: that two friends, having coffee or a glass of raki, one sad because his wife had given birth to a daughter and the other quickly comforting him would say, ‘Don’t worry, I will ask her hand in marriage for my son…’ so they were connected by an arranged marriage. Enver played jokes on his father about this and asked,
‘So tell us, did you play together when you were little?’
His father pursed his thick lips and smilingly replied
‘I threw pebbles towards her so that she would go inside…’
Enver went on joking ‘Wow were you jealous or a fanatic? When she grew up straight and tall, did you like her? You were very short indeed…’
He replied to this with irony ‘It’s not a big deal; she also wore a pair of yellow high heel boots, which you could notice from far away…’
‘That’s why you did not allow her to walk past the market, even though she was covered head to toe…’
‘He wreaked havoc about this’ Ane told me, ‘One day when somebody told him ‘I saw Gjylo walking by the market’. I went to the market (the town center) only once in my life while we were living there.’
I had heard that the people of Gjirokastra were good thrifty housekeepers but also stingy ones. Enver liked to tell a joke about this, although I don’t know if it was true or made up. Somebody from Gjirokastra was related by marriage to someone one from Libohova. The in–laws visited them after having done the shopping at the market. The hostess had cooked some very delicious, but rather small, meatballs. The men sat down at the dining table, the man from Gjirokastra noticed that his guest was eating the meatballs two at a time. He could not keep himself from saying:
‘How do you climb the stairs there in your town?’ He answered, ‘One by one or two at a time, it depends on the stairs…’
Enver knew his father’s habits well and one evening he said
‘You have not yet shown your wooden chest to your daughter in law…’
He had a small wooden chest like the ones from long ago; tin layered and decorated with circular head nails with a semi-spherical lid. There were also goat skinned chests and larger ones usually given to the bride. Ane had one like this, but bigger, which she had sent to Gjirokastra and placed it in the room where Enver was born. The uncle took the chest from his room and placed it where he was sitting by the fireplace. You could find anything in it ranging from pieces of letters, letter rolls that had become yellow with age, nails, rivets and shoe-slabs etc.
‘What are these, what do you need them for?’ Enver teased him.
‘You ask me what do I do with them. Well, when Naim’s (his fatherless nephew) shoes wear out they need to be mended…The women waste time looking for nails to fix the curtains in the kitchen…I did not buy these but collected them here and there and placed them in this wooden chest.’
‘What about the letters?’ Enver asked.
‘The ones that you are holding are the land-patents of the fields that we own in…’ he mentioned a village that I don’t remember now.
‘What do you need them for uncle, they are of no value. Don’t you know that the land belongs to the people who farm it, thus their place is here…’ and threw them into the fire.
The uncle nearly burnt his hands trying to retrieve them, but they made a beautiful flame and burned. The uncle was annoyed and angry with Enver.
‘They were of no harm to you, they were just a souvenir from Mullah Beqiri’s time (Enver’s grandfather).’
One Sunday, Enver said to his mother
‘You have not shown the ‘ bride’ that national costume, the vest that you embroidered…’
Sano went to get it from the white sheet in which it was wrapped. The loose breeches of Gjirokastra and Dibra are not made of a white, thin and stiff cloth like the ones from Tirana or Elbasan. In general those of Central Albania made of satin, light colored, such as cream, lilac, with light pink or blue flowers etc. The cherry colored, velvet vest was embroidered with charming designs of golden threads by Ane and looked as though it had just been made.
‘The daughters of the house had worn it for their weddings and next in line to wear it was Sano, but unfortunately, she had not yet found her match…’ Ane ended her story, on a rather sad note.
Sano never did manage to wear this costume because she did not get married. She had been unlucky; firstly Enver, her only brother, was away from the family because of his job and studies, then came the war. She did not even become a partisan because Enver left her to take care of their elderly parents. After the war, partially because of her age, but I think that was more due to the fact that Enver had official assignments and so people found it difficult to approach her since they may have thought that we were aiming too high.
Thus, Sano did not get married. She had attended only elementary school, but you could not tell this as she was clever and read a lot, especially magazines and newspapers. At the beginning she hesitated to go to work, considering her educational level too low. However, Enver insisted that she worked, not only because of the economic aspects but also the principle aspect, which was the employment of women. By working Sano set a good example to other women. She worked at the registry office in Tirana and, although she did not earn much there, Enver and I let her keep her salary for her personal needs. Sano worked in a modest manner and never showed herself off as Enver’s sister. Sano was accepted as a Party member thanks to her work and modesty. She was active in the activities of the Democratic Front organization and that of the Woman in the neighborhood. She was always in contact with people and aware of their needs because of her work and these activities in the neighborhood. She often talked about these at lunchtime or dinnertime and she never held back her criticism of the governmental bodies that did not find solutions for particular problems.
Sano persistently defended her opinions even when Enver contradicted her –
‘It’s not like you think…’ she went on and sometimes
Enver loudly replied ‘Who knows better, you or I?’.
Sano did not gave up and replied quietly ‘That’s what I think…’
I had to play the referee, on one side I advised Sano
‘Don’t go too far when we are dining, he is tired…’
and on the other side when I was alone with Enver, I would say to him
‘Why do you tease her, she has her own personality, I am glad that she has her own opinions.’
Enver laughed and said ‘I tease her so that she gets used to other criticisms…’
Enver’s attitude was sometimes principled but Sano was not to blame. Once, when we were dining, Sano looked really happy and Enver asked
‘What’s up?’, she told him that she had been to the Party Conference of Tirana and had been elected to the labor presidium.
Enver replied immediately ‘Were not other communists in the organization of Tirana to be elected for the presidium?’
Enver was referring to the opportunism of the Party Committee but Sano was justifiably offended and replied indignantly
‘I did not request to be elected’ and stood up and left.
We went on commenting on this but Enver put this to an end by saying
‘I’m irritated because they do things meant to please me, but what do all those communists, who have great merits, say about this?’
During all the years that I lived with Sano, I was convinced that even when time passes a brother likes to tease his younger sister, whom he loves very much. In my personal library I have a small hard covered book of La Fontaine’s tales, which Enver had sent to Sano when he was in France. In it he has written:
‘As a memory…, poor you if you ruin it…’
I do not have the exact dedication now but I remember these words quite well.
Anytime that Enver got sick, she sat at the top of the staircase and burst in tears. I tried to comfort her and begged to go in her room because she stood in the way of the medical staff. When Enver passed away I stayed close to her, much more so than I stayed with my children. I was very sorry for her, as she had not experienced the joys of love, a family and of her own children. My imprisonment was a fatal blow to her. After 5 years of solitude, during my imprisonment, despite her old age, she enjoys welcoming communists, comrades and friends of Enver or new friends of our family.
Enver’s mother and father were very different characters. Ane was careful, quite neat in her way of dressing and eating and somehow authoritarian, while uncle Halil was totally different. He never changed his suit unless his wife and daughters insisted and he never laced his shoes.
‘Where on earth are you going dressed like that?’ Ane would say.
We laughed at his words ‘What did I do?’
He wore his old hat, even though Enver had given him one of his. One day Enver said,
‘Will you throw that old hat away or what…’
He did not take Enver’s words seriously until, one day he saw Enver taking the scissors and cutting it up. Enver said smilingly,
‘If you like it so much then wear it like this…’ Uncle smiled too.
Basically, he was one of those people that are called good-natured, calm, popular, who liked to socialize with the common people. He was very honest regarding financial matters. At the beginning, when we had our salaries, he did the shopping even for my mother who lived near by. He was not too lazy to go to the third floor and give back the change to my mother even if it was just a one lek!
Every evening, when we went into their room, we found uncle Halil reading. He had a wooden chest full of old quran books in Turkish or Arabic, which could have belonged to father Ceni (Hysen Hoxhes) Enver’s uncle, who was educated, chairman of the town Hall, and of the law-courts. Even Enver’s father was called Mulla Halil, a title used for educated people. When I had submitted for translation one of these ‘qurans’ to the only translator of the old Turkish language who was from Berat, he had told me that this was an amusing writing. In one of my photos of my youth, which I had sent to Enver’s family, his father had written on the top of this ‘marsh Allah’ , I do not remember the other words. We had sent this photo together with other objects to the small and low house, where Enver’s family had lived before the Liberation. I do not know what happened to it and to the other relics that we had submitted to this museum.
During his evening visits, Enver played backgammon with his father or sometimes he said ‘Let’s sing a song!’ Uncle started singing quietly and Enver sang along with him in a thick voice. I remember that one of songs from Laberia which Enver liked singing was that of ‘Cerciz dhe Bilbilenjte’. Uncle liked telling the stories that he read in his ‘qurans’, such as the Persian-Greek wars, episodes from the battles of Alexander the Great and those about the Imams in Arabia, of Ali and his sons, Hysen and Hasan. Maybe these readings had encouraged him to follow the Bektashi sect (Moslem sect) and to go to the Tekke (holy place). He was not that religious; he did not fast, but left the table any time that we ate ham or pork dishes. He discussed for a long time with his second daughter, Hatixhe, whether or not she had properly washed the casserole in which pork had been cooked. On the other hand, he always visited his Christian friends at Easter time and came back with his pockets full of red painted eggs, which amazed and made our children very happy.
Enver was in Moscow when our first child was born. When he returned to Albania, in the midst of the boisterous happiness within our households, the uncle said
‘Now we are three men…’
Enver not realizing or not having heard this at that moment or just to tease his father, said startled,
‘What do you mean by, we became three men?’ The uncle added smiling ‘Three men, I, you and your son…’ ‘But what name shall we give him?’ Enver replied.
‘Ane and I have found a name for him, Beqir (in the memory of their dead son).”
I stiffened, I did not like that name at all. Enver and I had agreed to name him Ilir. Enver, smiling, winked at me and said to him:
‘All right, we’ll name him Beqir but he will have also another name…Ilir.’
The uncle took him in his arms and sang something to him, a ‘Moslem prayer’ that we did not understand then he whispered three times at his ear ‘Beqir, Beqir, Beqir.’ We registered our son at the registry office with the name Ilir and, except uncle, we never called him Beqir.
Even though Enver did his best to look after his father, he had a weakness for his mother. When we went downstairs, before dinner, he sat beside her on the ottoman and embraced her, and trifled with her braid, which she had thrown over her shoulders under her headdress. She turned her head and kissed him on the cheek. The same kind thing happened even when Enver was at his early sixties.
In the early days, when I was a ‘young bride’ in the house, Ane, after having kissed Enver had said to me
‘Dear bride, don’t worry about this as I have clean lips.’
I could do nothing but smile at the implication of her words. However, she could not upset me because she was so meticulous about her personal hygiene, clothes, bedding and covers. I could even go so far as to say that a nurse could not be more sanitary. She ate with such delicacy as if she had grown up in a noble family or maybe abroad. Her eldest and youngest daughters, Fahrie and Sano, had taken after her in this aspect. On the other hand, the other daughter had not inherited anything from this. When the others pointed this out to her, she replied
‘It’s not so easy, I have other things to do, I cook, do the washing up…’
She resembled her father in appearance and in character.
Enver ‘hated’ black clothes. He did his best to convince Ane to take them off but she wouldn’t listen. One day, when she was present, he requested me to find a light colored cloth to make a dress. As it was summer, I bought a grey cotton fabric with some small black stripes on it and we made a dress for her. Ane wore it for only a day and she, smiling said,
‘It seems to me as if I am wearing my nightgown’.
Sometimes Enver asked Ane to grill cheese on the fire-iron, as we sat by the fireplace. This was very nostalgic and reminded him of his childhood. Enver, being a diabetic, could not eat things that were not included in his diet, so he encouraged the children, saying,
‘Do go to Ane, she will grill cheese on the fire-iron.’
The word ‘fire-iron’ used in this case brought up lengthy debates regarding the various meanings that were given to some objects in some dialects. For example, we from Dibra use this word to name the object used to ignite the fire in the fireplace or in the stove, whereas in Gjirokastra it has another name. You could imagine how my grandmother and my mother-in law communicated with each other. Enver usually asked Ane,
‘What did you do today? Did anyone visit you? Did you go anywhere?’
She replied that she had visited my mother. Enver asked Ane about her visit
‘What was said there?’
She told him about any topic that she had discussed with my mother
‘There was the grandmother, too, but I did not understand a word of what she said and she did not understand a word of what I had said.’
This might sound strange but the younger generations of the last three or four decades have overcome the problems of dialects. These problems have been brought to an end thanks to schooling, communication, and above all, the historical decision to process and standardize the literary language.
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