An Era Gone By

Looking out my tower I see this old house across the street. This once stunning Italianate building with marble carved pediments on the windows, an arched doorway which leads into the marbled floored foyer and a marble staircase leading up to the second floor. Once you reach the second story a balcony welcomes you overlooking my tower.

                                            Guljelm Luka’s House

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Why am I writing about this? The answer is two-fold.

In November 1944, upon the takeover of communism my family went into hiding  as they were being sought by the regime; my great-grandmother Dava, my grandmother Mrika, my two aunts Bardha and Marta, my uncle Nikoll and my young cousins Kristina, Celestina and Gjon. After they had been sheltered in hiding for some months by friends of the family, an amnesty was announced declaring that those in hiding wouldn’t be arrested. Because of the amnesty they came out of hiding around March 1945 and were promptly picked up and brought to this home, the Guljelm Luka house, which was directly across the street from their own home. This would be their new ‘home’ for the next six months, alongside other families who were in the same predicament.

Their home across the street had by this time been confiscated by the communists and was being used as their offices; the Guljelm Luka house had been confiscated and turned into a jail for house arrest and interrogations. Can you imagine being under house arrest across the street from your own home? Seeing communist officers come and go into your house? I can’t. After six months they were sent to various internment camps and/or jail and spent the bulk of their lives under the regime in concentration camps until democracy arrived in 1991, with the exception of my uncle Nikoll who successfully escaped from the concentration camp at Tepelene in 1950 and joined his father and older brother in Rome.

During 45+ years of communism the house was used as a jail until that service was exhausted, at which point it was turned into ‘apartments’. There were at least 4 families living in the house at once throughout the 45+ years. At the end of communism, as the original owners had no descendants, the house passed through a number of ‘new owners’, all the while continuing to descend into disrepair. What a shame!

Which brings me to my next point. The property has now changed hands again, this time it is in the lap of a developer and the steps to ‘take’ it down have begun. The project calls for the erection of a five story building. The house will be demolished and no one will ever be the wiser. I know it’s only a building, but to the many people who passed through it, in good but mostly in bad, it was a constant reminder of their past, of the evil men can impose on their fellow men. Maybe those survivors will be happy to be rid of it and never see it again, although I doubt they all feel like that as my cousin Kristina, still living on our property, looks at it every day as a constant reminder of her youth.

The story she most loves to recall is the one when she was 12 years old. Interned in the house she snuck out of it one day and managed, somehow, to go across the street and into ‘her’ house. She walked in the front door to find it all full of office furniture and people milling about. One of the communist officers found her and grabbed her by the arm wanting to know how she got there. She laughs telling me the story because she loves to tell me how she ‘kicked the officer in the shin and saw his surprised face. He dropped her arm and she did an about face and ran out of there as quickly as she could’. To this day, at 84 years old, she can recount all the small details, especially the one about the officer.

Here is where the story gets interesting because the officer who grabbed her that memorable day in 1945 was none other that the communist officer Mhill Doci. As fate would have it, this noted criminal would, 4 years later, be the executioner of 14 innocent men in the Mirdita region, in retaliation for the murder of another communist Bardhok Biba, who ordered the murders of my uncles Mark and Llesh Gjomarkaj. Mark was Kristina’s father.

When I told her the house was going to be demolished she just glanced at it in sadness and said ‘it was a stunning house at one time’ and then proceeded to tell me the story again.

I understand progress and am all for it, but if we get ‘rid’ of all our historical sites and erase our history, good or bad, where does that leave future generations?

A future with no past has no anchor, it will be a runaway train to nowhere aimlessly going through life without glancing back or glancing back and seeing a black hole, for there will be no monuments or historical buildings left to remind people of their past and whence they came and the lessons which need to be learned from the mistakes of that past.

I hope the builder will build something in character with the city and perhaps put a plaque somewhere in memory of the historical significance of the property. Just a small memento for the inquiring minds and history lovers but most of all for the Albanian people so that they will not forget that once upon a time a beautiful residence stood on that lot, a residence which in some way contributed to the history of their country.

As for Kristina….she received retribution when Mhill Doci fell into a sewer manhole one night and was left there to die!

 

 

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Egregious Error of Judgment! Skandaloz Gabim te Gjykimi!

English Version

Tepelene. Një nga kampet më të ashpra që ekzistonin gjatë regjimit të Enver Hoxhës që e sundoi këtë vend nga viti 1944-1991. Kampi i internimit pa më shumë vdekje të fëmijëve sesa çdo kamp tjetër. Në këtë kamp ishin internuar dy hallat e mia: Marta dhe Bardha, gjyshja ime Mrika, gjyshja ime e madhe Dava, axha im Nikollë dhe tre kushërinjtë e mi Kristina, Celestina dhe Gjoni bashkë me nënën e tyre Marta. Unë nuk do të futem në tmerret, pasi kjo është për një postim tjetër, por më lejoni të citoj disa të vërteta të cilat mund të lexohen plotësisht në raportin e CIA-s të vitit 1953, të bashkangjitur: CIA-RDP80-00810A001300330001-0-Tepelene 1953

“.. gjendja sanitare në kamp është shumë e keqe … të burgosurit janë të sëmurë, shumë me tuberkuloz …”

“… malaria, e cila është kronike me shumë të burgosur dhe dizenteri … në përmasa epidemike. Gjatë epidemisë së dizenterisë në vitin 1950 rreth 100 njerëz vdiqën gjatë tre muajve”.

Dhe lista vazhdon dhe vazhdon. Pika ime është se Enver Hoxha ishte një diktator me përmasa të pakrahasueshme në botën perëndimore, dikush mund te thote, i dyti vetem pas njerit, Adolf Hitlerit, vetëm Hoxha zgjati 50 vjet !!! Pas vdekjes së tij në vitin 1985 dhe rënies së mëvonshme të komunizmit në vitin 1991 Shqipëria filloi rrugën drejt Demokracisë, ose kështu ata do të donin të mendonin, por faktet janë të dukshme se rruga është e ngadaltë dhe e rrëshqitshme.

Si lidhet kjo hyrje me objektivin tim? Qeveria po bën një hap përpara dhe dy prapa. Nga njëra anë po i tregojnë botës se sa të lidhur ata janë duke u përpjekur të jenë në kujtimet e të gjithë atyre që janë vrarë, torturuar, burgosur, etj. Duke pasur një memorial në një nga kampet më çnjerëzore në historinë e Shqipërisë dhe në anën tjetër ata ende respektojnë diktatorin vrasës.

Tani po dal tek ajo qe dua te them per diten e sotme! Sot shkova në Muzeun Kombëtar të Fotografisë në Marubi në Shkodër, për të pyetur për kërkesën time, për një cd që përmban fotografi të familjes sime, të cilën e kisha dorëzuar në Qershor. Me të hyrë tek hyrja, ajo që më goditi menjëherë ishte muri pranë tavolinës së pritjes. Muri, i cili ishte te pakten 2.5 metra i larte, shfaqte një fotografi  të Enver Hoxës nga dyshemeja në tavan ,në ballkonin e Bashkisë, në Shkodër. Fotografia është marrë në vitin 1936, gjatë një ceremonie përkujtimore.

Pasi kalova tavolinen e recepsionit dhe shikova në te djathten time, une isha drejt perdrejt perballe me murin e fundit te dhomës, një mur tjetër prej 2.5 metrash, dhe në këtë shfaqej perseri një fotografi tjetër më e madhe se jeta, e diktatorit.

Ju duhet të kuptoni se këto nuk janë vetëm fotografi të vendosura në mure; ato janë muret! Ato janë të mbivendosur mbi muret, prandaj, ose do të duhet të pikturoje mbi to, ose të rafshohej perseri muri. Sidoqoftë, nuk ishte një rastesi. Përkundrazi, ishte një plan shumë i mirë mendua.

Në rast se ka ndonjë konfuzion këtu … Shkodra ishte epiqendra e rezistencës ndaj komunizmit për veriun gjatë viteve para fitores së Hoxhës. Shumë nga luftëtarët e rezistencës vepronin nga Shkodra, disa janë vrarë, si xhaxhai im Mark Gjon Marku, trupat e tyre u zvarritën nëpër rrugët e Shkodrës dhe u vunë në ekspozitë para … Bashkise … për tu treguar të gjithëve se çfarë ndodh me nacionalistët që luftojnë regjimin.

Kështu që mund të thuash se po, jam e shqetësuar për vendimin për ta shfaqur këtë përbindësh në muret e një muzeu fotografik në qytetin e Shkodrës. Një muze që është nën juridiksionin e Ministrisë së Kulturës dhe për këtë arsye, një njësi e sponsorizuar nga qeveria. A e miratoi Kryetari i Bashkisë së Shkodrës këtë shfaqje apo ishte mbajtur në errësirë ​​për këtë? Kush është përgjegjës në Ministrinë e Kulturës , për një shfaqje kaq të egër? Kush është pikërisht në këtë ‘bord’ që vendos se cilat foto duhet të shfaqen?

Unë e kuptoj se “përbindëshi” është pjesë e historisë së Shqipërisë, por ndoshta ata mund të kishin qenë më të ndjeshëm ndaj qytetarëve të Shkodrës dhe Shqipërisë kur vendosin ta shfaqin atë në dy mure kryesore në zonën e pritjes të muzeut. Një shfaqje që është e pakonsumueshme; imazhi i një përbindëshi vrastar përballet me fotografitë e sigurisht viktimat e tij, në muret perballë!

Dekreti i nxjerrë në vitin 1995 Dekreti-Nr-1018-date-13-02-1995-1-2-3-Dekret-per-heqjen-e-dekoratave  nga Presidenti i atëhershëm i Republikës, shprehet qartë:

“U hiqen të gjitha dekoratat dhe titujt e nderit, për aktin kriminal të gjenocidit të ushtruar ndaj popullit shqiptar gjatë viteve të diktaturës komuniste, personave të ish nomenklatures se lartë komuniste: Enver Hoxha, Nexhmije Hoxha, Shefqet Peçi, Hysni Kapo, Gogo Nushi, Spiro Koleka, Haki Toska dhe Haxhi Lleshi. Ky dekret hyn në fuqi menjehere. “

Prandaj, mendoj se është e sigurt të thuhet se asnjë pamje e tillë e këtij krimineli nuk duhet të vendoset në një Muze Kombëtar, i dedikuar shkëlqimit të një mjeshtri fotograf, në një mënyrë kaq arrogante sa të thotë “shiko mua unë jam ende këtu”. Është një shuplakë e qartë në fytyrë për qytetarët e Shkodrës dhe për të gjithë ata që pësuan dhe mbijetuan regjimin e neveritshëm të këtij përbindëshi.

Herën e fundit që kam vizituar muzeun më 30 Qershor, kur pyeta për mungesën e fotografive të familjes sime, u informova në mënyrë specifike se: “ky nuk është një muze i historisë së Shqipërisë, por një koleksion fotografish që tregon rëndësinë e Familjes Marubi si fotografë “. Nëse këto deklarata vazhdojnë të jenë të vlefshme pas 3 muajsh atëherë unë do të sugjeroja që këto foto të përfshihen në kategorinë e ‘historisë’, dhe në asnjë mënyrë nuk përfaqësojnë shkëlqyeshmërinë dhe përsosmërinë fotografike të Marubit.

Prandaj me respekt, kërkoj që personat përgjegjës që e kanë koordinuar dhe e kanë autorizuar  shfaqjen e tyre, ta rishqyrtojnë vendimin e marrë dhe ta vënë në pikëpyetje gjykimin e tyre, sa më shpejt që të jetë e mundur.

Qytetaret e Shqipërisë dhe me shume siguri, qytetarët e Shkodrës nuk dëshirojnë të kujtohen nga turistët dhe personalitetet që vijnë për të vizituar qytetin e tyre dhe muzeun e tyre si njerëz që në ndonje mënyrë e miratojnë kriminelin dhe përbindëshin që ishte Enver Hoxha, por më tepër duan të të mbahet mend si qytetarë që përqafojnë historinë e tyre në një mënyrë të sinqertë dhe të ndershme, mënyrën se si duhet të mbahet mend çdo civilizim perëndimor.

Zevendesojeni  këtë djallezor me heronj shqiptarë të tillë si Prek Cali ose Isa Bulletini, apo guxoj ta them atë … një anëtar i një familjeje që ka një histori që kalon mbi 500 vjet, një histori nderi dhe patriotizmi, një familje që për shekuj me radhë luftuan  dhe dhane jeten, për dashurinë e vendit të tyre: Bib Doda, Preng Bib Doda, Gjon Markagjoni, Mark Gjon Marku, Ndue Gjon Marku, Sander Gjon Marku.

Nëse nuk doni ta bëni këtë muze të duket sikur mendoni se është një muze “historik” atëherë unë do të sugjeroja mbylljen e të gjitha së bashku sepse të gjitha imazhet e ekspozuara janë në një mënyrë apo një tjetër të lidhur me historinë e Shqipërisë, nuk ka ikje nga ajo. Ju nuk mund të keni fotografi, si per shembull, të Ernest Koliqit, Luigi Guarkuqit, Gjergj Fishta e te tjere dhe të thoni se ky nuk është një muze i historisë.

Të gjithë këta njerëz janë njerëzit që duhet të mirëpresin vizitorët tuaj, heronjtë e vërtetë të Shqipërisë!

 

 

Museum of Witness and Memory, Shkoder.

I first went into this museum last year but as daily events began to unfold in my life regarding property issues I neglected my blog and forgot all about posting about this important site, I’m sorry!

This museum is called the Site of Witness and Memory and is the only museum dedicated to the memory of the victims of the communist regime from the city of Shkodra. Please visit the site on the link above for more in-depth information.

My main reason for having visited the museum was because my uncle, Ded Markagjoni, was held prisoner there. I wanted to walk in ‘his’ shoes, although metaphorically because I can never even pretend to understand how he felt while imprisoned there. The site of the museum is where the original jail was therefore it is the original site of imprisonment and torture for many Albanians during a horrific period in her history. The museum is about a 1 minute walk from our family home, just down the corner and to the right, hence I can only imagine how he must have felt being held so close to home. As I walked through the site I felt an eerie feeling of doom, I could picture him being held in one of the bare cells, being tortured by one or more of the mechanisms used, being questioned, going through the cold weather in the dank cell. The reason for his imprisonment and ultimate internment, as the rest of my family? Bearing the surname Markagjoni, that’s all, that was enough.

Walking through I saw two notices signed by Enver Hoxha. The first one dated August 11, 1945, which was for the change in verdict from death to imprisonment for my uncle Ded and the other dated November 28, 1945 for the ‘death warrant’ of my grandfather Gjon Marku. Ironically November 28th is Albania’s Independence Day as well as the day my grandfather and father escaped Albania. To go into the history of my family please visit my website Gjon Markagjoni, it is far too long and important and should be understood in full.

If ever in this city you must make a point of visiting this insightful museum to give you an idea of the horrific conditions and historical events which took place in a country that for most of the 20th century was forgotten and secluded from the outside world.

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Done at last!

Finally I can write a post that is long overdue! I was finally able to complete my property enclosure last week thanks to the hard work of a number of people who came to the rescue. The property is on its way to returning to her old glory. We still have a long way to go but as you can see from this video we certainly come a long way in the five years we have been living here. It feels good to come through the gates and see the transformation, at last!

Historical or Not?

(l to r) Kapidan Mark, Gjon, Ndue, Dede, Nikoll, Sander Markagjoni

Today I was schooled on my apparent misconception of the reason for the Marubi Photography Gallery in Shkodra!

Let me begin with a short background. My family, the family of Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni, was quite important in Albania throughout the centuries up until communism, when it was emaciated, murdered and practically wiped off the face of the country. However they didn’t succeed, and I am living proof of it, as well as my still living uncle Nikoll, his children, my siblings and my uncle Mark’s two daughters. Having said that, the name Markagjoni is pretty much ‘mud’ in the country, and I am putting it mildly.  They, meaning the government, would like nothing better than for me to leave Albania and all the above mentioned heirs to my grandfather to disappear quietly into the night.

Well that is not going to happen any time soon, so they continue to make it difficult for me to accomplish anything of value here and to brush the name under the rug.

Case in point; the National Museum of Photography (Marubi). This museum was established in Shkodra to showcase the genius and beauty of the Marubi photographers. All the photographs displayed in the museum are historical, whether they like to think so or not. They have on display photographs of historical figures such as Preng Bib Doda, Luigji Gurakuqi, Ernest Koliqi, etc., all historical and political figures of Albania, so to say that it is not a ‘reflection of Albanian history’ is a contradiction at best. Why do I say this?

Today I went into the museum for the second time. I was there last year and did not see ONE photograph pertaining to my family, when I know for a fact that Marubi took quite a few number of photographs as they are all available online. I was told by the receptionist that they now have on display photographs of ‘Gjon Markagjoni’. As I walked around the area I was directed to I saw ZERO photos of my grandfather or uncles. I saw photographs of their cousin, Mark Kapidani and of course Preng Bib Doda. I told the receptionist that those were not photos of my grandfather and that apparently they are under the impression that Mark Kapidani and my grandfather are either one and the same or that he’s one of his sons, when in fact he was a cousin. I had to remind her that having these photographs on display was not the same thing as having actual photos of ‘my family’.

I asked to see the director of the museum because I wanted to inquire about having access to the online photographs without the watermark so that I may print them and create my own museum here in the house. I met with a young man who spoke fairly good English and proceeded to tell him what I was looking for. Apparently, since the museum is a national one and falls under the Ministry of Culture, I have to send a written request for digital photographs. Ok, fine. Then I asked him about the absence of photographs in the museum pertaining to my family, who by the way, contributed greatly to the history of Albania, specifically the North, but that’s another story.

I was told that “this is not a museum reflecting the history of Albania but rather a collection of photography showcasing the importance of the Marubi family as photographers”, mmmmmmm let me see….a vast majority of  the photographs that are showcased are photos of influential persons in Albania’s history but this is not an Albanian historical gallery? Then the crux of the matter surfaced.

A ‘commission’ decides what photos are showcased. A commission run by the government, specifically the Ministry of Culture. So there you have it! The government once again decides whether the family of Gjon Markagjoni is put on display or not. The government once again decides whether to finally recognize the contributions that this family has given to their country or not. A government still run by communists and ex-communists. A government whose only interest is their own and not the history of Albania. A government who has yet to release any dossiers on their own people ie. deputies, ministers, president et al showing the Albanian people and the world whether they committed any crimes during communism or not. A government who would like nothing better than for me to disappear into the sunset.

Well, that’s not going to happen any time soon. I may be fighting a losing battle, but like my ancestors keep fighting I will, to keep the name alive and for what’s rightly ours!

I sent a request to the Ministry of Culture for access to the digital photographs as directed. Time will tell whether they approve it or not!

Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni and his guards c.1930’s