By: Suela Nasufi/
When we read about things such as concentration camps, communism, and the Holocaust we always read about it from a teenager or adults point of view. Here, is a story about my brother, Ervin Dine, when he was young. Albania was a communist country from 1944 to 1999. People who were against the party and it’s leader’s were immediately put into concentration camps. The concentration camps were like fenced in towns. The fences had barbed wires on it so that you could not try to escape. Girls and boys as young as 13 and 14 were put to work in fields with the adults. People were not allowed to attend college unless they were friends to the party. Sometimes some people gave up their pride and became spies for the communists.
The concentration camp of Gjazë Albania was a small town of about 500 people with two roads each about 1/2 mile long. This was not a good place to grow up in especially the way that I grew up. I was born into an honest and hardworking family. This was something I had known from childhood. These were people who kept their heads up even after they had been stripped of property, money, and most importantly, human dignity. Living in poverty was nothing new to me, it was just a normal part of everyday life. That was the way I grew up. As a child, I didn’t like going to school and especially hated doing my homework. I would have rather been out playing with my friends, just like any other kid my age. Being called “kulak” didn’t mean anything to me since I didn’t even know what the word meant. Sometimes I thought it was because my father was in prison, that I was called that name. My mother always told me that my father was a good man and that he was innocent.
Sometimes I felt like asking the kids, “Why do you call me these names. I have not done anything to you.” I could never find the courage to do so because I knew they would gang up and beat me.
I once went up to the teacher after school and asked “Why does everybody call me “Kulak”?” Her answer came out in a firm and manly voice, “Because your father and whole family is an enemy of the party.” Her reply put even more fear in my eyes. Since I was only in the first grade, I still didn’t fully understand. I just kept thinking to myself-am I weird? do I look like a girl? what did the teacher mean about us being the enemy? These questions floated in my head day and night. I did not see the difference between me and the other kids, since they were just as poor as me and had to go to the same school of which had broken windows and was in an extremely poor condition.
I could not talk to my father about my problem because he was not around. He had been put into prison ever since I was the age of one for agitation and propaganda. I was to ask my mother because since my father had gone, she was like both the male and the female of the household so she would ask who was calling me names, or she would come o school and embarrass me.
When I was in the second grade my mother was going through some hard times; and not being able to support me, she sent me away to another concentration camp where her parents and brothers lived. I used to leave my mother upset because I would leave for months and I would be so upset to leave her that I would cry silently.
In this new camp life was easier. There was a thing there called a television which was only something I imagined from hearing what people said about it. I was fascinated by movies and TV shows. The people there were friendly and I was rarely tormented. Even though I missed my mother very much I tried not to think about when the time would come when I would have to go back to Gjazë. I was now settled her and my grandparents and uncles were always there for me. Uncle Joseph made sure I did my homework and kept up with my school work. Uncle Luciano was the one who played with me.
When I was young I didn’t know I was in a concentration camp I was living in. I thought the whole world to be the same as Gjazë and Savër. I pictured the whole world to have no radio’s and color TV. Thee were things I only saw in foreign movies that were on once a week. After two years in Savër my mother made the decision to move back to Gjazë because she was not able to deal with living by herself. Although I was very happy to be back with my mother the first thing that came to my mind was the beast that was awaiting me in the classroom.
That beast was my teacher. Ever time I was her I would get goose bumps and my spine would turn cold. I would try to avoid her whenever possible. When school started, she was waiting at the half broken doors of the two room building. She stopped me and said, “Ah, so I have you once again.” she said. I tried not to look at her face and just shook my head in agreement. “Will you have any more stupid questions for me?” She asked sarcastically. Again, I shook my head fearfully. “So why are you back her e to cause me grief?” she asked as if I had come to torture her. I replied in a fearful tone, “I am here because my mother wanted me back.”
“I don’t understand you people. Once here, Once there, you are lucky the party and comrade Enver give you that freedom.” she said. Accidentally, I asked, “Why would comrade Enver want to stop me from living with my grandparents?”
“Here are the stupid questions again,” she sighed in disbelief.
Since I was a child I could not understand why she would say something like that. I thought all families were supposed to be close. Now, after two years, she had become even more fierce because now she had a stick in which beat me with, and would use it against me.
It took me a while to understand why people like that teacher treated my so harshly.
When my father came back from prison he was like a stranger to me. He had been arrested
before I could even remember. When he came home it was like having a stranger in the house and I felt like he was taking away my mother. Of course, this was only for a certain period of time, eventually I grew accustomed to him being around. The point is not that my father was trying to take my mother away from me, the point is that this was what the communist regime did to innocent people and families. When I tell people stories and show them picture, they don’t believe me, but this was the horrifying truth. (Dielli-arkiv)