A harrowing testimony of the Communist terror in Albania (1944-1991). The crucifying of the patriotic family of Ilia Dilo Sheperi and the resisting solid basis of Albanian patriotism.
(Translator’s note: In an exclusive interview for the Albanian-American newspaper DIELLI organ of the Panalbanian Federation of America VATRA (September 2021, Nr. 09) Eduard Margarit DILO describes in Albanian the tragic persecution of his entire family under the Communist regime in Albania, now in English for the benefit of those not familiar with the Albanian language. The details are shocking and their nature anti-human, bordering on barbarity with deadly results. (Prof. Sami Repishti PhD)
By: Sokol Paja
The history of the persistent persecution of the DILO family
The patriotic political position of my deceased grandparents, Ilia Dilo Sheperi and my grandmother Sava Rruci, of the Aristidh Rruci family, is now a well-known page of Albanian history. Although during the WWII years my family was one of the main supporters of the leaders of the freedom fighters, most of them former students of my grandfather, Ilia DILO Sheperi, and in spite of the fact that our house was among the first to be burned down by the Fascist occupiers, my family could not escape the rage and the cruel persecution of the gangs of Communist criminals who took over the government at the end of 1944.
With all due respect to truth and to documentation we can conclude that the punitive expeditions used by the Communist criminals to eliminate “the undesirables” for nearly 50 years could not exclude the family of Ilia Dilo Shdeperi from their genocidal punishment. Why? Because the DILO Sheperi family was a patriotic family that could not operate with the Serbo-Slavic dominated clique installed in power.
Here are some facts
When Enver Hoxha (leader of the Communist movement in Albania) was trying to form the General Staff of the National-Liberation Army (Communist) he wanted to arrange a meeting with Jani DILO (former officer of the King’s Army) in Tirana. After the General Staff was formed, he told Mr. Dilo: “We need a capable commander who is also fluent in several foreign languages to talk to foreign visitors, and I have thought of you as being the man.” “I would happily fight jointly with you,” Jani DILO responded, “but we cannot abandon the region of Kosova, presently under the Serbian yoke.”
This was the latest encounter with Jani DILO’s old high school classmate in Gjirokaster and Korçe, who was the lucky one to win the battle. “The ‘Mukja Agreement’ was violated even before the ink was dry, and it was denounced as ‘treason’ after the brutal intervention of the Yugoslav agents.
Thus, civil war began in Albania!
The price of this war was very heavy, not only for those who lost, but also for those who won. And, the victors were the enemies of the Albanian Nation.
The origins of the Communist vendetta
November 1944. The Government of Enver Hxha entered Tirana, capital of Albania. Qirako and Margarit DILO were called and told that their employments were terminated. They were working in different places, both in Tirana. Qiriako was chair of the Division of ‘Hipotheka’ registration of immobile properties at the Ministry of Finance; Margarit as chairman at the Office of Contruction in the Ministry of Public Work. Both technical civil service jobs with no relations to politics.
Educated with the principles of occidental philosophy, they resigned and left the offices where they were working. Forced to make a living for their families, they began to work in small commercial activities with success, and were happy to provide the means for 12 members of their families living with them in Tirana.
In March 1946, Qiriako and Margarit were called at the office for urbanization and were told to leave without delay and resettled in Sheperi with the entire family. The order was irrevocable. In the case of disobedience, they would be arrested. At the same time Koço DILO was serving in the Army, communication services in Tirana were transferred to the border guard units of Peshkopi. All members of their families went straight to the village of Sheper and found refuge in the only cabin that was saved from burning during the war.
To survive, they began to work as farmers. During the month of June 1946, Mihal and Margarit were appointed veterans in the District’s Office of Husbandry; Margarit, as an engineer in the Construction Enterprise of the District. With these appointments, the situation of their families was substantially improved. Encouraged, they began to reconstruct the burned sections of their buildings and members of the family in Sheper began living in satisfactory conditions for those times.
Communists sentence to death Jani DILO.
In 1947, the Communist Government made the list of the “enemies of the people” sentenced to death in absentia, and the name of Jani DILO was there (introduced as one of the leaders of Balli Kombetar, the Nationalist Organization). Officials of the State and of the Security Police exercised great pressure to convince our family to invite the emigrating Jani DILO to return to Albania. We answered that they had no contact with Jani DILO and that they were not aware of his whereabouts.
In October 1947, Margarit was arrested. After 40 days and nights of terrible torture, he was brought to the Court, a closed-in office, with closed doors in a room inside the Medieval Fortress of Gjirokaster. A military Kangaroo Court sentenced him to two years in jail for having sabotaged the elections of 1945, and damaged the “friendly” relations with Yugoslavia, as well an agent of the Anglo-American agencies etc.
He spent his two years in jail in the fortress of Gjirokaater as well as in the heavy work of irrigation in Maliq, Vloçisht of Korçe and Muzeqeja. His body weight was reduced from 85 kg the day of his arrest to 42 kg the day of release. I remember as a child the burn marks from a hot iron that torture had left on him, mainly on the arms and legs. In 1948 Qiriako was arrested and tortured for three days at the Police Station of Topove (Zagori).
The accusation for keeping unauthorized weapons, as well as the accusation for having hidden the gold of Aristidh Ruçi, failed because of the impossibility of finding a witness for the weapons. In the meantime, the Communist Security organs had hidden one piece in the cottage next to the house used for sheltering the milking cows of the Qiriako family, and that the gold was found to be in the house of political commissaire of the Office of Internal Security. Qiriako was released! In 1950, Margarit married my mother Viktori Xhamballo, sister to two fallen heroes Pano Xhamballos, imporftant figure of the National-Liberation Army (killed in Mirdite on September 1, 1944 under suspicious circumstances) and of Spiro Xhamballo, executed by the Nazis in the internment camp of Prishtina. When the news of the engagement became public, my mother was ordered to go to the Town Hall, where Mihal Bisha, former secretary of the Party Committee at that time, and the Public Prosecutor, Subi Bakiri, pressured her to reject the engagement. My mother refused. Then, the officials threatened that she would be punished together with all the members of the DILO family. “Mother Party” kept the promise by persecuting not only my mother but us too, her children.
Koço DILO is sentenced
In 1970, arrested in Fier Koço DILO, the younger son of Ilia DILO was accused of trying to escape from the country. He was tortured for 105 days secretly, and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He was sent to Spaçi forced labor camp in Mirdita. I want to stress that in every arrest or imprisonment done to our family, the Communist Government sequestered everything including the personal customs of everyday, all food found in the house, and daily family objects, as well as the dowery of unwed young ladies.
Eduard DILO: His young years!
One expression: a terrible experience that I wish no child in the world should go through!
In the year I was born, the collectivization of the village began. My father resolved to be a member of the agricultural collective because he was sick. Unable to do fieldwork, he did not oppose the forceful seizure of the land and of the few animals our family possessed. Immediately after that punitive measure the dictatorship took steps against my parents and his small children. The contingent of corn that the State gave to each member of the family was suspended; after that with the opening of bakeries, our purchase of the daily bread was forbidden. We were not allowed to own a milking cow or a goat.
Some leaders of the agricultural collective were selected by the Government and proved to be extremists, the same as those later on in our country. After graduating from high school, we “children of the enemies of the people” (this is the qualification used by the government and the Secret Police based on the instructions of our “mother party,” Margarit DILO) had been seeking shelter by some family friends in various towns. After an examination of my dossier, I found and have preserved the story of our persecution by the Secret Police of members of the DILO family. It’s here that I discovered the explanation of the several school expulsions during my high school years; thanks to the assistance of our many family friends I succeeded in graduating from high school. I started it in Fier, then in Tirana, Gjirokaster, and finished again in Fier. I would like to stress the affection of my schoolmates who surrounded me, the warmth and the care of the teachers who never treated me differently from others. This honest contingent of our society encouraged me to reveal the talent displayed by our DILO generation.
Yet, all doors of higher education were closed to us. My mother, with the high school diplomas of her highly achieved children, kept knocking on every possible door. She contacted friends of her brother holding high positions in the Government, but was unable to find an opening at the university for any of her children. For the sake of truth: I want to declare that from a meeting with a friend of her brother Pano, now a high official of the Party, she received an answer from the functionary’s wife, contained in a letter sent by the Party organization of the village in Zagori. There, the Dilo family was ordered to send all their children to the village, otherwise they would be sent to the mountainous village of Spaç, the same place where their uncle was suffering his punishment.
Fortunately, this piece of mail was erroneously delivered to the office of my cousin, a high official of the Party in Zagoria. Presently, this document is in our own possession together with many other “accusative” reports sent to places where some relatives were working and filling important party positions in Zagoria.
All over Albania there were honest people who cried the fate of their Fatherland, and independently of their participation in ruling the country, their consciences did not approve of the injustices committed to the population.
With the fall of Communism in Albania (1991) we were informed of the accusations that brought our suffering; we succeeded in finding and collecting “the characterizations,” a term used by the Party to identify “the enemies.”
Primitive vendetta: the disgraceful exhumation of the remnants of Ilia DILO Sheperi
1960! As a result of the exacerbation of “the class struggle” in Albania, a movement among the political emigrees was formed to overthrow the criminal bands ruling over the Albanian people. The reasons for the failure are now public knowledge. After the defeat, some emigrants began to cause problems for the Albanian embassies. The smart rulers of that country began to plan new persecutions for the family DILO. Why?
Because in their mentalities, these mediocrities began to think that in the case of a liberation day, our DILO family will revenge against them. The organs of the State Security pursuing the instructions of the highly placed functionaries accused our uncle Jani DILO of being one of the top organizers. They contacted members of our family and tried to convince them to persuade our uncle to return to Albania. For this, they arrested our uncle Koço DILO as a hostage accused of attempting to escape. The investigation officers began to prepare the public opinion that he would be executed. Our uncle Jani, a prominent figure in the State where he lived, sent a letter to Enver Hoxha, Mehmet Shehu, and a copy to his family where he clarified his political position and requested to cease the persecution of his family.
Pressure from the Political Police on our family and total Isolation
At this point my father passed away at the age of 62. The Party and the Secret Police prevented members of the family from accompanying the dead to the cemetery or to receive condolences from friends and neighbors alike. They also forbade the opening of the grave. Our family dug the grave, and the coffin was carried by them. Although a minor, I helped in digging and carrying the coffin on my shoulders. The insatiable cannibalism of those monstrosities (since I cannot call them “humans”) that were leaders of the Party and the State ruling over our country reached the point of exhumation of the remains of our grandfather, Ilia DILO Sheperi. Outraged, my uncle Qiriako DILO informed Enver Hoxha about this vandalism, reminding him that sacrilege against a deceased person is forbidden in every corner of the world. The “letter” reached the leader. He then sent the “letter” to the Central Committee of the Party for verification. For ten consecutive years, sons and daughters of Ilia DILO Sheperi dug the graves of their dead members and carried the coffins on their shoulders.
One detail for the young generation of Albanians: the daughter of Ilia DILO Sheperi, Viktori DILO, celebrated as “Teacher with Merits” had a long line of followers accompanying her coffin on its way to the village, with wreaths and flowers in abundance. In Sheperi, when we passed in front of the House of Culture with the coffin on our shoulders, the loudspeakers began transmitting the song “This is the sword that hangs over the heads of all enemies in the world.”
The formation of “the new man” with cannibalistic tendencies.
In the village of Nivan (Zagoria) Enrik Qiriako DILO was arrested by four criminal policemen- the Security Officer, the Policemen of the zone and two informers. All this in the presence of the victim’s mother, the old lady Ifi Hartito DILO, his sister and his brother. After having laid him down on the floor, the four began beating him up. While tied up tightly, he was mounted on the truck to be sent to the Section for the Internal Affairs (Secret Police). The policemen tore down his shirt and used it to tie the bloody hand wounds so that he could not dirty the truck. After two months spent in the dark cells constantly tortured (including the electroshocks) in the building of the Police Headquarters in Gjirokater, they threw him in the psychiatric hospital located in Elbasan.
The first days of democratic regime -the assassination and destruction of mother Kaliopi Dilo ‘s corpse at the entrance of the house
In 1991, our uncle Oresti DILO, M.D., was made part of a group of Albanian-American businessmen invited by the Albanian Government to report on Albania. He promised to the Albanian Government that he would invest good amounts of capital for his native Country. Upon return to the United States, he managed to send a group of specialists to Albania to coordinate the activities in investments. At that time, a secret hand in our Sheperi, known as “the black hand,” distributed propaganda leaflets stressing that if the communist government is overthrown, a wave of vendetta will succeed. In those lists of people was also the name of our old mother Kalopi DILO, who lived alone in the house of DILO.
One dark night, at the end of January 1991, a group of criminals executed the old lady at the entrance of her house. This execution, reminds us of the early days of barbarity performed with canes, gorging eyes, and cutting the throat with a sharp knife. In order to lose the traces, they threw acid on her head. Officials of the Police and the investigating officer, who was in charge of this experience to cover this never-before-seen crime, wanted to cover the crime by suggesting that her head was damaged by the biting of the house’s dogs. However, after the insistence of the villagers the Police were forced to arrest the accomplices. At the Court session held in Gjrokaster there was a tendency to be lenient with Communist criminals. Yet, under the pressure exercised by the audience the Court gave sentences from 2 to 14 years in jail for the members of the terrorist group.
The local press treated this crime as “Adolescence and Gold Fever”
It’s really sad! How can they be treated as adolescents as 40 and 25 years-olds? How could a treasury of gold in houses searched, perquisition, finally sequestered by Government police several times?
In the house of Mother Kaliopi only 2.000 old leks (ca. $ 20) were found. One year later after the intervention of a government official in charge of “restoring justice,” the criminals were let go. Pursuing the instructions of the new law to move freely, most of what was left of the DILO family emigrated to different countries. Thirsty for education after so many years of denial of their schooling, in spite of the difficulties presented by the life of emigration, they did their best. They did the impossible to educate their children and to see them filling the university halls with success. Today, in the two continents of Europe and America, 11 (eleven) sons and daughters of this victimized family give their intellectual contribution. As for us, victims whose right to education was denied and left without higher education, contributing in the fields of their choice, talented people, are today proud that emigrating succeeded in achieving their goals through their young generations.
Message as an Offer for Reconciliation
I take advantage of the situation to relay my message to my Albanian people and the following generations. I look back and recall the advice of our deceased parents, uncles, aunts: times change sons and daughters, but you shall never lose sight: of our country to progress we need education, education, education and tolerance. Do not do to others what they did to you, because violence brings violence, and violence is the product of barbarity.
(This essay was initially published in the newspaper DIELLI, dated September, 2021, vol. 112, No. 09. Issue N0. 2166-9139).