Peze War Memorial

Peze War Memorial

Peze War Memorial

The third major monument in the Peze Conference Memorial Park is the cemetery to those from Peze who fell during the anti-Fascist war of Independence. The Peze War Memorial is a short distance from the main area of the park and you could be excused for not knowing it’s there.

At one time this area must have been a pleasant place to spend some time away from Tirana. In the past the capital itself was not a busy, noisy and polluted city (as it has become now) and the contrast wouldn’t have been so great. Now that Tirana has all the negative aspects of capitalism such oases of quiet should be at a premium but that doesn’t mean that they are looked after.

On my recent visit the waste bins hadn’t been empties and if the litter hadn’t just been left on the grass the wind would blow the plastic bags from the overflowing bins and were everywhere. This includes the small river that runs through the park – you really wouldn’t want to be a river in capitalist Albania, see, for example, the fate of the River Kir in Skhoder.

The Peze War Memorial and cemetery is across a bridge over the river and it’s more than likely there will be some kind of makeshift fence that gives the impression that you are going into someone ‘s field. The cemetery is slightly around the corner, up on the right and with the trees in full leaf it’s not possible to see exactly what’s there.

However, just go through the fence (only bits of scrappy string hold the ‘gate’ closed and once on the other side of the bridge you’ll see the monument sitting against a backdrop of pine trees, which you reach after going up a flight of low steps.

This is the work of the sculptors Mumtaz Dhrami and Kristo Krisiko with Nina Mitrojorgji as the architect. The official name is ‘Monumenti i vendosur në varrezat e dëshmorëve në Pezë’. It was unveiled in 1977, the same time as the Monument to Heroic Peze at the junction of the Peze-Tirana-Durres road. They must have been part of a joint project (together with the Monument to the 22nd Brigade) and it’s possible to see similarities in the style and imagery.

The bronze part of the monument is embedded into a concave mass of white concrete. (There’s been a lot of painting of the Socialist period monuments recently and I’m not always sure if they were originally designed to be whitewashed or if the bare concrete was considered to be more aesthetically appropriate.) The bronze section is in two parts. The large concave section is decorated in bas-relief and in front of that (but also attached) is the statue of a group of four partisans on top of a plinth.

These statues are not complete figures, the male partisan at the front is only shown from a point midway between his knees and thighs and of those behind him there is more as they are raked so that we can see all of their faces.

The prominent, young male is dressed in what would have been the partisan’s uniform, wears a cap with a star and has what would have been a red bandanna around his neck. In his right hand he holds the top of the barrel of a rifle, the butt of which would be resting on the ground (unseen). Across his right shoulder there’s a bandolier (broad ammunition belt) and he wears another around his waist. On his right hip there hangs a British made Mills bomb (a fragmentation grenade). Over his left shoulder is a narrow strap that is attached to a small satchel that hangs just behind the grenade. His left hand is clenched into a tight, angry fist. He is looking straight in front of him, his head held high and proud.

Standing at his left shoulder is an older woman. She is very reminiscent of the depiction of the female on the Peze junction memorial, on that part that looks in the general direction of Tirana. She is not in uniform but wears traditional peasant dress with a hood pulled over her head. As I’ve said a number of times now the women are always armed (including in the description of the Albanian Mosaic on the National Museum) and she has a rifle slung over her left shoulder. She is looking slightly to her left, the only one of the group not looking straight ahead.

Behind her, and head and shoulders higher, is another young man. He is also not in any formal uniform. He has his sleeves rolled up, holds the top of the barrel of a quite significant machine gun in his left hand and his right hand is clenched in a bent arm salute, his hand directly over the head of the partisan soldier at the front of the group. He doesn’t wear a hat. He is looking in the same direction as the partisan.

The last of the statues is of an older man. His face looks over the right shoulder of the forward male. He has a bushy moustache and wears a fez. His right arm, sleeves rolled up, is also bent and his fist clenched in a revolutionary salute. He is also looking forward but there’s no evidence that he’s armed.

The plinth upon which they are standing carries the slogan: ‘Honour to the Martyrs of Heroic Peze’

As a backdrop to this group there’s a large five-pointed star (only three points are visible) on the concave bronze background.

Here we have the representation that the war against the Fascist invaders was a war that was fought, and won by ALL the people. A National Liberation War is not like those wars fought by the mercenary armies of capitalist/imperialist nations. As Mao Tse-Tung said: “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea” and that was how the Albanians were able to defeat the invader. And it meant the involvement of all the population, regardless of age or gender.

There are a lot of stars on this monument. Two of them have letters on them. One on the left hand side of the group has the letters VFLP – which we have already seen on the Peze junction monument, “Vdekje Fashizmit – Liri Popullit!” (“Death to Fascism – Freedom to the People!”). Another, on the right hand side of the group has the letters PKSH – Partia Komuniste Shqiptare (Albanian Communist Party) which was later to become the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA).

Immediately to the right of the group on the bas-relief is the depiction of a young family, a mother, father and child. Both the man and the women are armed (with rifles slung over their shoulders) but it’s only the woman who is in the uniform of the Partisans, wearing a cap with a star and the red neckerchief. Her fingers of her left hand are tucked behind the strap of her rifle and she holds something hanging down from her right hand but I’m not able to work out what it is, it looks like a bottle/container of some kind.

Holding the baby

Holding the baby

What’s a little bit different (and unique, so far, in my travels) is that it’s the man who’s left holding the baby. He is static, looking out at us, but she is marching towards the left hand edge of the tableau, as if marching to war. However, this doesn’t mean that she is doing the fighting and he is the stay at home dad as he is also armed and is obviously a fighter as well as she.

Next to them, and taking up the space for the rest of this side of the monument, there is a lot going on. In the front, at the bottom, is another family group. Although looking in the direction of the battle, of the front, of the attack, the man has his right arm around his wife and she is pressed tightly against his chest, her right hand on his shoulder and a bag hanging from her left. She is dressed as a peasant woman of the time, her hair covered with a scarf.

The man is not in uniform and his sleeves are rolled up and he is clutching a rifle by the bottom end of the barrel. Grabbing hold of the wooden butt of the gun is a young boy. Whilst he is standing with his back to the action that is drawing the attention of his father he has his hands on the gun as he looks back over his shoulder as if to say ‘give me the gun and I’ll go and fight the invader’. The woman is wearing what would now be called flip-flop sandals and the boy appears to be barefooted. Is this the farewell before he goes off to the mountains?

The gun's mine

The gun’s mine

Behind this family group is a single male. He’s looking in the same direction as the others on this side of the monument but he is not pointing his gun (which looks like what I think is an Italian FNAB-43 submachine gun – the same as one partisan is carrying in the 22nd Brigade Monument) but brandishing it high above his head, as a challenge to the enemy – ‘we are going to get you’ he seems to be saying.

The next group, slightly higher and at a diagonal to the family, is a group of three males, of different ages and, by their dress, from different parts of the country. Two of them have their guns at the ready as if they are about to, or have just fired at the enemy. The third, the moustachioed and wearing a fez, for some reason isn’t armed and merely has his right hand clenched.

This is not the first time that groups of three have appeared in Dharmi and Krisiko’s work. I don’t know if that this is just a fad that they have or whether it holds a greater significance. (See the Heroic Peze Monument.)

Next up is a single male. He is a Communist as we can see the star on his fez. He’s full on. His right arm is high up above his head, in which he holds some sort of grenade he’s about to throw – I don’t recognise the type. (This looks similar to what the young mother mentioned before has in her hand.) This Communist has an FNAB-43 submachine gun in his left hand, ready to put it to work once the grenade has caused its havoc.

Next, and higher up, is a group of four (three men and a woman) partisans, all in the act of firing at the enemy, the three with rifles have them up to their faces in the act of aiming and one with a heavy machine gun on a tripod. Three of this group wear a star on their caps.

The remaining two partisans on this side show that victory does not come without casualties, without sacrifice. At the highest point of the bronze we have a female Communist (star on cap) with her left hand under the arm of a wounded male comrade. He is unable to stand on his own and she keeps him up. His left hand is on his rifle and she grips the same rifle by the barrel, whilst looking in the direction of battle. He might have fallen but there will always be someone ready, and willing, to pick up the rifles of the fallen to continue the struggle.

There’s a different dynamic on the other side of the group of four. The only one who is looking in the direction of the battle in which his comrades are involved is the standard-bearer. He holds the flag pole, the banner itself fluttering in the direction of battle, with the star over the heads of the two-headed eagle. Whilst his left hand is holding the flag pole in his right he holds a rifle and has a bandolier from his left shoulder.

The rest of the bronze on this side is taken up with a group of ten partisans.

The front group is made up of four males, all armed. Three of them are holding their rifles by the barrel whilst the butts are on the ground, but all these rifles are held so that they are very close together. One of the group looks like a teenager, he is smaller than the others and one of the men has his left hand on the young lad’s shoulder in a comforting, supportive manner. However young he might be the lad is armed as well as the others. Three of this group are wearing caps with the red star (including the youngster).

I’m trying to work out what they are doing, looking at. On the other side virtually all the attention is paid in one direction, where the conflict is taking place. On this side the group has no common point of interest. Although the four individuals are obviously together, the uniting of their weapons tells us that, where they are looking does not indicate unity, at least to me. Possibly it’s a meeting with a commander, who would be the one who is looking out at us, and that’s the reason the others are looking inwards.

Behind the four principals we only see the heads of the other six fighters. As with the front group there’s no common direction of attention.

On the far right we have a hatless fighter, the top of the barrel of his rifle peeking out behind his shoulder. Next along is a Communist partisan woman, with a star on her cap and her rifle raised above the heads of the males in the forefront. Both these are looking out at the viewer.

Behind the woman there’s a group of three males, of different ages (again stressing the fact that war is not just a matter for 19-20 year olds) looking generally over to their left. Things get squeezed a bit here and above their heads can be seen the tops of the barrels of various weapons and what appears to me to look like a pitchfork. This suggests two things. The first is that any weapon can be used against an invader. Secondly, even though the PKSH was a workers party Albania at that time was also a country with a predominantly peasant, agricultural population. Collectivisation and the establishment of State Farms after liberation would alter that class structure but the monument represents the situation in the country pre-1944.

The remaining male on this side looks out at the viewer, hatless but with his right fist clenched in the revolutionary salute. It might be useful to stress here that this group is collected together under the star with the letters of the anti-fascist slogan, VFLP.

This monument is in a very good condition, the only signs of wear being on the white concrete base which shows the stains from the pine trees behind. The condition of monuments throughout the country varies. This varying situation depending, I would have thought, on either the ruling political force in the locality as well as devoted individuals who take it up themselves to respect the memory of the past and the contribution made by the men and women who gave their lives for the liberation of their country. A case where, institutionally, this looks like the case is the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Berat.

This monument exists as a celebration of those from Peze who lost their lives in the war against first the Italian and then the German invaders. I don’t know if all the tombs are actually the final resting place of those who died but I’m sure there would have been a great deal of effort after the war to collect the remains of as many of the fallen as possible and place then close to their home town.

Before 1990 all of the cemeteries throughout the country would have been in a pristine condition. On significant dates relating to the war there would have been memorial services where, traditionally, children would place flowers on ALL of the graves. This served a double purpose. It ensured that those who might not have had any living relatives were not left out in the commemoration and also served as a lesson to the young to remember, recognise and respect what others had done to ensure their freedom.

Peze Cemetery

Peze Cemetery

On my visit in November 2014 it was not pristine but there had obviously had been some attempt to tidy the garden and at least the marble slabs on the steps hadn’t been looted as they had been at Korce, for example.

The cemetery is also in a very pleasant location. The village of Peze itself is at the head of a valley which is wide close to the Tirana-Durres road but which narrows significantly at the village. The cemetery is on one side of this narrow valley looking out to the fields that, during the Socialist period would have been full of activity but which are now is only worked sporadically.

GPS:

N 41.21647504

E 19.70247201

DMS:

41° 12′ 59.3101” N

19° 42′ 8.8992” E

Altitude: 109.7m

Getting to Peze by public transport:

Getting to Peze is not difficult but it does require a little bit of pre-planning and a bit of organisation as the starting point in Tirana is slightly out of the centre and it’s not a particularly frequent service. The bus stop is on Rruga Karvajes, opposite the German Hospital and just a few metres east of Rruga Naim Fresheri. The journey takes between 45 minutes and an hour, depending upon traffic and the driver, and costs 50 lek each way.

Departures from Tirana: 09.00, 12.00, 13.30,

Departures from Peze: 10.00, 12.45, 15.15

These times can be flexible in the sense of leaving later than stated. I suggest you allow at least an hour to explore the park. There are a number of bars and restaurants close to where the bus turns around so you can move quickly if necessary.

Monument to the 22nd Brigade – Peze

Monument to the 22nd Brigade - Peze

Monument to the 22nd Brigade – Peze

The Conference of Peze, which took place in September 1942, was only possible as the Peze Çeta (Partisan Guerrilla Group) was so feared by the fascist invaders that they could provide a safe environment to enable the discussions on the formation of a National Liberation Front to take place. This was in a location only 20 kilometres from the capital of Albania, Tirana. As the war developed the organisational structure of the People’s Army changed and became more organised. After final liberation the efforts of these men and women started to be recognised throughout the country and hence the Monument to the 22nd ‘Shock’ Brigade.

The park that was established in the area where the Peze Conference took place is only small but has one of the biggest concentrations of monuments to the past than virtually anywhere else in the country. Just a matter of a few metres up the hill from the Peze Conference Memorial can be found the memorial to the 22nd ‘Shock’ Brigade and across the bridge the Peze War Memorial.

I’m sure that in the Socialist past the park would have been pristine and a pleasant place for Tiranans to have visited on holidays and at weekends – still now there are restaurants that must depend upon day visitors. However, you be lucky to arrive and not find the place strewn with rubbish. On my visit the only thing keeping the grass down was the flock of sheep.

Whilst saying that the monument itself was in a reasonable condition, just the surroundings looked tacky and the lights that at one time would have made it possible to walk around in the evening looked as if they had not seen electricity for years.

XXII Shock Brigade - 01

XXII Shock Brigade – 01

The actual 22nd Brigade was formed relatively late in the war, on 18th September 1944, so was really created to better structure the final push to liberate the country from the German Nazis.

These ‘Shock’ Brigades, we would probably now call them Guerrilla Units, were highly mobile, hit and run organisations that were self-sufficient but when needed would unite with other Brigades to concentrate the necessary force to destroy large columns of the enemy, as happened in Mushqete only a few days before the liberation of Tirana.

XXII Shock Brigade - 02

XXII Shock Brigade – 02

Monument to the 22nd Brigade

The Monument was created by Mumtaz Dhrami and Kristo Krisiko and its official name is ‘Monumenti i Pezes’. It was completed in 1977, the same time as the War Memorial and the Monument to Heroic Peze. It consists of a concrete wall that curves inwards on the right hand side. At the left hand side the wall is at, more or less, knee height of the figures (just slightly bigger than life-size), where there’s a group of nine marching Partisans. The wall gently slopes up and at the far right becomes a series of pillars, each higher than the one before.

At the head of the marching group is a woman who holds the pole of the Communist flag in both her hands, slightly in front of her body. The flag flutters above and behind her head and as is common on such monuments the flag bears the symbol of the double-headed eagle with a star above the heads. As I have mentioned before the women in these statues are always armed and her rifle hangs behind her and she has a bandolier of bullets around her waist. She wears a cap with the Communist star at the front and her long hair has been gathered together.

Behind her there’s a row of three males. The outside one wears a heavy greatcoat and carries what looks like a light mortar over his left shoulder. This is likely to be a 2” mortar as this could be easily carried by one man, weighing as it did in the region of 5 kilos. He has a water bottle attached to his belt but carries no other weaponry.

Both the British and the German armies produced such a weapon so this could either be one liberated from the Nazis or part of the weapons drops that the Partisans gratefully received (but which the British grudgingly sent) when the Allies realised the Communists were by far the most effective fighting force of the different groups in opposition to the fascist invasion.

The other two in his row carry heavy calibre rifles on their backs, the end of the barrels appearing behind their heads, the inside one becoming part of the folds of the flag. The three of them are wearing caps with the red star attached at the front.

Behind them is another row of three males. The one on the outside has what looks like an Italian FNAB-43 submachine gun in his downwards extended right hand. The Albanian Partisans acquired many of their weapons from the enemy,a tradition followed by most Communist guerrillas ever since (although few in the Vietnamese forces against American intervention even bothered to pick up the US made M16 rifle when they had the AK47). His left hand is against his chest gripping what could be some kind of sack hanging behind him.

The Partisan next to him is different from the rest in that he is not facing in the direction of the march but is either looking behind him or at the viewer. He, and the third one in this row both have heavy calibre rifles on their backs. They are all wearing head gear with the star but whereas the first two have a different version of the caps the man on the inside wears a fez.

Behind them there’s a man and a woman, the last of the group. He has his right hand gripping the barrel of a heavy machine gun which rests on his shoulder. He has an ammunition belt around his waist and on his right hip there’s a British Mills bomb, a fragmentation grenade. He also wears a cap with the star – this symbol of being a member of the Communist Party being more evident here than on some other such monuments.

The woman at the back is a bit of a mystery. She doesn’t seem to be in uniform, her hair looks like it would be if she were working in the fields and she doesn’t seem to be carrying any weapons. She is the only one of the group who is not wearing a hat.

In front of the last two rows of Partisans is a small field gun. This was probably a very popular weapon for the Partisans as it was of a size that could reasonably be manoeuvred along the narrow mountain paths and over the high passes. This is exactly the same sort of cannon that was used at Sauk to bombard the traitors of the Quisling Assembly at the Victor Emmanuel III Palace.

On the ground, close to the wheel of the mountain gun, is a discarded Nazi helmet which is resting on what could be a heavy machine gun magazine. This represents the defeated fascist invaders.

This group is marching towards a plaque, the words translating to: ‘Honour the Martyrs of the XXII Shock Brigade’

Further to the right is where the monument breaks up into columns, I assume representing the mountains of Albania. On these four columns are the names of over a hundred Partisans from the Peze area who lost their lives in the National Liberation War.

This monument has recently been whitewashed but unlike the Monument to Heroic Peze different elements, such as the stars on the flag and caps or the eagle on the flag have not been highlighted. It’s difficult to work out what the idea is behind this policy of whitewashing. To the best of my knowledge the intention of the sculptor/s, in virtually all the monuments I’ve visited and seen, was for the unadorned concrete.

The whitewashing, as here, is not as careful and conscientious as it could be and always has the potential of filling in some of the detail of the figures, especially as they have been neglected for much of the last 25 years.

At the same time the rest of the structure looks dirty. The concrete might look brighter but any marble plaques with slogans or the list of the names of the fallen, were not cleaned up at the same time (this can also be clearly seen at the Mushqeta Monument at Berzhite). The rationale for this ‘clean-up’ is difficult to understand not the least as it seems to be totally random and not part of any organised and planned programme.

GPS:

N41.21561799

E19.70189701

DMS:

41° 12′ 56.2248” N

19° 42′ 6.8292” E

Altitude: 100.7m

Practicalities.

Getting to Peze is not difficult but it does require a little bit of pre-planning and a bit of organisation as the starting point in Tirana is slightly out of the centre and it’s not a particularly frequent service. The bus stop is on Rruga Karvajes, opposite the German Hospital and just a few metres east of Rruga Naim Fresheri. The journey takes between 45 minutes and an hour, depending upon traffic and the driver, and costs 50 lek each way.

Departures from Tirana: 09.00, 12.00, 13.30,

Departures from Peze: 10.00, 12.45, 15.15

These times can be flexible in the sense of leaving later than stated. I suggest you allow at least an hour to explore the park. There are a number of bars and restaurants close to where the bus turns around so you can move quickly if necessary.

Monument to Heroic Peze

 

Monument to Heroic Peze

Monument to Heroic Peze

Looking like a cross between a pistol and a huge road sign, the Monument to Heroic Peze sits at the junction to the village of Peze, along the old road between Tirana and Durres. This huge block of concrete, in its imagery and words, tells the story of the important role that this small village played in the war against fascist occupation (both Italian and German), the formation of the National Liberation Front and the concept of People’s Power.

The monument (Monumenti kushtuar Pezës heroikë – Monument dedicated to Heroic Peze) was inaugurated in September 1977, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Albanian National Liberation Conference in Peze (the village being only 6 km from the junction where there are other monuments to the fallen, the local guerrilla unit and the conference) and is the work of sculptors Mumtaz Dhrami (who was also involved in the creation, among others of Mother Albania in the National Martyrs Cemetery in Tirana and the Monument to Independence in Vlora) and Kristo Krisilo. It symbolises the struggle and glorious history of the people of this region led by the Communist Party of Albania (which became the Party of Labour of Albania during the period of socialism) in the war for liberation of the country against Italian and German Fascism.

Inauguration of The Monument to Heroic Peze

Inauguration of The Monument to Heroic Peze

The engraving above, by Fatmir Biba, records the inauguration in 1977

When I first saw this monument in 2012 it was just plain, undecorated concrete but between then and November 2014 it had been whitewashed and then certain images, principally the stars, the double-headed eagle and some of the text, have been picked out in red and black paint. When I first saw this change in the fate of the Monument of Dema, near to Saranda in the south of Albania, I thought this was just a local change in attitude, care and maintenance rather than disregard and vandalism, but this is obviously a much more extensive approach towards the patrimony of the country.

On the edge facing Tirana

On this part of the monument there is less of a story rather more a symbolic representation of what the struggle meant to the Albanian people. From the right hand side, that closest to the main road, there’s an image of a woman facing in the direction of Tirana, seeming to look into the distance towards the capital. She’s an older woman from those normally found on such monuments, as you can make out the creases in her forehead and also her dress is not of a combatant, more of a woman of the countryside, with a scarf covering her head and on both sides of her face. Is she, possibly, a representation of Mother Albania?

It’s not quite clear but she seems to holding the top end of the barrel of a rifle in her hand. That fits in with the many other images of armed women in Albanian Socialist Realist Art and it would be somewhat strange if this is the rifle of the man to her right.

Next we have the heads of three men, all of whom are looking in the direction of the village of Peze. Are we getting here a link between the capital and Peze? Without the conference and the anti-Fascist organisation that resulted in it the chances of victory and the liberation of the capital would have been reduced.

These heads represent the unity within the country, from the Communist (who is closest to the woman and whose star on his cap is now painted red and who has a bandolier across his shoulders) to the facial characteristics of Albanians from different parts of the country, symbolising that victory was a nation wide achievement. For such a small country and tiny population there are a huge number of distinctive facial differences between those in the north and those in the south. The third male from the woman also seems to be wearing a sheepskin collar to his jacket (similar to the separate, standing individual on the other side).

In front of them a disembodied hand holds high what looks like a bayonet, again pointing in the direction of the village. In front of this are the words, in Albanian, “Populli në këmbë, partia në ballë” that mean: “The People standing up, the Party in the vanguard.” And next to these words a large star, now picked out in red.

Underneath the faces are the words: “Lavdi Pezës heroike ku u vunë themelet e Frontit Nacional Çlirimtare dhe të pushtetit popullor”, which translate to: “Glory to Heroic Peze – where were laid the foundations for the National Liberation Front and People’s Power.” The larger, first words now also painted red.

The facade towards Durres.

From the left the letters VFLP, now picked out in alternate red and black, an initialism for “Vdekje Fashizmit – Liri Popullit!” (“Death to Fascism – Freedom to the People!”) a slogan and an oath which Partisans used to express their unity of purpose.

Then there’s the slogan in Albanian: “Historia e Pezës dhe e popullit të të gjithë kesaj krahine është një histori e lavdishme që do të na frymëzojë në shekuj” which means: “The story of Peze, and of all the people of this province, is a glorious history that will inspire us through the centuries.”

Then there’s a male Partisan fighter, standing with one leg higher than the other as if he were climbing a mountain. His right hand is raised above his head in the revolutionary salute, with the clenched fist. He is wearing a cap with a red star (but this hasn’t been picked out in red with the recent painting). The butt of his rifle, the barrel of which he holds in his left hand, is resting on the ground. His shirt is open at the neck and hanging from his shoulder, on a strap across his chest, is a water bottle. Around his waist he wears a bandolier holding spare cartridges and on his right hip rests a British made Mills bomb (fragmentation grenade). His jacket seems to lined with sheepskin as it looks like a fleece showing where it is open.

To his left is a çeta (guerrilla unit) of 12 marching towards Peze, both in the sense that they head to the village which is 6 kilometres from this junction and also to the buildings depicted on the monument itself. The face of the topmost of the group, towards the back, has suffered damage and only half the face exists. There’s only one woman Partisan and she is in the middle with a light sub-machine gun in her right hand, relaxed downwards as they are not in a combat situation. Not all the weapons of the group are shown but one of the male Partisans, in the middle, has his rifle raised above his head, extending over the heads of those in front and behind him.

There are faint red stars (again not picked out in red since the recent painting) on most of the caps worn by the group, including the cap of the female. The fourth male from the front carries a pole and the flag flutters over his head. On this flag there’s the double-headed eagle and star – but again these are faint and haven’t been highlighted in the recent cleaning/renovation.

In the arms of one of the leading males is a woman, in the traditional dress of the time, with her face very close to his. This is, presumably, his wife as just behind and below her is a young boy in the process of running to his father.

They have just come from Peze which is represented by the a few buildings up a hill side, towards the front of the monument. Superimposed over the houses is a large (now) red star, providing the accolade that was given to Peze during the time of socialism – Red Peze for having played a pivotal role in the formation of the National Liberation Front. Underneath are the words “Pezë,16 shtator 1942” which translate as: “Peze, September 16, 1942”, the date of the Conference. The name of the village is now painted red and the date in black.

The narrow facade facing the main road.

This is a battle scene. On the immediate left is a depiction of the double-headed eagle, with a large red star above the heads. The eagle has been painted black and the star a bright, crimson, revolutionary red.

To the right of that is the battle scene itself. This is not really that easy to make out, this edge facing more or less north and never really getting the sun on it to bring out the shadows of the relief. Also, because of its northerly aspect it has been subject to more weathering, not serious damage as far as I could see, but there’s staining that would come from the dampness staying on that part more than the two larger faces.

First there’s a male Partisan, down on one knee and in his right hand he holds a stick grenade (almost certainly ‘liberated’ from the Nazi invader and now being returned to the rightful owner) which he’s just about to throw. In his left hand he holds a rifle which is pointed in the direction of the enemy. He’s bare-chested, his shirt flying out behind him as he puts all his effort in throwing the bomb.

On his left, close together and all pointing and firing their rifles in the same direction, are 4 Partisans, three male and one female. The second male wears a fez cap, typical of the people from the area at the time, and the woman of this group wears a cap, which would normally have a red star on the front but it’s difficult to make that out due to the weathering. They are on a slight diagonal going up from left to right.

Behind this group stands a male partisan with a rifle, but not one that is firing at the enemy. He is looking back and I can’t make out at what, if anything. It also looks to me that there may be a flag attached to his rifle which is flying back over his head. This might represent the call for others to come and join the battle.

To his left there is a woman fighter firing a machine gun supported on a tripod. Behind her and barely visible is another fighter wearing a conical, felt hat typical of the north. His rifle is over her left shoulder pointing in the direction of the enemy.

I’m not sure if it’s just the weathering but above her head it appears to be the image of a building, if so this would be a representation of a building that would have been normal in Peze at the time of the beginning of the war – virtually all of Peze was razed to the ground during the National Liberation War.

GPS:

N 41.25917103

E 19.69045102

DMS:

41° 15′ 33.0157” N

19° 41′ 25.6237” E

Altitude: 63.4m

Getting there by public transport.

There are regular buses (every ten minutes or so during the day) leaving from the centre of Tirana which have the destination of Ngoc. The Tirana terminus is a short distance from Skanderbeg Square on Rruga Karvajes, opposite the German Hospital and just a few metres east of Rruga Naim Fresheri. Cost is 40 lek. Just wait by the side of the road, just a short distance up the hill, to go back to Tirana. This route also passes the road that leads to the cemetery where the grave of Enver Hoxha is located, in Kombinant. The bus that goes off the main road to Peze is less frequent and details can be found on the post for the Peze Conference Memorial Park.