Monument to Communist Guerrillas – Korça

To Communist Guerrillas

To Communist Guerrillas

More on Albania ……

Monument to Communist Guerrillas – Korça

This lapidar consists of a bronze statue, half body, starting just below the waist, around about twice life size. The statue stands on a plinth, which is about one and half metres high. This plinth and statue are part of a general structure, the background of which is a huge, stylised flag – the dimensions of the backdrop are (very roughly) 4 metres high, 3 metres wide and ¾ metre deep. All the stonework will have a base of concrete and is faced with slabs of white-ish marble.

The statue is of a young man, who, by his posture, is moving towards his right, his head facing in that direction and with a determined look on his face. In his right hand he is holding a pistol. This could well be a Berretta M1915 (which was used by Vasil Laçi in 1941). His left arm is stretched out behind him, all the fingers on his hand spread wide, a stance to provide better balance for his intended action (which is an ambush on foot).

A Berretta M1915?

A Berretta M1915?

The gun in his right hand is not facing the target but is as if he has just pulled the gun from out of his clothing and it’s in the process of swinging around so that it will eventually make a straight line from the tip of the barrel, through both his arms to the tips of the fingers of his left hand.

There’s also the impression of movement from the fact that the scarf that he has around his neck is loose and it is flowing over his left shoulder. The left side of his jacket, which is unbuttoned, is also flowing out behind him providing the impression he’s rushing towards his right and the clothes are slightly lagging behind his body’s movement.

This is a statue of a young man with relatively short hair and of someone who’s living in the city as there are no elements of traditional Albanian dress in his clothing.

On ‘flag’, above its head and to the statue’s right, is a plaque which has the words;

Me mirnjohje njësitit gueril të Korçës të rinjve komunistë Midhi Kostani, Kiço Greço, që dhanë jetën për lirinë e atdheut.

which means

With gratitude to the guerrilla unit of Korça, the young communists Midhi Kostani and Kiço Greço, who gave their lives for the freedom of the homeland.

Not the original inscription

Not the original inscription

However, this does not look like the original inscription. Just above the marble plaque there are a number of holes as if this is where individual, metal letters would have been attached to the wall. This was the more usual method of attaching an inscription. So far there’s no way of knowing (destroyed records during the counter-revolution of the 1990s) what the original description might been.

This takes on a specific importance here as information from other sources indicates that this statue was created by Kristaq Rama, and that it is supposed to be that of Vasil Laçi, who attempted to assassinate Victor Emmanuel III, in Tirana, in 1941. No confirmed date for its creation but probably mid-1970s.

However, Vasil’s name is not one of the two that are inscribed on the plaque.

He did have a connection with Korçe – his brother lived there – which is possibly one of the reasons why he may have been placed in the city. There’s no other reason why he should be where he is because he came from area around Sarande, in the south of Albania, and he spent some time before the assassination attempt in Tirana.

(If this is, indeed, a statue of Vasil Laçi then it’s not a surprise that he has been ‘written out of history’. Albanian authorities, in some – but by no means all – towns and cities in Albania have been attempting to obliterate the Socialist past and a statue commemorating an assault on the life of the puppet monarch from Fascist Italy might not fit in with the brown nosing that takes place in Albania towards the capitalist European Union.)

This statue is in very condition, as is the stonework which is part of the lapidar and there is no obvious damage in the marble facing – which is a pleasant surprise.

Location

In the main, pedestrianised street, Bulevardi Shen Gjergji, of Korca, next to the main city library.

GPS

40.61808201

20.77824402

DMS

40° 37′ 5.0952” N

20° 46′ 41.6785” E

Altitude

868.1 metres

More on Albania ……

27th May 1941 – Execution of Vasil Laçi …

Vasil Laçi

Vasil Laçi

More on the ‘Revolutionary Year’

More on Albania ……

27th May – Execution of Vasil Laçi …

… for the failed assassination attempt on Victor Emanuel III of Italy in 1941

Below is a reproduction of an article that first appeared in New Albania, No 1, 1970. [There has been some correction of the translation and grammar – but with an attempt to capture the tone of the original.]

The Attempt Upon the King’s Life

‘We glance through the May 1941 issue of the fascist magazine ‘Tomorri’. In one of its articles we come across a photo of Victor Emanuel the Third, the then King of Italy, taken in an open car. Having paid a visit to Albania, which was then occupied by the Italian fascists, he was on his way back to Italy. Though beneath the photo the words ‘A royal smile’ are written his face expresses terror and anxiety. On looking at this photograph the question naturally arises in one’s mind – ‘What’s wrong with the King?’

This photo was taken immediately after the 18 year young man, Vasil Laçi, had attempted to assassinate the King. He had fired five shots, but none found their true mark, but they did there bit, Radios worldwide echoed the news. The world over learnt, through Vasil Laçi’s deed, the words and the will of the Albanian people who hated the fascist heel. Vasili carried out this heroic attempt and he also heroically faced horrible tortures. Ten days in succession he endured the tortures. The fascists had anticipated that the son of the people from Piqerrasi, in Himara, would give up his comrades. But it was all in vain. The only answer they got from him was; ‘I deeply regret I didn’t shot the King dead’.

The tortures continued repeatedly. When he was given a pencil and a piece of paper to write on all he wrote were insults to the occupiers. It was May 27th, 1941 when the prisoners of Tirana Gaol saw the young man walking to the gallows in the centre of the yard. A little later a long procession of guards was seen. The young man who had been bound hand and foot was singled out. The procession stopped in the front of the gallows. When the senior lieutenant was loudly reading out the death sentence the patriot cast a long look at his fellow prisoners and raised his head aloft. When the reading was over, the whole jail echoed with revolutionary songs. At this moment, the doctor and the priest approached him. He didn’t let either of them near him.

‘Have you anything to say?’ they asked.

‘Yes, I have a demand. Bring me a comb to brush, my hair.’ They where nonplussed. How strange! He is on the point of dying and wants to have his hair combed!

But when Vasili said it, he meant it. All he longed for at these moments was to carry on the tradition of Albanian heroes, who scorned death by combing their hair before breathing their last. But this last desire of his was not permitted. In spite of that, he despised death until the last moment. He climbed up the gibbet, to the gallows, casting a glance at the windows of the jail. The prisoners never forgot this. Everything was ready. The yard of the gaol echoed with the fair words of Vasil Laçi: ‘Long live free Albania!’ ‘Long live Stalin!’ ‘Down with the fascists’. As soon as he finished these words, he pushed himself off the gallows. The revolutionary songs of the prisoners followed.

In one of the main streets of the capital a slate plaque attracts the attention of the passers-by. It says that this is the place where the attempt on the King’s life was made by the young man, Vasil Laçi.’

Monument to Vasil Laçi - Thoma Thomaj

Monument to Vasil Laçi – Thoma Thomaj

The artist who created the plaque is Thoma Thomaj – who was also the sculptor for the Monument to Sixth Brigade – Përmet, Grenade Ambush – Barmash and the newer sculptures of the Martyrs’ Cemetery – Borovë.

On the plaque are the words;

Atentati i djaloshit Shqiptar qe qelloi Viktor Emanuelin e III ishte fillimi i nje kryengritjej e te madhe qe po pregatite

which translate as;

The execution of the Albanian boy, who shot at Victor Emmanuel III, was the beginning of a great uprising that was being prepared

Vasil Laçi in Socialist art

In 1974 Agim Zajmi made a painting of him

Vasil Laçi - Agim Zajmi - 1974

Vasil Laçi – Agim Zajmi – 1974

and Kristaq Rama created a statue

Vasil Laçi - Kristaq Rama

Vasil Laçi – Kristaq Rama

The statue that is supposed to be of Vasil Laçi by Kristaq Rama is on public dispaly, next to the main library, in the centre of Korça – however there is no reference to Vasil on that lapidar.

Location of the commemorative plaque

The corner of Rruga e Durrësit and Rruga Mihal Duri, Tirana.

GPS

N 41.32985

E 019.81366

DMS

41° 19′ 47.46” N

19° 48′ 49.176” E

More on Albania ……

More on the ‘Revolutionary Year’

February the 8th 2021 – the centenary of the birth of Nexhmije Xhuglini (Hoxha)

Nexhmije Hoxha

Nexhmije Hoxha

More on the ‘Revolutionary Year’

More on Albania ……

February the 8th 2021 – the centenary of the birth of Nexhmije Xhuglini (Hoxha)

On 7th April 1939 the Italian Fascists landed an invasion force in the port city of Durres and the Albanian people (led by those who considered themselves Communists) organised a demonstration in Tirana calling upon the self-crowned ‘King’ Zog to arm the people and resist the invaders. Nexhmije was one of those demonstrators.

In response to the invasion Zog ran away and spent the rest of the Second World War in luxury and safety in Britain while the country of his birth was occupied by first the Italian and then the German Fascists.

Barely out of her teens, on 8th November 1941, Nexhmije was one of the founding members of the Albanian Communist Party along with Qemal Stafa (who became leader of the Party’s Youth section – of which Nexhmije was also a member) and Enver Hoxha, later to become leader of the Party and the country.

Following the occupation Nexhmije was involved in the production and distribution of anti-fascist propaganda, mainly in the Tirana area, working in the youth section as well as being a women’s organiser.

For a couple of years there was no united resistance movement to the invaders – although various guerrilla groups made life as uncomfortable as possible for the fascists. There were also many demonstrations, in various parts of the country, where unarmed Albanians took to the streets protesting against the occupation, such as the demonstration of college students and teachers on 6th March 1942 in Gjirokaster.

On 16th September 1942 a conference was held in the farm of Myslym Peza, a few kilometres to the west or Tirana, called and organised by the young Communist Party, where the National Liberation Front was established, which, eventually was successful in clearing both the Italian Fascists and the German Nazis from the country.

Nexhmije Xhuglini

Nexhmije Xhuglini

In her early twenties Nexhmije joined the Partisans fighting the invaders, as did many young women in the country at the time. The example of Liri Gero and the 68 girls from Fier being a prime example of this. Young Albanian women decided that if they wanted to achieve freedom then it had to be fought for by themselves rather than it being bestowed upon them by men at some time in the indeterminate future.

Final victory over the German Nazis was achieved with the liberation of Tirana on the 29th of November 1944. Albania being one of the few countries in the Second World War who liberated themselves without the aid of either the Soviet Red Army from the east or the forces of the British and Americans coming from the west.

Having fought and struggled together with Enver Hoxha in the partisan movement Nexhmije married him in 1945 and from then on was known as Nexhmije Hoxha.

After liberation she became chair of the Albanian Women’s Union and in the early 1950s she was elected to the Central Committee of the Party of Labour of Albania (which the Albanian Communist Party had renamed itself after 1948).

In 1966, after the ten-year long struggle against revisionism within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and other parties in the International Communist Movement, Nexhmije became the head of the Marxist-Leninist Institute. This was a school for Party cadres and was an important, and crucial, development in the struggle within the Party to oppose revisionism and the re-introduction of capitalism within the country.

This was at the time which can be called Albania’s ‘Cultural Revolution’. This revolution was not as extensive as the very well-known Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, not least because the population of the country was much smaller and had, literally, many enemies right at their borders.

This was a struggle of ideas and this was the time when much of the anti-revisionist, revolutionary material produced in Albania started to be published, translated into various other languages and distributed worldwide.

In 1985 Enver Hoxha died. However, Nexhmije continued to play an important role within the Party and country. However, the increased isolation in a hostile world, which followed the counter-revolutionary coup in China after the death of Comrade Mao Tse-tung, meant that the economic situation became untenable and allowed reactionary forces to use the people’s discontent to rally against the Party and all those in the leadership.

Chaos and anarchy took control of Albania and in 1991 Nexhmije was put on trial as a scapegoat for those in power at that time to hide their inability to run the country – along capitalist lines and even with the support and backing of the capitalist and imperialist nations.

Nexhmije Hoxha 1991

Nexhmije Hoxha 1991

She was accused of embezzlement of government funds and ludicrous stories were spread by the reactionaries in an effort to make her conviction more convincing.

Anyone who has visited Tirana and has seen the building which used to be the home and the office of Enver Hoxha and his family will realise that this was not a family which surrounded itself with luxury, as is the case and the norm in capitalist countries. It’s a modest, two storey building – which people can actually enter part of nowadays as one side of it is a cafe.

Enver Hoxha's Residence and Office in Tirana

Enver Hoxha’s Residence and Office in Tirana

No evidence was ever presented of a luxurious lifestyle. If they were living in the sort of luxury it was claimed, then images of that would have been presented many years ago.

Even when Comrade Enver left Tirana to holiday in the mountains he stayed in, again, a very modest building in Peshkopia which is no more than a large, family house. People can actually stay in this building now as, for a number of years now the building has been used as a cheap hostel. This just goes to show that the claims of a luxurious lifestyle are hardly proven.

Summer House - Peshkopia

Summer House – Peshkopia

When Nexhmije died on 26th February 2020 she was really one of the last people who would have been around at the time to actively fight against the fascist invaders and then, after liberation, attempting to construct socialism in Albania. Her death was really a definitive break between the present era and the construction of socialism.

Although being a small country, in the 1960s and 70s Albania was able to construct a modern agricultural system based upon state farms and an industrial base which produced much that the country needed – following the concept of self-reliance.

All that capitalism has given to Albania in the last thirty years is the destruction of all those factories which produced so much. For Albanians the largest export the country has now is its people.

There are some who now consider the exploitation of the extensive mineral resources of Albania, although located in the more inaccessible parts of the country, is the way ‘forward’ but this will just turn it into a producer of prime materials. All the real profits from such a move would be gained by huge transnational companies and other foreign financial institutions.

Albania now has no real leadership which isn’t corrupt, inept and more intent on currying favour with the European Union than it is in working for the interests of the Albanian people.

Nexhmije, along with many other members of the Party of Labour of Albania, struggled – between 1944 and 1990 – to construct something which would mean true independence.

For the Albanian people now that independence is well and truly lost.

Tributes to Nexhmije – on the occasion of her death on 26th February 2020

Writings of Nexhmije Hoxha

Unfortunately there’s not a great deal published in England but what is available will be reproduced here.

Some fundamental questions of the Revolutionary Policy of the Party of Labour of Albania, 1977

More on Albania ……

More on the ‘Revolutionary Year’