[Part of the interview cut out from the video: the interviewer asks the speaker to introduce herself and talk about her childhood.]
Luljeta Bajri: I am Luljeta Bajri, I was born in Peja, as they say, in the fire of the war, in 1943, from my father, Emrush Myftari, and my mother Hajrie Mekuli Myftari. It is a little painful to talk about my childhood, but yet, people experience many more difficult events in their life. We had the fate, my brother Kujtim and I, that when we were very young we were orphan of our father, in the year…Sometime in the end of 1944, or in the beginning of 1945 they executed him, they shot him in Pristina, at a place called Strelishte, somewhere in today Tokbahçja. And at that place, of course, they also executed many other people, patriots, different personalities, and from that day till today, he remains without a proper burial.
I have much to say about the history of my family, even though I heard it from others. After the death of my father, I was about one years old and some when dad died, while my mother was pregnant, and four, five months after the execution of my father, she gave birth to a boy, my brother Kujtim, whose name was the amanet of my father, who wanted the name Kujtim because he saw how events were unfolding and he expected that something would happen to him.
I must also talk a little about the history of my father. My father was the third brother, the youngest. There were also two other brothers, Sherif and Xheladin, and my father Emrush. My oldest paternal uncle, Sherif, was a man with very progressive ideas. It seems that back then he was part of the movement for democratization… there were movements for unity, I mean, Serbs and Albanians, for the democratization of society. He wanted that my father continue school and he sent him [to school], I mean, once he finished elementary school, in the beginning he did not like it much, he was not good in school, he was not a good student.
But he had a friend, a professor in the gymnasium of Peja, a Serb, an old professor who also had progressive ideas about national equality and everything… And it was true that Emrush had a natural intelligence and he said, he addressed my uncle, saying, “What does this boy want?” “He does not want to go to school, I don’t know what to do. I am busy with work in the house and with business and other things…” he said. “Do you put me in charge of preparing him?” And this professor prepared him, and saw that he registered to school, I mean, after elementary school he went to the gymnasium, in the gymnasium he distinguished himself as the best student in fact, he wrote great essays. Since they were so good, they were read from class to class…then, at the time, school was in Serbo-Croatian.
After he finished the gymnasium, this professor proposed that he went to Belgrade and apply [to the lycée] with a friend, Veli Dedi, who was from Medvegja. In Belgrade they did not accept them, I mean, they came back and my father came back with his friend very demoralized about everything. Of course my uncle too was upset by what had happened, so they prepared the terrain to go to Albania illegally. I mean, Emrush and Veli Dedi went, they went to Albania. Also some other people from Peja went to Albania, I think Shaban Basha, Xhemajil Kada, and these went earlier. And they all decided where to go to school. Veli Dedi and my father went to the lycée of Korça while Shaban Basha and Xhemajl Kada went to Torino to finish military school there.
Of course in Korça, in the French lycée of Korça, they met many personalities of the time, and as my father’s friends told me, he was of the same generation of Enver Hoxha. I mean, they knew each other since the lycée of Korça. After they finished the lycée of Korça, it was the time then, the period of King Zog, you know, in Albania. There was the need for military cadres then and all, with Veli Dedi, went to military school, I mean, the military academy at the time of Zog and they completed it successfully. However, the situation in Albania of course was not as it should have been. They had progressive ideas, they were more open.
And at that time, I mean in the year 1937, the war in Spain broke out. It is then that my father, Veli Dedi, Xhemajl Kada, and Shaban Basha, went to the Spanish war as volunteers and Justina Shkupi, a nurse who had finished her specialization, I think, in Italy or France, I don’t know, and she was a friend of Mother Theresa, they finished nursing school together. They said that she too went as a volunteer, she was a Kosovar, you know, she too. They went to the Spanish war also from Albania and from Macedonia, it seems to me also from Montenegro, I mean, they were together, as they say, the cream of Albanian intellectuals, from all Albanian populated lands.
However, they were organized in the Garibaldi Battalion, whose secretary or leader was Luigi Longo, a known Italian personality, who later after liberation became the head of the Italian Communist Party, I think so, if I am not mistaken. And there I think they had contacts [with great people], I mean, they were in the framework of the Garibaldi Batallion, there, they met many people who had come from all over Europe. For example, there were, also well known writers, such as, Orwell, later there was Hemingway, there were many other personalities of culture, arts, writers. And there, I think they had also contacts with great people.
Every group of these volunteers published also magazines, journals, of course the English in English, the Italians in Italian. The Albanians, as the smallest group… also because a scholar who studied…a Spaniard, I don’t remember, I think her name was Suarez, I don’t remember the first name, I don’t remember the name, she studied this group of Albanian volunteers in Spain, and said that, proportionally to the population, they had not been a small group. And, what is best, they all had military skills. The majority had been in military academies or military high schools, I mean, they were prepared.
My father was an artillery officer and there, as they explained it to me, there was also the writer Petro Marko from Albania. I mean, they established very good social relationships, Petro Marko was younger and to protect him… he had talent for writing, at that time my father did not let him go to the front, he took him to the Italians and said, “He is a good writer and a journalist, it is much more in our interest to have him report and write what happens,” I mean, in the war, at the front, “rather than having him killed in the war.”
A group of 15 [students] from the elementary school 8 Marsi [March 8] went to Albania on a field trip, I don’t know how it was agreed that we went, and when we arrived in Durres, in one hotel there… in the hallway, they told me there, where we were in a group, a man called me and told me, “We are waiting for you in the other room, Petro Marko and Justina Shkupi are waiting.”
Now, Justina Shkupi, I told you also earlier, was in the Spanish war and she is mentioned in the novel Hasta la Vista as the nurse Drita. And when they saw me (smiles), they and I became very emotional, they were very powerful, they began, the two of them, to introduce themselves and they and I cried. She said, “It is very good to meet Emrush’s daughter,” and there we began to evoke memories of the Spanish war and then…Then they took me home, they called there some fighters of the Spanish war, they took me to the house of one fighter in Spain, Ramiz Varvarica, who had married a Spaniard, and had taken his wife to Albania. You know, those were some powerful emotions, also on my part, because I saw them for the first time. I never knew my father and now I saw my father’s friends.
Lura Limani: What else did they tell you about your father during the war?
Luljeta Bajri: Please?
Lura Limani: What else did they tell you about your father during the war?
Luljeta Bajri: During the war my father was, I mean, a leftist. He had leftist views, that the Albanian people would come out of the Second World War as equal to all the other people in Former-Yugoslavia, anyway, of Yugoslavia. It was in…when the Congress of Bujan was held, they began noticing his ideas, and naturally the Serb and Montenegrin Communists who had known each other from the war of Spain, also had an impact and they all tried to place Albanians on an inferior level, meaning to ignore them completely. My father has confronted those, the Serbian and Montenegrin Communists, in Spain. And when he returned afterwards, when he returned from Spain…aha, when it capitulated, I mean, the Spanish War, they went to France.
In France they met, I mean, there in France there were many Albanian students, who all studied there. Then, there was also Ali Kelmendi as a member of the Comintern, I think, of the Communist movement. And in France they also met with Zekeria Rexha, a known Albanian intellectual, he studied in France, in Lyon. At the time they met in Paris and decided to publish a magazine in Albanian, a newspaper called Sazani. But I am very sorry that… I had this newspaper here, but during the war, when they burned down the house, they also burned all that material with the house. We managed to save something, but very little.
And afterwards, after France, Zog did not allow them to return to Albania, since they were Communist, so then father went to Turkey, he went to Palestine, I mean, he went to these states in the East. I mean, in Turkey the propaganda began against the displacement of the Serbs… that the Serbs (laughs), I am sorry…against the displacement of Albanian to Turkey. He returned later from Turkey and of course he joined the Communist movement here in Peja. However, everyone respected him as a prepared cadre, an educated cadre, as a person who knew five-six foreign languages. However, they were also all afraid, because from the beginning he showed his ideas, that Albanians must come out of this war as their own nation, and have rights like all the other people. Some did not like him, of course. So, he was at once a little busy with the movement and he opened the first bookshop in Peja. The bookshop was called Libraria Skënderbej – Vllazën Myftari [Skenderbeg Bookshop – Brothers Myftari].
However, initially he led the bookstore and later had to go into illegality that all Italians persecuted him, later they arrested him, he was in the prison of Tirana. At the time, they say, my uncle Xheladin worked in the bookstore and he took even my mother to work in the bookstore.
My father returned from Spain, from Spain and from France. Since Xhemajl Kada and Asim Vokshi, two close friends of my father, were killed in the Spanish war, he brought with him what remained, you know, the memories and clothes of Xhemajl Kada, to the family of Xhemajl Kada, I mean, to Rexha Kada’s. The wife of Rexha Kada was my maternal aunt, Sheqere Kada. And there, because they went to give condolence for the killing of Xhemajl, as he was a high rank officer awarded in Italy, and my father was very outraged that there in Spain there was a conflict also with those leaders of the Garibaldi, because he said, “You always want Albanians to be in the front line, while you stand as guard.” And he said, “Two good officers were killed there, two good soldiers who could lead and who should not have been in the front line.”
At the time he [Rexha] asked my father, he said, “Emrush, what do you want to do now? You must create a family.” “I cannot because I am with…I am busy with politics, with ideas, there is no young girl who swept me off my feet. Also, there is none who is educated enough to understand me. Nobody swept me off my feet.” “No,” he said, “I found a girl. There is my sister in law, Hajria, the daughter of Hoxha Nokshiqi from Plav, who finished the Royal School in Belgrade, the Royal School for home economics in Belgrade.”
Now, I will tell you a short story, my grandfather with my grandmother lived until late, I mean, I was 14 years old when my grandfather died, my grandmother died later. Also, my uncle took us, my brother and me, to Plav every holiday. Since there was not much communication through the gorges of Rugova, at the time they hired a man with a horse, and two baskets, one on each side. The wife of my uncle prepared us this way, me in one basket and in the other my brother, and we went through the Qafa e Dillit. In the Qafa e Dillit, my uncle stopped everyone to drink and eat and rest, there was a source of water. And he told us that there were four burials there. He talked, said, “There are four burials, one of them is of my brother Sherif, who went as a volunteer to fight at the border with Montenegro, to not let the Montenegrin army enter, enter in Kosovo, and there he is, a martyr.” I mean, that burial is there since that day and is still there today.
Anyway, now I am going to tell you about my mother. My mother finished the Royal School. The King, I mean Aleksander, of former-Yugoslavia, sent an official memorandum to Plav – my grandfather was the imam of the main mosque of Plav – which said that a girl from Plav and Gusja could go, you could send women to the School for home economics in Belgrade, and it [the memorandum] was presented to the mosque goers. However, nobody agreed, they said, “No, we are not sending the girls there to become…” You know, the expression used at the time (laughs), “to become a shkina.” And my grandfather said, “Well, I had an obligation to present this, I would send my daughter” and he sent my mother. She was the fourth sister. After finishing this School of home economics very successfully, I am sorry that I don’t have it, they gave her also that emblem of the crown, an engraving of the crown plated in gold, in addition to the diploma, that too, everything has been burned down.
She returns to Plav and I mean, she gathers…, she becomes as a…, she gathers all the girls of Plav, gives them advice on how to prepare food, how to rear children, how one must rear infants, how one must…she teaches how to work, all the skills that she learned in the School in Belgrade. And when Rexha Kada asked her in marriage, at the time they met with…she came here to Peja, my mother. She met my father. They get engaged and after some time they get married. My father’s wedding was a bit of a sensation in Peja because it was the first time that a bride came to Peja with a white veil. In addition, my father goes to pick her up with his own private car. Here we kept also photographs, everything has been burned down. And my grandfather prepared a very good and dignified welcome, called many guests and my mother came here to Peja to live ever after.
Of course, the surveillance and the arrest of my father immediately began. For four years that they lived together, he spent more time outside the house than at home. Time after time he came, in and out of prison. And when they executed my father, my mother is left, I mean, with me, and later my brother was born. The house here is raided and they take my uncle too to the yard here, to shoot him. Since they were looking for a radio station, they needed a pretext to shoot him [my father], and the excuse, the excuse for the execution was that he was a member of the Intelligence Service, since he knew English, in addition he had an English friend, someone [called] Flavia Kingston, I think, who used to live in Zagreb and she came here, some times she was here at our family in Peja. I mean, they confiscated father’s wealth.
My father noticing in which direction the [political] situation was heading – he had a very rich library with books not only in Albanian, but also in other languages, because he was in Italy, I mean, he travelled all over Europe – aware of the situation, the entire library was walled up in those old shelves that were in my father’s house and they built a wall there… plus also the materials that were in the bookshop. Obviously, not all the books went there, lots of other books were left outside. Something that is left with me from my childhood, we had all of those, from all the centers in Europe where Albanian magazines were printed, we had them here. We had the magazines Vatra, Dielli, Flamuri i Arberit. I can’t remember all now, but [the magazines from] the US centers where Faik Konica worked with Fan Noli, we had those magazines too.
Unfortunately, since the whole family was under surveillance from the Secret Service, someone who was present when the wall was built, when they put the books in, notified them. As they couldn’t find it, they dug the whole garden, supposing they were searching for the radio station. They take my uncle to shoot him, my mother goes and says to them, “I’m Emrush’s wife. This is the only male in our house, if you must execute [someone], execute me.” Anyways, they don’t find the radio station so they destroyed the wall, and for two-three days they carried [the materials] with a cart. This is of course as my uncle told me, since I was very little, two and a half years old. They take the whole library with all the books and the typewriter, all the material that was there and they go.
My mother’s health then worsens and because we were always under surveillance, the family was followed, I mean… as a family, we were anathemized a little, not by the people, we had great authority among the people, everyone respected us. Indeed, I remember there was a professor in the gymnasium of Peja, a friend of my father, Mikel Marku, a professor who taught Serbo- Croatian in the gymnasium for the Albanian parallel classes. And every November 28th, he came to visit us and he brought us books, notebooks, pens. He told my uncle, “Xhele, Emrush supported all of us, he gave us books, he gave us [reading] materials, everything. He gave us everything that we wanted from the bookstore, we have to take care of Emrush’s children after they lost their father.”
My mother, the doctor tells her to go to Plav, after that, her health deteriorated much, and she goes to Plav in two days.
Lura Limani: What were the years?
Luljeta Bajri: The years ’44, end of ’44, so after my father’s execution, or the beginning of ’45. She goes to Plav to her parents and of course her mother and sisters take care of her. In the year 1946, beside them, two Hungarian doctors who were friends with my grandfather also took care of her, they had come during the Second World War and had liked Plav very much, as a picturesque place with the lake. They never returned to Hungary, stayed in Plav as doctors. And they came all the time to take care of mother.
I was two years and a half, something more, and my mother dies! Mother dies and we’re staying in Plav with our grandfather and grandmother. We had there also an unmarried aunt, aunt Fatime, who decides not to get married so she can raise us. However, here in my paternal uncle’s family there were some deaths, I mean execution… uncle Sherif dies on the frontline of the war, my mother dies, my father is executed, so the whole family is left with my uncle, and two of my uncle’s wives, the one, whose husband dies and….
At that point my paternal uncle comes to Plav to get us. My grandmother and aunt don’t even want to hear about letting us go. Who would take care of us? They think we would be better taken care of in Plav. However, my uncle takes the hat off to my grandfather and says to him, “Please, we’ve gone through horrible tragedies, at least give me one of the children.” And he goes and says, “I can’t send the man back with no children.” “Fine,” he says, “Xhele which one do you want?” “Well, I’d like the daughter.” And he takes me, my uncle takes me and brings me here to Peja. However, I was never at peace even though a little girl, I was looking for my brother (smiles). My brother also came… we were used to be together. So, my uncle takes [him from] my grandfather, after some time, he takes my brother and brings him here, I mean, we were raised at my uncle’s.
My uncle and his wife took maximum care of us, they did not have children. You know, a desire of theirs has been fulfilled by having us as their children. My uncle did everything he could to give us a happy, beautiful childhood. He helped us with all his means, I went to school, I mean, I think that I have not done for my children what my uncle and his wife did for us. My uncle was a very intelligent, open man. He did not stop me from going out, though the years were such, of course these were the years when girls were not allowed to go to school activities and other things, but I was never stopped from going. I mean, every school activity, the choir, the orchestra, field trips, all those trips that were at that time, I was never stopped. In a way, because of me, my friends began to come along, since my uncle had this authority here in the rreth in which he lived and in which he…
 Amanet is literally the last will, but in the Albanian oral tradition it has a sacred value.
 A European type of secondary school with emphasis on academic learning, different from vocational schools because it prepares students for university.
 The Conference of Bujan (31 December 1943 – 1-2 January 1944) was a meeting of Yugoslav partisans in which a resolution was passed that promised to let the people of Kosovo decide democratically whether they wished to be part of Albania or of Yugoslavia after the war.
 Campaigns to expel Albanians from the Yugoslav Kingdom were organized since the First Balkan War, however an intellectual and strategic effort of expelling Albanians from their lands developed later.
In 1937, for example, a memorandum entitled Iseljavanje Arnauta (The Expulsion of the Albanians), written by Vaso Čubrilović a Bosnian Serb political activist and academic, member of the Academy of the Arts and Science was published. In 1938, Turkey and the Yugoslav Kingdom signed an agreement to relocate 25.000 families to Turkey. The agreement was not implemented due to the start of the Second World War. Many Albanian families were displaced to Turkey nevertheless.
 Shka (m.); shkinë (f.) is a derogatory term in Albanian used for Serbs.
 Rreth (circle) is the social circle, includes not only the family but also the people with whom an individual is in contact. The opinion of the rreth is crucial in defining one’s reputation.