Kapidan Gjon Mark Markagjoni
Kapidan Gjon Mark Markagjoni (Gjomarkaj) was born in 1938, in Orosh, Mirdita, the only son of Kapidan Mark Gjon Markagjoni. Gjon was 6 years old when the communists took over Albania in 1944.
He and the rest of the family managed to find shelter with a family friend who hid them for 3 months. In March of 1945 an amnesty was announced by the government stating that anyone who was hiding could return to their homes without being arrested. As soon as the family left their shelter they were immediately taken under arrest. They were brought to the house of Guljelm Luka, which was directly across the street from their home in Shkoder. They remained under house arrest for the next 3 months. In July they, along with other noted family members of the area, were taken by truck to the first of many internment camps in which they would live for the next 45 years.
While in internment he was forced to work many jobs over time, deprived of any basic human rights. Gjon grew into a man worthy of honor and proud to be a member of a noble family. He fondly remembered the hours of quiet laughter and more serious discussions on various issues that were spent with Don James Gardini, a prominent Italian priest who lived in Albanian prisons for ten years, and who later was part of the subject in a book he wrote relating to the topics discussed. With more respect and profound emotion he recalled his meetings with Cardinal Mikel Koliqi (1902-1997) during internment and after the regain of freedom 1991, where they together recalled conversations they shared previous years in regards to human rights and religion. While in Lushnja he attended elementary and secondary school full-time, learning Italian and French, but was always concerned for the family’s economic problems. Because of their stature the regime treated them worse than other prisoners thereby limiting their income.
With the victory of democratic forces in the first democratic elections of 1991, he ranked alongside opposition forces, exposing the atheist communist regime and becoming a member of the Republican Party. He was Deputy of Mirdite from 1996-1997. He later withdrew from political life to devote himself to his homeland. He dealt with many economic and cultural issues in the region of Mirdite, which was intentionally abandoned by the communist regime and was neglected. Gjon, working as a leader and steward of the humanitarian aid society Caritas, sent much aid and investment in Meath, for the construction of churches (previously destroyed), new schools and other projects, with the generosity of the Austrian Catholic Church. He sent a letter to his uncle, Kapidan Ndue Markagjoni (Gjomarkaj) in New York, in October 2000, addressing those issues:
“I have continued work in our province for the municipality of various villages. We’ve built nine schools in Meath and several new churches, along with health centers in the villages to provide aid to the poor, which has been reflected in programs aired four times on Austrian television. Albanian Television was silent as always! However, I will not stop my work and it will all come to light with Austria’s help in rebuilding the churches, in particular Vig Mirdita. I wish for my country to have religious access in all the provinces.”
Gjon died peacefully in 2003 in his home in Shkoder after a long illness, surrounded by family and friends. He left no children.
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