Through the ages one just has to ask the question: Which family gave their lives protecting the religious freedom that Mirdita and most of the North of Albania enjoys today? How many men fought wars, generation after generation, protecting the freedom of their homeland, religion and customs? Only one name stands out, that of the “Dera e Gjomarkut” the “Gjomarkaj Porte”.
Through the centuries their bravery, nationalism, pride and belief in Catholicism is undeniable. The Dera e Gjomarkut led in every war; for freedom, religion and homeland.So why is it that historians, intellectuals, journalists, commentators, politicians et al are so afraid to speak about it? Why is it that the history of this very important family is denied in Albanian history books? Not taught in Albanian schools? What are they so afraid of? Why so much organized hostility against this Porte and family?
The Kanun of Lek Dukagjini has been at the forefront of Albanian history and when the need arose it was applied judiciously by the Kapidan of Mirdita. We exhalt and rightly so, other nationalists in the media and history books, the likes of Sami Frasheri, Pashko Vaso, Isa Buletini, but when it comes to the Gjomarkaj Porte there is nothing. A void. Blank pages. What are we teaching our children, our youth about the North? About the heroism shown through the centuries by members of this Porte? Why was the North mostly Catholic and why has it remained so after 500 years?
Through the centuries and up until the present the Gjomarkj Porte was decimated, they fought and lost, but their spirit never died. They were resurrected over and over again and maintained their dignity, their nobility, their faith and deep patriotism. For centuries the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini was at the forefront of the northern provinces and when it was needed it was administered by this Porte with fairness and justly.This Porte, to whom so many brave men belong: Gjon Marku, Llesh i Zi, Bibe Dode, Preng Bibe Dode, Prenge Lleshi, Lesh Gjoni, Ndue Gjoni, Dode Lleshi, Marka Gjoni, Gjon Marka Gjoni, Ndue Gjon Marku, Llesh Gjon Marku, Dede Gjon Marku, Nikoll Gjon Marku and last but not least the flag bearer of Mirdita, the hero who led Mirdita in its fight against communism with all his might and ultimate sacrifice, his life: Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku.
They and others belonging to this Porte may not be written about by Albanian contemporary writers or discussed by analysts, but they are not forgotten by the people of Mirdita. This Porte, who gave so much and yet asked so little in return but to be free, to practice their religion and to let Mirdita grow and prosper in a democratic society, has been systematically denied their rightful and just place in Albanian history.
Shame on the so called historians and education administrators who keep denying Mirdita and the Dera e Gjomarkut their just history, thereby denying their children, the future of Albania, an undeniable truth; that the Dera e Gjomarkut has played a role in our history as no other family ever has or will again. And it is thanks to this Porte, this Dera, that the North has remained a Catholic heaven and that its customs and traditions have been left untouched.
From the beginning of June 1944 until the end of October I found myself in Mirdita fighting against the communist guerrillas who were attacking us from all sides, in the area of Mat and Lure e Lume. During these months of fighting many of my men were left for dead or wounded, but the casualties inflicted on the enemy were also many. Ultimately, we were forced to retreat to a more suitable area as the guerrillas received more ammunition and reinforcements, thereby outnumbering us.
Finally, on October 20, we were recalled to Shpal. For three days and three nights we resisted the attacks of the communist brigades there. It had been a tough fight but our determination and struggles were memorable and exceptional. Although we suffered defeat, we also inflicted many losses against the communists. When it was evident that we could not resist any longer we headed in the direction of the Simoni hills. We had to cross the river Fandi i Madh, which was overflowing due to the heavy rains. If it were not for the fishermen who took us across the river we would have been stranded by the river bank.
Once across we headed to Geziq and crossed the river Fandi e Vogel in order to reach Thkell and from there headed into the mountains, where we gathered and continued on the road to Shkodra.
My thought was to go back to Mirdita and continue the fight with those forces that had remained loyal to us and miraculously stand victorious. But Mark1 had other plans, hence I stayed in Shkodra. Mark had decided that my father and I would leave Albania and relocate somewhere west until things calmed down. I was not told ahead, probably out of fear that I would not listen to him.
On November 26, 1944 we left Shkodra for Kastrati. I then continued to Tuz where I joined my father. Our Odyssey started from Tuzi.
For a long time we crossed Jugoslavia on foot and under the constant bombardment of the allies and stopped in different places to rest. After a week we arrived in Jablan where we stayed for a few days. There, where we welcomed the New Year 1945, we lost our driver Llazia Kolashi. From there, always on foot and during the day, we continued the journey to Visegrad. At one point, we hid on the mountain tops to protect ourselves from the Allies’ bombardment and as soon as the incursion was over, we would continue on our way.
We came across many dead soldiers and burnt German vehicles but we kept walking without stopping and without food. We spent the night in an abandoned hut. The winter was hard with snow everywhere. My fear was for my father’s health, but for the greatness of God Almighty he did not get sick, not even once; he was a hundred times stronger than me.
Towards the end of winter we arrived in Visegrad where we were informed about the train to Sarajevo. The train, of course, was in the hands of the German Army, which did not easily carry civilians. There was no other way that the mountains of Bosnia could be crossed and survive. We turned to the German Command for help. At first the German General did not welcome us but after we conversed and I explained the situation calmly, he acquiesced and called an officer who was in charge of the train station and gave the order to let us in. The officer said that the station was closed and that if we were to stay inside, in case of bombing, we would most probably not survive. I explained the matter to my father and he, after thinking for a moment, said to me: “So far we are lucky, even this time He will take us out of danger; we enter”. And so we did. Once again God watched over us and on that day no Allied planes appeared and we boarded a train to Sarajevo.
The train was loaded with people and we squeezed into each other like eggs in a basket. As the train started climbing up the mountain it stopped and started going back downhill. I, who was the tallest in the wagon, moved 200 meters to the front. At that moment I thought I would die, but German soldiers boarded the train and attached another locomotive and with the help of the first one brought it to the top of the Sarajevo mountains. It constantly rained and snowed on the mountains of Sarajevo and the train cars were open. The snow and rain would cover us as we headed up the mountain. For one week we were subjected to falling rain and snow until we arrived in Sarajevo. We stayed in Sarajevo for ten days where we recovered by resting and eating well, from there we left by train to Zagreb, where we also stayed for ten days.
While in Zagreb I decided we should head to Vienna but even in Zagreb the train station was in the hands of the Germans who had closed it and would not let anyone in, only with permission. I had to go to the German Command and ask them to give me permission to take the train. Here, too, fate worked for me. Once the German Command called the guard at the station and gave the order to let us pass we were on our way.
After we left Zagreb it took us three days to arrive in Vienna where we settled in a hotel near the train station, in the southern part of the city. The bombing continued every day and when I would go out to buy food, often while bombing was occurring, I was away from father, the thought of which worried me constantly. One day the neighborhood where we were was bombed. We were shaken to the core as we went down to the basement of the hotel. Father, from time to time, would go out into the hallway to smoke. Suddenly there was a loud boom and a bomb fell, collapsing part of the hotel. Fortunately for us the elevator shaft was left intact otherwise it would have collapsed and most likely killed us all, rather it fell straight into the hallway where our rooms were. Our cement corridor was about a meter thick. The bomb destroyed the roof, the first, second and third floors and the elevator did not work anymore. Our room was in disarray, we hurried and took the few necessities we had left away with us. Fate was on our side once again as the train station had survived. We realized that staying in Vienna any longer was life threatening so we left for Innsbruck.
Our thought was to move to Italy where we could find shelter. To get to Italy, the main train route was Brenero, but there were constant bombings on that side. Many Albanians who had taken that path were left for dead. We took another route called Passo di Resia, which is about a thousand meters high and seven kilometers away from the Swiss border. In order to take that road and pass through Italy, we needed an automobile, which we did not have. We had to wait until a military vehicle headed to Italy passed by and picked us up. After many hours of waiting a military vehicle approached. I stepped forward and begged him to give us a ride. We boarded silently. The night felt heavy. We arrived at the top of the mountain on the border with Italy. I stopped to check with the border guard who refused to speak with me. From there we could see the light on our Swiss side and darkness on the Italian side.
The next morning we arrived in Merano, it was towards the end of March 1945. Merano was declared an open city because it was considered a hospital city. We stayed in Merano until mid-June. With the capitulation of Germany, the Americans arrived in Merano and with their arrival we feared the handing over of father to the communist government of Albania. At the end of June 1945, from Merano, we headed for Rome. Even in Rome the fear of surrender was great because the situation in Italy had not yet stabilized.
We lived in a bleak atmosphere. In the Italian police station I found a high ranking official who had been in Albania and who knew father and Mark. “I assure you” he told me “that our allies can never catch you, so rest assured that in such a case I will notify you at once and provide you with a safe place”. This was a guarantee for us. This situation continued until the first government was formed with De Gasperi as Prime Minister and from that time we lived freely. Surviving was very difficult as we started to lack the few financial means that my father had with him.
Since many thousands of Albanians had gathered in Italy, the Allies, with the help of Italy, formed an assistance camp for Albanian refugees in Reggio Emilia. Thousands of Albanians took refuge in those camps. My father and I did not as I did not want to involve him in the chaos of the camps. We informed our Italian friends at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had known my father since the 1930’s when he went to Rome to accompany Mark to the Colleggio Mondragone, of our arrival, which prompted the Italian government to give us a monthly stipend. Although it was not enough to sustain us it did help us somewhat.
Towards the end of 1945, we got in touch with our Albanian friends. From this time on our political activity began ie. Blloku Kombetar Independent.
Father had always been in good health. He never got sick until 1964 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He spent the first year of his illness in the hospital and at home. Everything was looking promising and I hoped the disease would be cured, but the cancer began to spread even more so that he could not breathe. I was forced to admit him to one of the specialized hospitals in Rome. The specialist, the primary surgeon who visited him, told me that he needed an operation in the throat so that they could insert a tube which would allow him to breathe. Once the tube was inserted father was breathing freely. He seemed to be resurrected.
The cancer started to spread to his stomach and he stopped chewing food. The head surgeon who visited him daily, told me that he needed another operation to insert a feeding tube to the stomach so that he could be fed. From then on, for 18 months he was hospitalized under the care of the specialized nurses, due to the daily medication and care. Every day I went to the hospital and spent the day with him. He kept on smoking and never stopped. Finally, the disease took over and on April 28, 1966 he died. Even though this was a very painful occasion for me I was blessed to be near him and was able to close his eyes with my hand and kiss him for the last time.
Prof. Ernest Koliqi, wrote wonderful speeches and poems; biographies and news of the death were written in numerous newspapers and magazines. He was buried in the Cimitero Verano in Rome and his gravestone is marked with a photograph of him. With the death of my father it seemed that the world had collapsed. My wife, Maria Teresa, whom he loved so much, did everything for him that a daughter such as Marta or Bardha could have and would have done.
As a foreigner and political immigrant it was very difficult for me to find employment in Italy. Maria Teresa was an only daughter, she had no brothers or sisters, but as long as her father and mother were alive, she had a very full life. With the death of her parents, both with cancer, and most of her funds spent on medical expenses after their deaths in the hospital, her economic situation began to narrow as we multiplied and became six in the family.
Those events prompted our decision to come to New York, USA where my younger brother Nikoll lived with his wife and three children.
And so we started living somehow.
From the private diary of Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku
1Kapidan Mark Gjon Marku, older brother of Ndue Gjon Marku.
Une gysh ne fillim te qershorit 1944 e deri ne fund te tetorit pata qindrue ne Mirdite tue lufte kundra brigata komuniste qi po na mesyjshin prej te kater anevet (Mat, Lure e Lume). N’ata mueje, jemi perjeke me brigatat komuniste tue i vra e tue i sakatue, por edhe na tue lane te dekun e te plagosun. Ma ne fund, shumica e tyne numerike dhe e armatosun mire na shtemgoi me u terhjeke ne zona ma te pershtatshme.
Ne fund, me 20 tetor, na vethuen ne Shpal. Per tre dite e tre nete qindruem sulmeve te brigatavet komuniste. Ka qene nji lufte e ashper por vendosmenija e luftaret tone ka qene mrekullisht e shkelgyeshme. Aty jemi dermue por, komunistat kane pase humbje te medha.
Tue pa se nuk mund qindrojshim ma, jemi terbjeke ne drejtim te kodravet te Simonit por u dote me kallzue lumin “Fandi i Madh” qi ishte shtue teper prej shinavet.
Po mos te kishin qene pshqeshasit qi na nexoren pertej, na qi s’dyshim notin, e un me ta, do te mbeteshin ne breg te lumit e me kerkue ndonji shtek per te dale Kah Gziqi e me kalue “Fandin e Vogel” per te kape Thkellen e atje me qindue ne malt. Pertej lumi “Fandi i Madh” jemi mbledhe dhe kemi vazhdue rugen per Shkoder. Mendimi em ishte me dale prap ne Mirdite e me vazhdue luften me ato forca qi na kishin mbete besnike dhe do te qindrojshim per mrekulli. Mirepo, Marku kishte pase caktue plane tjera e une mbeta ne Shkoder.
Marku kishte pase vendose qi baba dhe un t’a lejshim Shqypnin e te delshin ne prendim. Mue s’me kishte kallue, ndoshta prej friget se un nuk to t’i ndigjojshem.
Ne rame te 26 nandorit 1944 kemi lane Shkoder per ne Kastrati. Kam shkue ne Tuz e atje jam bashkue me baben. Prej Tuzi ka fillue Odiseja e jone.
Per te gjate Jugoslavise ne kambe e nen bombardime te vazhdue te aleatvet tue un ndale here ne nji vend here ne nji tjeter per te pushue. Mbas nji jave kemi mbrrijte Jabllan ku kim qendrue pak dite. Aty na asht ra shoferi Llazia Kolashin ku kemi kremtue Kshmellat e Vjetin e Ri 1945. Prej aty, gjithnji ne kambe, kemi vazhdue udhetimin per ne Visegrad. Diten ecshim, por ne nji shej kohe, u strukshim neper kepat e malit me u mbrojte prej bombardimavet t’aleatve. Persa mbarote inkursjoni vazhdojshin rrugen. Ne dy anet e rruges shifshim makina te djeguna e ushtare gjermane te vrane. Me buke e pa buke ecshim pa u ndale. Naten e kolojshim ne ndonji ksolle t’abandonueme. Dimni ishte i madh e bora gjithkah. Friga eme ishte shendeti i babes, por per madhmine e te Madhi Zot, nuk u semue as nji here bile, qindrote ma teper se un.
Kah fillimi i frorit kemi mbrryte ne Visegrad. Ne Visegrad u formote treni per Sarajeve. Treni, natyrisht, ishte ne dore te komandes gjermane ecilla nuk prandote fort kollaj civila. Tue mos pase shtek tjeter pse, malet e Bosnjes nuk mund t’i kalojshin gjalle, i u drejtuem komandes gjermane per ndime e d.m.th. me na lejne te merrshim trenin qi shkote direkt per Sarajeve.
Ne fillim gjenerali gjerman na priti me turi por mbas inzistineve te mija me argomenta te drejta u zbut. Thirri nji oficer qi kishte nen kontroll stacionin e trenit dhe i dha urdhen t’u futshim mbrende. Oficeri tha se stacjoni asht i mbyllun e ne qoftese na vendoseshim me hi mbrende, edhe ne rase bombardimi, s’mbujshim me dale. Un i a spiegova baba cashtjen e ai, mbasi mendoi per nji cast, me tha: “Deri me tash na ka pri fati, edhe ket here do te na nxjerri prej rrezikut; futemi”, me tha. E ashtu bame. Per fat e tone at dite nuk u duk asnji aeroplan i aleatve dhe ne ndisem me tren per Sarajeve.
Treni ishte te zbluem e na te ngjeshun me njani tjetrin si fysheket ne vezme. Treni, tue i u ngjite perpjetjes se malit u ndal dhe filloi me shkue mbrapshte teposhte. Un qi ishem me te mashte te vagonit shkova te poshte nji prrue kund 200 metra poshte. N’at moment mendova se marrem, por gjermante me nji here i ngjiten trenit nji lokomotive tjeter ecilla, me ndimen e se pares e cuen ne maje te maleve te Sarajevse.
Ne mal te Sarajeves na xuni shiu e bora. Natyrisht, si thashe ma malt, vagonat ishin te zbluem e pravedej taue “ai shi e aio bore” binte mbi ne. Te lagun e te bame ye prej shiut e bores dhe te ftofit kishte fillue me na hi per palembas nji jave kemi mbrrjte ne Sarajeve. Ne Sarajeve kemi qindrue dhete dite. Aty e kemi marre vetem pse u ushqyem mire. Prej Sarajeve jemi ndise me tren per Zagreb. Edhe ne Zagreb kemi qindrue nja dhete dite. Aty vendosem me un ndisen per Vjene, mire po edhe ne Zagreb stacjoni i trenit ishte ne dore te gjermanvet te cillet e kishin mbylle e s’lejshin kend me hi mbrende vetem me leje. N’u desht me shkue ne komanden gjermane me e lute te ma epte lejen me marre trenin. Edhe ketu me punoj fati, pse, me nji here komanda gjermane telefonoi rojes se stacjonit tue i dhane urdhen te na lete me kalue, dhe ashtu u ba. Prej Zagrebit, mbas tri ditesh kemi mbrrijte ne Vjene.
Ne Vjene u vendosem ne nji hotel afer stacjonit te trenit ne jug te qytetit. Bombardimet vazhdojshin cdo dite. Mue m’u dote me dale e me shkue me ble ushqim e shpesh here me xete bombardimi larg baba e per te ishem teper i preokupuem. Fille mbas bombardimevet kethejshem e shkojshem te baba. Nji dite bombardohet zona ku ishim na. U shterngueme me ra poshte e me u fute ne podrum te hotelit. Baba, here mbas here, delte ne korridor me pi duhan. Kuer qe, nji bume e madhe ra mbi hotel, por per fat tonin nuk ra ne boshllekun e ashensorit se do te kishte mbrrijte deri te na e ndoshta do te ma kishte mbyte te gjithve, por ka ra drejt ne korridor qi dane odat. Korridori tane cemento, kund gadi nji meter i trash. Bumja ka shperthye pullazin, te parin kat te dytin e te tretin. Natyrisht, ashensori s’punote ma. Oda jone ishte zhgatrrrue e ato pak placka qi kishin per t’u ndrrue, maruene. Por fati na ndimoj pse stacjoni i trenit kishte peshtue. E pamie se ne qindrue ma teper ne Vjen ishte rrezik jete prandej u ndisem per Insbruck.
Mendimi yne ishte me kalue n’Itali ku mund gjeshim strehim. Per ne kalue n’itali, rruga kryesore e trenavet asht Brenero, por ajo ane kishte bombardime i vazhdueshme. Shum shqiptare qi kane marre at rruge kane lane kryete. Un mora nji rruge tjeter qi quhet Passo di Resia e qi asht kund nje mije e metra nalt e shtate kilometra larg kufimi te svicers. Per me marre at rruge e ne kalue n’Itiali u dote makine qi na s’e kishim. Na u desht me priti derisa te vijte ndonji makine ushtarake qi shkote per Itali e te na merrte. Mbas shum oresh qi po pritshim i a mbrrini nji makina ushtarake. I dola perpara dhe i u luta te na merr. Na moren pa fjale. Un ndisem naten. Mbrrijtem ne maje te malit ne kufi me Itali. U ndalem per kontroll te rojes kufimit ecilla s’ma bani fjale. Prej aty shifshim anene e Sviceres tane drite kurse n’anen e Itali ishte terr. Te nesermen ne mengjes kemi mbrrijte ne Merano kah fundi i marsit 1945.
Merano ishte deklarue qytet i hapet pse konsiderue qytet spitalesh. Ne Merano kemi qindrue deri kah mjedisi i sherqor. Ne kapitulimin e Gjermanis, ne Merano i a mbrrijten amerikanet. Me ardhjen e tyne mue me hini friga e dorezimit te baba qeveris komouniste te Shqipnis. Natyrisht na e kishin vendose mos me u dorezue gjalle. Kam fundit qershor 1945 prej Merano jemi per Rome. Edhe ne Rome, friga e dorezimit ishte e madhe pse ende s’ishte stabilizue gjendja n’itali. Ne kete atmosphere te zymte jetojshim.
Un, me policine italnjave gjeta nji nenpunes te nalt qi kishte qene ne Shqipni icilli kishte njofte baben dhe Markun. Aj me siguroj tue me thane se: “Rrini te qete se ne nji rase te tille ju lajmoj me nji here dhe ju siguroj nji vend te sigurte.” Kjo ishte nji garanci per ne, por si thote nji proverb i vjeter: ulu ne bythe se nuk te han qeni, e na rrijshin nder grepa. Kjo gjendje ka vazhdue dersa u formue qeverija e pare me De Gasperi kryeminister. Prej ksaj kohe jetueme lirisht por jetesa ishte teper e veshtire pse kishin fillue me na mungue ato pak mjete financiare qi kishte baba me vete.
Ne Itali ishte grumbullue shumica e shqiptarevet mija vetesh. Aleatet edhe me ndimen e italis, formuene kampin e asistences per profuget shqiptare ne Reggio Emilia. N’at kamp kane strehue mija shqiptaresh. Une dhe baba s’kemi shkue atje edhepse nik dojshem me e per perzije baba n’at kallabllek eterogjen.
Ne njoftuninat t’ona miq italiane te Ministrise se Jashtme qi njifshin baben qyshe prej vjetit 1930 kuer pat shkue ne Rome me cue Markun ne shkolle Collegio Mondragone, qeverija italnjane na dhe nji ndime muejore. Nuk ishte e mjafte per jetese, por na peshtoj.
Kah fundi i vjetit 1945, rame ne kontake me miqt tone shqiptare. Prej ksaj kohe fillon veprimtarija jone politike (Bloku Kombetar Independent).
Baba gjithmone ka qene mire me shndet. Asnji here nuk asht semure vetem ne 1964 kur e kapi kanceri ne fyt. Vjetin e pare te semundjes e ka kalue ne spitalit e ne shpi. U duket mjaft mire dhe m’epte shprese se do t’i qindrote asaj semundje. Por kanceri filloi me i u perhape kah fyti aq sa s’e lete me marre fryme. U shterngova me e shtrue ne nji nder spitale te specializueme te Rome. Profesori kirurg primari stiplit kuer e vizitoi, me tha se duhet me e ba me nji here operacjon ne fyt dhe me tha me i shpue fytin e me i aplikue nji tub qi te lidhet me gabzherrin e fyt. Me at tub ne fyt, baba merrte fryme lirisht. U duk se u negjalle.
Mire po, kanceri filloi me i u perhape kah stomaku dhe i a mbylli pertypjen e ushqimit. Profesori kirurg, qi e vizitote per dite, me tha se duhet me i ba nji operacjon ne stomak e aty me i aplikue nji tub per t’a ushqye prej se jashtmi dhe me tha me nji pompe plot ushqim. S’pata si me i a ba ndryshei vecse me ndjeke keshillin e mjekut e ate me e auktorizue per operacjon. Prej kendej, per 18 muje ka qene i shtrueme ne spital pse u lypshin mjekimet e perditeshme me infermjerate specializueme. Une, per cdo dite, shkojshem ne spital e rryshem te tane diten me te. Duhanim vec e pite e un s’ia pata ndalue aspak. Ma ne fund, semundja e bani te veten dhe me 28 prill 1966 dha shpirt. Por, edhe pse, nji rase aq te dhimbesheme per mue, pata fatin me i u gjete prane e me doren t’eme me i a mbylle syte dhe me e puthe per te mbramen here. Ne vorret e Rome, Cimitero Verano, i kam godie vorrin me fotografie. Me deken e babes m’u duk se m’u shem bota. Grueja eme, Maria Teresa, te cillen e dote aq fort, i ka ba aq hyzmet sa qi besoj as Marta e Bardhja s’do t’i kishin ba aq sherbim.
Un si i huej, emigrant politik, nuk gjejshem pune ne Itali. Maria Teresa ishte vajze e vetme, i kishte vlla as moter, po sa kishte baben e nanen gjalle, kishte nji jetese mjaft te mire. Me vdekjen e babes e te nanes se saj te dy me kancer e tue shpenzue teper me doktora mbas vdeke se tyen e spitale, gjendja e saj ekonomike filloj me u ngushtue edhe pse na u shumuem e u bane gjashte vete.
E kjo ka qene arsyeja qi vendosem me ardhe n’Amerike, ku vellai im i vogel Nikoll jetonte me gruan dhe tre femijet e tij.
Keshtu filluem me jetue disi.
Nga ditari privat i Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku.
29 shtator 1914!
Aso vjetesh mbahej mend fitorja e gjuhes shqipe per fat te heroizmit te mirditasve ne Kryengritjen e Durresit, leterkembimet e Mustafa Krujes e Preng Pashes, ishin te fresketa heroizmat e ushtrise Mirditase veshur me kostum kombetar e me ne krye kapidan Marka Gjonin. Dera e Gjomarkajve i ruante gjithmone fisheket e pushkes se gezimit edhe sepse Mirdita kishte nevoje me shume se kurre per djepin plot e djem te rrall.
Me 29 shtator 1914 lindi nji nga kapidanat me fisnik te shekullit te vone.
U rrit e hodhi shtat ne flladin e Oroshit duke pare si ustallaret gdhendnin qosharet e dyerve te Sarajeve, aty ku varej pushka e dyerve te Sarajeve, aty ku varej pushka e ndizej zjarri per miqt e mirdites, aty ku thuhej fjala e mbahej fjala, aty ku veç Mirdite kishte e per Mirditen flitej, aty ku su vajtua as vete Kapidan Gjoni, as Marku, as Lleshi, as Deda, as Nikolla e as vete Kapidan Noi sepse Mirdites i kishte ndodhur xhama e djemt e Kapidanit u vrane e vdiqen larg trojeve prej ksaj mizorie komuniste.
Ndue Gjon Gjomarkajn si nji pinioll nder me te zgjuarit e kohes por edhe shkolluar e mori me vete i ati, Kapidan Gjoni ne Mergim. Fillesat e jeteses se tij jasht atdheut dhe larg Mirdites, nen plaget e vrasjes te pabese te vllazenve Mark e Llesh, internimit te nanes se tij me vajzat dhe djemte te vegjel, Deden dhe Nikoll, ishin fillesa te veshtira por plot fryme e patriotizem.
Ndue Gjon Gjomarkaj u be shpejt i degjuar e shpejt i doli zani nder patriote sepse bashke me te atin, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, me 1946, ne nji tryez plot me patriote e atdhetare nder te cillet ishte edhe Ernest Koliqi, formuan Bllokun Kombetar Indipendent.
Blloku Kombetar Indipendent u be shpejt zeri i mbare shqiptareve antikomuniste ne Mergim.
Kapidani e nxori zanin e Oroshit per se dyti here ne mbare boten.
Kapidan Ndue Gjomarkaj ka punuar gjith jeten e tij ne te mir te Mirdites e po e them se Kapidan Ndue Gjon Gjomarkaj ka qene zemreku i Mirdites, vazhdimesia e Lleshit te Zi, vazhdimesia e Bib Dodes e e Preng Pashes, vazhdimesia e Kapidan Marka Gjonit, vazhdimesia e Kapidan Mark Gjomarkajt, vazhdimesia e Kapidanit Gjon Marka Gjoni dhe pershkruesi te te gjitha koherave.
Esht e vertet qe vetem pak dihet per Kapidan Ndue Gjon Gjomarkajn sepse ardhja e Demokracise nuk solli ne krye te situatave politike njerez te paimplementuar me komunizmin e te paret mergimtar qe renden ne dheun e djegur nuk ishin aq te sinqerte me historine. Nje nder ta ka qene edhe i vetequajturi Ndue Pjeter Gjomarkaj i cili ne fakt quhej Ndue Pjeter Preng Kola, i cili ne te parat vite te demokracis hapi nje fushate te gjere lobimi pa dijeni te Kapidanit duke promovuar nje shoqate fantazme te quajtur “Heroizma Shqiptare” kekoi ti futej ne gjak politikes si pinioll i rreme nen ombrellen e Gjomarkajve ashtu sikur edhe ndodhi.
Prova per keto ngjarje te cilat kishin ndodhur edhe me pare ne mergim eshte gjetur dhe vete Kapidan Ndue Gjon Gjomarkaj i paska shkruar Ndue Pjeter Preng Koles qysh ne vitin 1973 se nuk duhet tjetersuar Historia e Mirdites e se nuk duhej hedhur balte mbi historine duke nxjerre herojn fallco e trashegues fallco te deres se Gjomarkajve.
Ja ku e kemi proven. Po e botojme.
Por Mirdites i humbem 30 vjet nga vjetet e saja pa e kuptuar se Mirditen e paskan genjyer per se dyt.
Le ta besojme tash mbas 80 vitesh tundim, lufte e heroizem antikomunist se Mirdites, Dera e Gjomarkut nuk i ka dhene vetem trupat e luftetareve ne front por i ka dhene nji Kapidan te rralle e patriot, te drejte e historian, te urte e dinjitoz dhe ai quhej, quhet e do te quhet Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marka Gjoni, themelues i Bllokut Kombetar Indipendent bashk me Ajken e ne krye te Ajkes Shqiptare ne Amerike.
Jezu-Krishti te paste ne Preher, kapidani i rralle.
Yti kusheri i njate
Artan Lleshi Gjomarkaj
MIRDITE nga ajo Mirdite per te cillen vuajte !
Bianca M. Gjomarkaj
Misioni yne eshte nje nisiative private e perqendruar rreth restaorimit dhe ruajtjes se trashegimise historike dhe kulturore te Sarajeve te Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit ne interes te mbare publikut.
Objektivi yne, vecse ruajtja dhe riorientimi i ktyre vlerave mbetet edukimi dhe njohja e publikut me trashegimine e Sarajeve dhe te tokes se Sarajeve, permes grumbullimeve publike ne strukturen e Sarajeve te rindertuara dhe ne ambjentet e obborrit te riorganizuar.
Sarajet do te jene nje qender grumbullimi e mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe turistet te cilet do te kene rastin te njihen me historine reale te Deres se Ghomarkut, rendesine e saj historike dhe kulturore si dhe kontributin e saj per Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine. Sarajet jane nje vend ku mund te reflektohet mbi historine unike te Mirdites, mbi historine e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit i cili nuk i ka harruar kurre sakrificat, humbjet, kontributin e mirditasve e mbi te gjitha besimin e mirditasve te kapidani i tyre.
Atyre te mbare Mirdites dua tu them: “Ta transformojme kete enderr ne realitet, ti rindertojme bashkarisht Sarajet, e ti gezohemi bashkarisht historise se mrekullueshme te Mirdites dhe mbare Shqiperise”.
Me mbeshtetjen tuaj ky sforcim me ndihmon te ndihmoj Mirditen per te qene e njohur nga te gjithe. Për të mbështetur këtë iniciativë, ju lutemi vizitoni www.sarajetgjonmarkagjonit.com.
Bianca M. Gjomarkaj
The “Kulla e Gjon Marka Gjonit” in the city of Shkodra was/is known as the property of Gjon Marka Gjoni (Gjomarkaj), heir of Prince Preng Bib Doda.
In 1945 the property was seized for political motives by the communist regime and Gjon Marka Gjoni was declared ‘enemy of the state’.
In 1973, the time when the home was deemed a ‘Cultural Monument Category I’, the heirs of Gjon Marka Gjoni (Gjomarkaj) were all unaware of the institutional acts, put in place at that time, on the categorization of their home as a Cultural Monument Category I object, since it had been sequestered by the communists.
The decision to designate our home as a Cultural Monument was made at a time when the family of Gjon Marka Gjoni had either been killed, imprisoned, encamped at Lushnja, exiled and politically discriminated against. A family who has a place in the history books of Albania but yet not a word is mentioned in the schools. A family who lost and suffered tremendously under the regime. A family who has accumulated cultural values through the centuries.
We, the living heirs of Gjon Marka Gjoni, DO NOT accept nor recognize the status bestowed on our great home made during a time of great suffering; while the home was in possession of the communist regime and was being utilized by them for their own greedy purposes.
Current Law 27/2018, Article 32, para 4 (e): National Cultural Heritage Registration Institute (NCHRI) grants movable and immovable cultural properties REGISTRATION CERTIFICATES.
Current Law, 27/2018 on Cultural and Heritage Museums, Chapter II, Section I, Article 57 clearly states:
1. The properties defined in paragraph 1 of article 50 of this law, which were created more than 50 years ago in case of movable property and more than 70 years ago in case of immovable property, are subject to the provisions of this section until the VERIFICATION PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH 2 OF THIS ARTICLE IS COMPLETED.
2. UPON THE INITIATIVE OR REQUEST OF ENTITIES OWNING THE PROPERTY AND PROVIDED WITH THE RELEVANT DATA, the ministry responsible for cultural heritage and specialized institutions verifies the existence of artistic, historic, archaeological and ethnographic interest for properties in paragraph 1 of this article, based on general feature data provided by the NTCHC with the purpose of ensuring uniformity in assessment, and in accordance with the procedure provided in this law.
Current Law, 27/2018 on Cultural and Heritage Museums, Chapter II, Section I, Article 60 clearly states:
1. The verification procedure is concluded with the issuance of the NCHRI, NCHI or NTAC head order, which makes reference to the committee decision and includes the verification of the cultural interest or lack thereof. THIS ORDER IS COMMUNICATED TO THE APPLICANT ENTITY AND SPECIALIZED INSTITUTIONS.
We, the owners, have NEVER made such a request, NOR have we ever received any order by the institutions referenced above.
We, the owners, were NEVER provided with any documentation or CERTIFICATE on the status of this property by the Ministry of Culture.
We, the owners, NEVER approved any restoration that may have been done to this property; restoration which would have been a consequence of the destruction inflicted on the property while under the communist regime.
We, the owners, NEVER approved the addition of a gable on the original roof line, which undermines the status of any building deemed a cultural monument. A gable which was added under the communist regime reflecting their communist flag (albeit the star over the eagle has since been removed).
Pursuant to Law 27/2018, Article 57, para 1 and 2:
I am requesting all case files in possession of the Ministry of Culture, relating to the application and verification process for the “Kulla e Gjon Marka Gjonit”, be forwarded to me, immediately.
Pursuant to Law 27/2018, Article 5 ‘Definitions’ and Article 70, para 1 and 2:
I am requesting the ORIGINAL (1973) CULTURAL PROPERTY CERTIFICATE, which MUST include all the elements referenced in paragraph 2 (a – e) of Article 70.
If the State wishes to have this home placed in a Cultural Monument Status they must rescind the current ILLEGAL ‘Cultural Monument Status’, not recognized by the family, revoke any claim they feel they have to the property and proceed with a NEW request by the family, if they so chose, conforming to current Law 27/2018, instituted during Democracy.
To have deemed our home a Cultural Monument during a period of atrocity toward our family and the Albanian people is an insult to the memory of our grandfather, Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni and family members who were killed and suffered under that very despicable regime.
As of this day no apology has been made directly to the legal heirs of Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni, children of his sons: Mark Gjon Marku, Ndue Gjon Marku and Nikoll Gjon Marku, for the losses and suffering the family endured during the 50 years of communist regime. Yet, you want a right to our home by pretending it to be a ‘cultural monument’!
This letter has been forwarded by me to the appropriate institutions:
Ministry of Culture; US Ambassador Yuri Kim, Tirana; UNESCO and the European Commission, European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA), Brussel, Belgium.
Bianca M. Gjomarkaj
Koha per rindertimin e Sarajeve te Oroshit ka ardhur! Qysh nga momenti i djegies se Sarajeve, ne shtator te vitit 1944 e deri sot ka kaluar nje heshtje e trishte. Rindertimi i Sarajeve te Gjon Marka Gjonit eshte nje inisiative private por nga e cila perfiton e gjithe Mirdita duke qene se ky projekt i perfunduar kthehet edhe ne nje qender te mirefillte kulture dhe e ringjalljes se historise se Oroshit. Sarajet do te jene nje qender mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe te huajt ne te njejten menyre ku do te prekni e shijoni aktivitete kulturore e artisike, oborr klasik dhe mbi te gjitha do te njiheni me Muzeun e Sarajeve te Oroshit. Tek Sarajet do te gjeni natyre, histori dhe kulture ne cdo kend te rindertuar.
Pergjate komunizmit, Mirdita ishte e pushtuar dhe e sunduar. Kullat e Gjomarkajve ne Orosh me gjithecka kishin brenda u dogjen dhe u shemben nga komunistet. Familja e Gjon Marka Gjonit u fshikullua neper burgje dhe internime dhe u shpernda ne te ghithe boten. Mirditoret kaluan nje jete te veshtire 45 vjet te pushtimit komunist, kapidanet dhe udheheqesit e tyre tradicional u vrane nga komunistet, u burgosen dhe merguan. Shpresat e Mirditoreve kane shkuar deri ne shuarje dhe endrrat e mirditasve u prene.
Jam rritur sa ne Rome sa ne New York. Ne vitin 2012, une dhe bashkeshorti im vendosem te braktisim jetesen tone ne Shtetet e Bashkuara te Amerikes dhe te fillojme nje jete te re ketu, ne Shkoder, ne banesen e familjes time. Ishte nje vendim i veshtire per tu marre dhe nje kendveshtrim i ri i jetes time. Jemi transferuar ne shtepine e familjareve te mi dhe sot e gjithe Shkodra eshte e dashur si shtepia jone per ne.
Gjate ksaj periudhe reflektimi, kam filluar te imagjinoj rindertimin e Sarajeve dhe transformimin e tyre ne nje Muze, ne respekt e memorje te familjes dhe te historise tone, por edhe si qender kulturale per Mirditen, per tu dhene mundesi mirditasve patriote te kuptojne se ne nuk i kemi harruar.
Nuk ka kaluar nje dite e vetme qe gjyshi im Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjoni dhe babai im Kapidan Ndue Gjon Marku nuk flisnin per Oroshin. Ishte shtepia e tyre pergjithmone. Edhe pse te kishin ndodhur gjera mjaft te trishta ne Orosh, edhe pse kishin humbur te bijte dhe vellezerit ne lufte kunder komunizmit, gjyshi dhe babai im nuk e kane harruar kurre Oroshin dhe nuk kane dashur kurre nje vend me shume se Oroshin.
Me kaq ne mendje dhe kujtese, jetoj gjithashtu me shpresen e madhe per ti shikuar te rindertuara Sarajet dhe per te shikuar nje fillim te Ri per Oroshin, Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine. Sarajet do te jene nje qender grumbullimi e mikpritje per te gjithe shqiptaret dhe turistet te cilet do te kene rastin te njihen me historine reale te Deres se Ghomarkut, rendesine e saj historike dhe kulturore si dhe kontributin e saj per Mirditen dhe mbare Shqiperine.
Sarajet jane nje vend ku mund te reflektohet mbi historine unike te Mirdites, mbi historine e Kapidan Gjon Marka Gjonit i cili nuk i ka harruar kurre sakrificat, humbjet, kontributin e mirditasve e mbi te gjitha besimin e mirditasve te kapidani i tyre.
Si shqiptaro -amerikane, bija ksaj familje fisnike, e transferuar tashme ne trojet e Atit te saj, dua te falenderoj te gjithe ata qe me kane pritur me krahe hapur e me kane bere te ndiehem e mireseardhur. Atyre dhe njerezve te mbare Mirdites dua tu them: “Ta transformojme kete enderr ne realitet, ti rindertojme bashkarisht Sarajet, e ti gezohemi bashkarisht historise se mrekullueshme te Mirdites dhe mbare Shqiperise”.
Me mbeshtetjen tuaj ky sforcim me ndihmon te ndihmoj Mirditen per te qene e njohur nga te gjithe.
Bianca M. Gjomarkaj
On October 7, 2020 TV host Blendi Fevziu of TV Klan showed a documentary on Shkodra, featuring among other things, the Kulla Markagjoni (my family home). While I appreciate the exposure of this famous property, some clarifications need to be made regarding his reporting (around minute 29:18).
He stated that the family refused to allow them inside the property and he didn’t know what the reason for the refusal was, but that it is a tradition in the city of Shkodra to have your door ‘open’ for guests.
First of all, I was never contacted by him or his staff. If by chance someone tried to call me they should know that I don’t answer unknown numbers and the best way to contact me is through an SMS, FB message or email, detailing their request. Second, our door is always open to the occasional visitor, who has contacted me prior to their arrival, family and friends. I am not in the habit of letting just anyone onto the property for obvious reasons.
If a TV host wants to do a show regarding my house they need to contact me personally and request an appointment, inquire as to my availability and schedule a time and date for the visit. I do not allow anyone onto the property without prior vetting, unless I know who they are. Furthermore, the information provided on the program regarding the house was not quite correct.
This house was built during the time of Bib Dode Pasha (1820-1868), where he used to host his tribe members while in Shkodra. Subsequently, after his death, the house belonged to his son, Preng Bib Dode (1860-1919). It was Preng Bib Dode who commissioned renowned architect Kole Idromeno (1860-1939) to design and build the Tower, also known as the Kulla. The Kulla was a later addition to the house, that had been built about 100 years earlier. The tower was added around 1910. Therefore, the house was not built by Preng Bib Dode as stated on the documentary.
After the death of Preng Bib Dode the house was purchased by my grandfather, Gjon Markagjoni, from his widow, and has since been known as the Kulla Markagjoni.
My grandfather lived in the house along with his family during the winter months and spent the summer months at their Sarajat (Villa) in Orosh, until 1944 when the communists took power. After the takeover of communism in November 1944, my grandfather and father, Ndue, were forced to flee Albania and went into exile in Italy. My uncles Mark and Sander continued the fight against the communists and were ultimately killed in 1946 and 1947, respectively.
The Kulla was confiscated by the communists and the Sarajat in Orosh was burned to the ground. My uncle Ded was arrested. He spent the next 47 years both imprisoned and in internment camps. My aunts Marta and Bardha, my uncle Nikoll, my cousins Gjon, Kristina and Celestina, along with my grandmother Mrika, great grandmother Dava, and Mark’s wife, Marta, were all arrested and spent the next 47 years in jail/internment camps. My grandmother, great-grandmother and Mark’s wife all perished in the camps. My uncle Nikoll escaped the camp in Turan in 1949 and ultimately reached his father and brother in Italy. The rest of the family remained in the camps until the fall of communism in 1991.
The Kulla, under the communists, was turned into their headquarters. They destroyed all furnishings and valuables in the house and stole all other personal possessions left behind. During the regime the house became their private offices and ultimately a school for girls. Before the fall of communism and prior to the squatters having to leave the house they destroyed it as best they could.
In 1991, after the fall of communism and when the family was finally freed they returned to their now ruined home in Shkoder. During the next 12 years they put all their might and love into restoring the house to a somewhat livable condition.
After the death of my cousin Gjon in 2003 the house remained inhabited by my uncle Dede and aunts Marta and Bardha. Kristina and Celestina had married and were living outside the home. In 2006 we lost our aunt Marta, leaving Dede and Bardha the elders living in the house.
In 2012 we decided to retire to Albania and moved here from the USA. Unfortunately, after four months, in 2013, my aunt Bardha died, followed by my uncle Dede in 2015.
Since then we have put all our effort into trying to restore and maintain this property as best we could and are still working on it. It’s a never ending task as the property is quite big, roughly 3000m² or 32,291sqft. This is private property and is inhabited by myself, grand-daughter of Gjon Markagjoni and my husband. Kristina, my cousin, lives on the property in a separate house. All other legal heirs, grandchildren of Gjon Markagjoni, reside in the USA.
There were over 100,000 Albanians who were murdered during the communist regime (1944-1991) at the hands of Enver Hoxha. Of those, upwards of 5,087 bodies are still missing. Their remains have never been found, or returned to their families.
Mark’s body, after it was found in Perlatit-Këthel, on June 14, 1946, was taken and dragged through the streets of Shkodra and placed in front of City Hall for everyone to see. Afterward it was buried in a mass grave with other murdered nationalists, or so the story goes, but nobody is sure. To this day the family has no idea where their brother, father, uncle’s body is.
One year later, his brother Llesh (Sander) Gjon Marku was also murdered in an ambush in Mungje, on 9 August, 1947. There is no trace of his body or knowledge of where it was disposed.
As of today, not only this family, but all the families of all the victims of crimes committed under the regime have yet to receive an apology from the government. The families of the murdered have yet to receive any kind of information as to where the bodies of their loved ones are. Families have yet to receive full compensation for the murders of their loved ones. On the contrary, the funds allocated as compensation for the families of the victims have been trickling down over the last 20 years in dribs and drabs.
In 1995, then Prime Minister Sali Berisha, signed a decree stripping all honors and titles awarded to the high ranking members of the communist dictatorship due to “Criminal Acts of Genocide Committed Against the Albanian People”, thereby confirming that such acts did indeed occur. However, that’s where the ceremonial decrees or public display of repentance stopped.
Here we are 74 years after the takeover of communism in Albania; 29 years after the fall of communism and still, families have been left in the dark about the whereabouts of the remains of their loved ones. Left helpless in the quest to find them and put them to rest once and for all.
No apologies. No reconciliation. Not a whisper. Business as usual!
In seeking justice sometimes the legal system is not enough. The story must be told and allow the public in, show what turmoil and injustices are being inflicted. To this end, we want to briefly share with you the story about our family who through the centuries has had to endure prejudices and losses, all the while defending itself and its people from the perpetrators. A story that, although may not be unique in today’s greedy climate, is certainly one which has a particular national history that cannot be denied. A story of survival and rebirth of a family which through the centuries was defeated and rose again to face the brutality of its aggressors and has never given up on the hope of ultimate justice, democracy and freedom, not only for their sake but for all Albanians.
PRINCE LEK DUKAGJINI
The beginning of the sovereignty of the Gjomarkaj dynasty dates to the early centuries, as the descendants of Prince Lek Dukagjini. The Dukagjini princes were one of the oldest and most noble Albanian families, their principality was established at the end of the 12th century. The greatest legacy that Dukagjini left to his people is the “Kanun of Lek Dukagjini”, a set of customary laws of the highlands, which is preserved as a great value to the highlanders. Mirdita, the seat of the Gjomarkaj dynasty, has always been governed according to this principle of the Kanun and the House of Gjomarku submitted to the Kanun as the traditional law of the country, especially since it was the foundation of the Kanun. This code was embedded in the culture of the highlanders; they lived and died by it. Our family was the keeper of this code and bound by honor would not, under any circumstance, dare to deviate from it.
In Mirdita, the Gjomarkajs continued their anti-Ottoman wars, proud of their Catholic religion, until they forced the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire into agreements with their province, which was quite different from other provinces of Albania. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Christian religion was preserved intact only in Mirdita and in defense of Catholicism and independence Mirditans constantly lived between wars and bloodshed, with the Gjomarkajs consistently ready to defend their homeland against the enemies of the nation. When their help was sought, at the unification of the Albanian lands, they were unfailingly ready to oblige as shown in the years 1444, 1878-1912, 1920, 1944-1990.
Throughout the centuries they endured prison, defied death in thousands of wars and suffered losses, forever leaving their heroic name engraved in history. Such Kapidans to be mentioned are: Gjon Marku I; Lleshi I Zi; Bib Doda; Preng Bib Doda; Marka Gjoni, President of the Republic of Mirdita; Gjon Markagjoni; Dr. Mark Gjon Gjomarkaj, Minister of Interior 1943; Ndue Gjon Gjomarkaj, founding Member of the National Independent Bloc; Sander Gjon Gjomarkaj, successor to his brother Mark in the fight against the communists; Dede Gjon Gjomarkaj, imprisoned and interned during the communist regime 1945-1990 and Nikoll Gjon Gjomarkaj, bravely escaped the concentration camp in Tepelene in 1949.
Our family suffered brutally under the communist dictatorship regime which engulfed Albania in 1945. A regime that sought to destroy it and eradicate it from the face of the earth. The hatred felt for our name was like no other. We were stigmatized as the ‘enemies of the people’. Children were taught in school that the name Gjon Markagjoni was to be reviled. Our properties and personal goods were confiscated by the regime, the seat of our House in Orosh, Mirdita, was burned to the ground. While our other home in Shkoder was sequestered and turned into ‘sigurimi’ headquarters, destroying all our possessions. Our uncles, Mark and Sander, were killed fighting against the invading communist forces trying to hold off what would become the darkest period in Albanian history. Our other uncles, aunts and cousins were jailed and interned in concentration camps. Our families were kept apart for 45 long years, those left behind in Albania lived under brutal conditions and sustained unimaginable tortures and unspeakable acts.
The house in Shkoder has an important history. It dates to the early 19th century and is the most prominent house in the city with a five story tower rising up above it, a tower designed by the famous architect Kol Idromeno and known nationally as the Kulla Markagjoni (Resistance Tower of Markagjoni). The total property measures 2,650m2, while the house itself is 819m2. The house originally belonged to Prince Preng Bib Doda, Kapidan of Mirdita and head of the Gjomarkaj Household. Upon his death in 1919, which left no heirs, his legal successor became his cousin, our grandfather, Gjon Markagjoni. Preng Bib Doda’s wife, Lucia, was allowed to remain in the house until he proceeded to take steps to reclaim it. In 1929, through a legal agreement between him and Lucia, the house transferred title to Gjon Markagjoni and remained as such until the communists confiscated it in 1945.
In its heyday the house was lived in and loved. The family came to Shkoder during the winters, in order for the children to attend school and returned to Mirdita in the summers, with the exception of the older sons; Mark, Ndue and Sander. In a family as large as ours the house was truly a hamlet. It houses 25 rooms on the interior, comprising the tower and the cellar (running the whole length of the house) which housed the servants’ quarters and a modern day kitchen. The upstairs was decorated with antiques, Persian rugs and opulent chandeliers and the library, where our grandfather conducted business and hosted guests from all walks of life, was the centerpiece. It has a wood carved ceiling, wall panels and bookshelf and now a non working fireplace.
When the house was confiscated in 1945 all interior furniture and accessories were burned. The house was turned into Sigurimi headquarters by the communist forces and later a school for girls. In the process of these turnovers the house was destroyed; walls were demolished, bars put on the windows, even the communist flag, carved on a pediment, was placed on the roof. Before the fall of communism, the house was trashed even more, such was the hate toward our family by the communists.
DEMOCRACY AND REUNIFICATION
This dynasty has, through the centuries, sacrificed and lost all in the name of country and religion. In 1991, when democracy swept the country, everyone was finally reunited. Our uncle Dede, aunts Marta and Bardha and cousin Gjon reclaimed the family’s home in Shkoder and amid all the rubble and disrepair they moved in slowly and began to rebuild.
When the family moved back in the house in 1991, our cousin Gjon was 53 years old and desiring to begin a new life he decided to marry and carry on the family name. In 1993 he was introduced to Brigjilda Paloke Gjergji and shortly thereafter they married. As time went on she became part of the family nucleus and was welcomed with open arms. For the next 10 years she lived in the house as a member of the extended family and behaved accordingly. She was admired by everyone who came to visit and was recognized as the wife of the Kapidan.
Unfortunately, they were unable to have any children, therefore no direct heirs of Gjon were left behind when he passed away after a short illness in 2003. His death was devastating to everyone however, aunts Marta and Bardha and uncle Dede, who were in their later years, were still very active and in no way feeble. Gjon’s sister Kristina lived on the property and his other sister Celestina nearby and they came over daily to help the aunts and uncle, who raised them in the camps.
In the Albanian culture and especially as written in the Kanun, the code which they still lived by, when a husband dies childless the wife is not obligated to stay in his house and most times returns to her parents’ house. In this case however, Brigjilda made the conscious decision to remain in our house. She was not asked to remain nor was she forced to, she just decided to continue living there and the family fulfilled her wish to remain, while at the same time she respected that her place was that of an in-law and would adhere to the customs of the House; which was to respect the elders and assist them in their needs, but knowing full well that her place was not that of a blood relative and as such she had no say so in any legal matters concerning the family’s assets.
Early in 2006 our aunt Marta, at the age of 90, was diagnosed with skin cancer and suffered a long illness which restricted her daily routines and prohibited her from going outside of the house. The last seven months of her life, from March to October, saw her confined to her bed. She died in October of 2006 surrounded by family.
In 2011 Dede suffered a fall in the garden which fractured his legs. This would leave him infirm until his death in 2015. He would spend the next four years confined to a room roughly 6m2, which included his bed, a tv and sofa for guests.
In light of the turn of events, in 2012, Bianca Gjomarkaj and her husband decided to move to Shkoder and live in her father’s house so that they could be of assistance to the elders in their later years, who were overjoyed at the prospect. They moved into the south wing of the house in December 2012. Life was good for them, they all enjoyed each other’s company and they were a great joy to the uncle and aunt as they were getting to know their niece up-close and personally.
Unfortunately, three months later our aunt Bardha would suffer from a sudden stroke and after a long week of hospice she died peacefully at home on 19 March 2013, surrounded by family; this would be a turning point in the life of the household.
Unbeknownst to the family, three weeks after the death of his sister Bardha, on April 8, 2013 Dede allegedly underwent a psychological exam rendering him capable of drafting and signing legal documents. Four weeks after the death of his sister, on April 25, 2013, he allegedly signed the first Will. Six weeks after that, on June 11, 2013 he allegedly signed a second Will. Two days after that, on June 13, 2013 he allegedly signed a third document, a Sale Contract, for the same properties which were listed in the first Will of April 25. All to the beneficiary: Brigjilda Paloke Gjergji; the widow of his nephew!
Our uncle Dede succumbed to pneumonia in January 2015 at the age of 94. He died peacefully at home.
Shortly thereafter we proceeded to file for the legal successions of Dede and Marta. For Dede there were two Wills, as well as a Sale Contract in place and for Marta there was a Will; all naming Brigjilda Paloke Gjiergj, the widow of their nephew, as the beneficiary.
ALBANIANS’ LONG ROAD TO JUSTICE
Justice is what we seek, justice for what is rightfully ours, justice to restitute what belongs to us. We have been battling the system going on five years. Lawsuit after lawsuit all to try and protect what is legally ours. To retain what legally belongs to the heirs of Gjon Markagjoni in the family.
Our cousin Gjon, husband of Brigjilda, owned 1/3 of his father Mark Gjomarkaj’s share, the other 2/3 belong to his two sisters; Kristina and Celestina. Of this 1/3 Brigjilda legally inherits half, while the other half is shared by this two sisters in accordance with Gjon’s legal succession and Albanian law. If Gjon wanted to give all of his share to his then wife he could have done so with a Will, but he did not!
It is therefore inconceivable that any property belonging to this family would ever be willed intentionally to anyone outside of the immediate family, while members of it were still living. The “Kanun Code” did not allow it and our family’s commitment to that code would make it morally impossible.
However, widespread corruption at almost every layer of the Albanian justice system has meant that culprits through dishonest and fake actions have tried to snatch our property from us.
Some of the Judges who made no justice in our case, were soon to fail their own vetting process which clearly shows they were ‘not fit for the purpose’!
The Gjon Markagjoni family recognizes that Brigjilda is entitled to half of her husband’s share and that is all. However, the family DOES NOT recognize Brigjilda’s pretense to own HALF of the properties belonging to Kapidan Gjon Markagjoni; our uncle Dede and aunt Marta’s shares. This is an absurdity!
This road is a long one. The family Markagjoni has not lived through innumerable tragedies and injustices to give up now, even if it means going to Strasbourg. We will succeed in the end. History and truth will not be distorted by the evils which we have witnessed through the decades nor will it be rewritten by the current winds of corruption and envy.
Dera e Gjomarkut will prevail. She will rise from the ashes to soar over the Mirdita mountains once again!