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A Day to Remember: Death of the Dictator

Fritz Radovani


A Day to Remember: Death of the Dictator



Mussolini was hanged by an outraged crowd. Hitler’s final choice was to kill himself. Stalin’s death was the fulfillment of the wish of millions of people for this cruel dictator to suffer…suffer…suffer. Despite the fact that he escaped all legal and moral retribution, he suffered a major stroke on March 1, 1953 and was found lying on the floor in a pool of urine, powerless and incapable of speech. As a consequence of his earlier cruelty, medical care was delayed. When doctors did arrive, they found him partly paralyzed, breathing with difficulty and vomiting blood. Stalin struggled on for a number of days, dying on March 5.


“The death agony was terrible,” said his daughter. “He literally choked to death as we watched.”


Man who Laughs


by Fritz Radovani


The movie theater, Republika, in Shkodra, Albania, featured the film, The Man who Laughs. To this day, that film reminds me of events as joyful for the citizens of Shkodra as they are shameful and disturbing to its youth.


On the fifth of March, 1953, the nonpareil dictator of the twentieth century, Joseph V. Stalin, died. His name is spine chilling for all Europeans who endured any of the communist dictatorships. This cruel dictator was the worst human rights and freedom violator, not only for the peoples of the USSR, but for all the Eastern European countries, including our ill-fated tiny Albania, oppressed under the hoof of Stalin’s replica, Enver Hoxha.


“The deep mourning” following the death of the “father” of communists across the world would sadden even the children of the Albanian Communist Party who would be born twenty years later. His monuments and sculptures molded out of cement were dressed in soviet flags, surrounded with military honorary guards on all sides, with children and youth reciting poems about this “great loss” nearby. Albanian flags hung half mast on utility poles. Stores were closed. Funeral marches were led by the city band. Military personnel with all sorts of medals upon their breasts were seen. Communist martyrs’ mothers were in tears while masses of distraught people gathered. One could hear the calls over the loudspeakers for the further heightening of “revolutionary vigilance.” The combination gave the city of Shkodra a truly depressing image.


In schools, factories, businesses, streets and plazas, the signal was given at a certain time to hold five minutes of silence in “mourning.” We, the students of the pedagogical school, were in the same building as the students of high school “November 29.” As the signal was given by the school bells we stood up in military position. The five minutes seemed never-ending.


Students were ordered to avoid the courtyard during the break time. Pedagogues were called to an urgent pedagogical council meeting. After forty minutes, all students went down to the gym. No one knew what had happened. The boarders were making signs to one another but no one understood the situation. The gloomy weather made the atmosphere and the happenings in the school corridors even murkier, where “the observers” stood at every corner.


The first to descend the stairs was the headsman of the school, Skender Villa. He had been a member of the communist interrogation commissions in Korça since 1945 and a state security spy from the time he was member of the Fascist Party of that city. He was followed by the secretary of the Communist Youth Organization Committee, the primary lever of the secret works, Jani Çomo.


With his very first words Skender Villa spoke of the “shameful” act of student Leonard Ljarja. “He laughed… do you understand… he laughed when the entire world is crying… this villain, not only has laughed but he has also left the school… The pedagogical council unanimously has banished him from all the schools… forever… He is no longer part of our revolutionary new life!”


“The man who laughed,” student Leonard Ljarja, was arrested two to three days afterword and convicted and sentenced to many years in prison, twelve of which he served in communist extermination camps. After he was released from prison he continued doing hard labor jobs in construction and on farms.


Leonard Ljarja was from an honorable anticommunist family from Shkodra. Gjoni, Ndoci, Luigji, and Engineer Gasper Ljarja, were within the close circle of this young man, who, together with most of the Shkodra’s youth, spent the prime of their lives aging in communist prisons and concentration camps, nailed by the class struggle.


This true story is a lesson to those who risk “laughing” in the communist system!


Last Farewell

by Ismail Kadare


Wreaths and wreaths never-ending,

Wreaths all stars, flowers all;

And eyes in tears heartbreaking

And poignant sighs that mourn.

O comrades!

For the last time today,

The father, crowds escort unbounded

With bitter tears and throbbing pain,

With broken hearts, badly wounded.

And now, amidst silence, in ether,

A known voice, is heard serenely.

Today for us, comrade Enver,

A loyal oath takes solemnly.

Red flags, half mast the wind sways,

The thundering cannons fill the air;

To Stalin the unbounded crowd waves,

Last farewell.

Therefore, farewell great friend, father!

Our hearts bid you farewell today.

With Lenin alongside, together

You will be laid.

Rests now

In silence he,

For no,

He has not died!

He lives


His words

Forever guide!


Translated from The Albanian by Hilda M. Xhepa

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