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A national heroin in Albania

By Gary Q. Kokalari


August marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Musine Kokalari, one of the most famous women in Albanian history. Musine was an advocate of democracy and earned martyrdom for her defiant stance against Albania's totalitarian regime.


In the fall of 1944, two of Musine's brothers and my grandfather's brother, Syrja Kokalari, were taken from their homes and "executed" without trial. Several weeks later, their bodies and those of several other "enemies of the state" were found in a shallow grave at the Bristol Hotel in Tirana.


Musine Kokalari


Perhaps their fate was better than Musine's. Because this cultured, articulate, highly educated woman was forced into a harsh life of torture, humiliation, imprisonment, internment, and hard labor - just because of her beliefs.


In one twisted example of the brutal nature of Albania's Communist nightmare, Musine was made to wear a pair of baggy pants, and after placing cats in the trousers, the waist and ankle were tied so that the cats couldn’t escape. The animals were then beaten with a stick to provoke them to furiously claw her flesh.


Musine became terminally ill with cancer, but was denied proper medical care. She succumbed to the disease in August 1983.


After the fall of Communism, her grave was exhumed so that she could be interred alongside her mother, but there was a gruesome discovery. In a final act of humiliation, her Communist tormentors had buried her with her hands bound with barbed wire.


Despite their endless attempts to extinguish this flame, Musine Kokalari is now considered a national heroin in Albania while Enver Hoxha and the henchmen who persecuted her will go down in history as evil oppressors of humanity.


Musine should serve is an inspiration to those who dream to live in a free an open society and a reminder to those who take their freedom for granted.

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