Two Italian soldiers save Shkodër from total destruction. A "urban myth" or a true story...
One day my grandmother told me that in November of the '44 in Albania, Scutari was the last city that the Germans were leaving and headed for Yugoslavia. To protect them retreat eper hindering the Allies, the Germans had already destroyed other bridges and undermined the last two on the Drin River and the Buna River, a weapons warehouse, the arsenal and the power plant.
My grandmother told me the story of two Italian soldiers who had rescued Scutari from the explosion, cutting the wires from the Germans installed. The two Italian soldiers had been captured by the German SS and buried alive, upside down, in a pit excavated by the young Italians themselves ...
"People speak badly of Italians, but you know, this city exists today, at least as you see it, thanks to two Italian soldiers ...", so my grandmother had finished her story.
Whenever I heard about the Italian occupation in Albania I was reminded of his story. Driven by curiosity, I did some research to find some news about it; it was all useless. The lack of news and the passage of time have made this story almost unreal: "a tale of the grandmother" in fact.
The true story ...
Finally I see a turning point in my research. One day I find two articles in Albanian by chance: two testimonies that shed light on the story I had heard from my grandmother. The first is a article di Riza Lahi former pilot in theair Force, military journalist who worked at theOSCE - in Tirana, entitled: "Two Italian soldiers save Scutari from total destruction".
The journalist Lahi says he made a wonderful discovery that would provide useful elements for go back to identity of the two brave young men. While the second aArticle of Colonel Sali Onuzi is entitled: "The 29 November 1944, the day of the liberation of Albania from the Nazi-Fascist occupation".
In the first article of Lahi there is also an indirect testimony of Ahmet Osja, Professor of Agricultural Sciences, awarded the title "Grand Master" in the 2009, by the President of the Republic of Albania, who tells the journalist about a rhapsody, sung by a farmer from Gur i Zi, written in the wake of the "Lute of the Mountains" (Lahuta and Malcis of P. Gjergj Fishta, epic poem famous in Albania), and among those essential and passionate verses emerge the names of both heroes of Scutari: one of the heroes was called Bartolomeo and the other Aldo:
|Por djaloshi Bartolome|
Ka ça rrugën si rrufe
Dorës barbarve u ka shpëtue
M'nji shpi t'lagjes, asht strehue
Ndërsa Aldo ...
|But the young Bartolomeo|
In a flash the road runs
From the torturers one saves by a hair
He takes refuge in a neighborhood house
While Aldo ...
The 29 July of the 2013, Lahi also interviews the Chief of veterans LNCL of Scutari, Qemal Llazani (Movement of Liberation National). At the beginning of the interview Mr. Llazani complains that in Scutari there are no tombstones or monuments that should remember the Italian heroes and that it is never late to honor the memory of these two young Italian soldiers of World War II, because they have saved Scutate from destruction.
Below is the passage of the interview that interests us most.
"Qemal Llazani he had arrived an hour early for the appointment. We had set ourselves up to have a coffee in the bar where Mr. Llazani regularly had coffee with his group of veterans. He told me a noble story that he remembered clearly. "
Journalist: Let's talk about that story, when the city of Shkodra was littered with mines and explosive devices, as we had fixed by telephone.
Qemal Llazani: I went to the Pristina concentration camp, and I'll tell you what they confirmed to me there too ...
The fact happened at 2.00 around 28 midnight at the 29 November 1944, when the last German team left. Eh ... yes ... in two large neighborhoods, at the "Livadhi i Sulçebegut", Perash and in the Skenderbeg district, there were huge amounts of German ammunition. The Germans intended to blow up the bridges of Shkodra, the Buna Bridge and the Bahçallek Bridge, almost all of the German army had left, leaving behind only the perpetrators of the monstrous crime. A military platoon of motorcycles was setting fire to the fuses at the points, where the ammunition stores were located, of which I have just told you. The explosion had to spread to the main concentration point of ammunition and explosives, which consequently would have had to explode, to then perhaps erase the entire city.
The first explosions were heard throughout Scutari, but nothing was heard of later. Thank god! Thanks to two Italians who defused the mines.
Reporter: Who were these Italians?
Qemal Llazani: These two engineers were prisoners of war who served in the German army as specialists, generally in the rear and without weapons. They were neither partisans nor refugees. At a time when a team of bikers set fire to the fuses, both of these two good soldiers rushed to cut them. They risked being killed by some stray bullet, by the flames or by the explosion, but what happened maybe they would not have been able to imagine happened. The torturers are back ...
Reporter: They took them, huh?
Qemal Llazani: Yes, they caught them red-handed. One was buried alive upside down, the other is said to have escaped and disappeared quickly into a house, where he was rescued by an Albanian family. To explode those bombs should have been reactivated and then triggered but, there was no more time: the explosives and trigger systems had been damaged. It all happened around the morning 2 - 3.00, the 29 November 1943.
Reporter: Have these soldiers been identified? Are you conducting research, thanks to your reports and your contacts with Italian colleagues? Scutari must pay tribute to these brave fighters.
Qemal Llazani: We are interested. Also the Italian Consulate of Scutari is interested, but, as far as I know, nobody is able to trace the origin of the two young people, if they have relatives, etc. We would be honored to be able to contribute to making known the history of these heroes, sons of the Italian people and of the Albanian people ...
In the second article, Colonel Sali Onuzi writes in his war memoirs:
After midnight of November 28 1944, after blowing up all the bridges before reaching the city and after undermining the arsenal in the Perash district, the Germans tried to blow up other important buildings as well. Some of the citizens had left the city, others waited anxiously. The Nazis' plan to blow up buildings in part fails.
Two Italian prisoners who, forced by other soldiers to work on the installation of mines, after the departure of the Germans, cut off the main links of the inesks. The guerrilla units also removed the mines from the rest of the mined network. Thus the cement factory, the power plant and the civil hospital were spared.
"After midnight on 28, morning of 29, terrifying roars shook Scutari. They were the bridge over the Buna river and the bridge over the Drin "Ura e Bahçallekut", leaping into the air at the hands of the 20 century vandals, will be written in those days in one scutarina chronicle.
Immediately afterwards, a group of German soldiers returned to the city, managed to capture the two Italians, and buried them alive, killing and wounding other Scutari citizens at the same time.
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In the absence of documentation, so far, we trust in everyone's collaboration. We are all debtors, as are our parents, so it seemed only right to make public what we know so far. Let the people know at least part of the truth through the press; I am convinced that this path will lead us to a precise identification of the glorious young Italians to whom all the gratitude of the people of Scutari.
The Municipality of Scutari could and should demonstrate its willingness to commemorate these soldiers by dedicating a monument to them. A monument of the "unknown soldier", in memory of those who fell on the battlefields, whose remains remained unburied or missing.
The custom of honoring the memory of a soldier who died in the war and whose identity could not be recognized is widespread in various countries of the world and also exists in Albania "Ushtari i panjohur".
A symbolic tomb (cenotaph) dedicated to the services of the Unknown Soldier and to the common memory represents all the fallen and missing in all the wars ...