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28 November 1943 inauguration of the Second Brigade, British General Davis present, here are the memories of Omer Nishan and SOE officer Reginald Hibbert
Written by Luan Shtëpani 28 Nëntor 2023
November 28, 1943, the holiday of the flag and of the 2nd Assault Brigade. In Shëngjergj, two big events are celebrated in one day. "Flag Day" and the inauguration of the "2nd Brigade". The people of the province of Shëngjergji, school students, partisan detachments, members of the council and the general staff of UNÇ took part. The history of the II Assault Brigade is the history of the war and the efforts of those sons and daughters who came to this unit from different areas and provinces of Tirana, Elbasan, Gjirokastra, Mallakastra, Kurvelesh, Kolonja, Librazhdi, etc. The II Assault Brigade is one of the first and largest partisan formations. On the inauguration day, the participation of all the people gave very significant messages. Song and dance after the ceremony. Below we bring the memories of Omer Nishan and British SOE officer Hibbert. "It was November 1943, a dark day, the sky filled with clouds darkened from all four sides. Tirana was in mourning. The Germans had occupied the positions and the Gestapo was coming and expanding the espionage network with the help of Ball and Legality. The leaders of Balli, who called themselves "illegals", used to travel in Tirana in cars. Staying in Tirana was becoming more and more dangerous for the members of the national liberation movement and especially for the members of the General Council. We get a message to be ready by five o'clock in the afternoon. Information was received that Tirana would be surrounded that night and all the houses would be searched. The flight was so fast that we didn't even change our clothes. I came out with a friend from the house where I was hiding. And following the alleys we reached where the National Library used to be, which leads to Shkoza. There was a great movement on the street, because it was time for everyone to hurry home. Groups of people were walking on the road, trucks and vans were passing by, escorting our comrades. On the way we met other friends. It seemed as if some citizens were looking with curiosity at all these people who passed by two or three, keeping a certain distance. We were located where the road to Shkalla and Qafëmolle divides. We asked some locals which road would take us to Shëngjergj faster. If we were to go down, we would have to cross Erzen several times. Then the road was very bad, while walking along the causeway to Qafëmolle, it was like the best and there was no river. We hit the causeway walking in droves, talking and laughing. I don't know why we had a joy in our hearts. And there was no sign of sadness or despair on the faces.
We reached Qafëmolle and split into the village to eat a bite of bread. As a group, we went to a house where an old woman came to us and told us that her husbands were not there and asked us if we were "friends" of Abaz Aga. We go inside and he gave us something to eat. As I said above, we would come to Shëngjergj and there they would learn where the General Headquarters was. However, a partisan from Qafëmolla who had just arrived in the village told us that the comrades were in a place between Shëngjergji, Martanesh and Dibra. And we no longer went from the road leading to Shëngjergj. So we took the causeway. It was three in the afternoon. The sun was covered with black clouds, but it was not raining yet. We were walking faster. We walk, we walk, but the road does not end and climbs the mountains in our morning. It's getting dark, it's getting black from all four sides". In his memoirs, Nishani says that they had reached their destination, where, according to him, there was no lack of joy in their eyes. "The next afternoon, I and some friends went down to Shëngjergj where we arrived at night. We went to the house of Ali Shtepani, a member of the NC movement, who welcomed us with joy, we sat around the fire and had a good toast. The fire satisfied us and removed all fatigue, we were cured. Tomorrow the other friends came with Enver.
We stayed in Shëngjergj for a couple of weeks. The 2nd Brigade was inaugurated there. In Shëngjergj we also celebrated November 28, 1943. For two whole weeks we were the guests of Ali Shtepani, an outgoing, loving, sweet, courageous man. He never gets tired of serving us with his mouth full of gas. He wore a dozen in his belt and never took it off. I told him once: "Ali Aga, why do you take off this coat when you're inside the house, because it will tear your middle" - I've made it a habit, I always wear it like this - I leave it - I have it on my head - he said. He was right that when he fought the Germans close to home, the machine gun blocked you and he defended himself with the ten in his belt. In this attempt, Ali Aga received two major wounds. I will never forget the generous reception and service that Ali Shtepani gave us in his home", writes Nishani. He further states that ?ermenika and Shëngjergji were free zones, because the enemy could not come. Partisan forces were near Elbasan. News was coming, according to him, that the Germans were organizing the Balli gangs and preparing for a wide winter offensive.
British General Davis in Shëngjergj during the inauguration of the II Brigade. Here are the memoirs of SOE officer Sir Reginald
"Davis found Enver Hoxha in Shëngjergj following the parade of the Second Brigade. In fact, this was the inauguration ceremony of the second brigade, although from his account it seems that "Trotkit did not tell you that this was the event he was witnessing." Enver Hoxha gives November 28 as the date. The partisans were badly clothed, badly shod and badly fed, but their weapons, though of different makes, were well maintained, and they had with them an Italian unit of four mountain guns. Enver Hoxha wanted to be extended for the urgent needs of supplies, but he fell silent when the general put the matter to him to flee to the south and concentrate on supplies and consolidation there, abandoning Central Albania (and Tirana), so for eh, and leaving the local partisan groups to do their best. Hoxha said that he and his colleagues would think about this proposal, the General returned to Martanesh where his staff and others attached to the scattered missions were living in difficult circumstances and reduced rations, without firewood, no lamps with only a few candles, while the rain like a river and prolonged flowed down the surrounding mountains". This is what Sir Rexhinald writes who during the National Liberation War in Albania had been an SOE (The Special Operation Executive) officer.