By Beck Barlow July 15, 0 Do you ever think back on where you have come from, and feel utter gratitude wash over you? This happens to me pretty often. Today it pulls at me strongly.
A decade later, the year-old is hoping to finally get answers about whether his father is among those found after Albania launched a landmark effort to identify the victims. The dead found on Dajti mountain are among more than 5, executed during the communist era.
The fate and final whereabouts of many remain unknown, nearly three decades after the fall of communism in The victims of the killings were political opponents, religious believers or regular citizens reported for "treason", "espionage" or "sabotage" against the regime of dictator Enver Hoxha.
In the period since communism's collapse, Albania has been reluctant to open up this dark chapter of history.
So the search for the missing has been left to the tireless efforts of ordinary people like Plaku. His father Koco Plaku, an engineer, was sentenced to death in a closed-door trial two years after he was arrested in The son was nine months old at the time and his mother was forced to divorce to avoid deportation.
Determined to piece the story together, Plaku later managed to find photos of his father's trial, sketches scribbled during the proceedings and a hour interrogation tape. It was then he learned that his father had been convicted of "sabotage" and "espionage" over fishing hooks given to him by a Russian friend -- a gift that aroused suspicion after Tirana cut ties with Moscow.
He interviewed dozens of people, even coming face-to-face with his father's executioner.
The "small and stocky man" had become a judo coach, said Plaku. He said he did not remember anything. Together with another man looking for a missing father, he spent months digging on the mountainside before finding human remains, some of which were buried only 60 centimetres two feet deep.
The bones have been sitting in a morgue for 10 years, waiting to be identified. Plaku, alongside around 30 others, provided DNA samples to see if there was any match with his father.
He is hoping to finally "close this chapter" of his life with a quiet moment, a cigarette and the chance to lay flowers on the site where his father would have been shot with a bullet to the back of the neck on June 28, The director of the archives Gentiana Sula, who herself has a disappeared grandparent, said she knows well how the past can turn into an obsession for relatives who want to undo the stigma heaped on loved ones by an odious regime.
But it is an important first step, Ndou says, adding that the political will to continue is essential. The family has spent a decade looking for answers about their father, Xhavit.
The twins also gave DNA samples to the Dajti search team although they doubt their father was among those exhumed. An engineer trained in the Soviet Union, Xhavit was executed in the summer of at age When his wife Irina, now 86, asked why he was taken, police said only: "The Party knows why.
After years abroad, the women returned to Albania in , with Irina determined to find her husband's remains and to be buried next to him. Upon returning, Elena found documents about her father in the archives, including one signed by a former judge who is now a professor of law.
The year-old told AFP that he does not remember where the execution took place, a detail never mentioned in documents from the time.
He added that he was a young judge in a system where "nobody could refuse an order". But he recalls the last words of one of the two men who were executed on his watch: "Long live the Party!
Do not hurt my daughters!