Today marks 71 years since the death of one of the most beloved anti-communist Albanian Nationalist fighters who lost his life on 24 December, 1950 while on a fighting mission in Elbasan. The newspaper L’Albanie Libre dedicated most of the December 1954 issue to this hero and this post today is written in his memory so that we don’t ever forget the men who gave up their families, life and  country for a cause in which they wholeheartedly believed. Albania and Albanians must never forget the heroes who fought against communism, but learn from them and their stories, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

L’Albanie Libre – 20 December, 1954

He left us at a run, his springing athletic stride as free as if this were some peacetime track meet. We saw the shadows open to swallow him up, as if to hide from our eyes his terrible destiny. He carried with him in his bare hands the precious gift of his own splendid, buoyant youth, and offered it spontaneously as a burnt sacrifice on the altars of his enslaved land. The shining trail of his passing through the shadows that still darken our unhappy land gleams like a torch in the hand of an archangel, bringing a message of hope and comfort. His passing is written in letters of flame in the hearts of his people, and his memory wears the halo or legend in the bosom of every Albanian. “The good hero,” the people call him, because of the gentle, kindly way this proud champion of our race was the friend of all. Everyone who knew him felt this same indelible impression of high and generous purpose. He was an inspiring and inspired leader of men. He volunteered for the most daring and dangerous of missions, in defense of the noble traditions of Albania, and of the civilization of the western world. Albania, and the free nations of the world, owe this hero a debt of gratitude that can never be fully reckoned, to say nothing of repayment.

But Alush Leshanaku, who fell four years ago in the Elbasan region, was not the only Albanian to give his life for his country’s liberty, and for the cause of western civilization. Thousands and thousand of others, known and unknown, have earned the soldier martyr’s palm. From every corner of the land they came, to stand up courageously to the attack of the centuries-old, because Communism, to the Albanian, is nothing more nor less than masked Pan-Slavism. Neither on the open field of battle, nor in the atrocious torture-chambers of their oppressors, did these sturdy warriors waver in their courage. Rather than betray the ancient virtues, they mounted the executioner’s block with fearless tread, to seal with their blood their faith in the moral values of western civilization.

To all those young and heroic lives, so ruthlessly snuffed out by Soviet blood-lust, our tender and loving thoughts go out today.

Especially do we think of the patriots of the Seven Hears, drawn from every political camp of the nation, without exception. From safety abroad, these men, each of them foredoomed to violent death, went back into Albania by the underground ways. Into the dark and mysterious isolation thrown over that unhappy land by the Soviet wall of silence, they went. Here and there, throughout the country, these daring fugitives went to tell their story of hope and encouragement. “You are not forgotten, my brothers. Your anguish and suffering beneath the most murderous yoke of oppression in history is not all unknown and un-noted.”

Eternal glory to those who shed their blood to free their homeland from the infection of the deadly Soviet evil. In ten years more than ten thousand of these fighters for liberty have fallen on the mountain altars of their country…a tremendous sacrifice for a nation so thinly peopled as Albania. And in dying, each of these heroes did one more bit to loosen the tyrant’s grasp on their homeland, and to lessen the pressure of Soviet imperialism on the western borders. Neither their country, nor the Western world will let these glorious names fall into oblivion.

The poems below were written by noted Albania Professor Ernest Koliqi in memory of Alush Leshanaku.

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