Fiftieth Anniversary of his death
by Mikel Marku
The year was 1915 and the month September when the 75 year old Dede Gjo’ Luli, the leader of the mountaineers of Hoti, Gruda, Kelmendi, Kastrati, Kopliku, etc., who had gained an international reputation from Constantinople to Vienna as a fierce fighter for the independence of Albania was lured to Orosh, Mirdite in Albania from Serbs.
Dede Gjo’ Luli gained international fame in the struggle of the Albanians to protect the integrity of the Fatherland after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, when regions of Albania were ceded to the southern Slav-Serbs and Montenegrins. He led the Northern Mountaineers against the slavs. These mountaineers fought against overwhelming odds. Their weapons were antiquated if they had any, in comparison to their enemies- the Turks, the Serbians, Montenegrins and after the congress of Berlin a coalition of the European Great Powers, who wanted the Albanians to abide by the decisions of the Congress-their forces were insignificant. Nevertheless, they never lost heart and fought until the last drop of their blood. In 1938, I had the good fortune of spending one week with Prenk Cali, who had spent the major part of his life fighting under the leadership of Ded gjo’ Luli.
I had Fishta’s Epical Poems with me read to him two or three times every day the 28th Song, which is entitled “Dede Gjo’ Luli.” He knew it by heart, but he said to me when I protested, “it sounds much better to hear it read by a school boy.” THIS SAME PRENK CALI WAS JUDGED BY A COMMUNIST TRIBUNAL IN SCUTARI, RIDICULED, TAKEN TO THE CEMETARY OF SCUTARI ON THE BACK OF AN UNSADDLED DONKEY, FORCED TO DIG HIS GRAVE AND THEN SHOT FOR ANTI-JUGOSLAV FEELINGS. He was Dede Gjo’ Luli’s comrade for more than fifty years and took active part in all the wars for the independence of Albania. I leave it to the reader to draw his own conclusions according to his own conscience.
Since 1906, Dede Gjo’ Luli had an Albanian Flag under which he and his men fought. The Flag was more then two meters long and as far as I have been able to find out it was the first Albanian Flag that appeared in the battle field since Skander-beg’s time.
In the Spring of 1907, Dede Gjo’ Luli began attacking Turkish garrizons, and on a hill facing the city of Tuz raised the Albanian Flag. He did the same thing in December of 1907 in Triepshi.
But his fame and stature as a leader and a patriot grew beyond the borders of the mountains in which he fought when he led the Northern Mountaineers in the revolts of 1910 and 1911.
On July 29, 1910, Dede Gjo’ Luli and thirteen other families left their village and went into the mountains of Triepshi. There the Montenegrims captured him and kept him in confinement in Nikshiq for six months. “That time,” Prenk Cali told me, “we thought that everything was lost. We did not expect to see Dede alive, because King Nicholas hated Dede and what he stood for.” But Dede Gjo’ Luli had become a well known figure in the Balkans and it was not easy to murder him like anybody else. Thus he managed to gain his freedom and join his followers. Everything except the Flag had been lost.
On March 24,1911, some Mountaineers from Hoti and Kelmendi attacked two Turkish border posts with axes and captured thirty rifles and 4000 rounds of amo and 60 prisoners, who were left free to go to Shkoder. Here began this great revolt of the Northerns Mountaineers that spread through Kosova and other regions of Albania and gave the Ottoman Empire the last coup in the Balkans.
On April 6, 1911, Dede Gjo’ Luli and his companions raised the Albanian flag on Detchiq. This was our first independence day.
Dede Gjo’ Luli’s courage and integrity are proverbial. In June 1911, the Turkish Minister to Mountaineers and discuss their grievances. The Mountaineers selected Dede Gjo’ Luli to be their spokesman. The meeting occurred in the town of Podgoritz. Sabedin Bey, the Turkish Minister, said: “Gentlemen I have come from Cetinje to see you.” Dede answered: “We have not been longing to see you at all.” The Mountaineers had sent a memorandum to the Porte that came to be known as the Red Book. “Do you want the conditions of the Red Book for yourself or for all Albania.” We want those conditions fulfilled first for ourselves and then for all Albanian,” answered Dede. The Turkish Minister told the interpreter: “Tell him that I will never come to see him again.” “I have no desire to see you sir,” answered Dede Gjo’ Luli.
When Bedri Pasha offered him 2500 Turkish liras to quit fighting. Dede Gjo’ Luli answered: “Tell the pasha that I am not some piece of meat to be sold at the butcher shop. The King should know that he does not have money enough to buy me; my price is the freedom of my country and nothing less or nothing more.”
On August 12, 1912, his son Gjergj was killed fighting in the plain of Tuz. When some men from Hoti, among them also Prenk Cali mentioned above, went to give him the terrible news, they did not know how to begin. “Dede, many young men of Hoti and Gruda fell in the battle field today,” they said.
“There is no wedding feast without meat. It is an honor to die in the battle field for our country. After all we have to die one day or the other.”
“But your son Gjergj was killed too.” Dede remained silent for a few seconds and then said: “He was the son of his mother as the others were sons of their mothers just the same, he did not want to ask for any privilege, but to fight the enemies of Albania like any other good Albanian.”
At the time of the international occupation of Shkoder in 1913, when the English Admiral Cecil Burney told Ded Gjo’ Luli that Hoti and Gruda had been given to Montenegro by the Great European Powers, he told him: “You Sir, may sell your home, I am not selling or giving away mine. Can Europe stop me from shedding my blood for my country?”
This was Dede Gjo’ Luli, a pure and courageous patriot if ever was one on the face of the earth. Our national poet Gjergj Fishta built him an undying monument by dedicating him one of the most beautiful songs of his LAHUTA E MALCIS and the Northern Mountaineers who shed so much blood and suffered so much for the freedom of Albania perpetuate his deeds in their heroic songs.
SHËNIM: Ky shkrim anglisht i Profesor Mikel Markut është botuar në gazeten “Dielli” në dhjetor të vitit 1965 me rastin e 50-vjetorit te rënjes tragjike të Dedë Gjo’Lulit. Profesor Mikel Marku ka qënë Drejtor i Shkollës Shqipe në Institutin e Gjuhëve të Ushtrisë Amerikane, në Monterey të Californise. Gjekë Gjonlekaj