Rizah Gruda (1946), Guci, resident in Novi Pazar (Part I) Old Histories from old peope


Rizah Gruda (1946), Guci, resident in Novi Pazar (Part I) Old Histories from old peope -Histori të vjetra me njerëz të vjetër- Stare priče starih ljudi

Rizah Gruda (1946) Guci, resident in Novi Pazar from July 2019

I am Riza Gruda. My parents named me Riza because I was born in the month of Rexhep. I had to be called Rexhep, because my late father Murat named me according to my aunt’s son who was in Turkey at the time. My aunt Jallduza moved from Guci to Turkey in 1925 to commemorate her son Alirizahu who was been a general in the Turkish army, and the main military commander of security, a participant in the Korean War, and then finally in the latest time, the designer of the Cyprus takeover project to resolve the Turkish-Greek disputes. He has participated in the government of Bulent Egjevit. The religious component has also exercised its influence because my father was an imam and my whole family in the vertical line has been an ylemash family, which for centuries has given imams and myderrizs. “Riza” translated from Arabic means Ridvan (Rizah) “pleased.” This is how I got my name. In addition, it was chosen as a re-renewal to commemorate the birth of my brother born in 1921 who had the same name but died soon after. In a few words, my Dad baptized me with this given name.

While the last name (surname) Gruda, the connotation of it shows that we are autochthonous of the ancestor Illyrian Balkan tribe. Gruda, Hoti, Kastrati and Kuqi tribes are described as Albanians in the history books of all those writing for Balkans. So my first distant and my ethno genesis is Albanian. After French Revolution, the interest and influence of the Vilayet of Bosnia and the Bosnian bureaucracy increased about these areas of the Sanjak, i.e. in Guci, the place where I was born. My birthplace was at that time included in the Sanjak (Serbian “Sandžak”) of Shkoder. But Guci was once part of the Vilayet of Bosnia and later part of Sanjak of Novi Pazar. In the most recent period, my territory has been governed by the Sanjak of Shkoder, in the final years of Ottoman Empire Guci was attached first to Pej and finally remained in the Vilayet of Kosovo as part of the Sonja of Novi Pazar.

I was born in Guci in 1946, in June, in summer. I come from a family of ylemash, which gave prominent intellectuals in the time of the Ottoman Empire, and during the Balkan wars. I can proudly say that my late grandfather was an adviser to Ali Pasha.

My grandfather attended  Al Hazar, then high madrasa in Shkoder. In Egypt, respectively in Cairo he completed the Islamic University. After graduating from the faculty in 1852, he served in Istanbul for three years. There he lectured as myderriz. Then Ali Paha, at that time Ali Beg Guci of Shabanagaj, appointed him as his personal adviser. My grandfather was an advisor to Ali Bey and an imam of Ali Pasha.

In Guci, at that time there was also Ali Bey’s Mosque in which my grandfather kept 5000 books. It is very interesting to mention that when the Montenegrins occupied Plav and Guci 1912 -1913 they set fire to the library of the mosque and the books which he had brought from Egypt. There were French, Italian, Albanian, Turkish, Persian literature books, etc. He has been polyglot and he has spoken several foreign languages. It is said that the Mongols also had burned books before. When the Montenegrins realized what they did, I don’t think they regretted it. When something disappears it means they have done a barbaric act. The same way the world has acted before with Galileo, etc., for his display of progressive thoughts. As to the Islamic world, those who have been educated in Islamic terms, have highly valued science. God has instructed mankind to learn. So first they learn, and then they pray. Science is a priority over all priorities.

To return to my ancestors, they came from Grud, which is located in the north of Shkoder. In 1610, they came to Guci as Muslims, while until then; they were Catholics, Albanian Catholics. This is what my father, my uncle and my grandfather told us about our background and ancestry. Towards the beginning of the 17th century, vast majority of Albanian tribes were converted to Islam. It took 200 years for our ancestors to move en masse to Islam. These tribes, Berisha Hiti, Gruda Bjellopavlliq, as well as all Kuqtë, belong to Lekë Dukagjini. In one occasion, when Mark Miljani a Montenegrian was asked “- in which language do you speak? He replied: “half in our language and half in Albanian language”. This shows they spoke Albanian language while they thought in the old Slavic languages.

It looks quite clear that Trade has influenced people to accept different words, and this is an advantage for people and individuals who have enriched another culture with what is positive. We are more influenced by Islamic education. But we have always had good relationship with others, our neighbors. He who has been of another religion and nationality, has always been seen and judged  according to humanity, heroism, bravery, not how physically strong he is, but of his strong character. As old proverb says, “I give you everything, but not my face.” That makes a lot of sense.

Centuries of family education have influenced the formation of our consciousness. Normally under different influences it has changed from the symbiosis of the mixture of tribes.

I mean the Balkan mentality, which was developed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and other Balkan countries. There are no pure nations here. Tribal mixtures.  Born different civilizations in the same territory, all having Illyrian and Thrace origin, the Sase, Vlachos as well as Mongol tribes used to live here, etc.

But when we talk about all history and ancestry, there are 2 types of historians, the generations of those historians who have been correct in treating the past, and the generation those who had been incorrect, those who  have written under the influence of rulers in power and invaders, hence their writings about history lack arguments. Now we can better see and understand these things.Now we have complete freedom of thoughts, press and meetings of various intellectual elites in various scientific symposiums are held. Thanks God now, at this time, we can tell the truth, without hesitation, people may declare themselves the way they feel who they are and what nationality they belong to. No one can impose on them anymore. Within this context, I had a case in the Serbian parliament (he was MP) …when I spoke I told to the parliament members: listen gentlemen, from today until the doomsday (Day of Judgment) you will not be an official, a representative of me or my people anymore. This is gone forever. I know who I am. The one who gave me my name is my father. He Baptized me. I want to say that our problem has been past governments that have registered us differently from what we are and feel. They imposed by violence to register different of what felt and what we were in reality.  They have lectured us to convince us to declare what they wanted to.  Unfortunately until today many generations have melted, many have been assimilated. This process of assimilation of new generations has happened both in the east and west. Many of the displaced Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Sanjak and southern Serbia where Albanians used to live there, at their ancestor homes. South Serbia was entirely inhabited by Albanians. They were deported, and were forced to go to Turkey. It is not about thousands and hundreds of thousands, but millions of them belonging to Albanian and Bosnian descents. They know their origins, but they were forced to be registered as Turks. Many have migrated there (in Turkey), reaching millions. Exodus to Istanbul was the only solution in order to escape extermination exercised by the rulers of the country by brutal means. There, although they never felt themselves as Turks, they were forced to declare themselves as Turkish.

To come to my point, I came here to Novi Pazar from Guci, but I could not find a job easily, even though I was a scholarship holder of the municipality of Plav.

When I finished elementary school in Plav there was only one teacher, who belonged to the Muslim nationality. Indeed, most of us have not been registered as Muslims but by force as Serbs following Muslim religion and rites, or as Montenegrins. With high respect for all Montenegrins, unfortunately we have nothing to do with them. At that time even though we were willing to declare ourselves as Montenegrins, the Serbs urged us, “Hej..Stop, you are not Montenegrins, you should declare as Turkish” although we have no connection at all with the Turks. I am an indigenous resident, they are immigrants. However, the Turks brought civilization, despite what the Serbs use to say.

When I attended primary school in my village there was a teacher, the late Shuqo Ibrahimovic, a well-known sportsman who has educated outstanding generations of sportsmen. Famous athletes have been brought up and taught in “Xhafer Nikoçeviq”school by him. In all competitions, wherever we participated allover Yugoslavia, we have been awarded First Places.

Then I graduated from the Teachers’ School in Prizren called”Dimitrije Tucoviq” This is how the school was named when I attended it. The school had distinguished professors, I should mention most of the teachers were like that, and among them, to be distinguished was the school master Rajko Radojeviq, warrior of the NLW, a figure with high morals, historian by profession. Besides him, I was honored to have Riza Alaj as a school director too, who later became the director of Radio Pristine.

They have been outstanding people and diligent educators. In the Teachers’ School, even though I was educated in the Serbo-Croatian language, Albanian language was also optional, a subject of culture. One of the teachers was Ajet Bytyqi , a professor of Albanian language, Riza Alaj has also been a teacher of the Albanian language, Pehlivan Zhuri as well. Many other Montenegrins and Albanians such as Hasan Opoja, professor of mathematics Ismet Dehiri, Stanisha     Markovic etc. It has been the best school for the preparation of teachers.

After the completiton of the school in 1967, I used to work in different places in Kosovo. At the beginning my desire was to work at my home town, near my parents. Patriotic sentiment was very popular in my birthplace. An old saying says”For every one homeland, is his Egypt” But what is Egypt? Egypt was the fertile valley of Nil river. My desire was to get a job close to my birthplace. But there were no jobs available in my hometown at that time. Ironically many educated village people kept (had usurped) two jobs at the same time.

Since we had completed schools and there was no jobs availability in our home town, we, both Bosnians and Albanian highly educated persons were forced to look for jobs in other areas, allover Kosovo, Bosnia, Sanjak. I began looking for work in many places in Sanjak, but only in 1969 I was lucky to get a job in Krushevo, a remote village of Novi Pazar. There I taught second grade for a year or so. I had to travel every day 15 km on foot to go to school and another 15 km to return home, but I was happy. My former students now are grown up and do not only have nephews but also grandchildren.

There were 25 students in 1969 while today there are not more than three students in this settlement. Sanjak villages are abandoned for economic reasons. Because of lack of investment young people have been forced to immigrate first all around the country and later allover the world. They first ones migrated to the industrial centers such as Mitrovic and Pristine. My village people from Plav and Guci mostly moved to Pristine, Pej, Prizeren   Djakovo, Skopje, Podgoric, as well as in Bosnia, respectively in Sarajevo

After 1965 they migrated to Slovenia, Ljubljana and Kranj. In 1966 there was massive immigration of Albanians from this region to USA, through the Mexican border passing through the river Rio Grande. I have heard series of sad stories of what our people experienced during these dangerous trips. It is unimaginable how much can a human being like them can endure. After settling there, it has been difficult for them to find jobs. Those who were fluent in English are better paid off, while those who do not know English are badly paid. From my school friends who went there, most of them belonged to unqualified workforce, without any high school, profession or university. Today, according to my notes about 35 000 inhabitants of the Plav Guci both Bosnians and Albanians have migrated and live in USA. While there are very few Serbs and Montenegrins who migrated to USA. Their number of immigrants in USA is minor as compared to the Albanians and Bosnians.

This figure speaks about the fact that the then government did nothing to stop the migration, but on the contrary, encouraged them to migrate by leaving the country. Since the Balkan wars, the population has only migrated, but no return. As we used to say in our language: “They went to never look back.”

What else can I tell?  I’ve traveled a lot around the world, I’ve given lectures everywhere. As for our people America, they have decided to stay there due to the difficult situation in their homeland and because of the incomes that they get through hard work to keep their families as compared to their homeland, without being discriminated and living with a constant fear on insecurity. Only the older generations’ feel the “thirst”, they are nostalgic for their homeland. But their children enjoying the American system, their lifestyle, their schooling, don’t think about returning home. There are no conditions, no investment in those areas to attract their re-turn. Today, the Montenegrin government has not established any factories in those areas. It would have been minor as compared to what Albanians and Bosnians have done for Montenegro. Had the Albanians and Bosnians not voted for Montenegro’s independence, it would not have been possible to be Independent Montenegro. Milo Djukanovic has accepted it. It would have remained colony of Serbia forever without the vote of Albanians and Bosnians. This is the truth. Population migrations have been spread in all directions of the world.

I arrived in Novi Pazar on November 1, 1969. I got a job and later and got married. Before I married my wife, we met each other when we were students at an excursion in Vrnjaçka Banje. We kept in touch by letters. Then I completed the military service in Pula, Croatia. When I returned from military service, we got married. I and my wife Zejnepe have three successful children.

I get excited here in this environment, the citizens love me. In the first Parliamentary Elections, I was elected very naturally. I was “born” as a tribune by the people. I have noticed that some things done during socialism were not positive; on the contrary they have caused damage to the Albanians and Bosnians. This influenced me to join the Political Movement. I am one of the founders of our Movement of the Democratic Action Party (MDA) in Sanjak.

The movement expanded to Kosovo, Macedonia and all over former Yugoslav republics where Bosnians used to live. We have established MDA councils across all European countries. I traveled from New Zealand to Alaska. I haven’t been only in Latin American countries. I have been to the republic of South Africa, Egypt, Tunis Morocco, in almost all countries of Europe and Asia.

In many conferences I have spoken about the violation of the human rights of the Bosnian population in Sanjak. I always spoke about the Albanian brother people too, not forgetting the exodus, the expulsion from their homes. Today, Albanians and Bosnians live all over the world. I could soya I am very happy that today they are organized in many different institutions. Both Albanian and Bosnian youth are educated. Throughout the United States today we have intellectuals who work at the Pentagon and many other institutions. You could hardly find institutions where our people do not work. This is a strong Lobby that works for the prosperity of Albanians and Bosnians. The Albanian and Bosnian people are not against the Serbian and Montenegrin people. They have never been against them, on the contrary. They have always fought for their spiritual and physical existence.

The problem stays with Governments and the Rulers. The fault comes from the people who choose their wrong leaders. I always remember the saying of Muhammad A S. “When God wants to punish a people, he sends them a brutal ruler” who will soon destroy them. I must tell to you, the new generations that all the political governments of Serbia and Montenegro are the gravediggers for us Albanians and Bosnians and for their people too. The mistake lies here. Definitely we need to talk openly, to put the papers on the table, to present the unsettled problems that we have together. This planet has changed owners several times. Different Kings have passed through here before, different civilizations have disappeared.

We have no discriminatory attitude towards anyone. These people want to be legitimate, to be on their own land, so that no one can give those lectures….” you have come from there…. Europe and this world must be a global village. It must be integrated. Thus, due to the action of some individuals this world is exposed to extinction, posing a serious threat to humanity. All indications speak about this. If no peace holders, at least we demand peacekeepers to come to power. Those who will enable each individual and community their right to live, work and create, but no one who set boundaries for the people. When you want to force someone, people get angry, they don’t want to, they can not tolerate domination. Here is the mistake. Advice the young people to think with common sense. Do not fall under the influence of anyone. First get to know the person well then give opinions. Start with yourself. Criticize yourself first, then others. By no means do not abuse any one.  No one’s rights can be violated.

Translated; Jonuz Kola

I tried to be as close as possible faithful to the Original

New Jersey, 11 May 2020

Part II