On October 7, 2011, international news reported that Ramiz Alia, the former Albanian communist leader and successor of Stalinist dictator Enver Hoxha, had died. This information was impactful for many, including Gjekë Marinaj, as he was presented with a long-awaited and much-anticipated opportunity.

In 2001, Marinaj contacted Alia, the man responsible for his forced and abrupt departure from his homeland of Albania in 1990. Alia agreed to an exclusive interview, citing one request: It was only to be published following his death. Marinaj was a man of his word, even though his poetic word – in the form of the anticommunist poem Horses – was the catalyst for Alia’s regime seeking to possibly kill him. Within 30 minutes following the news of Alia’s death, Marinaj contacted Albania’s main political newspaper, Shekulli, and the interview was immediately published to its website. After becoming a web sensation within hours, Shekulli devoted three pages, including the front page of the newspaper, to the interview for the next two days.

Marinaj claims that his main intent at the time the interview took place was to clarify personal and political intent behind Alia’s actions. He intended to find answers to the deeds behind Alia’s regime, as well as question what his personal fate would have been if captured. Although Alia’s answers were selective, and often unapologetic, he remained adamant that he did what he needed to do for his country at the time; a sentiment Marinaj surely shares.

After news of his death broke, Marinaj regarded that it “completed the circle of my story with him.” He states, “I did something against him, and he against me … and this is where it ends.”

Marinaj believes that holding on to past animosity and anger is unnecessary and that there is a greater lesson to be learned. “People should look ahead,” Marinaj states. “I forgive him as most people should try to forgive, even in extreme situations.”

[ Read full interview in PDF (Albanian) ]