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[NYC-L] Fwd: [Albanian-UK] Ihsan Bey ToptaniImer Berisha imerprishtina at hotmail.com
Fri Jun 1 16:30:44 EDT 2001
An interesting article about a wellknwon member of Albanian diaspora in the UK, taken from Albanian UK, send by "Besim Gerguri" <besim at gerguri.freeserve.co.uk> Imer Brisha _________________________ >Ihsan Bey Toptani >01 June 2001 > Ihsan Toptani, journalist and political activist: born Tirana 25 >August 1908; died London 28 May 2001. >Ihsan Bey Toptani was the last direct male descendant of the great Toptani >family who dominated the Albanian capital for 150 years, and the last >living man to hold the rank of Ottoman bey to reside in Britain. But >despite these extraordinary and archaic origins, and after a prominent role >in the Second World War, he lived a modest life in south London in the last >40 years, a victim of the post-war Communist victory in Albania, and was >well known as a leader of the Albanian émigré world in London. > >The Toptani family were in many ways the founders of contemporary Tirana, >and played a crucial role in the political intrigues surrounding the >foundation of modem Albania in 1913. His most notorious ancestor was Esad >Pasha Toptani, the mentally disturbed traitor who plotted with the venal >Serbs and Greeks against the fledgling state. > >The family's great period was the early and mid-19th century when the >decline in the Ottoman system allowed considerable freedom of action to the >beys, who lived more or less as feudal princelings on their estates. The >Toptanis owned much of central Tirana, including the land on which the >modern parliament stands, and had farms and forests in the wild lands >beyond the Dalti mountains to the east of the capital. His father, Abdi Bey >Toptani, was active in the late-19th-century renaissance of Albanian >literature and nationalism, and then became a cabinet minister after the >independence declaration at Vlora in 1913. > >At that time, little Ihsan was a boy of five years of age, and after >elementary schooling in Tirana he was sent away to Austria, Albania's >traditional friend among the European powers, for his later education. He >impressed his teachers with his intellectual ability, and had science, >politics and philosophy as his main interests. He was also a skilled >photographer, and good at languages, and was awarded a doctorate in >political sciences at Graz University. > >Returning to Tirana, he found the country being drawn increasingly into the >maw of the Italian Fascists, and the old dominance that the Toptanis had >enjoyed in Tirana society was being eroded by the brash new men who had >allied themselves with the Italians. He was involved in a short, unhappy >marriage arranged by his family. King Zog was never very keen on the >Toptanis, and Ihsan lacked a political party to advance his interests. > >On the outbreak of the Second World War, as Albania was used as a base for >invasion of Greece, Toptani joined the resistance as an independent >nationalist, and was in contact with the British Special Operations >Executive (SOE), who were beginning operations to help the anti-Axis forces >in Albania. This was not a simple relationship, however, and he also had >contact with the Axis occupiers, and later wrote quite sympathetically of >those Albanians who had been active collaborators and who had seen the best >interests of their country as resting with a German victory in the war. > >In the complex intrigues within the Resistance, his finest moment was at >the Toptani estate hill village of Mukje in August 1943, when he presided >at talks held between the Communist-dominated National Liberation Council, >led by Enver Hoxha and the rightist Balli Kombetar. Both sides agreed to >fight for an independent Albania, including Kosovo, but within days of its >being signed it was rejected by the Communists as a result of policy >differences over Kosovo. Toptani always believed that Enver Hoxha had been >a traitor to the national cause and had worked with Tito's envoy, Svetozar >Vukmanovic (General Tempo), after this key meeting to destroy the agreement >and betray the Kosovars into Yugoslav servitude. > >A period of activity in the resistance followed and he spent a good deal of >time working with Julian (later Lord) Amery and other SOE agents who had >been dropped into Albania by SOE HQ in Cairo, and were ultimately >unsuccessful in uniting the northern feudal lords and Zogist sympathisers >against Enver Hoxha and the Partisans. This period is described in Amery's >controversial book Sons of the Eagle (1948). > >Toptani was evacuated to Italy after the Communist victory, and began >working with the Americans, obtaining a staff job as a journalist on >Newsweek. When the CIA and MI6 began to try to organise the overthrow of >Enver Hoxha's regime, Toptani set up the liberation committee in Greece, >and was responsible for recruiting émigrés into the force that was trained >by David Smiley and others in MI6 on Malta to confront the Communists. It >is generally believed that the Soviet spy Kim Philby, then a senior >official in the Secret Intelligence Service, played an important part in >betraying this operation to Hoxha. > >After the collapse of this operation, Toptani returned to Britain, and >found work in the BBC Monitoring Service at Caversham. In 1958 he became a >British citizen, and worked in the Anglo-Albanian Association for the >freedom of his country. His fellow ex-intelligence officer Harry >Hodgkinson, the biographer of Scanderbeg, was a close friend and >Hodgkinson's death in 1994 affected him. Topkani was very happy to see the >end of Communism, and returned to Albania after a 47-year interval to see >the return of most of the family lands. > >He saw the end of Communism as opening the doors to the reunification of >the Albanian lands, and, although in his late eighties, he learnt to use a >computer, and soon all his friends began to receive his e-mails with >material calling for the liberation of Kosovo from Serbian oppression. > >Ihsan Toptani was a man of strong views, but he had great charm and >kindness and tolerated differences of opinion over historical >interpretation. A visit to his Streatham flat was a happy event. He >suffered from leukaemia for many years but although of a slight frame had a >typical Albanian physical resilience that enabled him to carry on the >struggle against Serbia until near the end of his life. > >James Pettifer > _________________________________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com.
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