This documentary is part of a series broadcasted by the Albanian Television (TVSH) on the Great Albanian Families.
Documentary Publish Date on TVSH - 2009
Created and Narrated by: Petro Lati
Persons Interviewed: Ajten Toptani, Gajda (Mema) Toptani, Najada (Petrela) Toptani, Gjergj Foto, and Shadan Toptani's coworker.
In the city of Kruja, there is this house with deep historic roots, which holds the memory of old well-known and rich Albanian families. These are quarters where the women and daughters lived, since a large amount of their time perhaps the most important was spent away from their men. These venues testify of the economic well-being of the family, their lifestyle, their attire, and the mentality of that time. These quarters belong to the great Toptani family. Its true story starts in the city of Kruja. Above this characteristic house is located the house of the Toptani men, who in historic encounters couldn’t escape the tests of time.
These are the only photos that survived to remind us of that unsettled time.
At the George (Gjergj) Kastriot Skanderbeg museum in Kruja, there is a section dedicated to the Albanian princes of the 14th and 15th century. Noble, rich and educated families with strong ties to the West were well-known in the history just when our country was threatened by the Turkish invasion. The Toptanis derive from Karl Muzhak Topia. Historically we know that Skanderbeg’s sister Mamica (pronounced “Mamitza”), was married to Muzhak Topia as part of Skanderbeg’s efforts to collaborate and keep close many Albanian princes. According to the legend in the writings of foreign and local authors, it is said that the son of Muzhak Topia was kidnapped by the Turks, but after a while he managed to return to Albania. He became the ruler of Kruja and took ownership of the lands of his grandfathers.
Historical sources indicate that they came from Domosdova (a village of Kruja) . They are often called “the epical clan of Toptanis”.
A number of researchers and professors of the last century studied and discussed much in detail the activities of this family and its rulings over the centuries. Some of these researchers are Amy, DeGrandi and the Austrian Consul in Albania. As far as the family origin is concerned, it is worth mentioning a book from DeGrandi entitled “Memories of Upper Albania”, published in Paris in 1901. DeGrandi collected many stories from the locals, one of which tells of the story of the origin of the Toptani family, which comes from the Topia. The third son of the Topia, when muslimised. He was named Ali Bey Toptani.
Tirana stretched to the far horizon of Kruja. At that time Tirana was a small center soon becoming part of the ambitions of the Albanian aristocracy (feudal) with its wide fields near town. The Toptanis had always desired Tirana. Those were the times when the Kruja and Tirana aristocrats would not spare each other to gain property, wealth and power. Often, there would be bloody battles where thousands of one side were ready to annihilate the other. They did not lack the people or amunitions. 70 years of unseen battles showed hatred for life and death. However, the Toptanis managed to survive given the difficulty of anyone attacking their castle. The peace between the Toptanis of Kruja and Bargjinas of Tirana was fragile and short-lived, until at last the Bargjinas were conquered. In the center of Tirana, there is a monument that stands witness to those unsettled times. The monument is dedicated to Kapllan Bey Toptani, a strong and energetic man who put all his efforts into winning Tirana.
Tyrbia monument is in the shape of an octagon with monolith columns and oriental styled capitals.
In the meantime the feudals of Tirana lost their men, so the Toptanis married Bargjina daughters. This happened in 1844 with Abdurrahman Pasha Toptani. The Toptanis built their living quarters within the castle. These are protected to this day. There they built the government building, a harem, a tall tower and another building with 32 decorated rooms.
Tabak’s bridge, today considered a cultural monument, was built during the time of Abdurrahman Toptani. Terezi bridge was also built at that time, although it no longer exists today. Drinking water was brought from Selita. An urban (urbanistik) plan was devised and trading started making considerable progress. 480 new shops would open every day in Tirana, while the city had a population of 8,000. Abdurrahman restored the Bargjini mosque, which was located near the Tyrbia monument.
Toptanis’ land included the field of Tirana and extended to the shore of the Adriatic. A castle that belonged to the Roman Bermuda was also restored during this time. It was located in southwest of the city and was converted to a fortress for the protection of this large feudal family.
Ajten - “Toptani’s were generally more Albanians than religious people. Their religious side was shown with the construction of several religious buildings. It is worth mentioning the “Dollma Monastery”, constructed by Adem Toptani in 1798.
There are other cases of testimony, such as the erection of a church in Shkodra in sign of gratitude to the archbishops’ who saved the life of a lost child in the spring of Shengjin, today known as the Aviation field.
The Toptanis co-existed and had reciprocal respect with the Orthodox community of Tirana, who became in-laws to the Toptani family. In the mid 1800s when the Toptanis ruled Tirana, they gave permission for the construction of a small Orthodox church. There was a Catholic church prior to this, which is mentioned by the historian researchers of that time. It was a small church in the shape of a hat, with a bell that was more similar to a house bell than a church bell.
This feeling of tolerance and co-existence between the religious communities in Tirana, often mentioned and beautifully portrayed in the book of Artmar Dushi, has been a characteristic of this family.”
Istanbul, the center of the Turkish empire has been tightly related to the fate of Albanians who had name and wealth, but also lived in poverty. The Albanians had power, but also experienced prison and internment. The Toptanis also acted by this pragmatic philosophy. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Toptanis become protagonists in the national movement. Seit Sermedin Bey Toptani is at the top, whose deeds are documented at the national historical museum. Seit Sermedin is beside Abdyl Frasheri, Sami Frasheri, Pashko Vasa, Hasan Tasini and Jani Vreto, in his significant efforts on establishing the Albanian alphabet, also known in history as the Istanbul’s alphabet.
There is deep rooted gratitude to these visionary renaissance leaders who took upon themselves the heavy burden of shifting from ingratitude to reviving our national identity when we speak of the history of the Albanian book and when we remember all the sacrifices and endeavors in the opening of Albanian schools.
The Istanbul committee’s prologue (composed of Albanian members) was the protection of the Albanian nation rights. The committee rejected the decisions of the Congress of Berlin and requested assistance and support from the great powers, because Albanians could not remain indifferent to such a great threat to their country.
It was these wise men who inspired the creation of the Albanian Liaison of Prizren. They became its leaders and took upon themselves great suffering, imprisonment and internment, even to the loss of their lives. Seit Sermedin Toptani was part of this idealistic leadership, who gave his family new dimensions in the history of Albania.
Many authors have written about the life of Seit Sermedin Toptani. Some say that he studied in France at the University of Bourbon and in fact he was part of the French revolution in 1848. Others say that he was schooled In Venedic, though all are in agreement that he had high official positions In the Turkish administration, as well as in the Empire’s Embassy in France.
Han, a well-known researcher of Albanian history, met Seit in Tirana. His impressions of him were that Seit was a man of culture, a philolog of Persian and Arab languages, he had spent many years in Paris and spoke fluent French. Seit Sermedin Toptani opened a school in Tirana. He funded the construction of 13 classrooms.
He worked to protect the trading system from evildoers, and did not spare his money for the construction of the new telegraph line stretching from Shkodra to Tirana to Elbasan. The people of progress have always paid the cost of moving forward.
Seit Toptani was interned in Caucas where he became part of the colchis world. He became friends with the leader of the country. In Caucas he got married according to their traditions. The girl he chose was assigned to horse riding tours with other women of her age. After getting married, they had two children Murat and Refik. After a long internment, Seit Sermedin returned to Istanbul where he met the Frasheris and became close friends with.
(The following is a narrative of the Albanian filming crew speaking of a trip to Turkey in 1982). We have entered deep in the neighborhood of Kallez Toprak. As we get out of the car, we enter a narrow road and are in front of an old house with no paint on the walls. It is the house of Naim Frasheri filmed by the Albanian Television in 1982. The house was located on the Asian side of the city. Naim’s house reminds us of Asije. It was his brother’s dying wish Sherif to have him take care of her. Asije learned about French culture at “Madam Furrier” college. There she also learned the piano. Even though the boys were segregated from the girls, Asije met one of the Toptani sons, Murat. They were together and with Naim’s blessing they were married.
(Showing a photograph of Murat Toptani) This is a picture of Murat Toptani, a man beyond ordinary. Both Naim and Sami Frasheri appreciated him. In the letters they wrote him they called him “the light of their eyes”. Murat became Naim’s spiritual student.
This is a photo of Asije at a later age. She gave birth to nine boys and two girls. It is said that their children studied in Austria, Germany and Italy at the best schools of that time. So the connection between the Toptanis and the Frasheris became stronger in Istanbul, in fact the Toptanis gave in marriage one of their girls Vesime to Mehmet, Abdyl Toptani’s youngest son.
Murat and Asije returned to Tirana sometime around 1895. He travelled extensively in Albania and worked to disseminate the Albanian language and to increase the national awareness. But Murat lived his father’s fate. He was arrested in the name of the High Gate in October of 1897. The press of that time tells what happens later. Documents from outside tell us that Murat Bey was caught in Elbasan and will be interned far away. Murat Bey was young, perhaps 28 years old. He was a writer and a poet. Murat Bey was locked in Cana Kala. He was interned in the depths of Africa in Tripoli. Anselmo Lorekio writes to him from Calabria, Italy saying “we ask that you show us your face”. Shortly after, Murat miraculously escaped internment. Murat Bey, son in law of Naim Frasheri went to Bucharest along with Mr. Faik Konica. Visarion Giovani writes “may his name always be honored”.
During these uncertain times, another member of this great family becomes part of our national movement. His name is Abdi Toptani. He is appreciated as a patriot, wise and honest. He gathered many men for this cause. He was a military and political leader in the mountain regions of Tirana and Kruja from 1900 to 1912. In 21 November 1912 he went to Durres with Ismail Qemali. The situation had become very difficult in the country. But it was the Toptanis, Murat and Abdi and other countrymen who cleared the way to Vlora for the patriots to travel. In fact, the transportation means for the delegates were property of the Toptanis. It is known that it was a very difficult and dangerous journey, where in the dark curtain of time, the Turkish army could appear at the speed of light.
Just in the days when Albania was evolving, another Toptani in Tirana, Refik, Murat’s brother, raised the Albanian flag as a prolog to the great upcoming event in Vlora.
In November 28, the “Great Historic Act of Independence” was among others signed also by the Toptanis, Murat and Abdi. Murat held an inspiring speech for the people of Vlora. Whereas Abdi Toptani was selected Minister of Finance for the Temporary Government of Ismail Qemali. He was a Minister who did not take a penny from the poor budget of the Vlora Government.
In July 1913, Esat Pasha Toptani became part of the Vlora Government. He represented the Turkish power, and hungry as he was for power, he made unbelievable compromises.
March 7, 1914 Prince Wied arrived in Durres. The king of Albania was nominated from the Great Powers after the fall of Ismail Qemali’s Government. Part of his delegation was Esat Pasha, who later was nominated in the position of Minister of War for Internal Affairs. His cousin Abdi Toptani was appointed Minister of Agriculture.
But Prince Wied had arrived at a time of war, which was a disadvantageous situation to his regal nature. As a result, the country was immersed in even more chaos. Esat kneeled completely to the backstage manipulations of the neighboring countries and served entirely to them without even understanding that he had entered a dangerous game. On the other hand, Murat and Adbi continued as idealists in close connection with the shocks of the major insurrections the country was going through. During these times of trouble, Murat continued his works of artistry. His creative work had started in Istanbul where he introduced a likeness of Skanderbeg’s figure to Naim. In Brindisi of Italy he created this bust of our national hero, no trace of which can be found today.
In Istanbul he created another bust of Asije, which did not have a long life either. The year of 1914 has remained an unlucky year for the Albanians. Murat’s house was burned down by the rebel forces of Haxhi Qamili. The entire collection of artistic treasures of the family were lost, including many books, documents and letters from Naim, Sami and Konica. During these difficult years, Murat Toptani created two of his best art works that are to date exhibited at the National Arts Gallery. His caricature “England’s Promises” is considered one of the most beautiful works of Albanian art of that time. In this creation, Murat Toptani exhibits more clearly his own artistic values. This creation carries a subject from the long ago past, by remembering Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The Bust of Skanderbeg is the last creation Murat Toptani left us. He wanted to leave his descendants “the Symbol of Endurance and the Unified Albanians”.
The preserving of the bust is another story to tell. The gratitude for its preservation belongs to Murat’s family and to the sculptural artist Odhise Paskali. At the National Library in Tirana, there is a volume of poetry from Murat Toptani, published in 1924 after his death. The foreword was written by Mithat Frasheri. This was published from the press of the time, as a reflection of the events in which he participated and was a protagonist. Mithat Frasheri writes that Murat inherited his patriotism from his father, where as the sunshine he got from Naim. Murat Toptani had a heart attack while he was horse riding. It was February 1918 when he fell to the ground, never to rise again.
The portrait of Murat Toptani called “Studio” by painter Vilson Haliti is a synthesis of the artwork of this dedicated patriot who became the great honor of the Toptani family.
In the city of Lushnja, there is this museum house of patriot “Kasem Fuga”. It was in this house that the “Albanian Patriotisma” declared that the Albanian Nation is Lord over its land. Delegates came from all over the country to this convention and took a decision for the “Albania of Albanians” in order to defy the doubts and compromises made at the Peace Conference in Paris. Beside Aqif Pashe Elbasani, Luigj Bumci, Mihal Turtulli there was also Abdi Toptani with a clear mission to define that the fate of our country was in the hands of the Albanian people. Abdi Toptani had with him 400 fighters of the Tirana region, who along with other forces assigned themselves to protect the Congress activities. Abdi Toptani was selected a member of the High Commission at the Lushnja Congress. In 11 February 1920, the members selected at the Lushnja Congress came to Tirana to govern the entire country. But, while Abdi was undertaking such a heavy burden at these delicate moments, Esat Pasha was in Paris proclaiming himself a member of the Albanian Peace Conference. In 13 June 1920, gun shots shook Paris. Esat Pasha had been killed by an Albanian youth, Avni Rustemi. It was an end forewarned. The government of Tirana sequestered all Esat Pasha’s property in Tirana, amongst them this building which has continuously served the various governmental functions. These are the interior venues of the house where his daughter Nafije Toptani lived. At the front is her portrait with classic colors of that time. She was a very accomplished woman.
Esat Pasha had only three daughters.
Esat Pasha’s shadow weighed heavy for many years, especially for the members of this great family during the years of communism, while the great patriotic works of the Toptanis were forgotten.
This was the house of Adbi Toptani, a two-story building which to this day is in good condition. Restoration work completed in the last years has saved the characteristics of this Tirana house and the atmosphere of that time. The ambiance of the house tells of the wealth of many Toptani generations, especially of their high cultural level. Almost all Toptanis studied in Turkey, Austria, Germany and Italy. In the past, this building used to serve as the Consulate of the United States of America. Later on it became a library, serving as the location of the Cultural Monuments Institute. Abdi and his two brothers Masar and Hamit were raised in this house. All three had a clear national vision. After year 1920, Abdi participated in the March movement against King Zog. This caused him his death penalty by the King, but he was saved thanks to the intervention of other intellectuals of that time.
He is in this photo at an old age with his two sons Ihsan and Xhahid. He died in 1942 completely retired from his political life. The press of that time writes with respect about Abdi Toptani.
Here we are at the house of Gajda Mema (Toptani), granddaughter of Abdi Toptani. There is a portrait of Abdi at the house entrance. Further down there is a picture of him with his family in Vienna. At another corner of the house there is a photo of the well-known bibliographer Shpetim Mema (Gajda’s husband), who no longer lives today. Gajda preserves the most beautiful memories for her life companion, who married a Toptani daughter without taking into consideration the consequences.
Gajda is Xhahid’s daughter, who was interned by the communist regime without any motive, except for the fact that he was Ihsan Toptani’s brother, who worked for the BBC radio. Xhahid had studied agriculture in Milano.
Gajda - “My father did not know if Ihsan was alive or not, until he received a notice that he had died. In the meantime, my father was trying to find out if Ihsan had any children. The two brothers loved each other very much, this I know. The four children got along very well, but these two even more. How were they different from each other? My father had a soft nature, open, happy and humorous. He had to overcome great difficulties in his life, but he kept his sense of humor. He suffered greatly, which he did not deserve, because he had done absolutely nothing.”
Interviewer - What was your impression of Ihsan?
Gajda - “His memory. He knew very much about the history of Albania, he would translate and was much appreciated. He lived in an apartment in London and had many friends of all ages who would visit him with great pleasure, because he conversed pleasantly and was an exceptional intellectual with high standards.”
Over there are several books written by British researchers mainly during World War II. These books write about Ihsan Toptani and his endeavors for creating the antifascist resistance to an only front, as well as his valuable assistance to the British military missions in Albania. Some of these writers are David Smiley, Juliano Amy, Bio Melkin and others. They appreciate him as an important war figure who was deeply engaged in National matters. Ihsan was born in Tirana in 1908. His father was leading the military forces in those days, so he was not home. In 1916 Ihsan went to Vienna. He studied there for 23 years, until 1929. He obtained a degree in political science and returned to his country, then occupied by the fascists. He became part of the group of intellectuals who deeply cared about Albania’s fate. He had good connections with some of the most well-known national figures, namely Mithat Frasheri, Abaz Kupi, Mustafa Gjinishi, Ymer Dishnica and Myslym Peza. His connections extended to Kosovo with Kryezinjte. His house was always open to friends from far away, including Juliano Amy, David Smiley, and Cornel Nichols, who insisted in the joining of forces of resistance to conquer the invader. Towards the end of August 1943, endeavors were taken at Ihsan’s house in Valias. There were two days of intensive debates between delegates of the various political forces. As mentioned by Ihsan, conversations evolved in the midst of a highly tense atmosphere, keeping in mind the national matter and the creation of a committee for the salvation of Albania. The second meeting was to be held at the Toptanis again, but circumstances had dislocated them to Mukje. Ihsan acted as a neutral observer and with friends on both sides, tried to convince them to make an agreement. The dissolving of this agreement was a sad outcome that forced many intellectuals to emigrate, dejected as they met an unknown future.
They understood their hopes were lost for a free and democratic Albania. Ihsan worked for the American News Week magazine and later on at BBC radio. He was engaged in the “Committee for a Free Albania”. He returned to Albania in 1994 after 50 years. He was interviewed by the Albanian Television (TVSH). He said that at last he had decided to come meet with his friends. I introduced Abaz Kupi and Mithat Frasheri and the British officer and Mithat Frasheri. Mustafa Gjinishi would also consult, although he knew that I was part of the Nationalist group with clear ideals for the country.
Ihsan Toptani inherited the highest virtues of the Toptanis, the love for our country and as a protagonist in national matters. These virtues were part of his life. He died in 2001 at the age of 93. The press honored the name of Ihsan Toptani. His family carried out his last wish, which was to scatter his ashes on Mount Dajti, and so it was done.
Kucova today saves little of the times when another Toptani, Sherif, son of Murat and Asije, who lived in this city. His little apartment on the second floor is still there. His daughter Isabella comes here to meet the past at her parents’ house, her roots and the sky. There is always love and gratitude for good people, their childhood, old friends of a time that saves its own warmth.
Sherif Toptani came in this city in the 30‘s of the last century. During that time when first oil wells were drilled, it made Kucova one of the earliest oil sources in our country.
It is historically known that geological researches were completed by Polaku Stanisllav Zuber. Petroleum was extracted under the directions of Eng. Riza Alizoti, and the oil refinery was under the direction of Eng. Sherif Toptani. They were of the very few oil specialists in our country. The rest were descendents who followed their footsteps. Even today, the same laboratory and the same equipment that Eng. Toptani worked with for 32 consecutive years are still there. He continued to work during his retirement, until he passed away in 1965. The employees of that time who he had collaborated in scientific work with are no longer there either. Eng. Toptani created several useful oil byproducts, while 8000 litres of crude oil a day were being sent to Vlora. The scientific books of Eng. Sherif Toptani are still in this laboratory. These books were kept in sign of respect to their friend and teacher.
This is Sherif, son of Murat (shows a photo). Sherif studied for 20 consecutive years and Vienna, Austria and in Munich, Germany. He obtained his degree in 1933 for “Technology in Industrial Chemistry”. He saw himself in Albania and without hesitation he placed himself in Kucova as part of many Albanian intellectuals who came to build and develop the country. He worked in the times of Italians and Germans, but he kept his Albanian origins intact. In those years, he met and married an Italian girl named Italina. She was passing through Albania to go meet her fiancé, but he was killed at the war front and she never saw him. She met Sherif during this trip. At the end of World War II, Sherif was at the front endeavors to rebuild the refinery.
Gjergji Foto, Prof. Dr. of mining sciences tells us his own memories. “From Electric Central and all the way to the Distillery I would see a man in Kucova dressed in characteristic attire, short pants which were rare for Kucova, medium build, always smiling, he used to wear a light jacket, boots, hat and eye glasses, and held a pipe in his mouth. It was around 1951-52. He was a really interesting person and very astute. He was very capable at running his projects. He knew really well all oil refinery equipment. The oil refineries in Kucova and Cerrik are his works. Many stations are his extraordinary contribution, which resulted in oil Plants and Factories. He also contributed to the professional petroleum technical schools, including secondary, high school and the University where he would teach and was one of the most honorable of men. He kept at all times in good order pencils, pens and paper in his shirt pocket. He worked and made sketches all the time. He was an extraordinary person. It is my opinion that in addition to the technical culture, he disseminated civilization and culture in Kucova, which in those days was being choked by newcomers from city outskirts and villages.
In June 1957 a newly opened oil well exploded in Marinez. The flames were high and powerful. It was an unseen eruption that risked spreading far and wide. The situation called for self sacrifice and wisdom to extinguish it. No one could stay indifferent. I do not remember seeing documented in these films the brave act of Eng. Sherif Toptani, but his colleagues wrote in detail of his actions.
Sherif Toptani approached the well throat, at a moment when the pressure and chance of explosion was unknown. He threw himself to the earth and crawled slowly to the wellhead. No one remembers how long this frightening moment lasted, while they all followed his every move from afar. Finally, he got to the throat and using a tool on his hand he made a few measurements. In these moments when it seemed as if this couldn’t go any further, he disappeared in front of everyone’s eyes. The pressure had cast him away many meters. He was taken to the hospital, but before reaching there, he had completed the calculations and determined the size of the equipment to be placed on the well throat in order to stop the explosion. The talented engineer had been very accurate. This act gave Eng. Toptani the dimensions of a rare and talented human being, an outstanding member of the Toptani family.”
In October 2001, the Municipal Council of Kucova declared Eng. Sherif Toptani a “Citizen of Honor”, and later named a street with his name that connects two Kucova neighborhoods, starting from the Boulevard of Commerce to the New Houses neighborhood. As the citizens of Kucova say, he had to remain there as the eternal symbol of a worthy being.
In the archives of the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, amongst a generation of artists, the works of another Toptani descendent are documented. He was the first scenograph at this important cultural institution. From 1953 to 1967 when he retired, Shadan Toptani implemented the scenographs of 14 operas and ballets, including Care in Vain, Romeo and Juliet, Don Pasquale, Cavalleria Rusticana, Paliacio, the Pearls Fishermen and others. Several costume sketches showed his careful work to reveal schemes of stage works in the creation of artistic figures, as well as his maturity as a talented artist.
A coworker remembers - “I was lucky to be working together in a room with him as a creator and scenograph at the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, which at that time was located at the Arts’ Institute, where we are today. Shadan Toptani was an architect scenograph. He used aquarelles and tempera colors exceptionally well. He created our theatrical standards, because he was dedicated and diligent. We are all well aware that the slightest technical error can ruin the show. He was a person who valued his work. He enriched the theatre with many technical elements that were missing, because he had lived abroad as an intellectual and during his years in Vienna he had built a work ethic that the Toptanis have as a family and tradition. Shadan’s work ethic stood out in the entire system of Theatre technology and preparation. Shadan Toptani was the son of painter Murat Toptani. Initially he studied at a college in Vienna, then later at the Academy of Beaux Arts for architecture and scenography in Brena, Milan. He was an excellent student. As the rest of the Toptanis he returned to Albania in 1935. He was longing to meet people, see historical places and cultural sites. He undertook a long journey to travel across Albania. The photographs he left have documentary values, but a part of them did not withstand the storms of time. At the end of World War II, he started working for the Albanian Post office as a painter and creator of stamps. This remained to be another one of his passions during his life. He left us a collection of 15 stamp editions and 31 drawings created during his life.”
It was not rare for him to participate in exhibits outside of the country, where he was honored with various awards.
But the great name and old history of the Toptanis has often weighed heavy on the descendants of this family. In 1947 he was arrested as an intellectual of aristocratic origin and was confined for 18 months in jail. Shadan Toptani survived because of his courage, honesty, dedication, and his indisputable professional abilities. He was married to Maliqe Vrioni, the granddaughter of Mithat Frasheri. She had studied at the Qiriazi school at Kamza Hill. She was a quiet and simple wife, who dedicated herself to her family and two daughters Asika (who carried the name of her great grandmother Asije) and Najada. The girls were not allowed by the communist regime to attend university studies.
Najada - “I was born when my father was 50 years old. He always found time to spend with me when I was little. We would go out for walks, he would put me to sleep telling me fairy tales. At that time, there were several untranslated fairy tales created by the Grim brothers. My father spoke German, so he would translate directly. Often we used to go for hikes on Mount Dajti. Even though at that time he was 60 years old, he was in very good shape, strong like an athlete, perhaps as a result of our walks and hikes. My father passed away when I was 23 years old and my mother when I was 25 years old. How I wish I could have been with them for very much longer.”
At Asika’s house, Shadan’s eldest daughter, several of his aquarrells have been preserved. These are art works he created with his great desire to open an exhibit.
Often he would say “my work is precious because it is done with all my dedication to have a good result”. His aquarells are known for their detail, which gives great value to his work.
Very few people know that the Basoreliev at “Qemal Stafa” Stadium was created by Shadan and his younger brother Enver Toptani. These are two works of the simple classic style, but quite expressive. The decorations at the Kinostudioja Shqiperia e Re (the New Albania Cinematography), as the building was called back then, were also the works of the Toptani brothers. Decorations on other museum buildings show their efforts and creativity.
Toptani had properties in Kamza. The land was worked by another brother of Shadan and Sherif, named Sulejman Toptani. What he learned at the Harry Fultz school, he applied at this farm with new techniques and by using agricultural machinery from abroad. Sulejman or Lika for short, established trade with companies outside the country and as a result increased his live stock production. He continued his studies in Italy at a military school where he obtained the Captain’s rank. He participated at the Mukja conference as it has been mentioned in the memories of the British Cornels who were in our country before World War II. Along with Ihsan he provided shelter for British Cornel Nichols who was severely wounded in the War, but even with all their efforts they couldn’t save him.
All the Toptani brothers returned to Albania after finishing their studies as they intended to create a future in their own country. Even though they always had work contracts abroad, they preferred to live in their own country. The new ideas they learned from studying in developed countries and applying projects in Albania were to be used to further develop the country, thus honoring their ancestors.
In downtown Tirana, two main streets bear the names of “Said Sermedin Toptani” dhe “Murat Toptani”. This was done in memory of these two historical figures, even though small in gesture to the great and famous Toptani family, now sadly reduced in fame and prestige. They came from Kruja to Tirana involved in great historical events, often being protagonists in keeping the Albanian spirit.
This Albanian Television program is a credit to the news journalist Petro Lati who with great efforts prepared this material diligently and accurately by providing detailed facts and illustrations. His eloquence made this program even more interesting.
Translated by Miro Sino from DVD made available by TVSH
Edited by Charles Juhn