They rescued her from Nazism, Jews daughter returns to Shkodra after 74 years

Agostin and Sonia

At the beginning of the summer of 1943, Shalom Adishe decided to leave Prishtina occupied by the Nazis and headed to Albania. Together with his wife, Nina and the 2-year-old daughter Sonia crossed the border as clandestines and one midnight of June landed on the 'Dogajt e reja' Street in Shkodra, at Agostin Çiftja café.

Çiftja, a long-standing man in outfit was closing down the bar when saw the arrivals in the street and asked them in Albanian: Where are you from?

Shalom Adishe (Adiže) did not know how to answer. Çiftja spoke again in Italian.

After a moment of hesitation, Shalom replied: "We are not Italians, we are Jews and we seek refuge to save our lifes!

Seventy-four years after this dramatic meeting, Sonia Adishe traveled with her children and grandchildren from Israel to Albania to meet Çiftja Family that saved them.

The two families met accidentally during a lunch at "Mrizi i Zanave" Restaurant in Lezha. Next to Sonia is sitting John Çiftja - the 84-year-old son of Agostin who has worked as a math professor at the University of Shkodra. He came to this meeting with family members, his sister Xhovana and her wife.
Unlike Sonja, whose memories have been told by his father, John Çiftja recalls the time when Adishe's family fled to their home.

"This is my shelter. You will sleep in my bedroom, while me, my wife and my children will rest in the other part of the house," he recalled his father saying to Shalom and Nina.

Their house consisted of two rooms and a kitchen. Outside the walls, the warm wind of June conveyed the echoes of the church bells and the sound coming out of the mosque minarets.

"This is Shkodra. You will stay here as you please and share everything together for good and for worse," Agostini said, while John at the time only 11 years old claimed to be a witness of this moment.

Sonja Adishe says she has great respect for Albania and that the meeting with Xhovana, John's sister seemed to her as she have met her mother.

"I was afraid of death so I came," says the elderly from Israel.

"Now I know I'm going to live, because I met my people," she adds as bursts into tears.

The names of the Çiftja relatives are found among many other Albanian families in Yad Vashem, known by Israel as "Right Among the Nations" for their contribution to the salvation of Jewish families during World War II.

At Mrizi i Zanave the families see pictures and recall that June evening that made them friends. After the capitulation of Italy, the German command was placed at the same alley near the house of Agostin Çiftja in Shkodra.

Meeting of two families in Gjon Çiftja's home in Shkodra.
 The meeting of two families in Gjon Çiftja's home in Shkodra.

"In front of the house of Agostin and Josephine, there was a 20-meter-long building with 12 rooms," recalled the family.

The danger was near and Shalom had to leave again.

"Only four Albanian families lived in the alley. The Germans ordered the doors of the gates to remain open. This was very worrying and dangerous. From moment to moment, Germans could go home and find friends there," recalls John Çiftja.

The decision they took was not easy. Two adults had to leave in rural areas, while Sonja would remain in Shkodra's home.

By the end of the war, man and woman stayed in Thumana. Agostini sent to them food and clothing, while the girl grew up with his children as part of the family. When half of Albania was liberated, Shalom Adishe and Nina decided to leave Albania.

In the forged Albanian passport, the name of Shalom was alienated in Shaban, Nina retained the name he had and also Sonja. The little girl, raised in Shkodra, was sent to her parents in Thumana and from there, they traveled to the border with Macedonia to go in Israel.

Before they parted, Augustine and Shalom exchanged a few words - as his son John recalls. "Take this tobacco box," said at the time of the separation Agostin to Shalom.

"I do not smoke, you know," answered Shalomi.

"Take it and keep it as a reminder, but open it to see what you have inside", returned Augustine.

Within the box were the jewels that Adishe family left at the house of Çiftja family. Was all they had but they thought to give the jewels to Agostin for the help, but Agostin turned them back.

Almost 73 years later, Sonja returned to the place where she was at that time to show the story of her family to her three sons, Charli Shalom, Jacob and Uri.

To get to this meeting, there have been many casual circumstances and surprises. Sonja shows that she was reconnected with the family of Shkodra around the 1990s. Her mother Nina had met in Israel in an activity dedicated to the rescue of Jews the Albanian Refik Veseli, among the first to be honored for the salvation of the Jews during World War II.

"After he showed his story at that meeting, the mother said that she has a similar story related to a fammily in Shkodra. Confessed the story. He wrote a letter and handed it to him, giving the address of the house where he had been sheltered. Especially the 'Dugajt e reja' alley, recalls Sonja.

Upon arrival in Albania, Refik Veseli met John. The correspondence started between him and Nina.

"There are 40 letters that my mother and brother have written to each other," she says.

Gjon Çiftja tells that when Refiku brought the letter of Nina was very emotional.

"I wrote to her quickly and quickly after ten days," he says.

In 1992, the Çiftja family was honored in Israel for the salvation of Adishe family.

"I'm proud of this, but I'm more proud to meet my sister. It's exciting. I can not describe it," says John to BIRN.

The correspondence between him and Nina continued further, while the coincidences tied the two families even harder./Oculus News

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