Toptanasit qė deshėn aq shumė Shqipėrinė
An interesting article about a wellknwon member of Albanian diaspora in the UK, taken from Albanian UK,
by "Besim Gerguri" <besim at gerguri.freeserve.co.uk>
01 June 2001
Toptani, journalist and political activist: born Tirana 25 August 1908;
died London 28 May 2001.
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
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
and Greeks against the fledgling state.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Vukmanovic (General Tempo), after this key meeting to destroy the
agreement and betray the Kosovars into Yugoslav servitude.
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).
was evacuated to Italy after the Communist victory, and began working
with the Americans, obtaining a staff job as a journalist on
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.
the collapse of this operation, Toptani returned to Britain, and found
work in the BBC Monitoring Service at Caversham. In 1958 he became a
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.
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.
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.
fillimi i faqes ^