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It was summer in 1977, I was an 18 year old teenager who lived with my parents and my 4 siblings. At this time, Albania was in full control of Enver Hoxha. We were a very poor family, barely providing enough food for all of us to have a proper meal. Finally time came for me to leave to the army. It was mandatory for men starting off at the ages of 18 to conduct military service. I was already physically well built, due to the hard work I would previously complete back in my father's farm. I was fairly against going to the army, yet barely anything was a matter of choice during those days.
“Goodbye mother,” I said in a mournful way. “Goodbye father.”
I entered a tiny looking military car, where I saw 3 young boys like me, just a lot bigger. You see, I am a very tiny guy, 165 centimeters. I went to sat down, and ended up squashed in between the gigantic, monstrous men. As we arrived there, I viewed a big building, assuring me that we would have somewhere nice to be sheltered.
“Is that where we are going to sleep?” I asked feeling a sense relief.
“No,” denied the guy who was driving the car, as he carried a blank facial expression.
A few minutes later after passing through a field filled of grass, I was astonished to the sight of a garage-looking room, that I didn’t quite identify properly. I walked in, and I ended up looking at a dirty, massive sleeping area with over 50 soldiers.
“I can’t believe I’m going to sleep here,” I thought to myself.
We were 150 new recruits, and in the big cabin there were about 50 soldiers. In total, were about 200 soldiers who were going to sleep in this gigantic site filled with bunk beds. The 50 soldiers that were already here, looked at us like fresh meat. All I could think about was what if they will do something to us and if they will hurt me? Soon enough they started to annoy us, make fun of us, and play games with us. I didn't have enough courage to go against them, as I was very weak compared to everyone else. One of the senior soldiers favorite games was getting 10 men and jumping on one of the recruits.
One day the organizer of these games tells his men they are gonna play with me, and I was terrified. Some of my friends a few days ago were sent to the hospital because of the damage caused by the senior soldiers. After approaching me and hitting me, they dropped me down on the ground, and start getting on top of me. I couldn't breathe and the corners around my eyes are turning black. I felt like I was about to explode, like an egg being dropped on the ground. With my last will to live, I toppled down the big tower that was made on my back.
Breathing heavily, I stood up and grabbed my rifle. I took the pommel of the rifle and hit the oldest senior in the chest. He dropped on the floor as if he was dead, creating a silence never heard before in our room. All the senior soldiers stopped and stared at me, and after a while they all stopped bothering all the new recruits. Even though I was the shortest out of the army, I managed to calm down the persecution of the new recruits and made us a lot more equal to them.
Looking back now, it was a massive accomplishment. In my second year in the army, I had become a commander. I gave orders to soldiers and kept the peace in the army. Without that act of courage at that specific moment, I don't think I would have become the person I am today.