Since then she has returned to Albania three more times. The lens of her camera exposes the ghosts of the past; the light of truth opposes the darkness of the former regime. Her darkroom chemicals reveal images that tell of the criminal erosion of a nation. The images Martha captures illumine the past — of a bloody Albania full of victims, where thousands of people were tormented and exterminated. Though nestled in the bosom of Europe, self-imposed isolation turned the small nation of Albania into a place almost totally forgotten by outsiders, a Cambodia in slow motion, left wriggling cruelly under the talons of a half century of dictatorship.

Nothing is more horrible than realizing that this expression applies to the community of one’s homeland.

Although one may feel pity for them, the vanquished have honor. Among them are those who opposed their fate, and thus can hardly be called victims. Even in death they remain heroes. In the profound darkness of the former regime, during moments of the most inhumane torture, they succeeded in defeating the dictatorship itself, turning into giants with heroic souls.

Without a doubt, my father, Constantino “Dino” Martiko, was one of these heroes, whose ethics and spiritual intransigence endured until death. In the face of persecution and disillusionment, he maintained his crystalline character and continued to lead an honest and moral life, with no blots on his conscience.

This small book is an attempt to come to terms, in a very personal way, with a particularly difficult period in the long history of Albania. It is hoped that this chronicle will shed light on the life of one of the most stoic and uncompromised of men under the communist dictatorship. The writer and photographer hope as well that the contents will apply in a more universal way to all situations where we do harm to each other in the name of politics and religion.

“Vae victis!” Poor losers! Brennus, a leader of the Gauls, before he sacked Rome.