Friday, July 3, 2020

Monument Commemorates Escape of Albanian Refugees to Foreign Embassies in 1990

July 3, 2020.

A monument to commemorate the escape of thousands Albanians to foreign embassies 30 years ago was inaugurated today in Tirana.

On July 2, 1990,  nearly 5000 Albanians entered embassy buildings in Tirana in an attempt to escape the devastating conditions under the communist regime. More than 3,000 of them chose the Western German Embassy.

The event was one of the first mass protests against the regime, followed by the December 1990 Student Protest that toppled the dictatorship.

The monument by Arben Rada depicts the broken wall of the embassy after it was purposely hit by a truck to open the way for the refugees.

Speaking to those attending the event, Rada brought memories of the time from the perspective of a witness. He called the event of that day “an absurd dance, a death dance with ruined people, hungry, physically ugly, dirty, unwashed, people staffed in a can by a monster.”

The artist recalled how he used to make the now Prime Minister Edi Rama smile by telling him to “take a walk abroad”, at the Tirana street where most embassies were located. “I used to consider this street as “abroad” when we walked here and talked about the regime that was driving us mad.

Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj quoted an alleged “ironic saying” by Dostoyevki to explain how Albanians felt under the dictatorship: “Am I worthy of all this suffering?”.

He went on to say that suffering under the communist regime has dignified Albanians: “the suffering made us worthier for greater aspirations, worthier for dignity and nobleness. We are very proud of all successful Albanians who have integrated into” societies of host countries.

Minister for Diaspora Pandeli Majko said the escape was the most serious quake for one of the most tightly controlled regimes of the communist East Europe.

The monument was funded by the European Union and Germany’s GIZ development agency.
“The events of July 1990 have engraved themselves deeply in the collective memory of the Albanians as one of the starting points of the fall of the Alia government, the beginning of the end of one of the most oppressive regimes in modern European history,” German Ambassador Peter Zingraf said.

He recalled how the refugees in the German Embassy were eventually brought by bus and ship and train to Germany where most of them started a new life.

“30 years have passed, Albania has developed enormously since then and is on its way to join the European Union. Then as now, it was about freedom, democracy and economic development for all. 

Dealing with the past can be difficult but I firmly believe that it is healthy and enables a society to make better decisions for the present and future. I encourage all Albanians to openly discuss the time before 1991 and to further strengthen and support the state institutions and the civil society institutions that are active in this field,” the ambassador concluded.