8 days of activities about confronting our past
Memory Days 2017
Tirana, 16 November 2017 — The majority of people in Albania feel that at least some aspects of life were better under the Communist regime. This conclusion was drawn from the results of an OSCE survey published in Albania last year (2016). On that account, with "Memory as a Mission", the Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture (IDMC) in collaboration with Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) launched on Thursday the 2nd edition of Memory Days. The event will take place from 16 until 23 November 2017.
This new edition started with the presentation of the "Propaganda During the Dictatorship" exhibition at the Dictatorship Exhibition Pavilion in Tirana's National Historical Museum. The exhibition will remain open for the entire week.
An opening speech was held by the executive director of IDMC, Dr. Jonila Godole, and KAS director, Walter Glos. Mrs Godole considered the process of facing one's past a never-ending marathon. She made mention of the fact that this is the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution that consumed millions of victims and is commemorated worldwide for the resulting crimes that were committed.
Mrs Godole shared some of the positive developments on remembrance that haven taken place since the 1st edition of Memory Days. "An Authority for Information on Former State Security Documents has been established, a new museum has opened, works are under way to restore the former prison of Spac as a site of memory, more testimonies are being published, and above all else, the young people are actually involved in this," she noted. In addition, over 200 high school students have applied in this year's "Ask Your Grandparents 2" competition to deal with the past in Albania.
In his address, Mr. Glos underlined the difficult but persistent effort of every society to come to terms with its past. He said that Germany, too, has encountered numerous hurdles since its first tried to distance itself from its past 27 years ago. "Discussing and exploring the past helps restore some dignity to the victims, it shapes the democratic consciousness, and raises the right questions over those who did wrong, and why they did it. In German society, people are still asking that former persecutors apologize for their actions," said Mr. Glos, confident that Albania will succeed in this process.
OSCE ambassador to Albania, Bernd Borchardt, looked back on the results of the survey in 2016 to stress the need for public discussion about the past: "It is important that the various views about the past are respected as long as they do not advocate the crimes committed. Societies should try to understand the rights and the wrongs of the past."
A supporter of the project, Susanne Schutz, the ambassador of Germany to Albania, said she was greatly impressed with a recent activity organized by the Albanian Parliament to remember the persecution of local lawmakers during the country's first legislature since the end of the war, including the opening of several museums that bring the past to life. "We want to share our experience and help Albania. I want to thank KAS and IDMC for their work, and look forward to other discussions on the subject," said Mrs. Schutz.
Hildigund Neubert, an expert and former Commissioner for STASI files in Germany, said that "memory is an antidote to traumas that were caused, deliberately, by the Communist regime's secret services and imprinted on the consciousness of the society". She compared the confrontation with the past to a running race with different stages. "It will take a long time because ideological indoctrination is heavily ingrained into memories. When things go well, that is the time we must hand over the baton to the others. We at KAS help one-other in this historical marathon because only by doing so we can secure a piece of the common European perspective".
The event was saluted by Prof. Dr. Sami Repishti, a dissident intellectual who lives in the United States of America. Persecuted throughout Communism, Prof. Dr. Repishti said: "We must fight the loss of memory today because we know that silence will not prevent the horrors of the past from repeating. In the first phase, we let slide hate and vengeance. Still, there is hope for a second phase: the reconciliation with our past." Through a letter that was read by his granddaughter Ardita Repishti, the 93-year-old historian noted that while not convinced that "reconciliation" would bring out the best traits in Albanians, he continued to remember his past and to resist hate and vengeance.
"Memory Days" is organized in cooperation with: OSCE Presence in Albania, the Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth; the Association of Albanian History Teachers; the Authority for Information on Former State Security Documents; the National Historical Museum; the General Directorate of Archives; and "Musine Kokalari" Institute.