Published on : 22 November 2014

"Bunk'Art", a treasure of the collective memory

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at the opening to the public of “Bunk’Art”:

I prepared a speech, but I have no words to describe the extraordinary feeling I had when I entered this underground palace, where the communist regime sought to survive by resisting an atomic attack.

Some time ago, when we visited Berlin, we had the opportunity to go to the Museum of Checkpoint Charlie, the famous German museum, which is nothing but an ordinary building, that once used to separate West Berlin from East Berlin, a few meters away the Wall that divided the two worlds of the Cold War and kept isolated, beyond the horizon of freedom and democracy, half of the world.

It is a common building, which welcomes every year millions and millions of people.

It is a building where it is impossible to not touch someone else's body for the exceptional frequency of visitors.

It is the building of an old regime and through its walls, through the objects, through the pictures, through the testimony, the free citizens of the world are given the opportunity to create a perception about what was once the world where hundreds of millions of people used to live and which is very hard to tell to other generations today.

There are here many girls and boys, high school students who didn’t live that time. They cannot imagine, even if you tell them, how little Albania could be a third world isolated from two other worlds, from the West and the East, fighting, in an imaginary way, against the US imperialism and the Soviet socialism-imperialism. And, to put wings to this imagination, it was surrounded everywhere by bunkers and by gigantic images of someone who appeared very rarely, but that controlled everything, Enver Hoxha.

Today, we are witnesses because we have opened the door of a treasure of our collective memory. A treasure in which, without any doubt, can be detected in sequence hundreds of thousands of pieces of a large mosaic of events, characters, contradictions.

Of a mosaic where bloodshed has often been the connecting subject which historians and history cannot clarify us even today, being as we are, trapped by the loaded collective memory left and right, but also by the way historians themselves are loaded left and right by a memory  that often becomes selective.

Well, I believe that any government effort, any political effort, any attempt originating from the best intention to end the discussion on history, not only is destined to fail, but even worse, it is destined to reproduce the vicious circle of an history that cannot be written thoroughly, given the conditions in which we are today.

70 years may be a lot of time, but for this small country that managed to build this anti-atomic palace in the heart of the mountain, to protect ourselves not from the neighbors, but to protect ourselves from the superpowers, it is very difficult for the minds of historians to do a synthesis, which time will probably do, but it will hardly manage to decide in a context unquestioned by anyone.

I believe, however, that the writing of history should be left to historians. Attempts to rewrite history with governmental orders or through an iron political will have been as tragic in the distant past, as funny in the recent past. The attempt to paint ourselves in a context of political choice has resulted as tragic in the past, as funny in the recent past.

We do not belong to this school of living and thinking.

We belong to a new school for Albania, but an old school for the free world and for the family of nations who believe in freedom of thought and freedom of expression, where history is written by scientists and discussed by people of the science of history. It is written neither by the White House nor the American Congress, nor the European Parliament nor the governments of the European Union. In the meantime, we belong to that school, new for Albania, the school of free and democratic countries that don’t hide from the public the mysteries of the past.

Can anybody tell me, how come that this edifice could be preserved as a mystery and hidden from the public as a state secret, not only by those who believed that one day they would gather here to fight against the whole world and to resist the superpowers, but also by those who lied to themselves and lied repeatedly to people with the illusion that together with the old regime they overthrew the mentality of that regime. Saving this mystery and these mysteries, as well as preserving fanatically the mystery of the records of past, records of State Security, that are full of bitter truths, is in fact the continuation of the same school, the old political school of ruling over another, regardless of cost and regardless of a lying propaganda that is poured every day over the others.

We are here to open a new phase of relationship with the past, not to rewrite history, but to expose the past in all forms that we have, first of all as an opportunity to place before the eyes of the young generations, but also to everybody else, its evidence, its recesses, its images, its documents. Obviously, as an opportunity to inspire the creative imagination, because without the slightest doubt, the installations that we saw with the authentic rooms of the old regime chiefs are a meaningful evidence of the possibility that this space creates in order to create new spaces: new spaces for imagining, thinking, and living together through the power of art.

These environments are the legacy of a culture of living that, I assure you, will attract many times many more tourists than that awful Eagle put at the customs roundabout. An image created to be on a flat surface, whether on the flat surface of the flag or on the flat surface of pennies, which becomes an image that is placed in a three-dimensional surface, such as space. Only those who have no eyes to see the space can do this kind of madness. I am sure, also, that this 70th anniversary of the liberation of Albania is not the right time to rush in order to show who the partisans are and who the quislings are among us, the living. None of us was a partisan and none of us was a quisling. And it is up to none of us to act as a partisan or a quisling who the partisans forced to join the other party. This is an ordinary folklore of people without imagination and people living in a non tridimensional space, but in a two-dimensional one, of a policy that today must find a way to explain Albanians, how come that after nearly a quarter of century they can come and see this hall, which is designed to be the parliamentary hall, in terms of an atomic attack. Of course, someone can say on Facebook that they gathered at the parliament where they are forced to gather by the power of popular protests, and who knows what else. But in fact, what is worth saying is that a visit to this anti-atomic building will surely tell the girls and boys of this country more about the dictatorship, about Enver Hoxha, about Mehmet Shehu, about all antihuman and anti-religious hordes produced by the so called liberation of the homeland, than all historians gathered together can tell. Who at best can turn readers of history into partisans and Germans. Whose family is left shall become a partisan, and whose family is right shall become German. Meanwhile this is a big confusion. A folkloric confusion, very much vulgar and very detrimental, that does not allow us to be free and does not give us the opportunity to break free from the past. This is just the beginning, there are other holes, there are other recesses, there are other spaces that are kept for people as state secrets by those who came first and those who came later, and by those who until yesterday had the opportunity to open people's eyes in relation to the tangible past, not the one shown by one or the other. In relation to tangible architecture of this entire world of the communist underground, with these luminaries, with the balconies, these tunnels and much more. It is just the beginning because we have a project to create a historical and tourist itinerary of the communist underground and simultaneously to turn this itinerary, into an itinerary of the creative, aiming on the one hand the liberation and on the other hand the fertility of our collective memory. A collective memory that still to this day worries and is terrified by the firecracker when a photograph of Enver Hoxha appears. Enver Hoxha is out, Enver Hoxha showed up, Enver Hoxha is being rehabilitated, he came! Where did he come?! Where, where, who, how?!

We are the ones who have closed accounts with Enver Hoxha in 1990. We do not have any problem to look at all his points of view and deeds. In the meantime, we are the ones who will carry forward the project of liberation of the collective memory from these nightmares. The second station will be the House of Leaves. None of the girls and boys who are here in the hall, high school students, know what is the House of Leaves, because you were destined to be born at a time when hostility with leaves, trees and greening started. So, like many trees that were cut to build the latrines of capitalism in the parks, the same were cut all the leaves of the building, which is a few meters from the Bank of Albania, and from where the entire country was intercepted, from where everybody was intercepted and the voices of all the suspected by the communist regime were recorded. The opening of the House of Leaves to the public, where the possibility to see on one hand the sheer banality of communist aesthetics, the absolute banality of a regime of evil whose one of the slogans was "Fighting personal comfort". Do you understand what kind of slogan this was?! Fighting personal comfort, hence leave nobody in peace. Enter everybody’s, not home, not bed, but enter everybody’s head. You've seen these disturbed people that are not in peace, these are those who still have in their head communism, that’s why they are not in peace.

Certainly the opening of buildings and the opening to this story, setting peaceful relations between Albanians today and pictures of past and leaving people free to browse history, to be able to touch the famous state secrets, to look closely at the kind of hell a whole people was put by an ideology that promised paradise. To understand, also, how much we are continuously at risk by a unique thought, by fascism, by fundamentalisms of all forms, by extreme nationalism and Islamism, just like racism and xenophobia. For like no other people in Europe, we have been prevented for so many years from having a normal relation with the past. We have been prevented for so many years by an old jacket turned inside out, which has been sold to people for years as if it were a new jacket. But this is incomplete without opening all archives of communism, without taking in the sunlight all the misdeeds hidden in these recesses, in the form of evidence, in the form of voices, in the form of cooperation "to fight personal comfort," not to blame people. Nor to put people against each - other, but to liberate Albania and Albanians from the deceitful weight of politicization of the collective memory; the treacherous weight with which were loaded and overloaded those who knew Communism and who, unfortunately, continued to remain divided, not secretly anymore but openly, as to bring forward a damned project for Albania, the project of division in "us and them” and "ours and theirs, to "with the party and against the party", in" the revolution and counter revolution", "with partisans and with Germans". With the Communist Party and the National Front would historian said, while all along we want to go to Europe. Meanwhile the catharsis that is taught to us by the great example of Germany, but also the example of all those countries that have not shunned, but faced with evil, of all those countries that were not divided in who was more dirty and who came out clean from a savagery that marred the entire Germany and stained all countries, shows that there is only one way through the filters selected by others, just as refusing anyone who tries to put filters in front of the past.

This is a country that inspires much to talk, not just about what it was, but about what it is and cannot be, should not be. We are doing our best so that it won’t become later on, in the form of an obstacle, in the form of a curse, in the form of a bad luck that chases us. It chases us apparently as an accusation towards the past, but which is in fact the extension of the past itself. Of course, we do not have the luxury to deprive ourselves from this tremendous opportunity given to us on this anniversary of liberation, by these secret spaces which must be returned to the public and which should be available not just for the public to look at them, but also to an active public interaction. An active interaction of writers, artists, historians, philosophers, analysts, all those people who in these areas probably will feel the potential to fly very far through the imagination, to escape and to attract others, to escape the prevention that this state secret continued to hold in the form of a hostage-taking, in the form of the so called moral fines through the most hallucinating deformation of history, confounding as they say, the devil with holy water and enabling what should not have happened and what cannot continue to happen to us, the great division between Albanians; a division that has its roots exactly in the underground. In this underground and which comes from here. It comes from these caverns and from these underground gutters. The terrible division that was later embodied in the form of the so-called "class struggle" and which was the division to rule. No matter what names we can give to this ideology of discord, it is discord to rule. “Divide et impera” through the unique thinking. The division that today we see being materialized as an attempt to seem unrelated, but which is a continuation of the same temptation within man, where man is kidnapped by his wildest instincts, between fundamentalist sects and the Muslim world. It's the same thing, a transformation, a metamorphosis that occurs in another form, between nationalist sects and united Europe. It's the same thing, between racists and xenophobes and free people who want to live together in peace. History has shown that the majority that has always been inclined at first to be on its right side not once has been prey and has joined and become representative and the wildest embodiment of that sect.

Thank you for this opportunity and I want to thank a character that stood in the shade today, because he is afraid of being called a collaborationist or partisan, Carlo Bollino, which in fact is neither a partisan nor a German, he is Italian. So Carlo, don’t worry. He has a great merit, and with his abilities, his desire, in a quite voluntarily way helped us in the very beginning to understand the potential of this facility. I feel very badly today face to Carlos, but also face to ministers and all those who worked on this, because despite I had something in mind, I could not imagine that this space was this one. I could not imagine the impact that this space has on the people of present-day, on any of us. Surely, the impact that this space has on anyone among us who lived also that time. This is an open tomb of a bygone era, to remind us that we have not made it to bury in peace the temptation that through the past hijacks the future. This is why we will open all these 'graves' of memory. From those that are in the form of buildings, to those that are in the form of tunnels and to those that are in the form of files, to enable girls and boys of the next generation to understand where their parents and grandparents come from, whence their country. So that they themselves can deduce, not through the imposition of the history written by politicians or politicians who entitle themselves to do the history, but through direct report with the evidence of the past, a more realistic as well as incentive perception for their creative imagination. So that they can be free people and will not allow anyone to fight the personal comfort of thinking. They had another slogan for laziness. When they said personal comfort, they didn’t refer to laziness, but to disregard on the class struggle, to the party, to all these.

I explained to the American Ambassador, why there were in Albania almost no cafes, except for the elite cafes, the "League of Writers" and don’t know what else, no cafes where you could sit. All had tables were you had to stand and it was called self-service. So people could not sit down and deal much with their own comfort, with the party, the problems and would not complain about price increase, lack of food, lack of money to pay for energy, etc., etc .. This was the reason why people had to stand even in the cafes. That Buffet over there is another evidence of what the slogan "fighting personal comfort" meant.

So boys and girls of this country will visit this to understand what great value personal comfort has and to fight in order to be always comfortable, in the sense of free, undisturbed, the unconstrained and not subjugated way, in the manner of thinking and views that they should build themselves as free people, especially in relation to a history that, I assure you, would still need time to be written objectively and still will be subject of discussions with which I as Prime Minister and our government have nothing to do. We do not enter into discussions of this nature. For us, it is important to let go of the past and understand what the 70th anniversary of liberation is. Not just as history and as a historic date, when Albanians were found on the right side of history, but also as the time when Albanians deviated and went the other way, to be found, finally, with a nomenclature that was predicted to come in here and from here, and from Shish-Tufina declare war to the world and to triumph over the whole world.

Thank you!

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