Published on : 23 May 2017

“The House with Leaves”, the Museum of collective memory in order not to forget the past

Speech of Prime Minister Edi Rama at the opening of the National Spy Museum, “The House with Leaves”:

 

In my view, this is a very important moment of the culmination of a great deal of work carried out to give life to this Museum, in a location which history had determined to be a place where young mothers should give birth to their children, and then it transformed it into a place where fear was generated every day and was propagated from the walls of the leaves house.

There are many sayings about the relationship of the past with the future. I choose one of them, which reads: “Lucky they who know what they should remember of the past, what they should enjoy of the present moment, and what they should plan for the future.”

And, as I was preparing for the speech I was going to deliver here today, I thought of a fundamental lesson we have learned in these 20-something years of confrontation with our past on the one hand, and with the challenge of the European integration on the other hand. This lesson has taught us that, ultimately, the difference between us and those in the European Union, does consist neither in the climate, nor in geography and in the history of people, but it does very clearly consist in the institutions, in the history of the institutions, in the statehood tradition, regardless of the people, regardless of the generations giving way to each other. This is the Gordian knot which we will cut in order to join those over there, and in this endeavour it is imperative that we conform our relation to the past, in view of the future.

We have been very often witnesses to the way people react in front of these endeavours, starting with Bunk’art 1 and then with Bunk’art 2, which are the links of a chain to which this Museum is being added today. And this Museum, if we consider the whole process, the involvement of people who gave life to it, and the museology as the foundation of the work done, it is undoubtedly the most precious gem of the crown.

This house conceals a very important treasure of our collective memory, a treasure that allows us to discover other fragments of this mosaic that is still to be fully discovered, with events, with characters, with links between the state, the people, periods, up to here today, covered by the dust of oblivion.

And for many, unfortunately, these spaces are like the return of darkness, while for me, shedding light unto this darkness means generating the hope that is related to the filling in the blanks of our collective memory and everybody's memory.

I mentioned in the beginning that this Museum was supposed to be a maternity clinic, and then it was transformed into a building which, for us who lived here, although in a period that was less dark than the period when Daut Gumeni started to attend the party’s school, was a very mysterious and a very imposing presence, with an insurmountable and hidden yard behind all those leafy curtains.

What I’ve learned from Bunk'art 1 and 2 experiences, is the relation of the physical memory with the memory as an opportunity to tell you the youngsters, or to foreign visitors who have not been part of that history, a story which we, who lived it in person, believe increasingly less with the passing of time. Therefore, I think that the great deformation of all these years, the lack of vision, the lack of courage, the lack of will to look at this part of history today with the eyes of truth, and to understand that the eyes of truth on this part of history are very important for the democratic institutions and for the state we want to make, cannot be fought with counter-propaganda. But they can be fought very effectively with physical meetings between the people and the collective memory.

It is a great asset that is restored today in view of this process, thus giving everyone the opportunity to have a fixed meeting with the past, and to face it without intermediaries, without translators who translate in view of their agendas, primarily political ones, but also personal ones. Because Daut said – I can see Maks Velo over there, I’m sure there are also others who have gone through the labyrinths of this darkness – that since the public has been denied the opportunity to face an unfiltered memory, many of their companions have hidden their truth in these labyrinths, just as many of their torturers are hidden in these labyrinths and have joined the tortured.  

It is very important that the drama you lived is never forgotten, either by the Albanians or by Europe. 

"Memory is an inevitable step to building the future, by not repeating the mistakes of the past," Pope John Paul II said during his visit to Albania.

And almost 25 years since the historic visit of the first Holy Father to Albania, today we see and live the great deficit we still have in our short relation, and in the relation of the youngest with the collective memory of this very important part of the past.

If our attempt to make statehood is a sincere effort, it is unlikely to succeed in the future without allowing the youngest to have a physical meeting with memory at different stations, at different points. Daut brought here the example of the Communist Crimes Museum in Shkodra. It is the monument of the deformation of the relationship with the past, and it is the museum of the manipulation of this relationship, which does not allow those who have not gone through the labyrinths of this history to understand it.

Just like museologists and museum builders under dictatorship used to select what people should be offered, even by interfering with pencils in order to delete faces or make people disappear from the pictures, that Museum is a similar copy, but of a different time, which ultimately shows that in all these years we haven’t had the readiness, besides the vision and the attention to the future, to properly face this part of our history, which is still to this day our main obstacle in an attempt to make statehood, to build democratic institutions, in an attempt to implement a justice reform that brings a new and functional justice, and in attempt to create a sound relationship between the state and citizens.    

Of course, I do not want anyone to think that this House and this modest Museum in terms of its size will solve this great problem, but it is a major contribution to the attempt to solve this issue in our relationship with the past.

This is the Museum where, regardless of the status of the Prime Minister, a voice must be given to those for whom it is very important that its doors opened today, for I can act as Prime Minister outside this yard, while in this yard it is Daut who decides on my agenda and on the length of my speech. So, Daut, ultimately, this is why life is so beautiful. You have been imprisoned, I don’t know for how many years, because you made fun of the picture of a party’s secretary, but here you are alive, while the other one is in the next world, and you have the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister, “Enough, don’t string it out”.

It is an insufficient consolation for all the horrors you’ve gone through, and I’m sure that if you were asked if you would go through them again in order to be here and tell the Prime Minister not to string it out, you’d probably say: “No, thanks!” However, I’m very happy to give you the honour to make me shut up.  

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