The Honorable Hellmut Hoffmann/
22 June 2015/
Ambassador, Federal Republic of Germany/
Rruga Skenderbeu, Nr. 8/
1000 – Tirana, Albania/
Dear Mr. Ambassador:/
My name is Sami Repishti. I am a U.S. citizen of Albanian extraction.
I was born in Shkoder (Albania) in 1925, and educated there. As a student I opposed the Fascist and Nazi regimes. In 1943, my father, age 61, fell victim of the fascist terror. In 1944, my 17 year old cousin, was executed by the Nazis at the Mauthausen Nazi Camp .
In 1945, I opposed the forceful installment of a communist government in Albania, was arrested, cruelly tortured, and sentenced to 15 years in jail and forced labor. Released in 1956, despised and harassed, I escaped to then Yugoslavia, kept one year incommunicado, and sent to a refugee camp. In 1961, I entered Italy, and in 1962, emigrated to the United States as a political refugee. Since then, I have been living here with my family.
During my years in this country, I earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. French at the universities of Paris and the City University of New York , a diploma which enabled me to teach foreign languages in high schools and as adj. professor of French at the Adelphi University(N.Y.). Before, and after my retirement ,1991, I worked for the cause of human rights, with a stress on Albania, as well as Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Presheva Valley and Çhameria, areas with large Albanian populations.
Today, I am taking the liberty of writing to you encouraged by your latest activities on behalf of the Albanian victims of the Communist terror, especially the constructive joint initiative of the Embassy of the F.R. of Germany and the OSCE Office, Tirana, to initiate a public dialogue on the communist past in Albania. This initiative intends to get a clearer panorama of the level of knowledge that the different strata of the local population possess regarding the Communist past. It is hoped that the results will offer opportunities for new and more comprehensive initiatives on this subject, it was reported in the Albanian press in America.
The OSCE Office, Tirana, the party responsible for “the project” will ask-and find- the assistance of various sections of the Albanian civil society: in schools, especially in schools, and in the community at large, where serious discussions regarding the history of the flagrant violations of the most elementary human rights by the Communist regime of the dictator Enver Hoxha and his “camarilla”, will take place. It is hoped that by the end of the calendar year this activity will culminate into a wide and profound dialogue. For this search for truth and struggle for a reconciliation I am deeply grateful to several German foundations, in particular to the “Conrad Adenauer Stiftung”, for their valuable contributions.
I agree that for a success, the initiative must be primarily an Albanian one, intensely felt by Albanians ready, willing, and able to get engaged. I salute the conclusion of the Honorable Florian Raunig, representative of the OSCE Office, Tirana, that there was a lack of good will among the political party elites in the past, as I support his insistence that this time “they must do more”. He is starting the “project” convinced of the imperative necessity of an all-inclusive Albanian dialogue on the goals and the expectations of the entire Albanian society, as well as “…on the various initiatives proposed until now for the treatment of this difficult history”.
On June 2, in a seminar organized and held at the German Embassy in Tirana, the highly respected, and experienced, Mr. Roland Jahn, informed the attendees that the process of the opening of the Communist files must be “an open and a multidimensional initiative”. He added that ” the treatment of the past is not simply the review of the files; at their heart they are essentially human beings, victims brutally affected – and we must assure the victims that they will see a positive impact from the process. Otherwise, what’s the value of the disclosed documents? …We should make them available to the victims, so that they will know their past better, a past that in many cases is terrible, unimaginable”. Simply stated, the process is not individual but institutional, and it’s not for flimsy reasons, but for existential reasons. (In Germany) “…that was an enormous challenge for the application of the laws on files… Transparency is a multi-dimensional (audio and) visual activity, scientific approach, filming of witnesses, and full size movies…” so that people will learn the utmost about the injustices perpetrated by the instruments of the dictatorship . This elucidation of the past will serve us now and in the future, as well.
The results achieved will also assist us in weeding out the Administration and public services (Lustration!) of the people with a criminal past, increase public confidence in the Government –central and local- “…and prevent the re-entering into public services of the former secret police agents”. Evidently, this should be a major objective of the initiative. “The more we understand the dictatorship, the more we build the foundation of our democracy”. As it happened in Germany “…the opening of the STASI files made it possible the change of the political and social elites”. I fully agree with Mr. Jahn that”…in Albania there are specific problems related to the treatment of the Communist dictatorship; yet, the way of solving (them) should be direct conversations, open dialogue among the parties since the wide opening of the Communist past can be achieved only by collaborating with each other, and not by opposing each other”.
It is very heartening to me, a victim of the Albanian Communist terror, to learn about the “exposition” organized by your Embassy in Tirana, on June 12, 2015, at The National History Museum. You spoke about German victims of “ethnic cleansing”, (mostly by definition innocent victims. Albanians know the deleterious effect from their recent experience in Kosova) mostly in Poland and in the former Czechoslovakia, in 1945. Fortunately, they had a “motherland” Germany – and especially West Germany- they could call “Heimat”. In 1918, this safety net was missing. Germany as a whole was unable to rise from the ruins of WWI. As a result, many Germans, especially youth without perspectives for the future, turned into “adventurers”, seeking satisfaction in places where action was strong and violent. They were “Heimatloss”!
That was the position of over a million Albanians after the fall of Communism in 1990-91, and as a result of Communism; there was no shoulder to cry on for help! They left, ran, escaped often times at the risk of their lives, by land, sea and air, to find a life in liberty, and avoid the threatening poverty in a land devastated economically and disfigured socially; fear, depression, hunger and humiliation, was the heritage Communism left behind in Albania. You spoke about an “…Albania, a country that for almost half a century suffered under a dictatorship, Stalinist and unscrupulous, experiencing all tragedies and all forms of human sufferings that she was able to bear….My hope is, you said, that ‘the project’ will encourage a debate in this country, the road one should take for the treatment of the long decades of tyranny and its heritage left behind…”. You advised people of good intentions, “…to understand well the tragedies of past century, the conditions which created them. And learn the lesson that a constructive commitment, and peaceful co-operation could bear fruit even when the obstacles are great; and, only then something has been achieved.
Your visit to the internment camp of Tepelena, and to the new Museum of the Persecuted in my native town of Shkoder have particularly touched me, and for intimate reasons. My mother (54), sister (14) and brother (11) have passed several years in Tepelena in the most primitive conditions. As for the Museum in Shkoder, it was built by my colleagues, right on the spot where torture cells and inhuman interrogatory practices took place during the decades of the Communist regime. The monstrous “Sigurimi i Shtetit”, an illegal and immoral institution, dwelled there, ignominious, brutal, ignorant to bring someone to tears, and merciless…! I spent many long months there as a prisoner of conscience in the hands of robots without a human conscience. Even today, 64 years later, I tremble when my thoughts uncontrollably go to those days, at those places. By visiting those “unholy places” where innocence was massacred because it did not accept the forceful dehumanization or the crime as normal in a civilized society, we honor the memory of he victims.. It was barbarity confronting honesty, dignity, the yearning for freedom! You said “the torturers would win, if our memory for the victim would fade!” I would like to add that forgetting the victim is tantamount to his second execution. To allow it, is to deny the essence of our humanity. It’s a surrender to nothingness!
Your thoughtful conclusion: “Strengthen your solidarity among yourselves. Do not allow divisions. Common problems must be presented jointly and in the spirit of solidarity”.
That’s not the road the Albanian “political elites” adopted after 1991!
Since that date, one after another, both major political forces have consciously worked to divide the victims of the Communist dictatorship,- the moral capital of our nation –by threats, bribes, favors and other forms of deception. It’s a secret known by all, and of course by us , “the victims”. It’s utterly disgusting!
Bringing the victims to join forces for the condemnation of the past, mobilizing them to prepare the ground for a more effective role in the political and social life of the country today, and a better future for themselves and their children, will be a major obstacle to overcome. Its size is commensurate only with the nobility of the task!
Your “project” shows one way, a promising way, to get out of the present vicious cycle. I endorse it! And, I offer my deep gratitude to you, to your devoted colleagues, and to all those in Albania, and abroad, who volunteer their assistance to make this “project” a reality.
With all my best wishes,
Sami Repishti, Ph.D.
former political prisoner
P.S. An Albanian version of this Letter will be published in our local press and in Albania. SR