27 years ago, old and young gathered in Scanderbeg Square in Tirana centre to protest against the communist regime, by fighting with the police forces and finally tumbling the bust of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha.
I can remember that day as if it was yesterday. My house is right in the centre of Tirana; I could have watched the riots from my balcony, to feel safer….but I was there, in the square together with my family…to support the most courageous people that were in front of the police fence. And they were all simple citizens of Tirana, no one from the ranks of the coming pluralist politicians.
I have no words to explain that day’s feelings. It was a mixture of pain and hatred, for what many Albanians had experienced during the communist dictatorship; courage and hope for what was happening in the country on the verge of political pluralism; a little bit of an adventure, as well, for young people like me.
You could feel optimism in the air. For sure something better would follow – this was what everyone expected that day. “Down with communism!”, Police are with us!”, was what people mostly cheered. The police were using sticks and throwing water at the crowd, but fortunately they did not use guns. At one special moment, the police fence was broken and people reached the bust and tried by any means to tumble it. Then they tied the bust behind a vehicle and drove it along the main boulevard to the Students City, the place where the anti-communist riots had started.
It was a significant act. The symbol of communism was now down…a figurative overthrowing of the dictatorship that paved the way to the establishment of pluralism and democracy in Albania. The expectations were high for everyone.
Today, 27 years after, I realize that it was all a beautiful dream… never accomplished accordingly. It is a decent thing to dream, hope dies the last…..but it is taking too long and Albanians do not deserve this. I look back on these almost three decades and see how little has been done, compared to all the efforts of ordinary Albanians that appreciate freedom.
What did Albanian pluralism bring to the country? If we start with the 1990s, despite great difficulties facing the country at that time, it caused only disappointment. The collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997, that provoked a “civil war”, which brought about the country’s total destruction and three thousand victims, caused many people to leave.
Later Albanian governments, shifting from right to left, were incapable of having a vision for the country’s future. They still demonstrate the same attitude. Theft, corruption, incompetence, alliance with crime, ignorance, selfishness, law breaking, describe them best.
Democracy is not anarchy. No government tried to show Albanians, who had been isolated for 50 years, that Western democracy was based on law, human rights, respect for the other. Albanians expected from the West the blank white cheque…the cheque that never arrived. The governments made them believe they had nothing to worry…just wait for the money to come. Who needs factories, plants, farms…better destroy everything that had to do with the past. Albanians were wrongly taught; they know this well now.
I hope it is not too late to improve within ourselves first…then try to change the country.
A lot of difficulties face the country on the verge of EU negotiations, a lot of reforms. People continue to be skeptical. There are many who evoke the socialist period – and no one can blame them for that. At least, at that time, they had a job, a house, bread to feed their children…. Of course, they do not want to bring back the worst from that period…class war, political isolations and detentions…far from that. But, it is painful to see your long dreams shattered. This makes most Albanians nostalgic and pessimistic.
We have talked all the time about the fight against corruption, especially in the judicial system. We ourselves have bred corruption in many cases. The system should be overthrown from the roots…that is why Albanians are welcoming the vetting process, hoping the country will be reborn. Finally something seems to move ahead…that little hope in the air that I myself have right now, like many others, but still afraid to pronounce loudly, on this 27th anniversary that seems quieter than before, regarding celebrations.
Better or worse? We will see…