Could you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Jonila Godole and I work at the Institute for Democracy, Media and Culture in Tirana. The institute is about helping Albania come to terms with its past. We train teachers to pass on historical knowledge about this period, and we also work with young people.
Where do you see problems in Albania’s efforts to face up to its past?
Albania only began facing up to its past a relatively short time ago. For 20 years, people thought that this just involved giving material or financial compensation to those who had suffered political persecution. The curricula for schools have changed very little. The persecutions, executions and detention camps don’t appear in the history books. When I ask pupils what they know about the dictatorship, they don’t have an answer. People know that Enver Hoxha was a dictator, but they still find him likable because there’s a lack of background knowledge. And you still see Hoxha everywhere today. Newspapers that print photos of him sell well, so he’s omnipresent. People who are nostalgic buy these newspapers. There’s no decommunization law here. Communist symbols aren’t banned, and you won’t even be punished for denying the dictatorship. To this day, people still take to the streets with portraits of Hoxha.
What’s your personal relationship to the Hoxha era?
As a child, I knew nothing about it. Only later did I find out what my family had gone through during the dictatorship. Of course I realised that many things weren’t right, but how is a child supposed to learn about it if no one speaks to her? My relatives were scattered all over Albania and I only saw them occasionally. It was difficult to find anything out. When I was 12, I began asking questions. By the time I was 15 – when communism was falling – I really wanted answers. I was surprised that young people, some of whom were educated and got consistently good marks, hadn’t seen through the system. It was a personal cause.
Photo: © Roman Wagner