At the barroom
rendezvous with the former secret policeman in Tirana, Lubonja searched for a
closure that has eluded other prisoners of communism. He did not find it. Kote
parried his queries with questions of his own. Lubonja was struck by how little
"I was terrified
that he had power over me, and not the other way around," he says. "He knew
what had happened, and I didn't."
Lubonja left the
meeting frustrated. A gruff man with a beard and a hard-bitten manner, he still
sounds astonished as he recalls the meeting with Kote. The former secret
policeman revealed that he too had been sent to work in a factory after falling
out of favour with the communists.
"He tried to
convince me that we were the same, both victims of our time," he says.
The view that all
Albanians suffered alike under communism upsets those who lost more than
others. The state's policy toward the past, however, seems tacitly to endorse
this view -- even if it does not articulate it.
prisoners have been promised compensation -- but are, in effect, treated little
differently compared to other citizens. The secret police's archive, which
would reveal who spied upon whom under communism, also remains sealed.
disclosures elsewhere -- as with the files kept by East Germany's reviled
secret police, the Stasi -- are said to have helped traumatized societies
address their past. In Albania, however, the past is being swept under the
originally contained the records of suspected enemies of the state. Much of the
information in them had been provided by their close friends, relatives and
colleagues. Of the hundreds of thousands of files amassed over 45 years of
dictatorship, officials estimate that only about 14,000 remain intact. Some
have been lost. Others were deliberately destroyed by former communists.
"A good portion of
the files was destroyed in the early 1990s," says Kastriot Dervishi, who became
director of the archives at the interior ministry in 2005.
Through much of
the last decade, it seems the archives were allowed to deteriorate. Klosi, the
former secret police chief, says that he took office in 1998 to discover that
the majority of files had been left to decay in sacks.
"We found open
files, with whole pages torn out and scattered across the floor," he says.
both sides, however, defend their management of the archive. Mesila Doda, an MP
for the ruling Democrats, insists her party is committed to releasing the
"Although 20 years
have gone by, it is essential for Albania to face the past," she says. "The
files should be opened."
Doda accuses the
Socialists -- currently in opposition -- of torpedoing her party's lustration initiative,
launched back in 1995.
however, accuse their rivals of making empty promises to the victims of