On December 17, US Ambassador Alexander Arvizu and his wife visited Spaç, accompanied by several colleagues, as well as local resident Gjet Gjoni and CHwB‘s Mirian Bllaci. He posted his impressions on the Embassy Facebook page.
With permission from the Embassy, we have decided to post them here, as a way to start the New Year. Ambassador Arvizu writes:
As I prepare to leave Albania, I think about how living here has deepened my understanding of history. Until now, my professional focus has been Asia, including the wide historic effects of communist expansion and aggression – on the Korean Peninsula and in Southeast Asia, in particular. The darkness that descended over Albania during its communist dictatorship was related, but different – it was brutal, for sure, but more concentrated and inward-focused than in most other countries. Certain places in Albania retain its mark, and none more clearly than Spaç.
I decided late last week that I wanted to go. So, on very short notice, my Embassy colleagues put together a trip, even as they asked, “Why are we going?” “Because it’s important that we go,” I said. Not for the reasons we typically travel outside of Tirana: the opening of a USAID project, a visit with Peace Corps volunteers, meetings with local commune officials to talk about territorial reform, etc. “We just have to go.” So off we went.
I’m glad Anne came, too. It takes just a little over two hours to get to Spaç from Tirana. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but the experience left me feeling numb and remorseful, even slightly stunned. We didn’t say much to each other while we were on site; we didn’t need to. It’s good that we went, and I won’t ever forget the day.
Here are some photos from our visit that I wanted to share with you. Special thanks to Mirian Bllaci from Cultural Heritage without Borders, and to Mr. Gjet Gjoni for guiding us through history, and for receiving us into his home after our memorable journey.
– Alex Arvizu
These heartfelt reflections underline the reason for the “Dialogues for Spaç” project. Spaç, as a site of witness, represents the suffering and struggles that the entire country faced under the Communist regime. And this makes it an important place to share this story with future generations.
The third and final workshop in the “Dialogues for Spaç” series was held recently in Gjirokastra. The goal for this workshop was to set out an action plan for the site. Check back soon for updates on how that process went.