Spaç Prison: What’s been happening this year?

Inside the 'command building' at Spaç Prison, May 2015.

Inside the ‘command building’ at Spaç Prison, May 2015.

Since the public consultation wrapped up the ‘Dialogues for Spaç’ project in early 2015, the site has seen some interesting developments, some positive, others threatening.

Gjetë Gjoni, who lives near the former prison camp and works as the site’s unofficial caretaker, has voluntarily undertaken some needed cleaning of the site. His philosophy is to preserve as much as possible of the original fabric of the site, while cleaning some of vegetation that has been suffocating it.

The Spaç Prison Museum Society has organized a one-day conference about Spaç, opened a small office in Tirana and is taking steps to preserve some of the oral histories that are quickly disappearing.

Three outspoken former prisoners at Spaç, Fatos Lubonja, Fabian Kati and Gëzim Peshkëpia have composed a strong public statement, sharing their intentions to work openly and collaboratively to establish a museum at Spaç.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), often known for elections monitoring, recently took an interest in the site, including Spaç prison as an important component of their national dialogue project on the communist past. A cultural program called Kobra on Swedish national television even filmed a segment on Spaç prison just this month.

In a stirring article for Berfois, Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, who is a philologist and director of project bureau for the arts and humanities at The Department of Eagles, wrote about his recent visit to Spaç, where he discovered a mining company setting up operations adjacent to the prison complex. Vincent writes:

Beyond the remaining buildings, on a mountain slope where we could distinguish several of the entrances to the mines, we discerned white demarcations around a plot of land, and newly constructed infrastructure and buildings. Amidst the remains of watch towers, fences, the foundations of a bridge across a small stream linking the main buildings with the mining galleries: a light blue building, with a few people working around it. It was clear that a company was setting up a project to reopen and exploit the mines.

I took me some time to absorb the emotional shock I felt, which quickly turned to rage. To reopen mine galleries dug by the hands political prisoners, working in inhumane conditions; to build barracks on sites where prison buildings used to stand; to dump rubble and debris in a place where a commemorative plaque reads: “In this valley are buried without tears and without flowers hundreds of prisoners consumed by suffering and pain” – all of that is a monstrous crime. Just imagine someone opening a pig farm in Auschwitz.

The rest of his excellent piece can be found here:
http://www.berfrois.com/2015/10/vincent-w-j-van-gerven-oei-visits-spac/

 

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