On Tuesday, the Ambassador of the United States, Mr. Donald Lu took the time to visit Spaç Prison. Accompanying the ambassador were several members of his staff, as well as Jonathan Eaton and Nedi Petri from CHwB Albania and Gjetë Gjoni, local resident and participant in the ‘Dialogues for Spaç‘ project.
Following the visit, Ambassador Lu shared his very deep and personal reflections about the visit on the US Embassy Facebook page. With permission from the Embassy, we would like to share them here. Ambassador Lu writes:
My colleagues and I visited Spaç today and were struck by the irony of the story of human brutality at this prison juxtaposed against the beauty of the rugged mountain landscape of this area.
A visit to the prison at Spaç is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom and against tyranny, and all too often died in that pursuit. We were fortunate to have three experts tell us the stories of those who lived and died here — Gjet Gjoni, our local guide, and Nedi Petri and Jonathan Eaton of the NGO Cultural Heritage without Borders.
Yesterday, I had the honor of meeting Fabian Kati, who was a political prisoner at Spaç in the mid-1980’s. Mr. Kati has devoted his life to making sure we do not forget the tragedy at Spaç. He, together with other former prisoners at Spaç, is working to establish a museum in the former communist prison so that these important stories will be shared with future generations. He has also produced documentary films and written books about those who perished and survived this brutal ordeal.
My own great-grandmother died in a communist prison in China. She was arrested while helping other families escape from China during the Maoist Revolution in 1947. Today, I remember my great-grandmother, thousands of Albanians, and countless others from around the world who fought for the freedoms that today we all enjoy.
On our Embassy grounds there is a magnolia tree, planted by our community. Beneath this tree, there’s a plaque, engraved with a quote by Maya Angelou that reads, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
I encourage young Albanians to visit Spaç and to hear the stories of those brave Albanians who survived and perished in this place. Soon it will be your responsibility to retell these stories to your children.
Ambassador Lu’s trip to Spaç is the second such visit in less than a year, since former US Ambassador Alexander Arvizu visited Spaç in December 2014. For us at CHwB Albania, these two visits are an important recognition of the importance of preserving Spaç Prison as a site of memory—one that memorializes the sufferings and triumphs of those imprisoned there and passes their stories on to future generations. His thoughtful remarks also encourage us to take responsibility for the legacies of this history and to recognize the underlying issues of human rights that connect Spaç with other such sites around the world.