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2 July 2020: Inauguration of the monument to commemorate the escape of Albanian refugees to foreign embassies in July 1990
Staatsminister für Diaspora, Pandeli Majko, Bürgermeister von Tirana, Erion Veliaj und Botschafter Peter Zingraf, © Deutsche Botschaft Tirana
Tirana, July 1990: Escape to the German Embassy
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Mayor, Dear Minister of State, Dear colleagues of Embassy Street, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The events of July 1990 have engraved themselves deeply in the collective memory of the Albanians as one of the starting points of the fall of the Alia government, the beginning of the end of one of the most oppressing regimes in modern European history.
Nearly 5000 refugees in Tirana embassies, more than 3000 of them on the premises of the then brand new Western German Embassy. When we have our National Day reception on 3rd of Oct with 500 invitees, we have the feeling that the premises are crowded. Now imagine more than 3000 …
We Germans had experienced something similar a year earlier, 1989, when thousands of people from the GDR fled to the West German embassies in Warsaw, Budapest and Prague in order to obtain the right to leave the GDR.
The reasons for the Albanian people to flee were certainly com-plex, the risk was high, the decision was difficult. I believe that the hope for a freer and better life was crucial. The television pictures of the GDR embassy refugees from 1989 may have had repercussions a year later.
Following UN facilitation, the refugees in the German Embassy were eventually brought by bus and ship and train to Germany where most of them started a new life. Those 3000 have become a very important bridge between Albania and Germany.
30 years have passed, Albania has developed enormously since then and is on its way to join the European Union. Then as now, it was about freedom, democracy and economic development for all. Dealing with the past can be difficult but I firmly believe that it is healthy and enables a society to take better decisions for the present and future. I encourage all Albanians to openly discuss the time before 1991 and to further strengthen and support the state institutions and the civil society institutions that are active in this field.
Art is definitely a good way to remind us of the past. I congratu-late the artist Agim Rada for catching many crucial moments of breakthrough in local and European history so well in his sculp-ture.
The German Embassy is celebrating this anniversary in a digital way. In four videos we will let refugees and witnesses tell their stories, an online exhibition will show original photos and video recordings from July 1990. You are all invited to visit the Internet and Facebook pages of the Embassy over the next few days!
Thank you very much.