July 1990 - The temples of hope

In July of the 1990, hundreds of young people headed towards the embassies as if they were the light that would guide them to the West, driven by the hope of a better life.

The temples of hope

At that time, foreign embassies in Tirana could not be opened to the public as they were in all other parts of the world: this was due to the isolation of Albania and the impossibility for citizens to obtain foreign visas. Around the months of April-May 1990 the government begins to grant the right to obtain a passport to go abroad to work: all this has involved long queues at embassy counters. To avoid the risk of assaults on embassy offices, the Foreign Ministry asked the diplomatic corps to organize pritje populli. However, this was not enough to avoid the 2 July 1990, the invasion of embassies by citizens seeking political asylum.

In any case, the regime change was heralded by the case of the Popa brothers, anti-communists persecuted by the regime: the 12 December of 1985, six members of the Popa family (four sisters and two brothers) entered the Italian embassy in Tirana pretending to be Italian tourists . The Popa brothers had been brutally persecuted for ideological and religious reasons and as children of a pharmacist, who having studied in Naples was accused of collaborationism during the fascist invasion (13). They were then confined to the Kulle campaign of Sukth and forced to live in underground tunnels without natural light. The gesture made by the Popa brothers shook to the foundations, considered to be "indestructible" until then, the totalitarian system and gave birth to the idea in the conscience of the Albanians that perhaps all was not lost.

In the wake of the Popa case, further attempts by individual citizens had occurred even before 2 in July, but there were isolated incidents. In the meantime there were many people, who also came from other cities, who spent the night in the parks and gardens of the capital, observing the behavior of the embassies towards those few who had taken refuge there. Apart from the Chinese and Cuban embassies, the others had generously welcomed the "invaders", but it was feared, however, that they could then be handed over to the Albanian authorities. It was a widespread belief that embassies would be attacked in days. After the entry, the 22 June, of a group of young people who with a truck opened the gate of the Italian Embassy, ​​the Ministry of the Interior and the Directorate of Police of Tirana began to take the necessary measures to prevent one, now more than probable, flight of striking dimensions.

The 2 July 1990 will be remembered as the date on which men, women and children broke the long silence against the communist regime heading towards the embassies to enter the "temples of hope". The entrance into the embassies began in the evening and was a fierce clash between the people who tried the way of "salvation" and the police who had been ordered to stop them (14). It can be affirmed that the liberation of the country passed through this "flight" towards the embassies: about three thousand people took refuge in the German embassy; another five thousand in Italian, French, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian and Slovak ones

The leaders of the Socialist Party, deeply shaken by the events of 2 in July, created an emergency task force to control the situation. Many important officials of the State, among which the Minister of the Interior and the Director General of the State Police were removed from their post; however the measures taken failed to remedy the situation. In the days that followed, various cases occurred when people climbed over walls and gates into embassies. Initially these events were not stopped by the police with the intention of avoiding a bloody clash with the people, but after a while the situation became unsustainable for the embassies themselves who asked the government to prevent attempts to shelter at their locations.

Meanwhile, for those already on the embassy premises, the UN was activated in an attempt to mediate with the Albanian government to grant visas to leave the state. The presence in the Albanian government of some loyal successors of Hoxha, including the Minister of the Interior who held the police apparatus, Simon Stefani, prevented however a postive turnaround in the negotiations conducted by the UN. The 7 July of the 1990 Prime Minister Alia replaces Stefani thus paving the way for a concrete solution to the situation created in the embassies (16). In an attempt to enter with honor in the international scene Alia allows the 9 July the landing in Tirana of the Jet Tupolev 154, normally used by the Czechoslovak president Valclov Havel, who had the task of bringing to Prague 51 Albanian citizens hosted by the Czechoslovakian embassy (17 ). This event and the intervention of several European diplomatic chancelleries have meant that 4.803 refugees, of which 2.000 refugees in the French embassy, ​​2.000 in the German embassy and 803 in the Italian one, left the country the 13 July of the 1990, starting from the port of Durres and landing in Brindisi and then later transferred to the other states that had offered to host them

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