During the communist regime my aunt Bardha Marka Gjoni was brought to the castle as a prisoner and held there for six months. This period was one of the darkest of her life and every time she tried to remember it all she could do was shake her head and close her eyes. She wouldn’t speak much about it only to say that she passed a terrible time inside, and after having visited it I can only imaging what she went through. The prisoners lived in squalid conditions through the winter, no heat, no water to speak of, barely any food, no coats or winter clothes, all huddled together to keep warm. No sanitary facilities. Imagine, just imagine.

When I saw this post on Facebook today, glamorizing the castle my first thought was that these young people who visit Albania are never really told the truth behind some of these monuments. All they know is the glamor of being a Pasha in the 18th century and living the high life in a ‘castle’. That was probably true, but they should be made aware that in more recent times these castles ie. Porto Palermo and Gjirokastra served as prisons for the anti-communist population between 1944-1990. These prisoners lived horrendous lives in these structures, some for many years, like my uncle Ded Gjon Marku in the Gjirokastra castle, and when one visits these places there should be boards not only glorifying the days of the ‘Turkish harems’ but also recounting the more recent events which occurred there under communism.

Personally, it is very offensive to see these tourists go to these places and be totally ignorant of all the history and events that took place there and only be told of the happier days of old, all in the name of tourism!

Yes, it is a stunning spot. Yes, it is well worth visiting. Albanian is a beautiful country and should be on everyone’s list of places to visit, not only the south, but the north as well, with its stunning mountains, rivers and lakes. But everyone should be well educated on the places they are visiting.

The government must ensure that ALL the history of its castles are provided to tourists, not just pick and choose the eras they feel are more appealing.

Fifty years of communism, fifty years of isolation, fifty years of atrocities cannot be just swept under the rug with some promotional videos and pictures of foreigners admiring the view.

Below is my comment to the post on PM Edi Rama’s page.

Bianca M. Gjomarkaj


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