Four Great Days of the Students

By Ben Blushi and Blendi Fevziu

Rilindja Demokratike

January 5, 1991 (first edition of the newspaper)

Should youth, especially students, and could youth undertake such endeavors? Does their position and status justify this? The results are the best answer.

Considering the past 46-years, you could never find a solidarity act to justify that.

Those days somebody with official authority blamed the students, calling them law-breakers and pampered people who complain only about a two-hour blackout. As they were official authorities, they declared that they could expel all the students from the university.

Do youth and students have any other fault, besides that of knowing how to age?

Saturday – December 8

It’s several nights that the power is off. As an irony, the lights in Tirana completed the contrast. Since October 25, 1971, when the electrification of the Socialist Popular Republic of Albania was completed, millions of power cuts in the country can be counted. But none of these millions of cases was accompanied by a protest and the indignation like that of December 8. Those cases were tolerated and they will be tolerated in the future. So, everybody understands that this served only as an excuse. The way that the excuse was chosen at the right place and time shows maturity. Everybody understands that if it had not been the power cuts, another excuse would have been found – maybe the lack of food or a car accident. If it were not December 8, it would have been December 25 or perhaps January 1. Everybody finally understands that the day to destroy the walls that unjustly separate us from Europe was coming.

Sunday – December 9

In a legend of the ancient Greeks, the night was presented as a pregnant woman delivering the day. I don’t know why the dawn, while the previous night filled with tension was giving space to the determination of the students, reminded me of that legend. In the square and streets of Students City, where everything common was forgotten, thousands of people shout different slogans, which were for a long time had been uttered in whispers.

It seems that violence, instead of suppressing determination, did the contrary, exactly what we wanted, killing the fear.

About 10 o’clock thousands of students march towards the university headquarters. Armed police forces block the streets and most of the protestors (about 3,000 students) are stopped at the art school. Protestors at the front lines touch the shields of the police. Shouts: “We are peaceful; we don’t want violence; remove the police.”

10 o’clock. The group of students keep protesting. The Secretary of the Socialist Youth Union of Albania comes for dialogue. He guarantees that the violence of the previous night will not be repeated. We sing the hymn of the flag. Shouts – “Freedom, democracy;” “We, as all Europe” – can be heard everywhere.

11 o’clock. Concern grows. The situation is strange. The possible danger is neglected by sincere smiles. Maybe they will give the order to shoot, somebody says. He smiles. The others smile too. Can death be so easily perceived? Maybe yes, maybe no.

12 o’clock. Our determination remains the same. We are demanding something legal. The words Democracy and Pluralism are felt everywhere, just as we feel the indignation for the words “hooligans” that radio and television can call us in the evening.

12:30. “Police forces” dressed in civilian clothes unexpectedly begin to disperse the crowd. The only way out is the field in front of the Italian Embassy. What happens can be described as: boys running and helping girls to run, brave people stooping to pick up the wounded, books dropping to the ground, roars of pains, armed civilians pursuing and attacking us.

There were the houses of Tirana people, which were opened to let us in and protect us from the rubber batons. The houses were full. We cannot forget the trembling hands and faint voice of a boy from Kolonja, who lost temporarily his sight. “Do not tell my father,” he said. In all those families there were fathers and mothers. An hour later when we left the host house, we looked at the field once again. It was empty, but the torn pages of books and lectures lay on the ground. In order to come here the democracy was obliged to walk on our books.

During all these days, the people of the city spoke so much about us. We were tired and wounded. The reality used the rubbe batons against us, so as to force us to believe that dreams are only dreams.

Monday – December 10

After a day full of curses, threatens and violence (December 9), it seemed to many people that apocalypse day for the country was approaching. The photos taken the other night during the terror of rubber batons and violence were developed in the dark laboratories of their minds. One party was expecting the method of violence to give an end to the epidemic, while the other party was expecting this method to become petrol for the fire of the epidemic.

The morning of December 10 was a strike morning. It had all the elements: the objective, the interests, the demands, the leaders, and the strike-breakers. The strike also constituted a moral test. It divided the students into two camps. Naivety, fear, morality and political beliefs, personal or familial political commitment made some of the students walk down Elbasan Street and stay in the house or dormitory. While the leaders of the movement headed by Azem Hajdari, a student of philosophy (third year), presented the 11 demands from the first pluralist tribune of post-liberation.

They did not rest, but they had thoughts; they had not slept, but they had dreamed; they had not forgotten the violence, but they wanted to replace it with dialogue for the sake of the thousands of people who supported them.

In the meantime, the orators (it was very easy to be an orator that day) held speeches on the stage one after the other.

Some professors approached the microphone. It was time to differentiate among them. However, the orators kept speaking until it began to rain. Wet but fresh pluralism. Awaiting the response from the president, the tables at the main Students City cafeteria was changed into a tribune. President Alia accepted the dialogue.

Tuesday – December 11

The pilgrimage of Tirana citizens continued in the streets of Students’ City. The bus of the representatives drove slowly among the crowd surrounding it. It seemed that it would break down from the students’ shouts of joy and greetings. Freud said: the enthusiasm of the moment is the golden key to raise the simple man onto the pedestals. It seems that everyone has a moment like that inside them. I saw indifferent students shouting like children; I saw strict professors wiping tears from their eyes; well-known writers and scientists following the bus; young people kneeling in front of it. Ovations started there and stopped at the Palace of the Brigades, where the President was waiting.

“This is the best day of my life,” a worker waid. While we thought that, it was the first day, which opened the way for many other happy days.

Some hours later, when the representatives were back, we felt that at least de jure we had won pluralism, the absence of which only some weeks ago had kept us out of civilized Europe.

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About Fred Abrahams

Author of Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy (NYU Press, 2015)

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