House of Leaves – a travel to horror of communism

The House of Leaves museum is located in the Tirana city’s center in front of the Resurrection Cathedral and has already triggered curiosity among Albanians and travelers.  The façade intrigues you about the mystery you will find inside. The house is left as it once was , unpainted, with red bricks and all covered from trees and leaves. The name House of leaves is a symbolic, comprising the unknown and unfolds part of Albanian society during Enver Hoxha regime.

The two-story villa has 27 sectors or showrooms, where you can see facts and documents of political trials, propaganda, and the fight against internal and foreign enemies. You will hear voices from the past and some records of people’s surveillance. No one was immune from prosecutions at that time. Private life was completely unprotected, everyone, even your neighbor could spy you. There were documents containing this kind of information about ordinary people’s lives. A word, a song, or a casual meeting could be considered hostile activity. In one room, you can read the names of 14 359 people imprisoned, tortured, and died during the dictatorship regime. As you enter every room, you feel fear and terror everywhere. The doors, the electronic devices, microphones, bugs, and models from the Soviet Union, China, or Germany, are all showing the sophisticated tools the regime used to control people’s lives. Names, documents, photos from trials, and the hierarchy of the Security State regime follow you in every corner of this house.

A special room is a laboratory, a darkroom for developing films, and where keys to doors and safety deposit boxes were duplicated to facilitate the illegal search and confiscation of documents believed to have been written using invisible ink.

Another room shows collaborators’ files, the facts and documents of agents who collaborated with the Sigurimi (Albanian Intelligence Service ), their roles and tasks, the types of files they developed, and their spying activities in different cities of Albania.

In other rooms, you can see and hear movies of that time, showing exactly how the Sigurimi functioned. Propaganda quotes of Enver Hoxha are written on the walls. Probably the best place is an open space, a garden in the back of the house, which was turned into a scene with a podium and chairs, somehow a place to feel free and breathe as if you finally leave prison. This place served as an air raid shelter and alternative exit. Movies from communism time are projected on the walls everywhere.

The original house was built in 1931 with the primary function of a medical clinic. During World War II, under German occupation, it was used by the Gestapo. Immediately after the end of the war, it was regained by the Albanian government and utilized as a security office for investigations. As of 1950, it became the central office of the then-intelligence service used for investigations.

This house is really like a scary movie, but it is a true story. It is a reminder of what Albanian people suffered during 50 years of dictatorship. It is the first step to open the folders of that time because Albania is the last former communist country that has yet unveiled this period of history.

It is unbelievable for the young generation and foreigners, who are very interested in this dark part of Albanian history. The House of Leaves is part of dark tourism, which has been attracting many and many tourists lately.

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