Monument to Communists murdered by Italian Fascists – Tepelene
Apart from what it commemorates, that is the torture and murder of four communists from the from the area by the Italian Fascists in 1943, the lapidar – just below the castle walls on the main road between Gjirokaster and then heading north towards Tirana – isn’t exceptional and doesn’t have any real architectural value, but it encompasses a number of aspects which make it slightly unique.
The first is its very location. It sits quite high up above the river and looking south you can see where the the two rivers meet. The Drino comes from Gjirokaster and the Vjosë comes from Pëmet and as the now much larger river passes beneath Tepelene (and the lapidar) it is now takes the name Vjosë and continues north west until it joins the Adriatic close to the town of Fier.
So the view from its location is quite spectacular, not only of the rivers but also the high mountain range which separate Pëmet from Gjirokaster. As the crow flies they’re quite close to each other but you have a mountain range, which is over 2000 metres high, in between.
The other thing that makes this lapidar quite interesting is the fact it has been totally reconstructed. When the Albany Lapidar Survey was done in 2014 the layout was basically the same but it was dirty and there was some damage. (A couple of photos of the original can be seen in Volume 3 of the results of the Survey.) The present lapidar has maintained the original design but is now clean and there was obviously an effort to restore it but with respect for what had been there originally.
The marble was cracked and dirty on the original but that’s now being cleaned up. The wording of the reason for the monument is exactly the same (even following the same font), including a repition of the names. The only significant difference between the two versions is that on the original a (superfluous) addition of the year ‘1943’ appeared below the names of the four Communists who were murdered by the Italian fascists.
So what we have here is a simple, two part lapidar. On the left is a straightforward square, concrete pillar, faced with marble and on the top of which, in a circular stone plaque, is a star that hss been painted red.
To the right you have the the rectangle of the the lapidar itself, with the legend, in Albanian;
Ketu me 2 korrick 1943 fashistet italian pasi I torturuan barbarisht vrane sekretarin e qarkorit te partise te beratit Kristaq Capo dhe te rinjte komunist Qemal Mysliu, Vildan Lurasi dhe Andrea Vrusho
which translates into English as;
Here, on July 2nd 1943, the Italian Fascits brutally tortured to death the Berat District Party Secretary Kristaq Capo and the Young Communists Qemal Mysliu, Vildan Lurasi and Andrea Vrusho
One other thing that might be of interest is that the location of the image in the painting of Enver Hoxha, which ‘reappeared’ in the Tepelene Historical Museum a few years ago, is, more or less, on this very spot.
In Tepelene there seems to be an approach towards the socialist past which is a lot more positive than in some of the other towns in Albania. The museum is looked after, it’s staffed, clean and it’s open to the public. Some parts which had been closed in the past are being opened up and some exhibits being brought out of storage and placed on display – such as the magnificent maquette of the proposed (but never completed) lapidar at the Tepelene Martyrs’ Cemetery.
Also within the town itself there are a number of busts of Peoples Heroes, again cared for and in good condition.
So it would seem that in Tepelene we have a local government which has a respect for the past, especially the Anti-Fascist National Liberation War, and is prepared to spend time and money to maintain that past.