I have been tempted to write about this particular ‘house’ before, but recently when I learned that it would be opened to the public, I rushed to see it, which made me want to write this…
I’ve passed by this house hundreds of times and it’s general mysterious presence would always intrigue me.
For the majority of people the house has always been known as ‘the house of leaves’ due to the ever present crawling vegetation and leaves that would cover its walls and branches over its roof.
I knew it was used by the “Sigurimi” – Albania’s secret police, but what I did not know was that it was used for torture as well.
It’s history started as the private clinic of the illustrious physician Jani Basho in 1931, who is attributed with being of the creator of the first healthcare network in Albania.
Then, on 5 April 1939, Leka Zogu was born here, son of King Zog I and of Queen Geraldine. But, a few days later the country was invaded by fascist Italy.
During the German occupation (1943-44) the house became the HQ of the ‘gestapo’.
It seems that it was with the Germans and their ‘gestapo’ that the house changed from ‘a nursery’ to an ‘investigation house’ for the Germans and afterwards for the Albanian secret police – “Sigurimi”. They which went on to use it as a spying and investigation house till the end of the 90’.
The house, though in disrepair for over a decade now, it is full of spying equipment, and offices that would house the technical staff of the secret police. But, the dark side of this house is also the fact that it was used to interrogate and torture people.
There are many stories, some told by former ‘sigurimi’ officers of people being tortured for days using the most macabre of methods to inflict pain so as to extract information or just hush them up for opposing the communist regime.
The house is not yet fully open to the public, except the main gateway and surrounding space around the building.