November 29 – Liberation Day in Albania

Posted on November 29, 2015

Today Albania celebrates its 1944 liberation from the Nazis.

During the beginnings of World War II, Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler were partners in what was called the Axis powers. Hitler and his Nazi forces took over Austria and then invaded Czechoslovakia without alerting Mussolini; angry at being left out and feeling like a second-rate member of the Axis, Mussolini invaded Albania, attacking all of its ports at the same time.

The Albanians were only able to resist Italy's greater forces for a short time – less than one day. The Albanian king, Zog, escaped with his family to Greece and later England, but the Albanian parliament voted to unite with Italy.

In other words, Albania fell to Italy.

But some Albanians fought back, creating a resistance movement (made up mostly of communists) that fought the Italians and, later, the Germans. And eventually the resistance was able to defeat the occupying forces and liberate Albania!

Did you know...?

  • Apparently, before 1991, there were only about 600 cars in Albania; only Communist Party officials were allowed to drive them. Because of that, I read, roads are not so great, and drivers are not so skilled.
  • But trains and buses are not so good, either! I read that routes are often suspended during the off-season, stations are sketchy, and schedules are hard to find and not adhered to very well.
  • A painter was the mayor of capital city Tirana from 2000 to 2011, and partly because of him, the city is pretty colorful! Check out these photos:

  • One of Albania's more paranoid Communist leaders, Enver Hoxha, had 700,000 bunkers built throughout the nation to help turn away invaders who didn't even exist!
That's one bunker for every four Albanians!

After the collapse of communism, the concrete bunkers were abandoned. Apparently they are difficult and expensive to remove, so they just sit around dotting farms, backyards, mountain passes, city streets, beaches... even graveyards!

I'm glad to report that some bunkers have been reused as living spaces, cafes, storehouses, shelters for animals or for the homeless.

By the way, Hoxha himself had a huge bunker for his own use – a 106-room, 5-story secret bunker! It is now open to the public.

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