To many Albanians under Hoxha, the Sigurimi meant torture, execution, arbitrary imprisonment. And they knew where its agents were based – the House of Leaves, where I met Mr Vako.
Mr Vako was for 25 years the head of surveillance for the Sigurimi secret police, so he was very important indeed. In fact Nesti Vako was possibly the most important engineer under Albania’s former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. Some of his colleagues built the 750,000 or so bunkers ordered by the paranoid Hoxha.
Like him, the Sigurimi’s old headquarters in Tirana looked nothing like what I had imagined. It’s a solid red-brick house with copper drainpipes and limestone window frames. It could have been a bishop’s residence. It got its name from the ivy leaves that used to cover the front.
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