Romanians are honouring the heroes of the 1989 anti-communist uprising.
December 22nd, 1989, soon after Timisoara had proclaimed itself the first communism-free city in the country, and Bucharest had witnessed the first meeting during which dictator Ceausescu’s speech was interrupted by a discontent crowd, was the day when the Romanian Revolution gained its momentum. Twenty-five years on, Romanians are recalling the first hours of that day.
Early in the morning, over 100 thousand people gathered in front of the Romanian Communist Party’s headquarters in downtown Bucharest, although the rally was blocked by militia, Securitate and army forces. Ceausescu tried, unsuccessfully though, to speak to the crowd from the building’s balcony. People started chanting anti-Ceausescu slogans and hooting the dictator. Protesters took over the Palace Square and forced their entry into the Central Committee’s headquarters, while the dictator and his wife fled the building on board a helicopter.
On the 22nd of December, the army joined forces with the revolutionaries and power was taken over by the National Salvation Front. December 22nd was also the day when groups faithful to the communist regime opened fire against protesters, both in Bucharest and in other cities, and killed hundreds of them. Their actions only stopped after a shallow trial of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, who were executed just a few days later, on Christmas day.
After 25 years, the heroes of the Romanian Anti-Communist Revolution are being commemorated all across the country. The pain of losing their loved ones and the dread they experienced back then have not gone away:
“My husband had just turned 47 on December 12th and on the 23rd he was shot dead, at four o’clock in the morning, so on the 25th, instead of laying the Christmas table, I organized a memorial service for him.”
“I was there, night after night, and I had my daughter with me. I was so afraid for her and for myself. I saw many people suffer, some I took to the hospital myself, and some died in my arms. I always come here with my wife to light candles for their souls.”
Other people are sad that, although over one thousand people died back then, the guilty ones have not yet been disclosed. An INSCOP survey shows that almost 80% of the Romanians do not know the truth about the events of December 1989. More than one-third of them believe that what happened then was the will of the people, who could no longer bear the oppression of the communist regime. Another one-third of the Romanians, however, believe that it was actually a coup d’etat, staged by people who wanted to oust Ceausescu, while 20.9% say that the events were the consequence of the big powers’ decision to dismantle the communist system in Eastern Europe.