Did you take pictures during the December ’89 Revolution?
I did not. And I’m so sorry! I never thought I could have gone out with the camera. The only images I have are imprinted in my mind…
I was 17 in December ’89, I was in high-school. We were already on vacation during those winter days.
I had no idea about what was going on in Timisoara. The first news of something… bizarre, came on December 21st. My mother had been present at some meeting in front of the Central Headquarters of the Communist Party, taken there, like everyone else, from the job. And she told us there was unrest in the crowd and hissing and booing. That was all.
My parents didn’t talk about these things in front of us. But, through the door of their bedroom, we heard some parts of their dialogue, plus some unintelligible words from a radio show (I would later find out that it was Radio Free Europe).
How did the Revolution begin for you?
The next day, on the 22nd of December, our neighbor from the below floor rang our bell. When I opened the door, he shouted euphorically: “Ceausescu fell!!!!!” My mother, scared, made desperate signs for him to to shut up, for fear that someone might hear him.
But he rushed further: “Switch on the TV!” And entered our house, to make sure we do.
What I heard on TV seemed unreal! I didn’t know what that freedom was, I hadn’t imagined, until then, that Ceausescu anything but eternal. I was feeling something that was hard to describe, it was a reality that I didn’t know how to live…
The landline phone was ringing. Shock, questions, joy, fears. Short conversations over the phone, probably for fear that we were still being listened to…
After the hottest Breaking News I saw on TV – basically the first of my life! – the immediate reaction was: “Let’s go downtown too!”. I was mega euphoric, but my mother briefly cut off my enthusiasm, she did not allow me to leave the house. Dad was at work. Not that he would have let me…
My middle sister left, with neighbors of her generation, and she went to the Radio headquarters. What a terrible fear for the parents, knowing nothing anything about their children for hours.
Street fights – have you heard them?
We called my older sister, who had a child who was only 6 months old, worried as she was living in the Military Academy area. My mother started giving her advice on what to do and what not to do, although she clearly did not have a “Manual on how to behave during a Revolution”… The main advice – do not leave the house!
I don’t remember when the shots started. We could clearly hear them from the Bucurestii Noi district. God knows where they came from. I associated them with… the fireworks from the New Year’s Eve night, which I always saw from the window, launched from Herastrau Park.
Their rhythm was chaotic – there was intense shooting, then, a few shots here and there, then silence and after that they would start again. I didn’t realize how far we were from danger.
Did you barricade yourself inside during the Revolution?
The advice of the time – I don’t know how it was going around – was to put blankets in the windows, so that the light inside the house could not be seen from outside and that the terrorists would not burst in! We complied. We turned off all the lights and hidden in the semi-dark, we watched what the Romanian Television showed us continuously – a novelty for us, who had lived for so many years with only 2 hours of TV program per day…
The words of the Revolution – what comes to your mind?
Beyond keeping us up to date with Ceausescu’s escape, and with what his acolytes did, as well as other things like these, the people on television (out of which I only knew Ion Caramitru), were obsessively shouting that we should come out, we should come there (there = TVR and in the hot spots in the city). The Romanian Television had become the Free Romanian Television. There, people unknown to me were calling us to go out, to defend, to save. I really wanted to go out, but I had the “guards” at home, so I could not even think about this.
So I was glued to the TV. “Tyrant” “Dictator” and “Terrorists” – are words that remained alive in my mind, as well as all the concern with which they were spoken. Basically, it was the first time I heard these words. Accompanied by the words “we won!”.
Did you go out?
I was allowed to leave the house only after Ceausescu was arrested. I clearly remember that.
We met daily with the gang from the neighborhood, and commented on everything we had found out. And what we had seen. Two tanks were stationed on the Chitila road. Like in the movies… Most of our friends, who were boys, were in the army, some at home, on leave, without identity papers on them, only with a written proof that they are on leave. This put them at risk during those days, when you could be considered a “terrorist” if you didn’t show your papers… The fact that they didn’t know how to get back to the unit safely, made us all very upset!
And I went out to buy bread, on a boulevard transformed into some kind of a (prepared) battle field, with some people who had guns in their hands. God knows where from. From time to time, someone would shout for us to go further, but try to hide somehow, not to be in the open. And we complied. I think this was an initiative form someone too “involved” in all this, because there was no terrorist in the area.
In the evening, they were shooting again and we were covering the windows with blankets again.
And the first sad news about a neighbor, a soldier, a little older than me, shot for no reason when he was guarding the Municipal Hospital.
Today there is a street in his name… Second lieutentant Adrian Cârstea.
Did we get any gifts from Santa? I don’t remember…
On Christmas, peace has dawned. Not because it was Christmas, but because the execution of the Ceausescu couple had taken place. I remember that peace perfectly. And the explanation that the shooting of the two was the solution for the bloody battles to end! Was it? I don’t know… What I do know, though, is that, after that moment, I never heard a shot.
I cannot remember whether we had any Christmas presents or not… However, that was the moment when Santa Claus took the place of Father Frost. J
The first hours of freedom – how did you live them?
Quiet, the blankets disappeared form the windows, we went out in the street without fear, we began to discover what it meant to speak freely, without fear. It was great!!! But it was still as if we did not dare to do this, we were insecure. Just like a child who discovers that he can walk.
I received in the street the first newspaper of the Revolution – Libertatea (Freedom). I remember I thought it was a treasure!
A friend came and told us that he had been in Ceausescu’s house! It was full of people who were vandalizing it. They all took what they wanted from there! He told us he took … a Fa spray and, if I remember correctly, a foreign shaving foam. Now this may seem funny, considering all that was stolen from that house (electronics, appliances, pictures, etc.), but at the time it was wow that he had a spray and a shaving foam from abroad!
I discovered the city, with dozens of buildings with the walls destroyed by bullets. By the way, do you know that such walls still exist in some places in the city? In the TVR area and on Calea Victoriei, I saw them. I have no idea if they have repaired the walls in the meantime.
Then we began to learn, step by step, what being free meant. I was in high school and our whole universe changed all of a sudden! From the subjects, to the speech of the teachers, and from uniforms, to… our dreams!
What was December 1989 for you?
For me, it was a Revolution. As long as I don’t know the real truth yet, let me call it a Revolution. And let’s not forget the courage of some people. And the sacrifice of others or them being sacrificed… Completely innocent young people…