Wednesday, December 22, 2004

15 Years of Freedom

On December 22, 1989, I was 7 years and 7 months old. Around noon, home alone in my parents' old apartment in Romania, I'm listening to some fairy tale on an LP, when suddenly the electricity stops; though not out of the ordinary, this is a terrible disappointment - the story was very exciting. A few minutes later, my mom walks in from work, 3-4 hours earlier than the usual: it was the first and probably the last time I actually saw my mom jump up, smiling and yelling something I didn't quite understand at the time: "The dictator has fallen!" ("A cazut dictatorul!"); it was the great day of Romanians - the Revolution, the fall of Communism, the Victory.

She hadn't heard from my dad in a while, so we walked to my aunt's house, pretty close by. December was extremely warm that year; I remember wearing a white T-shirt and a jacket, which for a Romanian winter is rather unusual. My dad's sister and my uncle were watching the "free" Romanian Television - a bunch of ex-Communists, poets, intellectuals and the director of the only broadcast station in the nation, all crammed against each other in front of the camera, shouting to the entire nation: "The National Television is free! The dictator has fallen!"

Back in 1989, my aunt and uncle were among the few people we knew who owned a car. Apparently, on the way home a small crowd on the street had asked them to drive over Ceausescu's portrait, in exchange for letting them pass. I remembered that portrait, it was on every wall in kindergarten; it was hanging in my 1st grade classroom; it was on the first page of every 1st grade textbook (I was pretty shocked when my teacher told us the following week we were allowed to tear out that page, that it's not a bad thing, that we're not destroying the books...)

Like many Romanians, I don't think I'll ever forget that day. We later gathered back at our apartment, still watching the "free" television, hearing continuous rumors about how Ceausescu flew the "People's House" (currently the Palace of Parliament building), about the increasing number of people killed in Bucharest and all over the country, either by the army or by the authorities, who opened fire against civilians. When some reporter on TV started to shout "The army is with us!", I couldn't quite understand what that meant, either, but my mom and my aunt and uncle seemed pretty happy.

Earlier that day we had gone downtown to look for my father; it was rather impossible to find him in the mass of people gathered in "Union Square." At 1 a.m. we finally got a call; he was alright. I later found out that on December 14th my dad and a few other writers had organized a meeting in the same Union Square, in light of other events that were happening all over the country. Their attempt never truly succeeded; someone had betrayed them.

On Christmas day, 1989, as much as it impacted me, I was happy to see Ceausescu shot on the same National Television. I'd never seen someone killed "live" before, or after that. It's weird how right it felt; it may be un-Christian to say it, but I'm glad he died.

Today, 15 years later, my dad is considered one of about 20,000 "Revolutionaries" in Romania. I've kept wondering for some time whether what they all hoped and risked their lives for has been accomplished. No matter the hardships, I believe Romania is by far better now than before; with all the corruption, despite the same ex-Communist we had as a president for about 10 years, with all the nepotism, bribes, discrimination and poverty - this is nothing compared to Communism. Yes, it was all worth it.

Here's to the 15-year anniversary of Romania's Revolution!


Blogger Courtney said...

That is the most amazing story I have read in a long time...Here's to your freedom....I am so happy for you and your family!

12:04 AM  
Blogger Zidezi said...

Thanks, though it's not an unusual story for many Romanians; I'm sure there are many more who remember that day in detail. It just took me 15 years to write about it :)

12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My story resembles your story, what amazes me is that I remember the same exact images; the tv broadcast, listening to the radio, being confused about the strange happiness in people’s voice, and the fear of not knowing.. what will be next (I was 7 years and 6 months old-) but I remember the excitement I felt and the worry I had for the future of Romania (there represented by my half sister.. that was not even one year old) .. I remember my mother going into the streets to bring food to the soldiers that were guarding the statue behind the building I lived, and much more intense I remember my mother’s account of the soldier’s refusal to accept the food (he was afraid the food might be poisoned-still reminiscent of the communist mentality-big brother is watching)

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Zidezi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Zidezi said...

I'm happy you shared your experience. I think you're right, most of my friends in Romania recall similar things, especially the reaction of the authorities and the TV broadcasting. It's important to remember what happened. Living in the U.S., I feel that I'm increasingly losing my grasp on the reality of December 22, 1989.

6:57 PM  

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