1989 A Bittersweet Year

I watched recently the video of a speech given by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to an adoring crowd of communist useful idiots a few days before the dictator was arrested in December 1989. Ceausescu, a megalomaniac who appointed himself the Father of the Country, was touting the slave wages he had ordered raised for his unlucky proletariat from 700 lei per month to 800 lei.

At the time, the pegged exchange rate was 12 lei to a dollar, making the proletariat’s wage of $58 per month go up to $67. What could we buy with this money? Sixty-seven dollars per month bought us subsidized teacup-sized concrete block apartments, occasional heat, some electricity, daily scheduled hot or cold water, subsidized weekly bus fares, one pair of shoes per year, one outfit, and enough food to keep us from starving to death. Most of us were underweight and malnourished, in dire need of vitamins which were impossible to find on the empty pharmacy shelves.

“To each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” said Karl Marx’s popular slogan, “Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen. “ Ceausescu and his wife and the communist party elites had been the deciders of our needs since March 22, 1965 until December 25, 1989.

The year 1989 was a painful, bittersweet period in my life and in the history of my people. It was a year filled with death, life, grief, anguish, freedom, physical pain, and the struggle for power.

My father passed away on May 12 in excruciating pain, denied drugs, IV nourishment, and any kind of medical treatment, a 60-pound shadow of his former self. My Dad was a sturdy and healthy 200 pound man full of life and joie de vivre.

An outspoken critic of the president, Dad was always detained at his place of employment for his views, his lack of membership in the communist party, and his not-so-secret desire to have another president replace Ceausescu in his lifetime.

Dad had just turned 61 when he was beaten one last time and languished three weeks before his death in a hospital ward, tended by his loving sister who kept him alive with teaspoons of water and broth. My Dad was one of thousands of victims, killed by communists in their quest for power and control. His honesty, his integrity, his freedom of speech, and his desire to be free sentenced him to an early demise.

Dad passed away one day before my doctoral graduation. He was so proud that his only child could accomplish something he had dreamed of – the opportunity to excel in a free country. I dedicated my degree to my Dad, to his unwavering support for my education. My mortarboard read “4 Dad” but it was little consolation for the visceral pain and inconsolable loss I felt.

President George Bush Sr. handed me my diploma, shook my hand, and later wrote a very touching letter about my father. It was a bittersweet accomplishment. While I knew my Dad was in Heaven, smiling upon my shoulders with every ray of sunshine, I was angry that an innocent, sweet man was taken from this Earth before his time by the evil forces of communism.

Daddy had died holding a crumpled photograph of me and his two granddaughters in our finest Easter dresses. It was the only possession he was allowed to keep.

Dad’s nemesis did not live much longer. Ceausescu and his Harpy wife Elena were sentenced to death and executed on Christmas 1989, ending their 24 year reign of terror. It was the first time during the communist regime that Christmas carolers and the mid-night Christmas service were televised from the Patriarch’s Cathedral. The Orthodox Christians could finally worship freely without fear of reprisals.

Caught in the town of Tirgoviste while trying to flee by helicopter, the husband and wife team who had terrorized an entire nation for 24 years, bringing its people to their knees and to utter desperation, were now facing a military tribunal tasked with judging and sentencing them.

Refusing to answer questions based on the Constitution that he wrote, the dictator Nicolae repeated that he would only answer to the Grand National Assembly, not to the assembled military court. After a speedy, improvised, and bizarre trial that lasted one hour, during which the couple refused to cooperate, did not answer most questions, or gave canned propaganda answers, they were sentenced to death and their wealth confiscated.

The mercenaries Ceausescu had hired shot and killed, by some estimates, thousands of innocent Romanians who had gathered to protest peacefully the oppressive communist regime at the palace in Bucharest. The secret police executed many innocents in surprise raids, including hospitals. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1665&dat=19891222&id=eEgaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1iQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4888,6167293

The Romanian Army finally had had enough and joined civilians to fight against the communist tyranny.

“Why did you starve the people to death?” “I will not answer that question,” the deposed President said.

How can you make two narcissists, blinded by communist ideology, by absolute power and control, who made themselves wealthy beyond anybody’s imagination at the expense of the misery of the proletariat they so pretended to care about, understand the crimes they’ve committed against the Romanian people? As the prosecution said, it was “genocide through famine, lack of heat, lack of light, but the worst crime of all, the crime of imprisoning the Romanian spirit.”

I wished my Dad had lived to witness the joy the Romanian people experienced when the dictator was finally executed. Watching a soldier tie the wrists of the humiliated couple with plain rope and their outrage and claim that he cannot do that to “the Mother and Father of the Country” was vindication for the many times my Dad had suffered indignities, beatings, and arrests for his political views.

One individual commented that the Romanian people should have been allowed to be part of the trial and of the final punishment in the streets. But everyone was eager to get rid of the scourge of communism and of those who forced such dehumanizing ideology on an entire nation.

The fight for power ensued; the communists changed their stripes, became wealthier, joined the EU, while their overt leaders went underground. Communists resurfaced with a vengeance in recent years, aided by European Fabian socialists and communists flush with money.

3 thoughts on “1989 A Bittersweet Year

    • It’s a parliamentary democracy with 12-14 parties (social democrats, socialists, communists, labor, conservative party, etc.) and ruling coalitions, a president, etc.

  1. Very touching story …I have read extensively about Ceausescu and his brutal regime. Hopefully Romania will not fall under a similar situation. The consolidation of democratic institutions remain paramount for the country to move forward, which has not necessarily been an easy undertaking. The will of the people remains key to this entire process.
    Thank you for sharing.

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