December 2011

22 years from 22 December 1989 – the first day of Freedom in Romania, after 45 years of dictatorship! 

December 1989. The least we can do is to never forget! 


 Romania rises! 

December 21, 1989. It is the turn of Lugoj, Arad, Cluj, Brasov, Bucharest to rise and claim their freedom! And, sadly, it is the turn of other brave Romanians to pay their tribute of blood and desperation for the cause of Liberty! In Cluj, around 3,30 pm, a group of friends faces the army soldiers, all in this group are young and brave: Lucian Matis, Calin Nemes, Gavrila Ladiu, Mircea Miclea, and one of them, Calin Nemes, steps ahead, opens his jacket and tells the soldiers: “Fire! I only have one heart!” And they do. The army officers fire in people who have done nothing but ask for Freedom! Calin Nemes, his friend Lucian Matis and a few others fall under the killer bullets of the army soldiers who were supposed to defend their people, not shoot them! A few photographs, taken by an unknown person, shows the scene of the massacre: the bodies laying on the ground, and the victorious soldiers standing beside them, alive and well.


In the hours that will come, the people of Bucharest will learn to fight in their turn, just like their fellow Romanians have done in Timisoara, Cluj and the other cities, and they will pay a terrible price for their courage! The story of the big popular meeting that Ceausescu organized to speak about the hooligans in Timisoara, the meeting in which the spark of the rebellion was lit, the story of the Barricade, built by courageous people from Bucharest in front of the repression forces, among which Romeo Raicu, Radu Silaghi, Dumitru Dinca, Dan Iosif, the story of the young people killed in front of the Dalles Hall and the Intercontinental Hotel, for having dared to knee and pray for Timisoara and chant the name of Freedom, like Mihai Gatlan, Ruxandra Mihaela Marcu, Vinerian Radoi, Adrian Don, Mioara Luiza Mirea… lives lost because people refused to live under dictatorship anymore… all those stories of bravery and glory, of tears and grief, all are known…  




Liberation Day 

December 20, 1989: the day when Timişoara became a free city! In the morning, the workers of Timişoara left their workplaces and, together with other tens of thousands of people, started to march through the city, till they reached its center. At noon, over one hundred thousand people stood in the Opera Plaza of Timişoara, facing the line of armed soldiers that were surrounding the Opera. At around 1,30 pm, the balance was broken by a man who stepped ahead, opened his jacket and asked the army officer to shoot or to step back: “Your weapons are paid by us“, he told the officer. “The bullets in your weapons are paid by us, and so are the army clothes you are wearing. Those people want Freedom, still you have shot them dead in the past days! Shoot us too, now, or step back and let us pass!” said Claudiu Iordache, taking steps ahead, followed by the people around him. And in that moment of tension, the soldiers hesitated, and then broke the line and started to retreat, and the people advanced towards the Opera. In the beginning, around twenty of them managed to enter the Opera, and reached for the Balcony, where an amplifying station had been installed for communist prime- minister Dascalescu, who had wanted to address the people in the attempt to explain again about the hooligans. There, in that Balcony, the people who had entered the Opera addressed the hundred thousand people in the plaza, revealing their names and professions, and asking for the freedom all of them wanted! Lorin Fortuna, Ioan Chiş, Claudiu Iordache, Nicolae Badilescu and the others took turns in speaking to the people. There, in that balcony, a Committee was formed: the first free antitotalitarian party named The Romanian Democratic FrontThe Romanian Democratic Front wrote the first document of the Romanian Revolution, the Proclamation entitled “A cazut tirania!“, in which all the demands of the people of Timişoara were put on paper: the fall of Ceauşescu, the returning of the dead to their families, the freeing of the arrested, the declaring of Timişoara as the first city free of communism, free elections. The enterprises and institutions of Timişoara were invited to send their representatives to the Balcony, so that they could become part of The Romanian Democratic Front

The first speeches from the Opera Balcony, Timisoara, December 20, 1989

The Revolution in Timisoara in audio-video recordings – a series made by Marius Mioc and presented by Altermedia 

In the same time, at the communist council county’s building, a similar event was taking place: tens of thousands of people who had marched towards the communist party’s center in Timisoara stormed the place and found their way to the Balcony, just like it was happening in the Opera Plaza. Late in the evening, the two Balconies merged, the demonstrators from the Balcony of the county’s building came to the Opera Balcony. In the Opera Plaza fires were lit during the night, helping the demonstrators warm up as they looked towards the next day. A day in which no one could imagine what would happen, since on December 20, 1989, at noon dictator Ceausescu had aired a speech in which he praised the army for having done its duty, and promised a repression even more radical in the following days. 

The End of Servitude.

19 December 1989. As they reach their workplaces, the people of Timisoara hear each other’s stories. One’s parent has not returned home since December 17. Another one’s spouse has not returned since December 18. For two days, the people of Timisoara have been counting their missing ones. Their stories spread all over the city like flashes of light. In this day they are not talking about anything else but their missing ones. They know that their loved one was last spotted in the battle of Calea Girocului, or the massacre on Decebal bridge. They hear that someone who looked like their loved one was arrested – or worse, that someone was killed near the Cathedral by shots fired from the guns of the repression forces. They hear all this, they speak their stories and their fears and, most of all, their fury, which keeps growing in the day.

It is the day in which the famous Army General Gusa, arriving in Elba Factory to tell the workers that the party is defending the socialism in front of the hooligans, is booed by the workers, in an unprecedented gesture! The workers of Elba ask General Gusa, a representative of the dictatorship’s power in that moment, to give them back their arrested and their dead. They have stopped working since morning, and they tell the general that they are going into strike, until their demands are met.

19 December 1989 is the day in which General Gusa, one of the responsibles for the massacres of Timisoara on December 17 and 18, is opposed by the workers of Elba and asked to leave. He leaves and calls Ceausescu, telling him: “The situation is this: there are no hooligans in Timisoara, there are the Workers!” Unfortunately, even in this moment the dictator will refuse to admit that it’s the end for his reign of terror. He will go on with his paranoia of defending the socialism by firing into his own people, for three more days… 

The Horror. 

December 18, 1989. In Timisoara more people lose their lives, shot by the repression forces. Thousands others are imprisoned, and savagely beaten in the arrest by the militia and securitate forces. 


The romanian communist party sends its officials into the factories and workplaces of people, to justify the repression, explaining that Timisoara has been under the attack of hooligans and irredentists, enemies of the glorious socialism that the party is working hard to achieve for the good of the people. Tens of thousands of working people listen to the lies of the dictatorship’s representatives, but in their minds and hearts they all know The Truth. They know that there, in the street, it was their children, their parents, their wives, their husbands, who were beaten, shot, killed, for the only fault of having shouted Freedom! In the Design Office of Timisoara, one man stands up while the director speaks about the hooligans, and, in a gesture which petrifies his colleagues in the audience, he interrupts the director and speaks: “This is not true! It is all a lie!” The director, after a moment of shock, calls him a traitor. And as he says the words, gunfire is heard from outside, and Claudiu Iordache speaks again, pointing to the window: “This is the truth! There in the streets there are no hooligans, but Romanians who are asking for freedom! And if the Power had wanted to communicate with them, a way of dialogue might have been found, but its despise for the people has made the Power order fire and kill! It is not in hooligans that the repression forces are shooting now, it is in the ordinary people of Timisoara!“ 

On December 18, 1989, Timisoara retreated in shelters to heal her wounds and count her missing and dead. Outside, gunfire was heard, in different areas of the city, all day long. But the worse was yet to come: something that will surpass in horror even the bloody actions of the two past days. 

Following the direct order of Elena Ceausescu, at night, officers of the Securitate arrive at the County Hospital in Timisoara, and ask that the bodies of the dead are given to them. The doctors, paralyzed with fear, don’t dare to oppose their request. The Securitate men take 44 bodies of the people killed in the past two days, put them in the frigorific truck they had brought, and leave… 

44 bodies of the heroes of Timisoara are taken to Bucharest, to the Cenusa Crematory. There they are thrown into fire and burned. The night of December 18 to December 19 the crematory functions without pause. And in the morning of December 19, the ash of the Martyrs is taken to a deserted place near Bucharest, and thrown into a gutter.  

It was the supreme proof of the baseness of the two dictators, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu – their criminal order was horrifying, and announced what was to come, if history would follow their command: “Erase Timisoara from the surface of the earth!“  



The faces of Martyrs of the Timisoara Revolution. The criminal regime called them “hooligans, foreign agents, irredentists, enemies of the glorious socialism and of the romanian communist party”. They were shot in the streets, killed in the hospital, burned in the crematory, their ashes thrown into a gutter. The criminals are alive and well. They have never paid for their crimes.  

The Repression  

The Repression. 

December 17, 1989. In the morning, Timisoara takes to the streets again. Most of the leaders of the previous night’s battles had been badly beaten or arrested by the Militia and the Securitate in the raids that had swept the city all night. But by the end of the morning, hundreds of people gather around the head offices of the Communist Party in Timisoara County, on August 23rd Boulevard. Chanting anti-governmental slogans, a group of the most adventurous storm the building, and under the eyes of the petrified Party functionaries, they tear down Ceausescu’s pictures from the walls, they grab Ceausescu’s books from the bookcases and, together with other communist totems, throw them out of the window into the street. Outside, the crowd meets each shattering of an icon with a huge cheer. They watch as books and portraits crash from the balcony and windows. But the cheer rapidly turns into grief, for it is here that the soldiers use their bayonets on the people for the first time. The stories of the eyewitnesses are terrible: people bayoneted in the stomach, in the back, bayonets cutting people’s faces or ears… a brutal counter-offensive from the army who was supposed to protect the people, not slaughter them for the only fault of having wanted to be free… Panic and fury. Cruelty and revenge. The communist icons of the criminal authorities crushed to the ground. Ceausescu, in effigy, being dragged into mud. His glorious books set on fire. And then the barricades appear. The first clashes. Natural leaders take the lead of the crowds, directing them towards the nerves of the Power. Nothing can control the rebellious city anymore. The workers’ areas are on fire. The harassed dictatorship is giving in with each step. The stifled soul of freedom is taking its first breaths. The army tanks, sent on the street to crush the people, are blocked by the naked chest of the common people. For the first time in the past fifty years, somewhere in Romania, at Timisoara, God is taking side with the many. God, but not His clerks, who have locked up His churches on the inside! 

Timisoara, December 17, 1989. In front of the City Hall, a line of military, armed to their teeth, defend an invisible line. Thousands of people chant uselessly: The Army is with us! The Army is not with them. The Army has used its weapons against the people – and the worse is yet to come… 

In Bucharest, dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is yelling at the Ministers of Defence and Interior, calling them traitors, for not having shot directly in the people, as he had ordered. “I ordered that the security forces be armed, that warning shots be fired first, and that afterwards the demonstrators be shot in the legs. Why was this not done?” His Ministries make excuses that they couldn’t possibly think of taking the army out in the street with arms and war cartridges. Ceausescu’s fury is growing: “I ordered you to fire warning shots, and then, if they don’t withdraw, shoot them in the legs. I didn’t think for a minute that you were using blank cartridges. This is eyewash! Those who broke into the Party County Committee headquarters should never have got out alive! They should’ve been shot dead!“ 

And so they were… in Timisoara, only a few hours later… and then in Cluj, Arad, Lugoj, Brasov, Bucharest… 

In his telephonic conference, at noon, Ceausescu told the officials he had sent in Timisoara: “Some very serious events have occured in Timisoara in the last two days… Mistakes were made because the problem should’ve been settled within an hour or two… Units were sent out without proper armament before, but now they have been given war ammunition… This is a state of emergency… Everyone who does not submit to the soldiers, I’ve given the order to  fire. People should be challenged, and if they do not comply with the order, they should be shot… I gave order to the troops to fire… They made the mistake before of turning the other cheek… Humanism does not mean joining the enemy. Humanism means the defence of socialism.” 

The Bloody Sunday massacre in Timisoara started about 5,30 pm, as darkness fell on the city… 

Alexandru Grama, 19 years, slightly wounded on Aradului Street, shot dead in the Timisoara Hospital, Dec 17, 1989            




It Started. 

December 16, 1989, Timisoara. Hundreds of people who had gathered around Pastor Laszlo Tokes’ house refuse to leave even after the mayor of the city fulfills a few of the promises he had made to the Pastor. Guided by the invisible wand of solidarity, the people of Timisoara step on the path towards Freedom. At around 5 pm in the afternoon of December 16, 1989, Laszlo Tokes is already history, and as he asks the people to leave, so that their presence will not be seen as an anticomunist demonstration, the people leave, but only one step further, on 6th March Boulevard, where they block the tramways. Hundreds more descend from the trams and join the demonstrators. There, on that street, there is such tension in the air and a feeling of power that you can almost touch… an overwhelming joy in the eyes of people, together with the fear for what might follow. But above all, they are celebrating the moment in which they can finally tell Power: “Go to hell! We’ve had enough!” It is the now or never feeling, it is like they are tasting the wine of freedom, without caring for the consequences anymore. 

There, then, between six and seven pm, it finally began. Hesitatingly at first, but quickly turning into an unstoppable torrent. The fear vanished, as the movement of the crowd became stronger and stronger… and then they heard the word, loud and clear for the first time in their life: Free-dom! Free-dom! Free-dom! Free-dom!… a word so incredibly emotional, sweet and powerful… and so precious… It was not long before a song was heard, a song that had been forbidden by the dictatorship: Desteapta-te, Romane! – Awaken, Romanian! The song of the Awakening, the song of the Revolution!… And minutes later, the unthinkable: Jos Ceausescu! Down with Ceausescu! 

It was the point of no return. So when the militia troups appeared, the people opposed them. With bare hands. To the attack of the special troups (the white shield bearers) people responded with stones. But more militia troups appeared, and they started to hit the people with rubber truncheons, so soon the crowd was dispersed, and people started to run… but in the same time, other groups started to form – others had heard the sound of the fights, and had come down from their appartments in the street, where they found themselves caught in the battle. In the Circumvalatiunii area, another large group had been formed, and they were shouting: Down with Ceausescu! and Freedom!… and as the crowd started to move towards the centre of the city, chanting: Romanians, come with us! they were attacked by soldiers and militia, who started to hit them badly. At least ten army trucks were in the area, each carrying around fifty soldiers. They were taking on the streets, armed with heavy wooden sticks, and together with the militia troups they were beating and arresting anybody they could put their hands on, using tear gas and water cannons and savagely hitting the people who had dared to speak their will for Freedom! 

In the night that followed, the people of Timisoara learned to attack, to retreat, to return, to have losses, to sing, in impressive choirs, the hymns of the Religion of Liberty, to resist, to bleed, in other words, to fight! It is true, the guns were silent that night, the Power only used the heavy sticks and the rubber truncheons… Huge raids were organized, followed by massive arrests. On the pavement of the municipal militia’s parking, the arrested were trampled underfoot, then taken to the penitenciary full of blood, barely able to move… 

It is said that the crowds do not have a soul, only the peoples do. In Timisoara, the crowds carried the whole of the romanian people’s soul. Timisoara’s areas became, in turns, the battlefield of those irreconcilable contraries: freedom-obedience or past-future of that lasting time of nations, never too indulgent with the destiny of eternal Romania. In Circumvalatiunii area, in Buzias, Lipovei, in Giroc, groups of fervent people passed by the blocks of flats, calling to fight: “Romanians, don’t be cowards!” And the romanians, with no experience or method to rely on, listened and got out on the dark streets where the improbable news of the confrontations would soon become a first chapter in the chronicle of the repression… 

Late in the night, the people of Timisoara retired in their homes, less the ones who had been injured and arrested. If we could look from our time into theirs, we would surely see that it was a white night in Timisoara… In the night of December 16, 1989 Timisoara couldn’t sleep. It was an incredibly beautiful moment, for which the people had paid so much: the day in which It Started, the day in which the people of Timisoara raised their eyes to the Light of Liberty, the day in which they heard the unbelievably beautiful word Freedom shouted loud, the day in which they replaced the fear with Courage, and used their new-born courage to learn to fight on the thorny path that would take them to their Liberation!

December 16, 1989, Timisoara. The least we can do is to never forget.