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 troops appeared, the people opposed them. With bare hands. To the attack of the special troops (the white shield bearers) people responded with stones. But more militia troops 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 apartments 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 center 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 prison 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 never forget.