Dec 16 – the day the 1989 Romanian revolution started

The 1989 Romanian revolution started on the 16th of December in Timisoara, the city I now live in. Every time I am here on this date, I feel cold shivers down my spine thinking of this day, 22 years ago. I feel enormous respect for the people who then revolted against the communist regime and consciously or not put their life under threat. Romania is still struggling and often people feel like another revolution is needed and I keep wondering if I would be one of those starting it, again, from here, from Timisoara, from where history was already written before.

But I leave this doubt aside and I want to share with you how I experienced the 1989 Romanian revolution. When it started I was only 6 and I was still at kindergarden, one week before winter holidays. I was with my parents in Caransebes, 100 km away from Timisoara. A few days after Timisoara, Caransebes was one of the next cities to revolt. My father being in the army, he was asked to enroll and was allowed to carry guns in the city and even bring it at home. I thought it was a toy but my mother was really frightened and was asking him to leave it by the entrance door. In one of the first nights we heard intense shooting from the airport area, we had no idea what was happening. It turned out that soldiers were ordered to shoot the sheep and donkeys on the hills as to not create any distraction, so they did. The next day my mother took us to our grandparents, in a village another 100km further from Timisoara. There nothing happened, we were watching the revolution live on TV as it was unfolding. My mother returned to Caransebes and since the whole building we were living in was occuied by families with the man in the army, there were only women left in entire building and they all barricaded in a flat on the third floor. My father, specialized in tanks, was asked to take a tank out in the city and contribute to keeping the population calm. The military, unlike the police and secret services was with the population and helped them so even after Ceausescu was killed he would still patrol the city by tank.

The most frightening word then was “terrorist”, this is how  the people who were shooting civilians, usually at night, were called. I’ve never heard a public explanation of who those terrorists were, but it is clear to me that they were Romanians, probably from the police or Securitate. I came across  this term again in 2001 with the terrorist attacks from New York but the meaning seemed to me very different.

By Christmas the 1989 Romanian revolution was finished with the execution of Ceausescu and as New Year approached, optimism and hope for a better future grew. But as with any revolution I doubt it was totally genuine and that what came next was what people really wanted.

Here’s an interesting video telling about the context of the revolution.

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