We recently encouraged readers to submit their photos from the revolutionary days of 1989, in Romania and elsewhere.
We thought the contributions of one of our readers, Darnelle Mason, merited special attention.
So we'd like to share these photos (by Florin Muresan) from the eastern Romanian city of Arad on December 21 and 22, as well as an accompanying text provided by Mason at RFE/RL's invitation.
Over twenty years have past and my memories are pristine clear of Romania's dark and desperate years during the 1980s. It is very difficult to explain to the Western world of how repressed and oppressed a civilized European country like Romania was leading up to her revolution. I likened being there during that decade as being in the "twilight zone," but for Romanians, the horrors of their deprivation nightmare was all too real.
Romanian Army "standing down" outside Arad City Hall and returning to barracks on December 22. (photo by Florin Muresan)
There is not enough space in my brief note to describe the food and electricity rations, the banning of any "news" from the Western world, albeit media, print and from "Western" peoples. It was illegal for Romanian citizens to have a Westerner in their home and it was expected for all Romanians to report any conversation with Western people. Phones were tapped, mail was censored, in fact, every facet of a Romanian citizen's life was scrutinized by the State, which manifested itself in the Securitate (Secret Police). Romanians craved freedom. Romanians were willing to die to get it, hence the massive and detailed migration of "illegally" crossing the borders -- borders surrounded by mines, guard towers, ground microphones, machine guns, dogs, and even harpoon boats for those brave Romanians swimming the Danube -- to find freedom. People living in the relative ease of a free society have to ask themselves, "How bad is it when you are willing to crawl on you belly through a minefield?" Yes, it was that bad.
More troops return to their barracks in Arad on December 22. (photo by Florin Muresan)
The entire Romanian society lived in perpetual fear, physical hunger and desperation. Parents didn't trust their children (potential informants), children didn't trust parents, and so on. Ceausescu's reign had reduced a proud country into fearful, polarized groups of the "haves" and "have-nots" with dire punishment for those who had the courage to resist. Hence, there was no formal, unified resistance, such as in Poland. This is why Romania's liberty is a miracle and why her nascent democracy continues to be a miracle. Romanians reached a point of no return in Timisoara December 1989. Let the brave Romanian example resound to the world's tyrants: "You can only repress, oppress, suppress your peoples for a limited amount of time before they revolt, rise and slay their dragon tormentors."
Long live Romania's liberty!
-- Darnelle Mason