As most of you know, I now live in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the liberation of this city from decades of a repressive Communist dictatorship. What follows is my humble attempt to commemorate the events of December 21, 1989.
There are some who use the phrase "freedom isn't free" very lightly however the citizens of Cluj-Napoca on that fateful day truly know the price of freedom. This is dedicated to those who gave their lives so that others could live in freedom.
The Revolution began in Timişoara, sparked by the refusal of a priest to be banished for speaking against the Ceauseşcu regime. The protest soon grew in size and by December 20, the city was declared "free forever" from the Communist regime.
On December 21, 1989, a spontaneous protest began in a downtown plaza, then ironically named "Freedom Square". The protestors were mostly students, men and women, although others were present including children and the elderly. The protest was not organized and most of those present weren't sure what they wanted to do, other than proclaim that they desired freedom and liberty and sing the new revolutionary anthem, "Awake Romania!".
An Army unit from the nearby town of Floreşti was brought in to dispel the crowds at 3:40pm. Once the head officer unholstered his weapon, the young men in front symbolically lifted up their shirts to show the soldiers that they were unarmed. The soldiers then opened fire, killing 9 people and injuring 14. The entire incident lasted just 15 minutes.
There were two other similar incidents in Cluj later that night, with a total of 12 people killed and 26 injured.
Last night on TVR1 channel I saw a moving essay of the events of that day. A university professor, Razcan Rotta, was present that day and took the only extant photographs of what happened. Today I bought a signed copy of those photographs and I present some of them to you here.
I apologize in advance as I do not own a scanner and the quality of my reproductions is somewhat poor. The captions in the book have been translated by me, and all errors are mine and mine alone.
The Army is here!
Because we have prayed for the souls of those in Timişoara, because we're here for our own souls?
At top right is the "Universităţii" bookstore, still around today.
The Army is lining up to shoot us or what?
Anyway, the people in the square are quiet.. the soldiers can't shoot us!
But we're not armed! We are armed only with our courage!
The officer has his pistol in his hand.
We in Cluj are ready for their weapons.
Look at his bare chest! The woman on her knees knows what is about to happen and is praying.
It's difficult to see in this photograph but the soldier at the far right has his weapon drawn. There is a kneeling woman visible on the curb to the left who has her hands clasped.
What has happened?
There are dead people on the ground. I see someone armed, with a broom!
Now we are frightened. We have to escape... run!
The square is almost empty now. Calin Nemeş, with the bare legs, "attacked" the officer who had the pistol in his hand.
The dead are down, we have run away. The soldiers now control the square.
The doors of the Universităţii bookstore have been closed against us. We're in a battle against automatic pistols.
There is nowhere we can run! All the dead are lying on the ground. The officer in charge of the troops is on his feet but is shot in the thigh?
Who shot him? The guy with the broom?
It's the boy with the broom. That's what he had, a broom, not a gun and he was shot! By whom? Why?
Because he had a broom or because he was singing "Awake, Romania!"?
It's difficult to see above, but the young man has a gunshot wound visible in his upper left thigh.
This is the Universităţii bookstore today. Hardly visible under the Romanian flag in the center is an inscription to those who fell in 1989.
A close-up of the plaque above. The inscription reads:
On December 21, 1989, here fell the heroic martyrs
Matiş Lucian - age 29
Jurja Sorinel Dorinel - age 22
Pedestru Horia - age 21
Szabo Attila - age 22
Ciora Viorel - age 51
Ticlete Mihai Calin - age 29
Merca Aurel - age 33
Borbely Istvan - age 22
Cristorean Rodica - age 26
Tamas Burgya Iosif - age 20
Sabau Ioan - age 31
Marin Vergica - age 70
Egyedi Imre - age 37
The corner across from the Universităţii bookstore. It's difficult to see but there are 9 sculptures (to the right of the flags), one for each person who was killed in that square.
This memorial to all the victims of December 21, 1989 is a few blocks away from the square above. The street has been named "Heroes Boulevard" in their honor.
This is the base of the above memorial. All those who were killed or injured on December 21, 1989 are named here.
A few days after the events in Cluj-Napoca, the dictator Ceauseşcu and his wife fled for their lives but were captured by members of the Army. He was given a makeshift trial on December 25, 2004 and shot to death the next day on live television.