Trip Start Jul 08, 2013
Trip End Aug 06, 2013

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Flag of Romania  , Transylvania,
Thursday, July 18, 2013

Today was a pretty serious day. I set out to find the elusive  - at least using my guidebook - 1989 Revolution Museum. I found its old spot, where there is now a chain restaurant. Lucky for me, I knew of a WIFI hotspot nearby (hint: find a couple of WIFI cafes in your new city, order a drink there, and later in your trip use the location should you need internet access for directions) so I was easily able to find the new location. I went to the intersection and had to really look around before I found a building across the street and behind a park that had "Memorial Ul Revolutiei" spray painted on the side.

The new location is a building that has recently been purchased by the museum and is under serious renovation. I entered and asked a guard person if I could walk around. He said I would have to speak to someone from upstairs. That someone was a middle aged Romanian woman in a short red dress, with raven hair pulled up in a loose bun. "You will follow me," she said, "You will watch a film upstairs dubbed in English. Then find me in my office."

I watched the film and was moved to tears by the organization and bravery of the Romanian people. There was a moment, just after their freedom was gained, that the entire population of Timisoara kneeled down facing the church in silent prayer over lives lost.

The building has two stories, the first is still rubble and houses pictures from the week of revolution in 1989, as well as uniforms of people around during the time. The second story has more pictures, organized into articles. There are small versions of sculptures that are placed around the city in places where people lost their lives during the uprising.

I was guided for a while by the president of this organization, Dr Traian Orban. He suffered a gunshot in the protests. In 1995 he founded what he calls the "war on not forgetting". When I told him I was a teacher, he gave me a book of the pictures that children in 1989 made depicting their experience of the war. These pictures are in a permanent exhibit here, and also made an appearance in Vienna, in 2009.

In front of the museum is a part of the Berlin wall, donated recently. There is also an exhibit inside explaining the history behind the wall and its fall in 1989.

This experience was stunning. I was stunned. I had a dazed afternoon afterward, grateful for illumination. Flummoxed by information. Speechless, even in my own mind.  Below you can find a very rough version of the events that happened that December in 1989. Forgive the simplicity. You know how to use the Internet if you want more exact information.

Timisoara was the first of a series of Romanian cities to engage in demand of the end of the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu. This is the same guy who built that parliament/palace back in Bucharest, if you remember. A priest named Laszlo Tokas gave an interview on Hungarian TV in July of '89, denouncing the inhumane Romanian government. The government's response was to remove him from his position. On December 16, Tokas spoke to his congregation about what was going on and they organized a vigil outside of his home to protect him from being evicted. As news of his brave announcements spread, the vigil was soon joined by Romanians of all faiths.

The police attacked the demonstrators with tear gas and violence. On December 17, the military was sent in and attacked with gunfire and more violence. You can still see bullet holes in one of the buildings caught in the crossfire which now, coincidentally, houses a Mc Donald's!

 On the 18th, citizens attempted to clean up some of the destruction. The mayor ordered a curfew, which was largely ignored. A group of 30 young men carried flags on which they had cut out  the Romanian communist emblem. They sang a national song that had been banned. They were fired upon.

December 20, over 100,000 factory workers refused to show up for work and instead joined the protest in the streets. My favorite fact is that Ceausescu hired and armed starving factory workers from other towns to come and take care of the situation, offering them food for their efforts. The workers were met at the station by citizens of Timisoara, who fed them and explained the situation. The factory workers joined in the protest.

This was all happening at a time when information was carefully controlled. Ceauşescu counted on this and assumed the rest of Romania was still ignorant when he arranged a "Hooray for Me, Hooray for Communism" (my interpretation) speech in Bucharest. However, news had quickly spread across the country, by word of mouth and radio programs from nearby Hungary. After calling the protestors in Timisoara agitators, his speech was interrupted by the growing roar of the crowd, screaming "TIMISOARA! TIMISOARA!"

A stunned Ceauşescu to escape by helicopter with his wife but was soon apprehended, tried and executed on Christmas Day.

There has been some scrambling for power since then, and a struggle toward democracy.  As the museum director put it: "Before we had money but there was nothing to buy. Now we have full stores and no money to buy it with."

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