A fault line bridged: Nicolae Ceausescu toppled

When Romania will eventually join the enlarged European Union in 2007, a very long way will have been covered since the revolutionary days at the end of 1989. I was in Berlin reporting on the fall of the Wall in the days before Christmas 1989, when the first word was whispered about the dramatic events that were unfolding in Bucharest. That very Christmas day, the presidential couple Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu (the latter a member of the Politburo and the first deputy Prime Minister in her own right) was executed after a summary sentence in the Tirgoviste barracks, and their bodies shown on national television. On the same day, my colleague and friend Danny Huwé was killed in the outskirts of Bucharest where he was covering the events for a commercial television station in Belgium.

The country I rediscovered when reporting on the fall of the last dictator in Europe, had been largely closed to the outside world and its people lived in miserable and sometimes almost mediaeval conditions. Bread, flour and sugar were rationed, causing chronic food shortages all over the country. But the paranoid isolation in which Romanian intellectuals had been held away from western books, foreigners, or simply from contacts with non-Romanian visitors in local hotels, was even more shocking. In addition, an insane resettlement project was carried out to complete the urbanization or “systematization” of about half of Romania’s 13.000 villages by the year 2000.

Against the background of rising tensions with the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, the revolt broke out in the western city of Timisoara when demonstrators tried to prevent the arrest of the activist protestant clergyman Laszlo Tokes. Very soon, the revolt would become a bloody revolution when spreading to the capital Bucharest. Together with Doina Cornea, Tokes was the day’s hero when I arrived in Timisoara shortly after New Year. Fear was still in the air, and reporters were given revolutionary brassards by the new regime. Snowflakes covered the blood on Piata Libertatiis, but the stories about the brutal repression of the Securitate were everywhere. The feature articles that I brought back from Timisoara, Sibiu, Bucharest and Cluj Napoca, focused on the poor living conditions under the Ceausescu regime, the summary jurisdiction for captured militiamen, and the dramatic Romanization policy of which German and Hungarian minorities had been the victim.

  • Lichaam Danny Huwé teruggevonden in Boekarest
    Brussel, 27 december 1989

  • Sporen van bloedbad zijn nog zichtbaar in Timisoara
    Timisoara, 5 januari 1990

  • Artsen redden op het nippertje Domitru
    Timisoara, 6/7 januari 1990

  • Isolement echte tragedie van Roemeense intellektuelen
    Timisoara, 8 januari 1990

  • Leuvense burgemeester in zetel van Ceausescu
    Sibiu, 8 januari 1990

  • Meer haken dan vlees bij Roemeense slager
    Timisoara, 9 januari 1990

  • Bedreigde dorpen: een land vóór de kering
    Cristian, 10 januari 1990

  • Snelrecht voor twee Roemeense militieleden
    Sibiu, 10 januari 1990

  • Burgemeester van bedreigd dorp Cristian:
    Wat moeten we met onze vrijheid aanvangen?
    Cristian, 11 januari 1990

  • Op bezoek in liefdesnestje van "golan" Nicu Ceausescu
    Revolutionairen voeren in Sibiu rantsoenering weer in
    Sibiu, 12 januari 1990

  • Hongaarse Roemenen op zoek naar eigen identiteit
    Cluj-Napoca, 15 januari 1990

  • Voor Duitsers in Roemenië loopt geschiedenis ten einde
    Timisoara/Sibiu, 23 januari 1990