Volume 1 - 1990
Over 50 000 people filled the town square of Timisoara, chanting “Down with Ceausescu,” “Down with Communism,” Down with criminals” and “We will not be silent any longer.”
Army units ordered to disperse the demonstrators refused to fire upon the unarmed protesters. Three army officers were summarily executed by the hated Securitate (secret police) for refusing to open fire. Still the army would not shoot. More soldiers were summarily shot by the Securitate. Then the communist party mobilised the Securitate’s “Special Assignment Brigade.”
“The Securitate drove their armoured vehicles straight into the crowd, firing at us and crushing people under the wheels — it was horrible,” recalled one witness. Blood flowed in the streets as the Marxists indulged in an orgy of mass murder. In the hospital doctors who were found treating the wounded were shot dead by roving bands of Securitate.
The scene in Timisoara square was so bloody that many witnesses compared it with Tiananmen square in Beijing, where communist troops massacred Chinese demonstrators last June. Estimates varied from 2 000 to 7 000 murdered in the massacre. Garbage trucks were seen hauling corpses out of the city to fields, where they were burned and buried. The conscripted drivers and mass grave diggers were murdered in turn by the Securitate, presumably to eliminate witnesses.
Recent searchers have uncovered mass graves of over 7 000 bodies outside Timisoara.
Romania’s borders were sealed and a state of emergency was declared. In one incident the Securitate massacred 36 children, carrying candles in an appeal for food and peace, on the steps of the cathedral in Timisoara. Many witnesses described how the feared secret police would fire automatic weapons and rockets indiscriminately into crowds to disperse them.
"THE BUTCHER OF BUCHEREST"
Then in Bucharest, on Thursday, 21 December, Ceausescu attempted to stage a propaganda rally to reassert his authority and demonstrate popular support for communism. 30 000 Workers had been assembled to applaud and wave flags on cue.As he arrived on the palace balcony at 10.00 am., national television broadcast loud cheers and applause from the crowd. In reality he was met by sullen silence. And as he began to speak, a few boos and cat calls from the back of the square quickly became a torrent of abuse, drowning out his words. Acting quickly, the television controllers stopped the broadcast in mid- sentence. With a frozen image of Ceaucesc the TV broadcast “patriotic” socialist music.
According to eyewitnesses in the square, Mrs Ceausescu then appeared to tug his arm, attempting to persuade her husband to retire to the safety of the party headquarters. For a moment Ceausescu resisted. He held up his hands, believing this geture alone would restore order. It was met by a barrage of stones, and he then withdrew.
Cheering demonstrators stormed the palace, shouting “Rat! Rat!” “Dracula!” “Anti-Christ!” The army then acted quickly. Denouncing Ceausescu, the military threw all their resources behind the popular up rising.
Within minutes of the chaotic scenes in Palace Square, troops stormed the central committee headquarters, and the television and radio stations. Others were despatched to seal off the headquarters of the Securitate, Ceausescu’s highly effective and feared secret police. An elite brigade of paratroops was sent to capture Ceausescu.
But Ceausescu’s plans were well-laid for such a eventuality and he managed to escape to a secret bunker (constructed by convicts, who had been shot when it was finished) on the outskirts of Bucharest, where he master-minded a bloody counteroffensive against his own people until he was captured 48 hours later, on Saturday night.
Any lingering doubts about Ceausescu’s contempt for his own people were removed by the violent response of the Securitate. When regular army troops, most of them conscripts, refused orders to fire on peaceful protests that had broken out all over Bucharest after the confrontation in Palace Square, Ceausescu despatched Securitate units throughout the city. They opened fire indiscriminately on the crowds, killing thousands. They rounded up soldiers who had fled in panic and summarily executed them.
It was not until Friday morning, 22 December, that the army was able to regroup, capturing the Securitate’s headquarters and cutting off its main supply lines. Civilian volunteers with army training were issued with automatic weapons and allowed to help the armed forces restore order. The Securitate responded by launching what can only be described as a campaign of sustained and expertly executed terrorism against the population, a campaign clearly designed to spread panic and confusion throughout the capital in the hope of suppressing the revolt.
Initially the army was outnumbered 4 to 1 by the Securitate. In fact, the dreaded secret police had tanks, helicopter gunships and paratroopers. The ill-equipped Romanian army, however, had the power of prayer and the support of the people behind them.
“It is very hard to describe the feeling of those moments. We felt so excited and yet so frightened,” said a Romanian. “I knew I was seeing history being made and I wanted to divide myself into a hundred different parts to be all around the city to see what was happening.”
In response to urgent broadcast appeals, truck drivers sped through a city aflame, carrying lorry-loads of quick-setting cement for barricades. Romanian radio and TV, now in the hands of the anti-communists, reported massacres in Arad, Cluj, losi, Sibiu, Constantsa and Brasov by Securitate commados. 12 000 Were reported murdered in Timisoara alone. Among the dead were 7 614 people first detained by the communists and then executed.
Firefights lit up the sky in Bucharest, Cluj and Timisoara. Amidst the fighting, crowds danced in the streets around bonfires fueled by portraits and books of Ceausescu and communist posters. “For the first time the writings of Ceausescu provided light,” declared one pastor.
On Friday, 22nd December, Rev Peter Dugulescu, pastor of the Baptist Church in Timisoara, preached in the main square, where the uprising had begun. 100 000 people knelt and prayed aloud the Lord’s Prayer together. Then the sqaure resounded with joyful singing as Christmas songs were publicly sung for the first time in 45 years. As Peter preached, the people shouted as a public confession: ‘There is a God! There is a God!”
As the fighting continued, Securitate gunmen siezed ambulances to use as roving gun platforms, shooting indiscriminately at passers-by. There were reports of securitate wearing Red Cross armbands shooting into crowds. Some Securitate even put on the red, yellow and blue armbands of the anti-communist forces and made arrests, tortures and executions in disguise. Securitate snipers using lasers and night scopes terrorised everyone. Hospital wards filled up with victims of the sniping campaign as the Securitate played out their private apocalypse.
In Bucharest the fighting moved under ground as the Securitate held out in the maze of secret tunnels that the dictatorship had dug beneath the capital, to connect the palace with key government facilities. Historical buildings and libraries were reduced to rubble.
A group of Securitate were killed near Cluj — Napoca as they attempted to blow up a dam that would have drowned and destroyed that beautiful city.
“THE ANTI-CHRIST IS DEAD”
By Saturday, 23rd December, Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were captured by the army and taken to a tank regiment, where they were tried for genocide and executed on Christmas day. Reportedly the Jezebel type wife of Ceausescu, Elena was defiant to the end, demanding of a soldier why they were being treated so harshly. “I was your mother,” she declared indignantly. “What kind of a mother were you?” he shouted. “You killed our mothers!”As the stunned Romanian people gathered around television sets to see the picture of the bloodstained corpse of the hated dictator, Bucharest radio announced “The Anti-Christ is dead! Oh what wonderful news. The Anti-Christ died on Christmas!”
In fields, streets and villages, peasants built bonfires with communist books and posters and pictures of Ceausescu, dancing and singing, “We are free! Dracula is dead!”
Some people commented, “Only last week Ceausescu placed a wreath on the Ayatollah Khomeni’s grave in Iran — now he’s gone to join him.”
The Stalinist Ceausescu had forced a shameless personality cult on his people, unrivalled since the Roman emperors. Out stripping even the extravagant Emperor Bokassa and ldi Amin, Ceausescu forced his subjects to compose thousands of poems, songs and hymns in his praise. He basked in such grandiose honorifics as “The Genius of the Carpathians”, “The Danube of Thought” and “Mankind’s Greatest Son.” Songs declared that “even the winds and waves reverently whisper his name — ‘Ceausescu, Ceausescu’!”
He appointed 56 of his own relatives to high party and government positions and tolerated no difference of opinion with himself. Literally millions of copies of his picture were produced — providing an awesome source of fuel for bonfires.
Amidst the gunfire, burning buildings and sirens, Christmas day was celebrated with an unprecedented enthusiasm. Thousands of families filled the streets, handing over gifts to total strangers. Christmas carols resounded throughout the streets of Romania. Church services swelled the town squares. Ministers preached from the main balconies, where only communist officials had spoken before. Tens of thousands knelt in the bloodstained streets and wept with gratitude to the Lord.“We are a people reborn!” “This Christmas is the greatest day in my life. I never thought I would live to see freedom! To see Christmas carols sung by church choirs on television — it is more than I ever dreamed!”
Hundreds of Christmas trees appeared all over the towns. Even on the main balcony of the ransacked Central Committee building — a small Christmas tree was standing where once Ceausescu stood. For 45 years Christmas, like the rest of the Christian calendar, had been banned, condemned as “an irrelevant religious festival of no value to a modern socialist state.”
“Romania has been given a wonderful Christmas gift — a new birth of freedom,” declared one missionary who has laboured 30 years to serve the persecuted churches of Eastern Europe.
The choir of Oradea Baptist Church (the largest Baptist church in Europe) was invited to the national theatre on Sunday, 24th December, to record an hour of Christmas carols for national television. All over Romania people wept and knelt as they heard the Lord Jesus Christ being honoured and glorified on radio and TV for the first time in 45 years.
Newspaper editors announced that from now on they would devote pages for Bible teaching and Gospel messages. Editors made public apologies on TV for having written lies for so many years.
Use of the communist title, ‘comrade” (tovarasul in Romanian) as a form of address was banned, and the scheme to demolish villages and resettle people in communal apartments was ended.
Communist party warehouses were raided, their stockpiled meat, chocolate and fruit being made available in the shops. For people used to 45 years of rationing, it was a festive occasion. As one declared:
“Even if we only have crumbs — it will be a feast!”
“Nobody can imagine how much we hate communism because you in the West have not suffered as we have under this ‘scientific socialism.’ Do you know that they destroyed 17 churches and two cathedrals, evicted 40 000 people from their homes and demolished ancient buildings — the entire inner city of Bucharest, just to build the new party headquarters and Ceausescu’s palace?” The local people remind us of one of the reasons behind the uprising. The now burnt out palace was so vast that it made Buckingham Palace look tiny by comparison. Now its wreckage stands as a testimony to the wastage that is communism.
But even as communism was suffering a humiliating defeat in Romania, a communist terror group — SWAPO — was gaining an electoral victory in South West Africa/Namibia. And SWAPO leader, Sam Nujoma showed his colours by expressing his admiration and affection for Ceausescu and all his achievements.
Nobody in Romania seems to share Nujoma’s inane sentiments. The joyful people are full of expectation and delight at the prospect of freedom from socialism.
But many voice warnings that although a major battle has been won, the war is by no means over. Some expressed the fear that they would again be betrayed by the West back into the hands of the Marxists. Is the change in Romania a short-term one or will it be lasting? That depends upon the faithfulness, boldness, prayers and action of God’s people in Romania and elsewhere.
Pray for us and other missionaries as we endeavour to do our part to help the Christians in Romania rise to this challenge.