A STORY OF INSURRECTION IN IAȘI, ROMANIA
Stefan heard the loud bang followed by the command to open up. Before he had time to get out of bed the apartment door was battered down and the sound of numerous boots were pounding through his small hallway.
They found him in the bedroom. ‘Stefan Prutianu, you are under arrest on the charge of treason and incitement to civil unrest. Get dressed.’ The machine guns pointed at him convinced Stefan not to argue. He was sure the others had awoken to similar fates this morning. The economics teacher was unaware at that time that he was the first arrest in what became known as the Romanian Revolution.
Two days earlier, on December the 12th, they had handed their fliers around the city of Iași. Stefan had written the text denouncing Ceaușescu and his policies of austerity that had brought Romania and her people to their knees. For years Ceaușescu had ruled the Communist Party through a cult of personality with the aid of the Securitate, his secret police. Organised dissent was impossible.
But Stefan and others had watched what had happened across Eastern Europe in the last few months of 1989. The Berlin Wall had fallen, Communist rule in Czechoslovakia and Hungary had ended with the resignation of the governments and Poland had elected a socialist reforming party to power. On the Eastern border, less than fifty kilometres from Iași, Moldova was in the process of separating from the Soviet Union. Now was the moment to seize the opportunity and drag Romania out from under the blight of Ceaușescu.
The flier asked the citizens to join the Romanian Popular Front in Unirii Square two days later on December 14th to march in protest. It was on the morning of the scheduled demonstration that Stefan Prutianu was arrested. When the protest was due to begin police and national guard filled the square and began arresting large groups of protestors. There was to be no revolution in Iași that day.
But the inevitable could not be denied. Two days later, across the country in Timișoara a public protest did go ahead in support of Pastor László Tőkés, who had openly criticised the government and was facing eviction and being removed from his post. His parishioners gathered around his apartment, passersby spontaneously joined in. The Revolution had begun. Days of street battles between protesters and police escalated the movement.
Meanwhile Stefan Prutianu spent the next few days in a cell. He was finally released on the 22nd of December. Earlier that day President Ceaușescu had tried to flee the country after his attempts to quell the growing protests with a rally in Bucharest led to open revolution in the streets of the capital. Ceaușescu and his wife were arrested in Târgoviște, where they were being held awaiting their fate. 1,104 people had died across the country.
Three days later Romanians were free to celebrate Christmas Day for the first time in years. On the same day the new government, the National Salvation Front, ordered the trial of ex-President Ceaușescu and his wife on charges of genocide and illegally gathering wealth. They were found guilty and taken immediately out the back of the court building where they were executed by firing squad. Images of their bodies were sent round the world to media outlets.
Stefan Prutianu returned to teaching economics in Iași. In 2006, a law of gratitude was passed identifying him as a fighter, one of the martyrs and heroes of the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s the turbulent year of 1989 when political unrest gripped Eastern Europe and a story from Iași, Romania – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.
Click the link for more information on the Romanian Revolution: Wikipedia, and for the part Iași played in the uprising before it took hold, look HERE. Although Stefan Prutianu is a real person and some facts are presented here, I have taken liberties with some fictional scenes.
For the next couple of days, a break from the history for a couple of purely fictional stories…