I

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…

69 thoughts on “I IS FOR IAȘI, ROMANIA

  1. I really liked the power of our collective spirit depicted in your story.Long live our voices! 🙂Thanks for writing about an aspect of European History that I was totally unfamiliar with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome Moon. This was one of the first news stories I can remember watching unfold on television. Although many lost their lives it was a case of the power of the people making a real difference – it just shows it can be done! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yet another example where the history is being written by the victor. If the revolution had failed, Stefan would have found himself facing the wrong end of the guns and would have been written off as a traitor. Makes one think twice while reading history. Another great nugget from you, Iain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One man’s terrorist is another man’s hero. It is always good to remember both sides in any argument. In this case there was no doubt that the State had been abusing the people and they rose up, but you are right, Stefan’s fate could have been so different. Thanks Varad.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. That was an amazing period. I have visited the Gdańsk shipyards and the huge civic building in Bucharest as well as all the old Soviet Bloc countries. You get an amazing feel for those times nearly 30 years on. I enjoyed your article.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is scary to think that Europe was so divided not so long ago. If there is any sign of success for the European Union endeavour then it is surely that it has brought all these countries closer together.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember reading about the Romanian revolution long time back. After the second world war, communism reared its ugly head and several countries went behind the iron curtain. I remember the reports of the executions of Ceaușescu and his wife. Till the Soviet Union got dismantled as separate countries and the Berlin wall was demolished it was a very bad time for many European countries. The cold war repeatedly threatened into becoming a full-scale nuclear war. Thankfully both Kennedy and Khrushchev handle the bay of pigs skillfully. Thanks for taking us through several moments in History which are so significant.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Another great nugget from history. I remember closely following events in the former Communist Bloc since the fall of the Berlin Wall. What an exhilarating era it was. The world was getting freed, would become paradise. Little did we know.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was definitely a time of hope, that ordinary people could make a difference. Perhaps the best that can be said is that some countries, like Romania, are better off now than they were then.

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  6. I fell in love with the area as a child when my parents were given a set of Time Life books. They were full of beautiful images, but also talked about the complex history. Sadly, it keep on going after my childhood; dare I say, it continues still.

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The late 80s and early 90s were times of real upheaval, just as I was becoming old enough to understand what all these things meant. Would be interesting to see if Romanians felt life had improved in the years since.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember that time, the end of the Berlin Wall and Ceaușescu’s regime. I was in college and we discussed the events, but frankly, back then I thought they didn’t concern me. Today I look at it differently.

    Congratulations, you manage to describe those scenarios as if you had been part of it yourself!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tamara, that was my hope. I remember being aware of these events on the news, but like you, not until later did I realise how important these moments were.

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  8. He’s lucky they didn’t just burst in and shot him on the spot. I had a friend who taught English in the Czech Republic 15 or so years ago for a number of years. He visited places on his vacations that most people probably wouldn’t. Romania was one of them. He went at least twice, on the first trip things were pretty bad with feral kids and feral dogs. On his next trip things had improved a lot. He never traveled as a tourist, but took trains and stayed in hostels and met people and was invited to their homes.
    http://findingeliza.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very lucky, I think that’s how a lot of people were dealt with. It must have been an amazing time to be in this part of the world, especially being able to go and visit places which had beforehand been so oppressed. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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    1. It is a true story, apart from the little scene with guns at the start, I added a little action, but Stefan is a real person and one of the many unsung heroes of that time.

      Like

  9. Great job. Your writing is very good at showing the reader what they need to know about your story. I read your story to my husband and he said he loved it. I had a little bit of trouble understanding it but my husband (a poli-sci major in college) said it was perfectly clear to him. He is really very smart about all things in history and politics !!! It was still a very interesting post. It always brings me to want to learn more information about certain things in history. Our 3rd son is the same way. He is our reader and a professional ballet dancer for his day job. Very smart though. It’s pretty amazing to watch him on stage and then listen to him and the husband banter about the days news stories. Again, great job Iain. I’ll be following and reading. Have a great day, Patti

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. If my little stories inspire you to dig a little deeper and find out more then I think ‘job done!’ Glad your husband enjoyed it too, this one was trying to pack in quite a lot of history, I’m glad he approved!

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      1. We started dating when he was in college and I was still in high school. I typed all of his papers (at the risk of sounding like a dinosaur) and I just remember how boring it all was. Political Science that is. After being together now going on 42 years, I still am not a huge fan of politics but I must admit I have gotten more opinionated over the years. I have also made it a rule in our home starting on Thursday night, we don’t talk or watch anything on tv about politics. I think it’s okay to take a break from the madness 🙂 Have a great weekend…

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Ian you have a profound way with words. I swear, I felt like I was reading actual correspondence between two people during the heighten crisis of war time. I’m glad this one wasn’t as sad as some of the others. I’ve fallen way behind in the challenge, but I had you bookmarked as one blog I had to make it back to as soon as I caught up. Now I have to go back and read the entries I missed. You writing is beautiful and powerful. You place the reader inside the story. It’s hard to fathom that Europe was so torn and divided and it wasn’t that long ago. I didn’t know anything about the Romanian Revolution, but you’ve piqued my curiosity and I intend to learn more. I’m kind of a history freak. My dad was Jewish and we had many relatives from Poland who were in concentration camps during WW11. My mom never converted so even if he had wanted to raise us Jewish, Jewish Law wouldn’t have recognized us (long story) but I became fascinated with my father’s family’s history and I’ve researched it for many years. I also remember being obsessed with the Berlin Wall and the whole Eastern /Western Germany thing and amazed when they tore the wall down. I become easily engrossed with Eastern European History and the the more recent truly perplexes me. I can’t wait to read more.
    Melissa @
    Sugar Crime Scene

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melissa, I’m honoured you bookmarked my stories to come back to! Europe is such a fascinating place with so many different cultures all so close, and all tied to each other in different ways. Still to visit Poland on the tour, and the fate if the Jews there will be the theme of that story, so I hope I don’t let you down! A lot of other places and history to cover still as well, so I hope you enjoy reading more and I will pop over to your blog to check out your latest posts too. Much appreciated, Iain

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  11. I remember the fall of this evil S.O.B. and recall the horrors he inflicted on his own people. I think he got what he deserved. The Eastern bloc countries were always a bit unsettling to say the least.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think most would agree he got what he deserved here. It would be nice to think these countries were more settled now, but it seems they still have plenty of problems.

      Like

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