Voices Of Revolution: Romania

All this week, we hear firsthand accounts of the end of communism in Eastern Europe 20 years ago in our series Voices from a Revolution. Today, we hear a voice from Romania — Mircea Dinescu — a dissident poet and writer who helped storm the state-run TV station, and the man who announced live on air that "the dictator has fled!"

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Twenty years ago, change was sweeping across Eastern Europe. This week, we're marking the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by hearing the memories of people who experienced the demise of communism.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Romania is the only Eastern European country where the overthrow of communism was violent. More than 1,000 Romanians died battling the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu.

NORRIS: In 1989, his bizarre mix of Stalinism and personality cult had pushed the country to the brink of ruin. The dissident poet Mircea Dinescu was under house arrest for criticizing the regime when change came.

Mr. MIRCEA DINESCU (Poet): (Through Translator) I heard noises and I thought they were just more people going on with that sinister circus show of continuously praising Ceausescu. But then a neighbor came by and told me that the secret police agents guarding my door had run away. So, I went outside, and indeed, all of the six agents who were there round the clock had vanished. I ran out to the street and saw a huge crowd shouting: Down with the dictator, down with Ceausescu. Some people recognized me. They put me on a military tank with a Romanian flag in my hand.

It was like a bad movie about the Cuban revolution. But this was real. We headed toward the state-owned TV station. There we met another crowd bringing in Ion Caramitru, a famous Romanian actor. And because we were all well known, we were sent to announce on TV that Ceausescu had fled. That was incredible: to announce on the Romanian communist party's official TV station that the tyrant had fled. I was very nervous, obviously, because I knew I had to address several million people. I was a bit pathetic. First I said, the dictator has fled, which was really something - to refer a Ceausescu like this was something indeed.

But then I added - God has turned his face toward the Romanians. I wouldn't say something like this now, because now I realize God is apolitical. He doesn't care much about revolutions and societies. But at that time, it seemed to me that we were experiencing a miracle because I had never thought I could participate in such a scene and announce that Ceausescu had run away. That moment set off mass protests in other Romanian cities. At that moment, I didn't think we were going to have capitalism. I didn't know where we were going. It simply seemed to me that the communist era had come to an end. I wasn't thinking of any ideology and I wasn't making any future plans. We had witnessed a miracle.

NORRIS: Three days after Ceausescu and his wife tried to flee, they were executed by firing squad.

BLOCK: Today, poet Mircea Dinescu is a hobby winemaker and political commentator. He laments what he calls his country's sleepiness and lack of civic courage today, after the euphoria of the December 1989 revolution. He was interviewed in Bucharest by NPR's Eric Westervelt.

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