Friday, March 20, 2020

Eastern Europe 1990: Bucharest, Romania

In Bucharest, a woman places flowers at a street
memorial to those who were killed in the fighting.

Crossing the "Friendship" Bridge over the Danube on the morning of March 15, we were on our way north to Bucharest, Romania -- an easy, 60-mile drive past flat fields and farms. Upon arrival, we checked into the Hotel Nord (North), about which, more later.

Louise and I had a few hours on our own, so we hired a car and driver to take us around. Romania had just thrown off Communist rule and scenes of the battle were all around us.

One of the many buildings in Bucharest showing
the effects of the battles of December, 1989,

The regime of Nicolae Ceausescu was considered the most totalitarian and repressive in Eastern Europe. When protests broke out in Timisoara, little more than a month after the Berlin Wall was breached, he ordered his military to fire on the protestors, killing and wounding many. Massive rioting and fighting ensued. Ceausescu and his wife Elena attempted to flee in a helicopter, but were caught by the military, which had changed sides. They were tried and swiftly executed by a firing squad on December 25, 1989. The revolutionary forces then began the process of establishing a free Romania.

Romanian soldiers man a tank at one
of the national capitol buildings.

We photographed one of Ceausescu's palaces, other government buildings, some of them showing damage from shelling, and the pedestal from which Vladimir Lenin's statue had been removed in front of the very impressive national press building.

Another building badly damaged by the shelling.
I asked our guide "What does that graffiti mean?"
He replied, "It means We Got Them!"

That evening we were taken to a service at the Maranatha Church, which was packed with people, as has been every service we have attended on this tour.

When we returned to our room at the Hotel "North," we discovered how it had earned its name: the heat was turned off at night! We slept, not very comfortably, under a pile of blankets. The next morning, Louise ran hot water in the tub to see if she could warm the bathroom. We both ended up taking hot tub baths, which did chase away the chill!

Breakfast at the hotel restaurant was cold cuts and cheese and some of Paul Lauster's instant Nescafe, which he unfortunately left on the table. Then off to the Church's National Headquarters and Theological Seminary. The only Church of God school for Christian workers in all Eastern Europe, they were only allowed 15 students at a time by the Ceausescu regime.

A class at the Church of God School of Theology
in Bucharest. The only seminary in all of Eastern Europe.

A student at the Theological Seminary in Bucharest.

After lunch with the students, we we were taken on a tour of the Romanian capitol buildings, the Basilica of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarch, University Plaza, where Ceausescu's men fired on protesters on December 21 and 22, and the Palace Plaza, where Ceausescu attempted to speak to the crowds from a balcony and had to be rescued by helicopter.

The balcony of the Presidential Palace in Bucharest
from which the dictator Ceausescu attempted to address
the protesters. He had to be rescued by helicopter.
Sickened by having shed the blood of their own fellow-citizens,
the Romania army came over to the side of the people.

That evening, we went to a service at Philadelphia Church, a large building that again, was fully packed. Despite years of government opposition, the Church of God had by that time grown to 250,000 members.

Worshipers at one of the Bucharest churches.

Supper was at the hotel restaurant again, and then back to our room, where another hot bath before bed made for a less chilly night.

(Photographs made with Olympus OM and Leica M cameras and lenses, Fujichrome 100D and 400D films.) 

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