Diary of a Revolution of Romania
>17 November 1989
In the city of Timisoara, a small group of faithful followers forms outside the home of a popular Calvinist pastor called Laszlo Tökes. He has long been a thorn in the side of the Securitate for his criticism of the Ceausescu regime and finally his bishop has called in the police to evict him from his church-owned home - he has refused to take up a new post in a less "sensitive" rural parish. This intervention provokes the initial demonstration and some reports suggest that a picket continues outside his house through the following weeks. 15 December has been set as the deadline for his departure
>27 November 1989
Ceausescu defiantly denounces the political changes sweeping across Eastern Europe at the 14th Congress of the Romanian Communist Party. None of the 3308 members vote against his re-election. However, security is tight, flags are flying and for a while the borders are sealed and international flights cancelled. The atmosphere on the streets is tense and there are a number of isolated incidents of defiance. In Cluj there is a brief panic when the words "Down with Ceausescu" are written in the snow of Piata Libertatii one evening. There are other minor incidents and an unusual feeling of excitement and expectation which largely goes unreported.
>1 December 1989
Famous gymnast, and Olympic gold medallist, Nadia Comaneci, arrives in New York after defecting from Romania.
>15 December 1989
Back in Timisoara, the deadline arrives for Tökes to be evicted. His parisioners gather outside and sing psalms and read prayers.
>16 December 1989
The crowd in front of the Reform Church in Piata Maria swells to several hundred people including women and children. They are being watched by Securitate and Militia. Petre Mot, the mayor arrives at about noon. He tries to assure Tökes that he will not be evicted that day and asks him to calm down the protestors. Tökes asks them to disperse but they refuse to move and the crowd continues to grow through the afternoon, the original core of Hungarian-speaking Calvinists now far outnumbered by ethnic Romanians and others, ordinary people of all ages. Some of the people go into the town, to the university campus and the industrial zones to spread the news and encourage others to join them. The first troops attack the protestors but cannot break the crowd so the, and arrests have been made and the first shouts of "Down with Ceausescu" are being heard in the square. There are cars burning and windows broken, and the back streets are filled with securitate officers and armed militia. In the evening an even bigger crowd marches into town shouting anti-communist and anti-Ceausescu slogans for the first time and demanding democracy. Trams are stopped in front of the Continental Hotel whilst another group marches on the town hall and the Communist Party HQ, where windows are broken and a communist flag is destroyed. The city streets are filled with waves of demonstators. The regime has lost control of Timisoara but the Army and Securitate have not yet opened fire on the crowd, they had not anticipated the scale of the uprising. During the hours of darkness armoured cars and tanks gather near the Parcul Poporului then begin to stream into the town. Meanwhile, Tökes and his wife are arrested by the Securitate and held prisoner in a farmhouse in the countryside.
>17 December 1989
By morning the city looks like a warzone with broken windows hurriedly being repaired. The factories around Timisoara go on strike and the demonstrations continue. Ceausescu becomes aware of the situation and the failure of the army to act decisively. He calls a meeting of the Politburo, launches a scathing attack on the defence minister (General Milea) and chief of Securitate ( General Vlad) and threatens to dismiss them. Finally, after receiving a pledge that the army will shoot to kill, he embarks on a State visit to Iran, confident that the situation has been contained. Elena takes control. It should be noted that Ceausescu still does not realise that HE is the target of the demonstrations - he believes that they are the result of foreign spies and agents trying to destabilise the country - for many years he has been only fed with what he wants to hear!
Representatives with an order to shoot from Ceausescu himself arrive in Timisoara that afternoon. A large crowd has gathered in front of the Opera House which in time will fill the square - Piata Victoriei. Part heads to the administration offices and Communist Party HQ to demand dalogue. Windows and doors are broken and the crowd enters, destroying files and throwing portraits of Ceausescu and Communist literature onto a bonfire they have made in the street. A shout goes up when a flag appears with a hole in the centre where the communist logo has been torn out - the Revolution has a symbol. At 17:00 water cannons and tear gas are used against the people, tanks and APD's enter the streets and the shooting begins at about 18:00. They fire indiscriminately into the crowd. Demonstrators fight back trying to block the tracks of the tanks and building barricades. Some are run over by tanks, others are shot, and many are arrested and beaten. The securitate begin to shoot at windows, balconies and staircases. This was the watershed of the Revolution - differentiating it from previous demonstrations such as strikes in the Jiu valley and the 1987 roits in Brasov. News spreads quickly, especially by foreign TV and radio transmissions from neighbouring countries. The scale of the massacre becomes more and more exaggerated with reports of up to 60,000 dead in Timisoara. The borders are closed so frustrated reporters cannot verify anything (actual figures later published were 97 dead and 210 injured in total).
>18 - 20 December 1989
In Timisoara on the morning of 18 December people are asking for their dead or wounded. The city is occupied by troops forming cordons round sensitive buildings or walking in patrols lead by uniformed and plain clothes Securitate officers. The crowd of demonstrators in Piata Victoriei (between the orthodox cathedral and opera) is also growing, as is the number of securitate and militia dressed in civilian clothes. As the shooting starts again many people seek refuge in the park or the cathedral. A group of children sheltering on the steps of the cathedral are shot at from a passing vehicle and several die. Others are shot by armoured cars as they try to escape, or are brutally beaten. Other demonstrators building a barricade on the bridge are shot at. A young woman and child are hit by bullets and fall to their deaths in the river Bega.
Confusion about what is happening in Romania reigns in the West. The Romanian embassy in London are being elusive but advise that there are new visa requirements which require a delay of at least 20 days. Press reports liken Timisoara to the Tienamen Square massacre while fresh riots in Cluj and Iasi are reported. A crowd of some 50,000 in Timisoara continues to demand Ceausescu's resignation. One rumour broadcast by the BBC suggests that the workers at the Solventul petro-chemical complex have delivered an ultimatum to the military to leave by 15:00 or the plant will be blown up.
In order to cover their tracks the authorities order all bodies to be taken from the local hospital on the night of 18 December. They are transported in secret to Bucharest where they are burnt! Others had been buried in secret in the paupers' cemetery. Relatives are advised they must have escaped across the borders.