Shot by a firing squad for "crimes against the state," Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and wife Elena were later buried in a military cemetery in Bucharest, but the bodies have been exhumed for verification.
A firing squad brought the 24-year reign of communist party leader and Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu to an end. From 1965 through mid-December 1989, Ceausescu used brutal force, such as the Securitate secret police, to suppress opposition. Opposition grew in large part due to the lack of basic freedoms and food in Romania.
As reported by NPR, "Ceausescu was toppled Dec. 22, 1989, as Romanians fed up with years of draconian rationing and communist rule revolted. He tried to flee Bucharest by helicopter but his pilot switched sides."
On December 25, 1989, the deposed Romanian president and his wife Elena were, according to the BBC, “shot by a firing squad after a secret military tribunal found them both guilty of crimes against the state.”
The Ceausescus were buried in west Bucharest in the Ghencea military cemetery.
Last week, however, the remains "believed to be the bodies of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena" were exhumed "at the request of their children," according to NPR.
The Ceausescus' son, Valentin Ceausescu, and son-in-law, Mircea Oprean, husband of the couple's now-deceased daughter, Zoia Ceausescu, want forensic analyses to determine if it is actually Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu buried in the graves at Ghencea.
NPR states, "Some Romanians doubt that the Ceausescus were really buried in the Ghencea military cemetery in west Bucharest. There is also some nostalgia for the communist period and regrets that the couple was executed on Christmas Day, 1989."
Fototeca online a comunismului românesc
Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena. 1976.
DigitalJournal.com reached out to two Romanians for comments on the deaths of the Ceausescus, the exhumations of the bodies, and responses to the assertions made in the NPR statement above.
Elena Farca, Head of International Affairs Office for the City Hall of Iasi, Romania, shared some of her thoughts about what it was like in Romania under the rule of Ceausescu. Farca said it would take "too long to tell you all the angry thoughts I have when I remember that period. And even I'm not a rich person today, I can't regret that terrible period. I just hope it will never come back!"
Similarly, journalist Mihaela Raileanu, who is the spokeswoman for the Romanian Agency of Quality Assurance in Higher Education and a doctoral student in political science in Bucharest, said, "I couldn’t read what I wanted, I couldn’t speak, even to think was dangerous. Remember George Orwell's 1984? Simple fact that I listened to Free Europe was dangerous, because my neighbors could hear me and inform the political police, Securitate. I felt like I had to live in a prison. No food, no freedom, the only acceptable feeling was being scared."
Farca and Raileanu were asked how they became aware of the exhumation of the bodies. Farca indicated that she found out when the exhumations were reported "on the news." Concerning her thoughts about the exhumations, Farca replied, "I think this matters only to the very close family or friends of them. From my point of view, it is a waste of time and a new topic on TV screen to make us forget that we face a horrible crisis."
During recent years, I found out that Ceausescu family (Zoia, the daughter, Valentin, the son, and Mircea Oprean, the son-in-law) want exhumation of the two bodies. The official motivation was that they wanted to know if the Ceausescus were really buried in the Ghencea military cemetery in Bucharest. Valentin Ceausescu considers that it is a step towards the truth. And I agree. After more than 20 years, it’s time for them to know the truth. I haven’t paid too much attention to this subject because I think it’s irrelevant for Romanian society today.
In terms of "nostalgia for the communist period and regrets that the couple was executed," neither Farca nor Raileanu indicated that they had either.
A propaganda poster on the streets of Bucharest, 1986. The caption reads "65 years since the creation of the Romanian Communist Party".
Farca stated, "I have no nostalgia about those HORRIBLE times!!! No food or clothes in the stores, no possibilities to develop. Only Securitate members and Communist Party important members had everything they wanted."
"I don’t have regrets concerning that period," said Raileanu. "I never did and I never will." Further, Raileanu noted, "I don’t have nostalgia for the communist period."
After a medical team exhumed the bodies believed to be those of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, CNN reports that, "The remains will undergo DNA testing by the Institute of Legal Medicine, Romania's national news agency Agerpress reported."