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In Romania, Ceausescu's death haunts Christmas

Many Romanians regret that reviled Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were hastily executed on Christmas Day in 1989.

“It’s a very delicate matter,” said psychologist Maria Dragomir. “Every December, Romania honors its fallen heroes of the Revolution, but many will also have a pious thought for the anti-heroes Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, exactly because of their horrible end. The fact that they were executed so monstrously on Christmas day gave them a special kind of recognition among the people, who otherwise hated them so very much.”

Dragomir pointed to a “collective feeling of guilt,” as Romanians often say “we killed them,” in reference to the Ceausescus, even though only a handful of people were actually involved. In the heat of the moment, many said they would have lynched the Ceausescus had they caught them — that’s how enraged they were at their despotic leaders of 24 years. (While Nicolae was the country’s president, Elena was deputy prime minister of the Communist Party and deeply reviled by Romanians.) So in hindsight, some have come up with other justifications for the leaders’ deaths.

Ninety-one-year-old Elena Busuiocescu said she thinks that “they earned such an ugly death on such a big day simply because they had been cursed so badly for starting to demolish churches in the late 1980s.” In an attempt to clear vast spaces for large-scale communist projects, Ceausescu had begun to bulldoze many historic buildings, among them churches, which infuriated Romanians even more than the virtual lack of any food and decent living conditions in the years leading up to the Revolution.

Along the same lines, some feel that the executions have brought a curse upon the country itself. In an editorial this week, the web publication Tricolorul, which belongs to extreme right-wing politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor, offers that Romania is in a such bad shape 20 years after the Revolution exactly because it has been unable to make amends with this horrific crime, and punish, in turn, those who perpetrated it.

Although they admit that having freedom is priceless, many Romanians are visibly worried about the state of their country, which has been mired in a deep political crisis for months and whose economy is in a bad shape. A vast majority routinely indicate in opinion polls that they miss certain elements of their life under Ceausescu’s regime, such as the security offered by the state and a certain order in which the country was functioning. And then there are those who are nostalgic for Ceausescu himself, saying that the politicians who grabbed the power after 1989 are much more ruthless than he ever actually was. Every year, a select few even stop by the Bucharest cemetery where he and his wife are buried on Christmas day, to pay homage to their memory.