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A Martyred Nation - Rumania

by Yves Daoudal


Reprinted From Appropos No. 5

Recent news from Rumania has told us of thousands of ethnic Hungarians from the northwestern province of Transylvania fleeing into Hungary from the enforced destruction of villages, and the reports have tended to emphasize the element of 'persecution of an ethnic minority' in the Rumanian government's so-called 'systemization' campaign. The truth is that President Ceaucescu's policy is being carried out throughout the country, in the towns as well as the countryside, against ethnic Rumanians as well as the minorities, and aims at nothing less than the destruction of the whole tradition and culture of the nation, leaving it defenseless against a ruthless totalitarian regime, Communist in ideology and in which power is firmly monopolized by the Ceaucescu family and its hangers-on.

This is brought out by the following report by Yves Daoudal, which appeared in Présent of 23/24 January 1989, and has been translated by S.H. and G.L. and published in Appropos magazine.

There is an obvious and crying imbalance between the media campaigns mounted against South Africa or Chile and the almost inaudible protests made by the same media over the wholesale 'destruction of villages' in Rumania. We are, alas, only too familiar with the double standards applied in the slanted reporting of 'attacks on human rights' in the world today. But the grossest and most scandalous inadequacy lies surely in the immense disproportion between the timid remonstrations of the 'free world' against the 'Great Leader' of Rumania, President Ceaucescu, and the tragic near-genocide he is carrying out against his own people.

The program to 'modernize the countryside' is more than just one episode in the process of collectivization. On this issue alone the 'free world' should long ago have cried to high heaven against this intolerable assault upon human rights.

But what is happening is not merely a question of collectivizing lands still in individual ownership, of confiscating the last privately-owned kitchen garden, and turning all Rumanian peasants into agricultural laborers living in low-rent state-owned accommodation; the destruction of the Rumanian villages amounts to the cultural and physical destruction of a whole people.

Thousands of villages are being destroyed, villages whose ancient houses, with their distinctive architectural style, form an integral part of all that is best in mankind's cultural heritage.

And of course they are destroying the churches at the heart of the villages. 'Nihil sine Deo', 'Nothing without God', was the motto of Rumania during the monarchy, and was inscribed on the national flag in a circle round the crown surmounted by the cross. 'Everything against God', such is the new motto, and no merely architectural or historical consideration is allowed to prevail against this new principle. 'Everything against God' naturally implies total opposition to Rumanian culture and history, deeply impregnated as these are by Christianity.

The religious persecution and cultural genocide have as a corollary an attack on the physical wellbeing of the displaced populations. The villagers are being 'rehoused' in terrible conditions. Their new homes are prefabricated blocks of flats with walls 5 to 6 inches thick which crack as soon as they are put up. At the end of December 1988 the temperature in these blocks was no more than 39 to 41 degrees F.; the central heating is switched on for 2 hours a day, and hot water is available for only 2 hours once a week. The tenants have only one bathroom and one toilet for every 30 apartments.

To this must be added famine. Eggs and meat are unobtainable. Potatoes are a luxury product. As for other commodities, ration coupons have become lottery tickets. After queuing for hours one might be lucky to acquire what we would regard as left-overs. This is the general state of affairs in Rumania. There has been a breaking out again of deficiency diseases due to food shortages and an increased number of bone fractures due to calcium deficiency, especially among the elderly. As for the newly-born, the mortality rate is so high that babies are not registered until 3 weeks after birth. In the country-side, the suppression of market gardens, linked to the destruction of the villages, has meant the removal of the last guarantee of survival for the villagers.

Initially the doomed villages were flattened by bulldozers. The authorities are now carrying their sadism to the point of forcing the peasants to destroy their own houses. Everywhere one finds cases of suicide, especially among the elderly.

The capital, Bucharest, too has become one vast building site. Historic quarters of the city - with their churches1 - have been demolished to make way for Stalinist palaces for the crazed dictator and barrack-blocks - unhealthy as well as new - in the suburbs for the people.

Since November 1987 the hourly consumption of electricity has been reduced by decree to 35 kilowatts (the comparable figure for the USSR is 190). Breaches of this decree are punishable by fines. Only light-bulbs of 25 watts are in use. Supplies of electricity, gas and water are constantly being cut, resulting in frequent accidents.

Last summer a pensioner from Strasbourg completed a lengthy cycle tour of more than 6,000 kilometers in central Europe. His tour took him through Rumania. At the frontier the Hungarian customs official told him: "You're crazy. You'll die of hunger and exhaustion." He did not die of hunger, but he was forced to change his plans and shorten his journey. It was virtually impossible to find food to buy anywhere, either in the shops, open for an hour from time to time, and always with empty shelves, or from the local people, terrorized and unable to express their traditional hospitality except by furtive smiles.

For in addition to the cold, the hunger, the abject poverty and total lack of hygiene, there is a complete lack of freedom, the leaden mantle of Stalinism, the ubiquitous political police, the constant threat of imprisonment and the Gulag. It has reached the point where even the typewriters have been confiscated and the sale of paper prohibited, to avoid any possible manifestation of opposition by the circulation of leaflets, and any possibility of organizing resistance to the regime.

In such conditions one can appreciate the courage of Doïna Cornea, a lecturer in French banned from the university of Cluj for 'activities against socialist order', who drafted a truly anti-Communist manifesto of national opposition, demanding in particular a halt to the destruction of the villages, the restoration of the Greek-Catholic Uniate Church and the abolition of Marxist-Leninist teaching in the schools.

Shortly afterwards Doïna Cornea, as well as the twenty other signatories who had the courage to put their names to this manifesto, were placed under what amounted to house arrest and permanent surveillance. Then Doïna Cornea disappeared from sight, and her telephone no longer responded to calls.

A many-sided if rather too cautious campaign (even the European Parliament was associated with it), launched in favor of Doïna Cornea, seems to have been instrumental in compelling the Rumanian authorities to allow her to speak in public2 - this within a few days of fresh meeting of the European Conference on Security and Cooperation (the body responsible for "supervising" the implementation of the Helsinki agreements, and whose final text has been declared "unacceptable" by Bucharest). Her statement had relatively little of interest, containing as it did only what she was allowed to say through the mouthpiece of the local Rumanian sports (sic!) correspondent of the French AFP news agency. She confirmed that she had been "harassed and constantly followed wherever she went" for the past few months, (without recalling that she had been savagely beaten up on the premises of the political police), and, more precisely, that since the 5th of January an observation post had been set up opposite her house. She is said to have added that she had not been arrested, however, which hardly seems credible.

This country, with its age-old Latin and Christian traditions, its open-hearted people and its friendship for France, this land whose soil and subsoil are the most fertile in Eastern Europe but whose riches are being destroyed by a mad dictator and pillaged by the Soviets, is in process of bleeding to death under the indifferent gaze of a Western Europe that has been seduced by the charm of Gorbachev's smile - a Europe that believes itself free and which immediately takes up all the communist-inspired campaigns against 'abuses of human rights', real, supposed or imaginary, in anti-communist countries, and yet falls dumb when a member of the European family is dispossessed of its culture, when all that it holds most dear is trampled underfoot and exterminated inch by inch by the most malevolent and inhuman of Stalinist tyrants.

This silence over the martyrdom of Rumania, maintained in the interests of an illusory improvement in relations with the empire of the Gulag, will forever remain an infamous blot on the annals of European history.

Footnotes:

1.

Among pictures illustrating the original article is one of a large church, with the following caption: 'This is the church of the monastery of Antim, at Bucharest. It dates from the 18th Century, and is one of 30 churches destroyed by Ceaucescu in the capital. The reaction of the Rumanians is to say: "Even the Turks, in the centuries when they controlled our lands, never dared to do that." (Translator)

2.

Their hand may also have been forced by the ridiculous incident in which a letter was snatched from the hands of the British ambassador at Doïna Cornea's front door by Rumanian police, and only restored to him days later after diplomatic pressure from London and international media exposure. (Translator)