These days (end of 2004), the thoughts of soulful Romanians aim toward re-experiencing the events it's — seemingly unbelievable — 15 years since. They have a place of honor in the remembrances that I can now share due to my friends at Criterion Publishing. However, as the chapter evoking them is ample (besides the fact that so many were told and written on this subject), I prefer to orient to another chapter. Maybe it is equally significant, since it describes — I might say — an anticipation, which I am proud to have witnessed, of the great movement of December 1989.

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Chapter 18

Short time after coming back again to Petrova, on a Monday morning, the young Ardeleanus heard an unusual uproar for those places and that hour. When he went to the window, Bogdan saw on the lane large groups heading for the center of the village. There were particularly many men for this period, when the majority of them went either to cut woods or to work the fields in Banat [1]. The comments were in loud voice, so one could hear that they were in revolt against the decision that Petrova pertain to the neighboring village, Leordina.

Though he continued to consider himself a genuine Cluj townsman, he couldn't, however, refrain from supporting the Petrovans [2]. He acted so especially because it was about a problem concerning the entire country, as another abuse of the regime. The idea, obviously arisen out of Big Master's [3] „genial" head, was called „systematization of the villages" and had more aspects. One of them was the abolition of their rank for some communes, with their transformation into simple villages, in order to reduce the number of mayoralties, schools, health units, etc. The reason was simple: there was no money to pay the people working there. On the other hand, it was pursued to move the peasants into blocks, in order that their little lands around the houses be taken. These 4-floor blocks, however, had no sewerage, as it was in the towns. So, their inhabitants had merely the disadvantages in the countryside, i.e. only a fountain and a latrine per block — in the courtyard. (The regime wanted also to move the pensioners in such blocks by force — to free places for workers [4] in the towns and cities, but didn't manage that, as there wasn't time enough.)

Knowing that in the southern part of the country the abuses upon peasants were carried out without a murmur, Bogdan was glad that some people finally protest. He couldn't wait to learn more details. Luckily, in no time appeared in the health unit a nurse who lived in the center of the commune.

— What's happening here?

— Big trouble, Doc! They want to transform us into a village and establish the commune center in Leordina. This means that for every letter or every paper to sign we'd be bound to go there [5]. Moreover, the land record will be moved to them, so our properties will be taken.

— I understand, but how was this possible in one day?

— The mayoress was called at the party, and she immediately signed our change into a village. She doesn't care, as she is not a local. She came from a place near Brasov [6] and hasn't even a bit of land here.

This added to the fact that, though some time had passed since he had practiced in the commune, he didn't even get acquainted to the mayoress, who did her job as any other party task, i.e. with reluctance. He wanted to know, however, whether this woman at least stepped into Petrova since they had been there.

- Was the mayoress here these days?

- Yes. This very morning, the folks wanted to tear her into pieces, but she fled by train — we don't know how.

For someone who knew the history of these places, starting from how Sarmizegetusa [7] fell, it was easy to guess how the one who should have defended her people escaped. At the same time, a passionate of history realized that he was amid memorable events, so he had to leave apart what had happened almost 2000 years before. all of these crossed the young doctor's mind in an instant, so he decided to go on with the questions:

- What's the situation there, in the center? I have seen since morning that groups of people come down from all of the hills.

- It's a disaster. The folks came from all over the place and blocked the national highway. They set fire to the mayor's office, broke its windows and demanded that the First Secretary [8] come, as they wanted to discuss with him only. The most furious were the women, who had the children with them. Now they seem to have calmed down a little bit, as the vice-mayor told that the First Secretary would surely come.

Bogdan Ardeleanu couldn't wait to see with his own eyes that finally the Romanian peasant fights anyone for his land, so he dressed in a hurry and went straight to the mayor's office. (Ileana, his wife, decided to stay in the health unit, just in case. However, it was absurd to think that anybody would have come for a consultation, when practically all of the people were on the main street.)

Making his way among people that crowded by the main street right from the branching of the lane where the health unit was, he reached soon enough the mayor's office, but across the street. It was obvious that the nurse had not exaggerated at all: the building was full of soot, its windows were broken, and the pieces of furniture had been thrown on the road. Women, who placed the children in front of them, yelled and continued to be agitated, but there were no more acts of violence. Anyway, no one would have dared an aggression, since behind them were the men. They were silent, but their faces didn't predict anything good, especially considering as they brought their axes. He had nothing to be afraid of, as he had helped many of them, and the folks considered that. He meddled with the talk, reassuring those around of his moral support. After, he crossed the road and said some good words to the vice-mayor, too. His esteem toward this man was not conjectural or superficial, so he scarcely cared about the others' reactions. (As a matter of fact, even on those circumstances the vice-mayor did not discredit himself through hostility towards peasants — it would have meant to act against his convictions, and he obviously was not the man to do so. He just tried to maintain the order.) Bogdan was glad that the national highway had been freed, waiting for the county party leader to come, and was fully delighted that the party authorities and the militiamen [9] of the village just vanished.

Some time later the official column from Baia-Mare [10] appeared. The First Secretary got down of a Mercedes (this was also within the so-called "socialist patriotism") and assured the people that Petrova will remain a commune. They welcomed these words with applauds, cheers and ovations (like the speeches of the Big Master were welcomed, according to what was written in the papers). However, the only native of Cluj in the crowd was skeptic, because he knew the value of a regime servant's words. He thought there was yet a hope, for anytime the Petrovans could resume the uprising would their expectations be cheated.

He shared all of these with his wife, when he came back to the health unit. It was enough to mention Pandora's box, to make her understand what he relied on. He proved to be right, as he didn't hear any longer about raising the problem of fusion with Leordina. Moreover, next time he returned to Cluj he heard, from his maternal grandfather, that Radio "Free Europe" had told that Petrova was one of the two communes [11] all over the country which stood against the systematization of villages. Of course, he did not miss the occasion to tell his grandparents that he was an ocular witness to the events.

After he heard with own ears what the foreign stations told, Bogdan felt somehow fulfilled — though he continued to realize that he had no merit in the course of events — and looked forward to be asked by people around what had happened there. In the story of Petrova movement there was another aspect that provoked to young Ardeleanu a mischievous satisfaction: the events had taken place toward the end of January, as a sort of „present" for Big Master's birthday. This was fit, as for years on end his anniversary had been put on the same place — or on an even higher one — relative to the celebration of the Unification of 1859 [12].

--------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Province in the southwestern part of Romania. Its main city is Timisoara, where the so-called Revolution of 1989 started.

[2] I hope nobody minds if I used this artistic license for the inhabitants of Petrova.

[3] I want Ceausescu's nickname to sound like Big Brother — to whom he was closely related.

[4] People who lived at the countryside and tried to understand the locals could realize that soul destruction of the Romanian peasant, by breaking his connection with land, was also pursued. Once you psychically destroyed a man, you can make him a rag. The counselors from behind knew this, as they were vile, but not stupid. The problem of workers rose especially in Bucharest, where they were building "The house of the People" — denomination with a complete black humor for the contemporaries. Teams form all over the country were brought there, and some remember that period with pleasure, as they had plenty of food and drink.

[5] There were 7 kilometers (about 4.5 miles) between Petrova and Leordina.

[6] Large industrial and cultural city, in the center of Romania

[7] This was the capital of ancient Dacia. It could be conquered by Emperor Trajan (106 A.D.) only due to treason: a local revealed to the Romans its water sources.

[8] The Communist Party leader in a county (Maramures, in this case).

[9] Equivalents of policemen, in the communist countries.

[10] The residence of Maramures county.

[11] The other was Parva (Bistriþa-Nãsãud county), if I remember well.

[12] The unification of Wallachia and Moldavia (which formed the basis for modern Romania) is celebrated on January 24. Ceausescu's anniversary was two days after.