Timisoara: Wonderful City, Origin of Miracle but “Disgraceful” Memorial/Museum

This time last year we’d just published our December OZB. The magazine was all about the Revolution that had taken place in Romania exactly 30 years before. https://issuu.com/douglaswilliamsozb/docs/ozb_2_december_web I learned a lot about that incredible month. A seemingly immovable object was swept aside by an unstoppable force. It was a real life “miracle”. One of the cruelest dictatorships of modern times, one of the longest lasting, and most deeply embedded was removed by a huge, nationwide, people’s uprising. What began in Timisoara as a protest at the authorities’ attempted removal of a controversial, Hungarian priest ultimately led, just three weeks later, to the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena. The execution took place on Christmas Day, it was heralded by the long suffering and disbelieving Romanian people as a miracle and it ended 42 years of Ceausescu’s rule.

Miracle is a big word, rarely used accurately, but in this case it’s the only word that does justice to what happened. In the midst of that most turbulent time in Timisoara on the 20th December more than 100,000 factory workers descended upon the city’s Victoriei Square demanding the release of those already arrested protestors. Can you imagine the febrile atmosphere as word spread through the vast, industrial complexes on the outskirts of the city? Disbelief, fear, fury but also hope – hope for a better country for their children. Many people died across that city and this country, many disappeared and were never seen again. Many children and even babies died, shot! But light ultimately triumphed over darkness. The people won, it was a victory for the Romanian people. 

On the National Day long weekend at the beginning of this month I visited Timisoara and I went to the Asociata Memorialul Revoltei which is a five minute walk from the central Unirii Square. People had told me I must go so I did but what started as a feeling of being underwhelmed slowly morphed into a great sadness. My sadness was not at the events of December 1989, far from it, but at the “memorial” museum itself. How could such heroism, such bravery and sacrifice be commemorated in such an amateurish manner? Such a defining moment in the history of Romania and it’s presentation is so very weak. 

Where to start? First off there’s a half hour movie the raw material of which is superb but the production of which is non-existent. The story is incredible but the way it’s told is a “disgrace”. And I use that word advisedly because I spoke with two Timisoara people independently of each other – cultured, educated and influential people – and both described the museum as a “disgrace” very shortly after the subject was raised. This year, 2020, Timisoara was supposed to be the “European City of Culture” but alas, due to the pandemic, this has been postponed now till 2023. Thousands of people, likely hundreds of thousands, will visit the city then and a substantial proportion will be interested in visiting this museum and finding out more about what happened in those few weeks back in December 1989. Amazing photography is sellotaped to cardboard, hung on the wall browning and now the corners are curling. The translations are erratic at best. The list goes on and on. The whole thing has been done by a well meaning amateur, and respect to them, but a proper professional, trained curator is required. They exist. 

Across Timisoara facades are being cleaned, repainted, restored and at vast expense. With this museum it’s not a question so much of money, of funding, though doubtless that’s a factor. It’s a matter of will. The will to provide a fitting memorial to that miracle that Romanians can be proud of because, it seems to me, they should be very proud of that time. They should be very proud of their Revolution. Very proud indeed.       

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