Have A Nice Day

Simone Gyorfi

© Copyright 2002 by Simone Gyorfi


Photo of Ceausescu's grave marker.

I've never ever seen a funeral more intriguing. And funny. That December afternoon I planned to visit a friend of mine. He was always a trouble-seeker: two weeks earlier he fell from his motorbike and only God helped him not to break his neck. He had severe back injuries instead. And I felt responsible. He was going home from my place when it happened. We discussed politics, as everybody did than, don't bothering if someone's there to pay too much attention or not.

We had a smooth winter in 1989 and rumours were about something bad happening within days. I even heard on the Budapest radio, one night before, that in Temeswar, the fourth city as magnitude in Romania, the 'militia' ( the policemen) actually killed people on the streets. One reporter passed the border as a tourist and transmitted 'life' from the inside of the city. You could clearly hear the shooting and the distinct wail of the voices.

There were only few days to go until the 14th Congress of the Communist Party. The always so vigilant Security and the policemen were everywhere and anybody could have been a disguised agitator. You couldn't trust your friends anymore, even your family members. Once they found you with some insignificant illegality, you were caught. And trust me, about everything was illegal by then: sending or receiving mail from abroad, reading foreign press or forbidden authors, having guests from abroad – even from Hungary, which was our 'sister and friend country'…

So I stayed all night listening to the shootings. Something was clearly in the air. People met on the streets and they didn't care if they were shot. Some obscure priest was their local hero of the moment: Tokes Laszlo. He refused to leave his church and predate himself to the Security, which considered him a trouble-seeker and a capitalist agitator. So the people of Temeswar made a living wall to protect him and his family. It wasn't anymore question of the priest. It was question of living the same life of mindless animals the Communist Party and the Security inflicted to us or stand against the system until something happens. I don't think somebody thought deeply to that future life without Ceausescu and his agents, but anything would have been better.

They say after years you remember only the nice things. I can't. I remember myself at barely ten years waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. just to go buying meat. There were long queues and it happened sometimes that I didn't succeed. Or I was late to school. I don't even like meat and definitely hate the smell of fresh blood. But I had to do it for the family. My parents were teachers and in the years before the so called revolution teaching didn't give you much spare time. You had pretty much classes per day and per week (as a teacher myself I had sometimes 39 classes a week and I was dead-tired by the week-end), you had to go to meetings and Party reunions and even go with the pioneers searching old iron and selling papers and old journals to the acquisition centre, or participate to the annual counting of the animals. (As it is, in the late 89-s I was also on duty by the phone one night per month in a small village near my hometown. I was a young teacher then, girl, unmarried – and frightened to death at the smallest noise.)

We were frightened, our houses were not warmed, we were hungry – and if you ask me, hunger can have the most unexpected connotations: it was hunger for liberty of thought and spoken words, hunger for freedom and for free circulation inside the country and abroad, hunger for a civilised life and for the feeling of being alive, not just some vegetables whom you won't remember after only a decade…

And the citizens of Temeswar were shot.

I suddenly felt I had to be there. The next day I checked the trains – they weren't. Unless I had a car – which I hadn't – I couldn't leave the town.

As it is, I had to be contended watching TV, as – I guess – the majority of my co-nationals.

My parents weren't at home. My aunt broke her leg a week earlier and she lived in another city, so they went taking care of her. Christmas was only a few days ahead. I found myself mistress of the house, cheering up my younger brother and his wife-to-be. My brother was a student then at Clausenburg, he told me the Security and the police arrested people there too. Nobody knew where they were taking them. Mostly young people disappeared – as if Ceausescu feared them most.

I switched on the TV in the evening of 20th December and I remember the motion picture we watched was some political romance about the first days of the illegal communist party. And about the August 23th 1944 resurrection when they took over the radio station and said something like: "Pay attention, people of Romania! Don't quit the radios! An important announce for the country is to be performed within minutes." I even said to my brother, "listen to that, if something really important is to happen, it would happen just like this, with the same announcement!" He laughed. He said that Romanian people is too smooth and – yes – lazy to do anything against the system. And the citizens of Temeswar wouldn't succeed. It would be a bath of blood, he said, and we, the others, would suffer more vengeance than ever.

Late in the evening, they announced a blitz meeting for the other day, for the inhabitants of Bucharest: they would have criticised the people of Temeswar and agreed with the party's politics. Ceausescu himself appeared at the TV saying all the residents of Temeswar were hooligans. I had nausea.

Next day the meeting just couldn't begin. Workers, students, pupils and their teachers, even the army and the policemen, younger and older people roared and yelled in the very middle of the city, near the Presidency Palace. Ceausescu himself tried to shush them from the window and even tried once to begin his speech. It was impossible. I remember they were shouting a slogan learned from the Temeswarians: "In Temeswar yesterday, in the whole country today!"

And this was the beginning. Thirteen years passed by, and I feel as if it happened only yesterday. Bucharest's inhabitants made the revolution, indeed. Temeswar began it, and even earlier, the workers from the city of Brasov, in 1987, only then they didn't succeed. It was luck, collective anger, counter-revolution or anything else, who knows it by now? I guess we will never know the truth. I only know that, if Bucharest wouldn't make his move, we were today behind that iron wall, doing maybe worse than the Albanians do.

But, as I said, I was looking to the TV, waiting for that famous meeting to begin. Ceausescu emerged from behind the curtains almost praying his audience to pay attention. For the first time he acted as an old, frightened man. He began saying something about the hooligans from Temeswar .The crowd's angry shouting covered his voice. Then the transmission was interrupted. Just some vertical bars on the screen. Then, nothing. We were keeping our fingers crossed. After long minutes of awaiting we distinctly heard: "Pay attention, people of Romania! Don't quit the emission! An important announce for the country is to be performed within minutes."

It was happening!

I forgot about my brother and ran to my friend's place. Only that he lived at the other side of the town. I remember I was going quite fast, but didn't run, though. In my way I met the weirdest funeral cortege I've ever seen: some old lady died earlier, and she had few relatives. They were following her coffin in a fast pace, almost running. The priest also was in a hurry. In fact, it was quite a joyous funeral. At the first moment it hurt me, on behalf of the old, very died lady. After all, she was their aunt, or elder sister, or whatever! Then it stroke me as a flashlight: they all knew! They knew what was happening in Bucharest! Against my all wishes, I followed them until the graveyard. I heard the most cheerful funeral preach ever! Short, extremely positive and joyful, what a pity the old lady couldn't hear it! In the end, the priest almost yelled: "And now, my children," he said, "Go to your homes, for the living shall stay with the living! And have a nice day!"

This marked the beginning of the 1989 Romanian Revolution for me.

Simone Gyorfi is a Romanian writer and poet. Award winning author of over 50 short stories, children's stories and articles both in Romanian and Hungarian magazines and anthologies. Author of Day by Day Galaxy (poetry). You can contact her on the link below or read her poems and prose at http:www.bilet.go.ro

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