The Romania witnessed by MB last week is one where much of its religious past history of Greek Orthodoxy is very evident. Some 50 churches were destroyed by the Communist authorities in the capital city since 1947, but the devotion of the people to their churches and their religion prevented even more widespread destruction. Today some 250+ churches exist in Bucharest alone. Most are architecturally beautiful old buildings.
When public protests grew particularly loud about the impending demolition of a popular or iconic church, the authorities came up with novel Engineering solutions to remove the building from very visible public squares or streets where many existed, and place them out of public sight to a large degree. One way this was achieved was to lift the church up by a few feet, insert train tracks and trailers underneath, and literally move and drop the church building to a different more nondescript location. There are a number of churches in Bucharest to this day owing their present locations to such feats of communist engineering. The last communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu particularly disliked religious practice and was one of the foremost instigators of church demolitions and relocations.
On 16 December 1989, in the Romanian town of Timișoara, a protest took place by the Hungarian religious minority, protesting the attempted dismissal by the Government of a Hungarian church pastor. Within a few days the protests had become nationwide and by that stage had absolutely nothing to do with the original cause.
On 21 December President Nicolae and Vice-President Elena Ceaușescu (his wife) made a speech to 100,000 Romanians in a public square in Bucharest (known as Revolution Square today) in response to the nationwide protests that were growing quickly in scale. The speech was broadcast live on national TV and was billed as a show of public support for communism and its leaders. Within a few minutes of the start of the speech however, the whole event had gone pear-shaped. Booing, shouting and insults from the crowd were heard against the system and the husband & wife pair before them. The TV broadcast was immediately cut to revolutionary communist music. The army was soon ordered into action and multiple deaths occurred within the next 24 hours.
On the the following morning, 22 December, the Ceaușescus made another attempt to address the crowd, this time from the balcony window of the Communist Party HQ. The public reception and reaction this time was even worse. Soon, Nicolae and Elena, along with some State Security officials, jumped into a helicopter on the roof of the building and fled the city.
But by this time the army had turned completely against the rulers and had joined forces with the public. The helicopter pilot soon fooled his passengers, either stating that he was very low on fuel or that the craft was under anti-aircraft fire (depending on which version of the story you believe). He then landed the helicopter in a small field. To cut a long story short, the public soon assisted the army to capture the Ceaușescus, they were detained in a local military base, and a special military tribunal was formed on 24 December to try the pair for genocide and other crimes against the people and the country.
The trial took place on the following day, 25 December (Christmas day), and it lasted approximately two hours. The pair were sentenced to death and were denied the opportunity to appeal. They were taken outside the courtroom and executed by a 3-man firing squad. It is said that the 3 soldiers pumped more bullets into Elena than her husband, she being a particularly hated figure.
The irony of the Christmas Day execution was not lost on the Romanian people, nor is it to this day. For years Nicolae Ceaușescu had done his utmost to destroy religion in Romania, and here he was, getting the ultimate comeuppance, on Christmas Day.
Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord (Romans 12:19).
Big thanks to tour guide Riga and his http://www.travelmakertours.com for much of the above information and for a great night-tour of Bucharest on our first night in Romania.
MB’s below photo shows one of the churches mentioned above, which was removed from a nearby public square on train-tracks to a new location out of public view to a much greater degree.