11 noiembrie 2012

Little Birds

CRISTIAN MOISESCU (teacher of English, former mayor of Arad,1992 – 1996).

I am one of the participants in the Revolution of december 1989 in Arad. This is not, however, what I am going to talk about in the space that has been so generously given me in this book. I will refer to one incident only, which I have called “The Little Birds.”

It was in the late fifties, that my father, VASILE V. MOISESCU, was arrested and sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for his faith in Jesus Christ and for his refusal to compromise with the power that the Soviets had recently imposed on Romania.

I remember how every Sunday, after the church service, my mother, Sânziana, would go to the market where pigeons were sold, situated near the old Water Tower in Arad. As she had little money for the upkeep of her four children, she could only afford to buy two or three little captive birds, usually goldfinches, which she later released, as a symbol for the release of those who had been imprisoned in the communist jails.

My mother continued to do this, Sunday after Sunday, until 1964, when my father was finally set free, as part of a general amnesty.

In the early 80s, when life became more and more unbearable in Romania, I remembered fondly my mother’s special gesture, and I, too, began frequenting the same market, where, for a relative small amount of money, one could buy goldfinches, pine siskins, tufted titmice, which were forced to live in tiny cages.

As I never intended to keep the birds I’d purchased, I would ask the sellers to place them for me in small plastic bags. Using the ashes of a lighted cigarette, they burned small holes in the inflated bags, in which the little birds were then placed. I was on my way home, pedaling my bicycle, while holding in one hand the bag containing the four or five little birds, which I would then offer to my little daughters, Ariana and Alciona, who had just begun their first grade, to watch their joy in setting them free into the park near the river Mureş.

I remember their faces filled with excitement, as they impatiently received into their little tiny hands the birds they were so anxious to set free. At a signal, they opened up their hands, giggling with delight, while the birdies flew away into the freedom of the open skies.

I went on doing this for several years, fully aware that such gestures, however small, could not remain without consequence.

Then came 1989, when changes occurred in these parts of the world. One after another, the gates of Europe’s biggest communist prisons began to open up: the fall of Berlin’s wall, followed by Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. However, it seemed that the floodgates which shook Eastern Europe from its foundations, bringing the long sought for freedom to its millions, would skip Romania, one of the most terrible prisons. For, you see, there had been the precedent of Tien-An-Men square in China.

I continued to go, Sunday after Sunday, to the small market for birds, hoping that my gesture would make sense. On Sunday the 17th of December 1989, I went, as usual, to the market, where I saw only one man there, with five little birds in a cage. I told myself, “This is Romania, and we, the imprisoned ones, are like these birds.” And reaching for the pocket where I kept my money, I found just the right amount to pay for all the five captive birds. The man inflated a nylon bag for me and with his lighted cigarette, burned the customary holes into the bag, then placing the birds, one by one, in it.

This time I did not go home, as usual, to my little daughters, but instead made my way to the Securitate 1 headquarters on Vârful cu Dor street and there, in front of the building, I proceeded to release, one by one, the little birds, making a wish in my mind, namely, that the Romanian people should become free at last! The people who came from the junk market were looking strangely at me, unable to understand what in the world I was doing. I returned home with the joy of a fulfilled journey. That very same morning, a good friend of mine telephoned me, with his voice choked by emotion, to tell me that in Timişoara the Revolution had started.

I believe only God’s power and mercy enabled what seemed unimaginable to happen in our country.
(Excerpt from Emil Şimăndan’s work “The Questioner of Agora – the Romanian Revolution of December 1989 in Arad,” published by the publishing house of the Cultural Foundation “Ioan Slavici”, second edition, Arad, 2008.

The article was published under the title, In A Voice Choked by Emotion, page 39. moisescu@rdslink.ro

1The Securitate (pronounced [sekuritate], Romanian for Security; official full name Departamentul Securităţii Statului, Department of State Security), was the secret service of Communist Romania. Previously the Romanian secret police was called Siguranţa Statului (State Security). Founded on August 30, 1948 with help from the Soviet NKVD, the Securitate was abolished in December 1989, shortly after President Nicolae Ceauşescu was ousted.

The Securitate was, in proportion to Romania's population, one of the largest secret police forces in the Eastern bloc.[1] The first budget of the Securitate in 1948 stipulated a number of 4,641 positions, of which 3,549 were filled by February 1949. By 1951, the Securitate's staff had increased fivefold, while in January 1956, the Securitate had 25,468 employees.[2] Under the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu, the Securitate employed some 11,000 agents and a half-million informers[1] for a country with a population of only 22 million by 1985.[3] Under Ceauşescu, the Securitate was one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world, responsible for the arrests and deaths of thousands of people. (The Wikipedia)