Christmas Day is the season for good will and cheer, but not much of that was evident in 1989 when Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were put before a firing squad. For they were the hated leaders of the Communist state that was Romania and were put to death after a hasty trial that followed mass protests – for the people of Eastern Europe no longer wished to be protected by the Soviet Union, they desired to be free. And one by one the dominoes fell as the Cold War came to an end and Communism became a failed and relegated ideology.
As we witnessed the astonishing scenes unfolding on our television screens twenty five years ago, no one asked the question – what would come next? Today, it is not uncommon to meet young Romanians for whom the era under Ceausescu was something of a golden age when compared to hardship of life in the modern capitalist west. For despite all the ills of the Communist leadership which clamped down on dissent, political or otherwise, that was paranoid about security, it did offer a social programme where everyone from the man at the top to the man who swept the street was equal in the eyes of the state. Communism believed in society and offered jobs to all – even those gypsies that are so hated in Britain and who have suffered the most from the fall of Soviet Union, and who now had no means of supporting themselves as the state was no longer there to protect them. Of course Romanians, Bulgarians and Poles before them are all part of the European Union but they have found obstacles and prejudice on the way to this brave new world that is paved with hardship and many many untold stories of cruelty and suffering. Here, in Britain it is not uncommon to notice Romanian girls selling themselves on the street, like others from the newly freed Eastern bloc. No one seems to ask or care how they got there for that is the nature of freedom, the freedom that put an elderly Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena before a firing squad, a freedom that came into being in Romania on Christmas Day 1989.