26 January 2009
Today, Nicolae Ceausescu would have been 91. I went to Ghencea Cemetery here in central Bucharest where he and his wife Elena are buried. Amidst the rain in the course of an hour I saw three Romanian tourist men come to see the Ceausescu graves as well as a couple who were younger than me who affixed a brand new name plate to Elena's grave. This totally astounded me as I expected to only see nostalgic pensioners. When I asked the guy if it was better under Ceausescu (as he obviously thought it was) he said that capitalism is criminal. I laughed all the time thinking that his girl wouldn't have her purse or jeans or that coat she was wearing had it not been for Ceausescu's overthrow. I wanted to ask him, 'oh, ok, so Communist blocs and streets without drains and thousands of stray dogs and paranoid citizens and censorship and a closed border and no abortion rights etc. etc. etc. all made Romania better than a free and open society where at least there is the potential for change!?' When I see a couple like this I realize just how backward Romania can be. For me it was funny to be staring at Ceausescu's diminutive grave and be thinking that for most of the hour, I, an American, was the only one in the company of the ruthless dictator who had wrought such destruction on Romania and the Romanian psyche. I am sure that he could never have imagined that in 2009, on his birthday, the only person around would be some American!