[Marxism] Nostalgia for Ceausescu

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 1 07:59:47 MST 2004

Dispatches From Romania
From: Sarah E. Richards
Subject: The Dictator's Groupie
Monday, Nov. 29, 2004, at 3:45 AM PT

BUCHAREST—Once a month, at 6:30 in the morning, Angela Boteza arrives at 
the Ghencea Civil Cemetery in western Bucharest. She walks down a gravel 
path to a nondescript grave, where she clears away dead leaves and 
candle wax and leaves yellow gladiolas in a wine bottle with a 
handwritten note: "May God forgive your evil deeds. Rest in peace. May 
the earth not be heavy upon your soul." A modest granite cross bearing a 
red star reveals the grave's occupant: Nicolae Ceausescu, 1918-1989. She 
then she goes to the other side of the cemetery to do the same at the 
graves of his wife Elena and son Nicu.


After a quick tour of her three-room apartment, Boteza ushered us to the 
living room. She perched at the edge of her sofa, lit up a cigarette, 
and began: Ceausescu made a good life for Romanians, but he was judged 
rashly by people who wanted power and denied his rightful honor of a 
proper burial in a military cemetery. So, she has appointed herself the 
keeper of his legacy. She monitors the family's graves and throws out 
items she feels are insulting. Recently, she's tossed a dirty flag, a 
frayed Bible, and papier mache flowers.

Life was better under communism, she continued, parroting the refrain: 
"There was nothing to buy, but we had money. Now, there's everything to 
buy but no money." At age 52, Boteza is an unemployed accountant who 
gets a temporary pension of about $50 a month, through April 2005. Her 
son, who, she boasts, is a military officer, helps her out some. She 
owns her own apartment, which she bought shortly after the revolution. 
"I don't eat so much. I have a few cigarettes and coffee, but it's OK," 
she said, staring at me intently with big somber eyes. She was confident 
that she would find another job but admitted that she's having sleep 

During the 10th anniversary of the fall of communism five years ago, 
much was made of Romania's lack of celebration. Polls showed that four 
out of five Romanians were unhappy with the way they lived, and 61 
percent said they would be better off under Ceausescu. Such amnesiac 
musings ignored the nightmares of the Stalinist dictator: the rations, 
the torture of anyone who opposed the regime, the deadly winters when 
the energy sector collapsed, the razing of villages and historical 
Bucharest to make way for his projects, including the so-called House of 
the People. His megalomaniacal monument, which is the second-largest 
building in the world after the Pentagon, was built while the people 
suffered austerity measures to pay off a $10 billion foreign debt at one 

Now the nostalgia is tempered. "Yes, it was better under communism. You 
had a job, a house, a car," said 20-year-old university student George 
Pascaru. "But you could not have your own thoughts."

But such talk makes few feel better about the giant elephant making its 
way east. Romania, a country of 23 million, is lumbering toward entry 
into the European Union in 2007. Despite robust economic growth and low 
inflation, corruption is rampant, and the average Romanian makes 
slightly more than $2,100 a year, or just 30 percent of the EU average 
in purchasing power.

The shiny Bucharest Mall, which opened five years ago and includes a 
Marks & Spencer department store, a Ruby Tuesday restaurant, and a 
10-screen movie theater, is eerily empty. New cars occasionally zip down 
the highways, but diesel-spewing Dacias still dominate. For every new 
building, there are miles of crumbling, Soviet-era apartment blocks. Add 
some bitter, chain-smoking locals; street children; and packs of mangy 
stray dogs that seem to roam every city, and you get the feeling the 
country isn't going anywhere soon.

The mention of the European Union is met with cynical laughs. People 
tell how Hungarians have been forced to raid Romanian grocery stores 
because they were priced out of their own when their country joined the 
union this spring. There are rumors that EU regulations will force 
polluting old cars off the road, and drivers won't be able to buy new 
ones. And how will people buy houses?

"[President Ion] Iliescu said he will make Romania a rich country, but I 
just don't see it happening," Boteza said, lighting another cigarette.

full: http://slate.msn.com/id/2109971/entry/2109975/


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