The benevolent dictator Ceausescu ruled Romania with an iron fist, lording over the frightened and defenseless population. His portrait was everywhere next to his hideous wife, “the Mother of the Country.” She had given herself that title along with a Ph.D. in chemistry. A fifth grade dropout, she had grandiose ideas of her faux accomplishments.
Dad hated Nicolae Ceausescu and his co-dictator wife, Elena, with a passion. He never hid his utter disdain for the arrogant, narcissistic, and uneducated couple who rose from the poverty of community organizing with empty promises of paternal and maternal care for the weak, the poor, and the downtrodden, to a life-style of the rich and famous.
Torturing, imprisoning, and killing millions of innocents, the Ceausescus had appropriated their possessions and amassed such a vast wealth, it was hard to tell how much money he had in Swiss bank accounts, how much art, jewels, land, and homes.
The dictator was proud that he gave “homes” to all his subjects, the proletariat, crowding country and city folk alike into high-rise concrete apartment blocks, while taking their homes and land for agricultural cooperatives or grandiose buildings and palaces dedicated to the Communist Party. Hastily built of reinforced concrete, the nine to twelve story apartments were Spartan, ugly, cold, dirty from the heavy pollution, and chipping concrete chunks like loose teeth.
The benevolent dictator made sure that there was no middle class left when he finished his fundamental transformation of the former prosperous monarchy into a socialist/communist republic. He kept changing his mind as to whether the country was a socialist popular republic or a communist one, frequently altering the Constitution on a whim, adding more articles, while robbing Romanians of their former rights and freedoms.
People were frightened to speak to their neighbors or relatives because nobody knew who was an informer. The country had become a country of snitches for a few extra lei (the official currency) a month, meat and other necessities, proper medical treatment at the Communist Party polyclinics and hospitals, and access to drugs at their well-stocked pharmacies. Adults turned in their own parents and relatives. Children often did the same, without realizing that such childish indiscretions would send their parents to jail.
Dad was under the commies’ radar all the time because he refused to be a member of their party and always blamed them publicly for destroying the country. He was not shy to assign blame and to criticize the dear leader and his wife. Although a pacifist who could not hurt a fly, Dad was always beaten and imprisoned every time the Ceausescus traveled anywhere near my dad’s location.
The peoples’ discontent and misery was palpable but they did not dare discuss their thoughts with anybody. Dad had the courage and foolishness to say what was on his mind. He did not care that the communists had built a very strong police state: regular police, traffic police, security police, economic police, military police, and ideology police. Dad really believed in human beings’ inalienable right to freedom and economic independence, not dependence on an omnipotent government. He saw every day how this all-powerful government robbed people and gave back very little, while pretending to care.
Since goods were in such short supply due to poor centralized planning by communist bureaucrats, people learned to survive through stealing from work and bartering. Dad hated theft and reported the culprits all the time. Since theft at work started at the top and trickled down to the lowest ranks, orders were often given to punish my dad for daring to expose the thievery. He was beaten many times for his honesty. He always recovered, more resolute that he was doing the right thing.
One day his luck did run out. A savage beating and dropping from a certain height into a metal shaving pit resulted into a cracked skull that was not treated at all at the state-run hospital. Receiving little food or water, he died four weeks later, a slow and agonizing death, shrinking to half his healthy size.
Dad is in Heaven now, satisfied that his premature death was not in vain. Many people who know and understand how a totalitarian regime robs humans of their freedoms, are picking up the opposition against communism.