Romania on its way to EU membership ?

Posted in Europe | 23-Feb-06 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Manuela Paraipan, living in Romania, is WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East": "People can tell many stories about life under Ceausescu's…
Manuela Paraipan, living in Romania, is WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East": "People can tell many stories about life under Ceausescu's abominable regime"
When the dramatic changes happened in Romania I was very young. Everything I say or write about Romania and about those times is subjective. This is not an analysis. It is just a personal perspective, one of the many stories people can tell you about life under Ceausescu’s abominable regime.

At the time of the 1989 revolution, I was 8 years old, and there are few memories I have about living with communism. Basically, I remember that every day for an hour or two in the evening the electricity went off, and then we had to use lamps everywhere in the house. I also remember that people had to stand in long queues for simple things like bread, butter, milk, cooking utensils, etc.

Oranges, Pepsi and chocolate ice cream were the three items that I always asked my grandparents to buy as often as they could. However, oranges as well as all exotic fruits and Pepsi could not be found in a grocery store. They were luxury items -quite difficult to get - if you were not ready to pay a generous bacsis, a well known bribe practice we had back then that unfortunately is still with us, apparently for a longer run than expected. Many things were considered a luxury, my grandparents tell me. As Baptists, the restrictions placed upon my grandparents in terms of religious liberty and expression was hard to live with. In towns and villages, affiliation to a religion was very important, although the communist doctrine preached something different.

Knowing how talkative I am, my grandparents taught me to be careful about what I said on the phone when talking with my mother or other relatives. “If you feel you have something important to tell them, wait until you see them in person,” my grandma used to say. As a child, I had no idea why I had to be so careful.

Looking back, however, I’d say that their suspicions were justified. Many people had their phones tapped only because they had relatives in the United States (my family’s case), because they listened to Radio Free Europe, were known as intellectuals or for any other simple reason. After working very hard for many years in a factory, my grandparents became furriers. Having a small family business could not go unnoticed by the neighbors and by the local police. Furthermore, the fact that my grandparents stepped over the boundaries of their modest peasant origins attracted quite a lot of attention. Thus, from time to time we received visits from the local police commandant. I was told that he came just to make sure we were all right, but as a curious child I used to hide behind doors and listen to what the grownups were saying and I saw how stressed my grandparents were when these visits occurred.

Romania's geopolitical neighbourhood in South Eastern Europe.
Romania's geopolitical neighbourhood in South Eastern Europe.
My perception of these days is that people had to be cautious about what they said, to whom they spoke, what they listened to or read, whom they wrote to and more importantly what they wrote in those letters. It must have been a difficult, restricted life from many points of view.

After the 1989 revolution, the most valuable gain in Romania is without a doubt an environment of freedom and liberty of consciousness, speech and action and the free market economy. Romania came a long way from the way it had been as a communist country. We have had a long and hard transition, and some people were disillusioned by the hurdles we had to overcome. Essential is the fact that the Romanians as a people did not give up.

In the last 16 years, many made accusations against the present intelligence services that are protecting those who once served the interests of the feared Securitate. It may very well be so, because so far no one has succeeded in finding out what exactly goes on within the intelligence services. Dan Lazea, a member of the prestigious National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS) agreed to provide us with some insight on this subject.

Mark Meyer, a preeminent international lawyer, a consultant on foreign direct investments in Romania, with particular expertise in southeastern Europe and a friend of Romania, accepted the invitation to share with WSN his views on Romania’s relationship with the United States and also about Romania’s greatest challenge, namely to join the European Union in January 2007.