Credinta Aprilie - Iunie 2014
Forgotten or Irrelevant?
When thinking of communism, it is not wrong, nor uncommon, that our minds think of Auschwitz or generally about Germany, Hitler, or Russia. This tendency is well justified; after all, those are the most well-known histories and remembrances of the totalitarian government era. However, something that is less well-known is that Romania was also affected by communist dictatorship, led by Nicolae Ceasuescu, and could not escape its wrath. In fact, Romania was fourth on a list numbering forced labors camps between 1948 and 1954. First was Hungary with 199, then Czechoslovakia with 124, then Bulgaria with 99, followed by Romania with 97, and Poland with 47 camps. Romania is not too well recognized, and its history is even more veiled. However, there is also the issue of its own people disregarding their history, and for this reason, I would love to rebuild a museum to correctly commemorate a largely forgotten part of its history: communism.
Romanian communism is already poorly known by most of the world, but when it is ignored, and therefore forgotten by its own citizens too, then there is a definite problem. Two summers ago, my family and I journeyed back to Romania for the first time since my parents emigrated, and decided to do an intensive road trip of every major city in two weeks. Upon passing through the more south-western center of Romania, in the Transylvania region, we decided to go to the second largest city in the country, Aiud, because we had heard of a monument honoring the martyrs that died under Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime. Once arriving at our desired address, we wasted at least fifteen minutes simply driving around the nearby blocks because we couldn’t find the monument; all we saw were mundane, old communist apartment buildings. We had to ask, without any exaggeration, about 10 people about the “Calvarul Aiudului” (Aiud’s Calvary), who all either responded by asking us what that was or one man who approximated what direction it was in. It turned out he was incorrect, but finally when entering a store and asking the female cashier, she laughed and told us right across the street – a wide, steel gate on the same block as two of the people we had questioned. Needless to say, it is an incredible concern when you are asking the citizens of a country about the most famous modern communist monuments in remembrance of the suffering and deaths during Ceausescu regime and they are just as clueless as you are. It is as if those 42 years of suppression and history have just simply lost their value, and aside from being a unit studied in middle school, they hold no respectability. Paying their respect, either in thought or by physically visiting, is something done only on special remembrance days, or when their grandparents pester them with the significance of the era and hardships they lived through in their own youth.
More so, it is a way of deeming the significance of the memorial and the martyrs themselves. Museums are important because in a sense they tell the public what is worthy enough of being displayed, and therefore the museums determine what is significant and what is not. The same applies to monuments and memorials – they draw the public’s attention to what is considered to be an important event. However, if the public begins to ignore these memorials, the public is taking this judgment of importance or inconsequentiality into their own hands; and by not paying attention to these attention-seeking edifices, they are marked as trivial- things made simply to look at and move on.
If I were to design a museum as a tribute to Romanian communism era, it would be in the shape of a cross, because a large majority of the people who were condemned were being punished for not renouncing the orthodox church, and for refusing to believe that communism is the highest power, not God. In fact, more than 5,000 of the Romanian people imprisoned were Orthodox Christian priests. In this museum, the walls and floor would be black marble to signify the dark times and hell the prisoners went though, and it would probably give the visitors a dark, dingy feeling. In this way, the visitors would be able to identify with the prisoners, and this would, hopefully, lead to the museum leaving a greater, longer lasting impression on its visitors. However, the ceiling would be white, with the captives’ names inscribed on the surface, to symbolize their deaths as a rise from the ashes and injustices of their sentences, and their moving instead to a pure, higher place. The longer, bottom half of the cross would be dedicated to the harsh conditions and photos of the camps and several artifacts. The photos would be here, on the straight walls, because that is just how the communist mentality was – narrow. That’s also what I imagine the camps to have been like, black and white, both physically and mentally; either you agree with and support the regime or you go to jail, and once you’re in jail you either work with all the will in your body, or you die. Next in the museum are the outer wings of the cross, which would be in remembrance of all the revolutionaries who participated in the Romanian Revolution, emancipating their country and people. This location in the wings would also hold significance because those people ended and changed totalitarianism, just as the wings are ending and changing the narrow hallway. Finally, the top section of the cross would have one wall focusing on Nicolae Ceausescu and his main contributions to socialism, while the other would focus on Ion Iliescu, Ceausescu’s proceedor, who “served as the first democratically elected, by popular vote, President of Romania from 1990 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004” (1).
In conclusion, although many people may claim to be very aware and proud of their nation and worldwide history, there are still many who do not appreciate or even acknowledge the history of their surroundings, and begin to label those things however they want, lessening their importance. With the erection of my museum to commemorate Romanian communism, however, the proper respect will be given to those who died and to their role in our history books.
- "Ion Iliescu." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
- "Www.ceausescu.org - the Leading Infosource on the Web about Ceausescu and His Era!" Www.ceausescu.org - the Leading Infosource on the Web about Ceausescu and His Era! N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
- "Schitul "Inalţarea Sfintei Cruci" - AIUD." Schitul "Inalţarea Sfintei Cruci" - AIUD. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
- "Newsletter." Communist Regime. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.
- "Forced Labor Camps in the Communist Countries." Forced Labor Camps in the Communist Countries. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Jan. 2014.