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Other than light, what else could fuel life? A clue came from underneath a rubbish dump in Romania. Here cave scientists stumbled across a biological treasure trove ... It was like a bubble trapped in rock until it was broken into. Nothing from the surface had got into it perhaps for millions of years. What they had found was a world as dark and isolated as Lake Vostok ... But these creatures were unlike anything he had seen before ... The cave was completely cut off from the surface. Nothing could get through; the scum was a thick microbial mat. This was the base of the food chain. But what were the microbes living on? ... In the absence of sunlight they were using hydrogen sulphide as their energy source. Horizon: The Lost World of Lake Vostok, BBC 2000
1944: Paris was liberated. That same day to the East, Romania changed sides. The World at War 19/26: Pincers, ITV 1974
German aircraft were also deployed in Romania ... For Hitler, Romania’s most important asset was its oil. Secrets of World War II e24: Destroying Hitler’s Oil, 1998
When Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed by his own people on Christmas Day 1989 it marked the end of a brutal totalitarian reign that had lasted 24 years ... Ceausescu outlawed abortion in 1966. Agents known as the menstrual police rounded up women to give pregnancy tests and tax the infertile. Across Romania women were forced to have children. Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, Freakonomics, Sky Atlantic, caption; viz novel
All contraception and sex education were banned. Government agents sardonically known as the Menstrual Police regularly rounded up women in their work places to administer pregnancy tests. If a women repeatedly failed to conceive, she was forced to pay a steep ‘celibacy tax’. Steven J Levitt & Stephen J Dubner, Freakonomics; viz documentary
Of all the communist leaders deposed in the years bracketing the collapse of the Soviet Union, only Nicolae Ceausescu met a violent death. It should not be overlooked that his demise was precipitated in large measure by the youth of Romania – a great number of whom, were it not for his abortion ban, would never have been born at all. ibid.
In Romania, the regime of Nicolai Ceausescu was briefly feted in the West because, allegedly, it challenged its Russian masters. Yet the Ceausescu regime had become a caricature of an exploiting tyranny. Ceausescu bent all his energies to storing up more wealth for himself, his family and his associates out of the surplus his government and secret police wrenched from the already impoverished Romanian workers and peasants. On his command, 80,000 people were forcibly moved from their homes to make way for the most grotesque and luxurious palace in all Europe. And this was merely the dictator’s second home! He selected from orphanages the cream of his secret police so that they could regard him and his wife as their Father and Mother. He sprayed them with privileges of every kind – the secret police were even better fed and clothed than the captains of industry. He published phoney statistics suggesting the economy was permanently growing and even rigged the weather reports. Workers’ resistance – such as the miners’ strikes in the early 1980s – was put down with the most appalling repression.
What Ceausescu did in Romania was only a more monstrous replica of what Honecker was doing in East Germany, Husak in Czechoslovakia or Zhikov in Bulgaria. Yet somehow socialists everywhere, duped by the old formulas of public ownership and ‘planning’, continued to pretend that these regimes were in some way ‘better’ or ‘more working-class’ than the regimes of the West.
The argument cut little ice with the oppressed people of Eastern Europe. On the contrary, as the repression and corruption grew, so the very notion of socialism, so repeatedly ascribed to the regimes themselves, became anathema. Paul Foot, The Case for Socialism chapter 3
Romania, which had the worst dictator in Eastern Europe, Ceausescu. He was a darling of the West. The United States and Britain loved him. He was supported until the last minute. Noam Chomsky
Fidel Castro is right. You do not quieten your enemy by talking with him like a priest but by burning him. Nicolae Ceausescu
We must make cleverness our national trait ... Stop showing a sullen, frowning face and clenched fist to the West. Start making it feel compassion for us, and you’ll see how fast Western boycotts change into magnanimity. Let’s present Romania as a Latin island in the Slavic sea ... Our millennia-old traditions of independence are now up against Moscow’s political centrism ... A pawn between two superpowers. Nicolae Ceauşescu, cited Pacepa ‘Red Horizons’, 1987
There is an untranslatable Romanian word that expresses with great precision the kind of unbearable longing and nostalgia that grips one’s heart when thinking of home. That word is dor. I have felt it many times. Nostalgia for the medieval squares of Sibiu steeped in golden light, longing for the outdoor cafes of Bucharest, drinking new wine, all of us young, intoxicated with poetry and song. I missed the smells of flowering linden trees, the blue reflections of deep mountain snow in the evenings, the old peasant villages that Ceauşescu’s insanity almost wiped off the face of the earth. I missed the real fairy tales I was raised on. The story of the waters of life and death, youth without age, the tale of the sheep Mioriţa that recites the cosmic poetry of the sky, the story of the poplars that grew pears ... Andrei Codrescu, The Hole in the Flag, 1991
Recently a group of Romanian villagers reported a new batch of strange disturbances in a notorious mountain forest overlooking their town ... Ghost-like human figures appeared in their digital photos of the area ... Local are convinced the Hoia Baciu forest is haunted. Destination Truth s3e1, Skyfy 2009
To many people living in Romania werewolves are very real and very dangerous predators. A hidden species that has defied observation by science. The werewolf is a pillar of Romanian mythology, but could people be mistaking regular wolves or even bears for this nocturnal monster? Destination Truth s3e8
Recently, residents in a Romanian village were so terrified that they unearthed a human corpse, removed its head and drank its blood as part of an arcane ritual to ward off the creature. But the most recent reports of werewolf sightings are emerging from deep in the forests near the rural Romanian town of Brad. ibid.
Romania: And so the folklore surrounding the Strigoi emerged. Russia’s Mystery Files I, National Geographic 2014
Nicolae Ceausescu: Once revered throughout Romania and the West, he stole power by cunning and ruled by oppression. Ceausescu’s tainted genius and his wife Elena’s influence were finally extinguished by a hasty execution. History’s Most Hated s1e2: Ceausescu, 2017
Ceausescu’s criminal activities often took him to jail. ibid.
‘He was a Machiavellian genius.’ ibid. historian
Ceausescu was proclaimed First Secretary of the Communist Party and the country’s leader. ibid.
‘It is the first visit of a president of the United States to Romania.’ ibid. Nixon
Ceausescu was a cheat. He was a passionate game hunter and a terrible shot … He had begun to live in an unreal world where he couldn’t bear to lose at anything. ibid.
Ceausescu’s bouts of paranoia meant that he increasingly relied on his wife … Her influence was a malign one. ibid.
On the 30th of October 2015 a fire breaks out during a concert in the Colectiv club in Bucharest. It instantly kills 27 youngsters and injures another 180. Outraged by the fact that the popular club was functioning without fire exits, people take to the streets against the corrupt authorities. Massive nationwide protests force the Social Democrat Government to resign. To calm the people’s fury a politically independent Government of technocrats is appointed. It receives a one-year mandate until the next general election. 37 more burn victims die in hospitals during the four months after the Colectiv fire. Storyville: Collective: Unravelling a Scandal, captions, BBC 2021
‘The burn patients were kept in a known septic environment, and exposed to some of the most resistant hospital bacteria in Europe.’ ibid. journalist
Once he took power in 1748, Vlad became a lifelong battle to protect his country from invaders from all sides … most of all, the ever-expanding ruthless Ottoman empire, Vlad’s mortals enemies. The Curse of Vlad the Impaler, BBC 2021
Revolution creates seismic shifts in power and ideology. At the end of the twentieth century two revolutions set the destiny of the twenty-first. Romania: which defined the collapse of Soviet communism in Europe. And Iran: which heralded the rebirth of Islam as a potent force for political change. Days that Shook the World s3e8: The Road to Revolution, BBC 2005
It is Christmas Day 1989: for a quarter of a century Romania has been in the iron grip of an oppressive communist regime. ibid.