We take control

Next day I went to my office. But by 11:00 I was again in the main square because I had learned that a new demonstration was beginning. This demonstration was initiated by the workers of the tannery, who summoned the then manager of the local canning plant to join them. He was the internationally known Hungarian adversary of the regime, Károly Király, who had been degraded to his factory position from his former Party rank because of his opposition to Ceauşescu’s policies on minorities. Király put himself at the head of the crowd. They went to the town centre, to the square in front of the town hall. Here, with Ceauşescu still in power in Bucharest, Király addressed the crowd. But careful eyes noticed that the guns of an armoured car were being turned towards him. He was pulled down from the chair atop the vehicle from which he had been speaking.

For reasons of safety, the crowd went over to the other side of the main square, thus moving away from the united forces of the Securitate, police and military. It was this crowd that I joined when I arrived in the main square. Károly Király announced that we were taking control of our fate and placing it in our own hands, that we had had enough of the dictatorship, and that the joint Hungarian-Romanian Fraternity Democratic Forum fighting for a democratic Romania and equality for all had been formed.

(I suddenly remembered that as early as the previous March, Király had called me and said: “Előd, everything is going to pieces here, Ceauşescu cannot maintain himself in power for long. Let us think about and put together the programme of the Democratic Forum.” I answered that we should think about it, but nothing should be written down, that we should not produce any written documents for the Securitate. We left the matter there.)

Aurel Florian, a Romanian, announced at the rally that he was the chairman of the Social Democratic Party and fully supported the programme of the overthrow of the dictatorship and the creation of a democratic Romania which provided equal rights for all citizens.

I ran home to call my wife that she should not miss this. At 13:00 we listened to the news at my mother’s flat opposite the town hall. And it was then when we heard the best news of our lives over Budapest’s Kossuth Radio: the Ceauşescus had fled the capital.

We quickly ran down to the main square. The military was in retreat, and the crowd invaded the town hall. They scattered papers and carried them out and made stacks of them in front of the building. They burned them, together with Ceauşescu’s pictures and works. I told the people to leave the documents alone, that we would need them. Those who heard me accepted my argument, but there were so many people inside that it was not possible to tell everybody.

I went to the front of the building where Romanians and Hungarians embraced each other in tears. We were unbelievably happy and sincerely loved each other. I stood at the entrance to the Palace of Culture when Károly Király appeared out of the town hall. He was immediately accepted by everybody as the true, rightful leader of the county. Király noticed me, took my arm and said. “Come Előd, we need you.” We went up to the Hall of Mirrors inside the Palace of Culture, and Király told the people to let him confer with me. He said that we must urgently make contact with the National Salvation Front that had just declared itself to be in control in Bucharest. We had to assure them of our support, and should therefore travel to Bucharest.

After this, Károly Király addressed the people, and he was welcomed rapturously. Romanian and Hungarian speakers alternated, and suddenly a large group of youths brought the Hungarian writer András Sütő to the scene. He spoke about how, for the first time in history, Hungarians and Romanians were fighting together in full agreement and identity of interests. He warned that this unity must be guarded, and that this was the only possible way to secure a happy future. Long live fraternity! Long live free democratic Romania which provides equal rights for all its citizens! András Sütő ended his very effective address. To the speech, given in two languages, the crowd answered in Romanian: Niciodată şovinism [Never again any chauvinism!] It was Sütő who, three months later was to be singled out for such brutal treatment by the Romanian mob.

In the meantime a Romanian teacher called Nistor Man appeared and said that he had been a political prisoner. He began to behave as the spokesman of the Romanians. A new county leadership was discussed; the names of candidates and self-nominated candidates were flying around. I never liked such scenes, having no lust for power. I told Király that I was going home to write my article about the Tőkés lawsuit, and if I was needed they should phone me.