First doubts

In an outbuilding of the television centre I sat down to finish my article about the Tőkés affair. But I started to talk to a handsome gentleman of about 35 years, wearing a trench coat. It turned out that he was Colonel Oana, the commander of the defenders of the television centre. These defenders lay in combat readiness at the foot of the perimeter fence. When we looked on them, we thought of how the jubilant atmosphere in Târgu Mureş was already so different.

Colonel Oana told me that I should hurry up with my writing, because the circus would soon begin. When I asked what sort of circus he meant, he said that the “terrorists” would soon come, as they started usually at 20:00. His prediction was correct, and the shooting began in earnest.

I withdrew to a small room of the outbuilding. Soon the gunfire became very heavy: Jakabffy and Pol were stuck in the main building.

Thinking about it today, I find the exchange of fire very strange: first we heard a muffled shot, to which the military responded for at least 15 minutes with Kalashnikov volleys. The firing ended, and a loudspeaker announced that an ambulance should come to the site of the loudspeaker: a wounded man had to be taken away. The voice added: “Do not be afraid. They will not shoot!” How did the announcer know this? It also happened during the shooting that the soldiers were warned over the loudspeaker to be careful not to shoot at each other. “This is a tragedy,” the announcer added. In short, I suspect now that it was indeed more of a “circus” than I had the time to realize back then.

When I asked Colonel Oana why the tank guns did not shoot at the houses from which the terrorists were firing, he said that tenants may have been left in the houses. He said that Ceauşescu had had the television centre designed in such a way that if it should happen that somebody got hold of it by a trick, the invaders would not be able to defend it. The defence should have been provided from these houses on the opposite side of the street. And these houses, which had been occupied by the Economic Office of the Party, all had underground exits and caches. I asked him whether there had been any resistance to the revolutionary takeover of the television centre from its Ceauşescu guards. “Not at all,” he answered. “The whole thing was a simple flick of a switch (“schimbare de buton”).”

But Oana said the position of the defenders was very difficult, and they would need military reinforcements. (When I got home I told this to the county military command. They answered that I should rest assured; there would not be any problem...)

The next morning at the television centre, I addressed a pretty young woman wearing a snow-white coat and a Red Cross armband. I asked her where the blood on her coat came from, and had there been many victims? The lady answered that she had no knowledge of any serious case, and that the blood was the blood of Nicu Ceauşescu’s son. How come?

She said that a Securitate man had stabbed Nicu in his stomach when he was brought to the television station, and she as a doctor, had bandaged him. She added: “Imagine, Nicu was so stupid that he thought he had come to Bucharest to take power. He stopped in front of television cameras to address the nation, which loved him very much. Only when he was called ‘little prince’ did he realise that he had been tricked.”

In order to leave the television centre that morning we approached our vehicles with our hands up. There was not a scratch on the jeeps, although the soldiers had been shot at from the upper floor of the nearby house and had returned fire. Through a passage of 70-80 metres, we drove to the main street, where the traffic was moving undisturbed!

We went to the main Bucharest publishing buildings, and I took my article to the editorial offices of the former Party paper, Scînteia. It had not yet been typed and I began dictating it to a typist. When I was half-way through, Jakabffy came and said that we must leave at once, because the terrorists were approaching. So I left the manuscript there, and the former Party paper, Adevărul, published it on December 25 and 26.

I also wrote a short article about the Fraternity Democratic Forum having been formed in Târgu Mureş under the leadership of Károly Király, and its announcement that it had joined the newly-declared and self-appointed National Salvation Front in Bucharest. For this material there was no room in the paper.

In that connection, Jakabffy said he had talked to Ion Iliescu, the leader of the National Salvation Front, Iliescu who said he was very happy about the news from Târgu Mureş and wanted to draw Károly Király into the national leadership.

At our lunch stop on the drive home, Jakabffy and Pal were recognised by local people. They congratulated them and said that finally the Hungarians would be left alone, and that we shall get along well together in the new democracy. We were so privileged that for our sake they broke the prohibition of the moment, and served alcoholic drinks (to us only!). On this occasion too we experienced the affection with which the Romanians treated us Hungarians. It was also mentioned that it was again possible to speak Hungarian on Romanian Television. I stress I am quoting the words of unknown Romanian persons.