FEBRUARY: FATAL PROPOSAL
Szabolcs Horváth, the Hungarian headmaster of the Bolyai Lyceum, was with me on February 2 when Valer Galea, the County Mayor, brought to my office a committee of Romanian teachers from the Bolyai. It was led by the Romanian deputy headmaster, Vasile Matei.
The deputation explained that they were coming from the County School Inspector, the Romanian Mr. Ciurca, who had sanctioned their message. They advised that the troubles that had blown up around the Bolyai Lyceum in the last two weeks had affected their nerves to such an extent that they would like to suggest an acceptable solution.
Their plan was that in future they would function as a separate Romanian lyceum in the building of the technical school. They would like to secure this building because technical school courses were conducted during the evening, leaving 13 classrooms vacant for their purposes during daytime.
They asked me to pass on their proposal to the Minister of Education, Mihail Şora, who should advise the school inspector by telex of his agreement.
I solely passed on this proposal from the Romanian teachers’ committee and I also relayed subsequent questions from the Minister. I therefore consider that I had essentially a messenger’s role in the whole affair. (Though I am not claiming that I was not happy to pass on these messages, trusting that in this way the Bolyai issue would somehow be settled, and the situation would not become poisoned further.)
Before leaving, the Romanian teacher delegation asked that we should not publish the fact of their visit, and we promised this.
My role in this matter ignited a series of huge Romanian protests.
A Romanian demonstration on February 9 was broadcast in full by the Transylvania Television of Târgu Mureş, and part of it was even broadcast by the Panoráma programme of Budapest Television. Thus many people could see the scene where the Romanian students and parents demanded that I should name the four teachers who had paid this alleged visit and made this alleged proposal. I refused to do so, at which point the microphone was wrenched from me.
It can also be seen clearly on the video pictures how Radu Ceontea and Dumitru Pop, Vatra Românească luminaries and good “Bolyai men” resolutely scuffle with three visiting vice-ministers for education.
After these “discussions” of February 9 the decision was re-affirmed that the Bolyai would become a Hungarian school starting from September. O tempora!
Incidentally after the Education Vice-Minister, Hans Otto Stamp, read out this decision, Colonel Judea assured the crowd that they should have no fears, that the Bolyai would not be a Hungarian school from the autumn! He turned out to be right, not the three vice-ministers for education.
I presently told Budapest journalist, István Feketehelyi, in an interview that we had become the victims of a base provocation, and that the purpose of this provocation was clear: this was how they tried to rid themselves of democratic intellectuals who were in favour of the complete winding down of the old structure, and who demanded that the murderers, the criminals, the Ceauşescu hirelings, should be put before a court.
The video pictures confirm the correctness of the appreciation which I then gave on the spur of the moment.
First, the demonstrating Romanian students (who allegedly had not been informed by anybody of the arrival of the vice-ministers for education, but who nevertheless went into the streets exactly on that day) shouted: “Jos cu Kincses!” [Down with Kincses!].
Second, Major Ioan Frandeş (a well-known Vatra leader), blurted out that he had rung Education Minister Şora, who had been unable to give the names of persons who had phoned from Târgu Mureş about the telexed proposal to change the status of the Bolyai.
From whom then did the demonstrating Romanian students and the deliberately misled Romanian public opinion learn of my name, and in such a mendacious context?
Education Minister Şora had been a well-known opposition intellectual, and thus the extreme conservatives could have killed two birds with one stone. (What they did not succeed in doing on February 9, they did later:
Şora soon ceased to be a member of the Romanian government.)
The scenes of the demonstration broadcast by the Panoráma programme were nothing in comparison to what I had to live through on that evening of February 9.
I learned that Târgu Mureş Television (which was started shortly after the victory of the revolution and was headed by the young Romanian democrat, engineer Augustin Morar) would broadcast after the end of transmissions from Bucharest a report on the demonstration of that day. It was there that I would figure as an extremist Hungarian, who, as a “separatist”, wanted to chase the Romanians out of the Bolyai. I felt that my life would immediately be in danger if I did not make public the names of the four Romanian teachers whose proposal had prompted the decision of the Minister in the first place.
Due to the lynching mood around the town hall, I asked the four teachers in vain for them to present themselves. They were understandably afraid.
I asked Augustin Morar whether he guaranteed my life and limb if I went to the television studio. He said that of course he did. When I entered the large room of the studio, the civilian and uniformed Vatra men, at least 30 of them, were watching on two television sets the tapes made of the morning’s events. They returned my greetings, but at once turned the sets off. The enemy had arrived.
I gave Augustin Morar a video-interview, in which I told him how the telexed proposal had come about, and gave him the names of the teachers.
I told him: “Gusti, if you do not announce the names of the teachers, I will not recognise you again in my life! You must understand that my life is at stake.” He promised that he would at least announce the names; it was not certain that he could broadcast the actual interview (freedom of the press!).
After I got home (it is a fact that I dared to travel only by car, and in company), Augustin Morar called me and said in despair that army Major Solovăstru would not permit the announcement of the names of the teachers.
I ran to my office and through a government telephone rang General Constantin Cojocaru, the military commander of the county. I demanded that he should annul Solovăstru’s illegal intervention, and should let the names of the teachers be announced.
General Cojocaru first of all threatened that he would have me put before a military tribunal because I had “destabilised” the town (you see, after “separatism”, this other old-guard notion also made its reappearance). I answered that he had no right to do so. He could at most write to the military attorney’s office and ask that proceedings be instituted against me. But I warned that I am competent at defending myself before lawyers. Then, however, we were still unaware to what extent the Romanian lawyers of Târgu Mureş had been penetrated by the Vatra.
Cojocaru answered that he knew what he was saying because he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Petre Roman...
General Constantin Cojocaru had good reasons to get me in front of a military tribunal. The general should be held responsible for the order to fire on December 21, 1989, when six people were left dead on the main square of Târgu Mureş.
True to my convictions and my public promise of January 12, 1990, I kept urging the military prosecution to indict Cojocaru. During February, the chief military prosecutor of Târgu Mureş, Colonel Ciobotă, tried to put me at ease by saying that he had already filled in the arrest warrant against General Cojocaru. When I asked how come then that the general was still at large, he said that a general can only be arrested by a military prosecutor with the rank of a general and the relevant person had not arrived yet from Bucharest. We have been waiting for the arrival of this individual ever since (and not only in Târgu Mureş, but also in several other towns where the December uprising had victims, but the murderers “cannot be found”).
Colonel Ciobotă told me the above at a meeting of the NSF of which General Cojocaru was also a member. (I recently bumped into the-then Chief Military Prosecutor – now retired – whom I knew from our times as students at the University of Bucharest. He told me that when putting together the indictment he had done a thorough job, using – among other things – ballistics expert reports to prove General Cojocaru’s guilt. But the case was taken away from him and transferred to Bucharest...)
After my persistent demands, he agreed that the four Romanian teachers’ names should be announced. This measure saved my skin – at least temporarily. But since to this day the Romanian public of Târgu Mureş still believes that I had wanted to immediately chase Romanians out of the Bolyai, I assume that the four teachers simply denied that they ever paid me this visit.