The siege of the radio studio

Radio editor Ferenc Kelemen tells about the dramatic moments to journalist Ervin Szucher:

In the morning I was in town, in the afternoon in the studio, so I can say that the Târgu Mureş Radio had a decisive role in preventing more serious atrocities during those hot days. Everybody talked about the siege of the RMDSZ headquarters, not mentioning the siege of the radio, which could have ended with further victims. The whole thing started when a group of about 200-250 people split from the crowd besieging the headquarters on Bolyai Square and came to Lugă Street, outside the studios. There was a horrible atmosphere: Inside everybody was in despair, outside was a rampaging crowd. They shouted “Numai, numai româneşte, niciodată ungureşte!” (Always, always in Romanian, never in Hungarian). Or: “Ungurii afară, să facem socoteală!” (Come out, Hungarians, let’s settle accounts!). The attackers were obviously planning to lynch the Hungarian editors and get rid of the Hungarian programme of the radio.

I wish to stress that in those days there was a very close-knit team working at the radio. Still, there was panic in the studio. Since December, five or six soldiers had been guarding the radio, but they disappeared and 30-35 of us, Romanians and Hungarians, were totally on our own. It must have been between five and six in the afternoon, when some people from the crowd tried to climb the fence from the gardens at the rear. In the meantime, we broadcast in Hungarian and Romanian several times an appeal to the army which I had written in my despair. Melinte Şerban, the director of the Romanian programme, and the-then head of the institution − saying that he is in permanent contact with the police and with army commanders − initially refused to have the text broadcast. But when he saw that things had escalated, he allowed it. Behind the microphone we had Sándor Gáspár, our director at the time. Unfortunately, the appeal had no results. In the meantime, the phones were ringing non-stop: simple Szekler people from along the Niraj and Târnava rivers offered to help. Many wanted to come to Târgu Mureş to protect us, but we asked them to stay calm and stay put. Under no circumstances can we succumb to a provocation! The crowd was becoming more blood-thirsty by the minute and ready to break down the iron gates and storm the building. Marika Márton and some Hungarian colleagues retired to pray.

I had the divine inspiration to convince a Romanian colleague to go outside and try to calm the blood-thirsty raging crowd. Otherwise, I argued, if they break into the building they will not look at who is Romanian and who is Hungarian, and will beat us all to death. I think this prompted my Romanian colleagues to think, because shortly afterwards we saw our colleague, Tarfin Todea, go into the courtyard. We did not hear what he was saying but we saw him return with a four-member, so-called delegation into the studio. It is better not to mention how these people looked or how they stank of alcohol. The Hungarian editors retreated into a separate room, so they didn’t see them. The Hungarians who stayed, apart from me, were Sándor Gáspár, János Varga and maybe two or three others. I remember that over Marianna Vári’s desk there was a nice Hungarian calendar. They asked what it was and immediately tore it down and crumpled it up. But what matters isn’t this but how Todea tricked the Hodac people. Our Romanian colleague said that there were no Hungarian editors in this building, that the radio no longer had a Hungarian programme. And come and see for yourselves! After this, our “visitors” departed with satisfaction. The crowd started to withdraw after 10-15 minutes.

Was it Tarfin Todea’s presence of mind and cleverness that stopped another bloody clash? I think so, yes. If it hadn’t been for this man, we would have been lynched and the studio would have been destroyed. I’m not the only one who knows this; others know it, too. But no one has thanked him for it yet.