Billed as our world's second largest building (after the pentagon), it was constructed in tribute to the greatness of Socialism through severe privation of Romania's common citizens.
Universally, when we ask Romanians older than 25 what it was like before the Revolution, they regard us with an expression of sorrow, and utter the phrase: "you cannot imagine."
The population of Romania finally began to rebel in Timisoara on December 17th, 1989. Demonstrators stormed the Communist Party headquarters. After hours of non-lethal struggle between protesters and local army conscripts, orders from Bucharest came to begin shooting. Rumors of uprising and lethal retribution spread throughout the country. On December 21st, as he dispatched fresh troops to crush resistance in Timisoara, the despotic dictator Ceausescu (Chee-ow-ches-kew) addressed a crowd brought to hear him reassure the nation that order was being restored.
The speech was broadcast live. Every Christmas Eve, when Romanians celebrate their Revolution, they repeat a few minutes from that tape on national TV.
It shows Ceausescu standing on this balcony of the former Party Headquarters (the current Senate). He reads from a prepared speech, and suddenly, for the first time in his bloody career, he hears words of public protest. The crowd cries: "Murderer!"
He looks up -- and flusters.
He attempted to recover, but he couldn't take back that moment of uncertainty. Everyone had seen it.
It was the moment Romanians knew they could break their bondage.
That night rebellion spread to Bucharest. Many in the army joined, lending arms to the revolutionaries.
These windows in the back of the Royal Palace, then Securitate offices, and now home to the National Art Museum, still bear the scars.
That evening, Ceausescu fled the capital by helicopter.
In front of the Hotel Inter-Continental, protesters erected barricades and were killed by tanks and troops. Those were the pictures taken by western journalists who were staying in the hotel and broadcast for the world to see.
Today the spot is marked by crosses, though the bodies were removed that night by secret police.
The way traffic passes these stone monuments makes the events they commemorate seem long ago.
Two days after the west saw Romania's "Revolution," on Christmas 1989, it officially came to an end with the summary execution of Ceausescu and his wife Elena at the hands of a secret tribunal.
Since those days, Romania has struggled to shrug off two generations of some of the most damaging government abuse.
They've moved the 'heroes of communism' busts behind un-kept shrubbery.
They officially renamed the square where Ceausescu faltered Piatza Revolutiei: "Revolution Square."
Artists have busied themselves with capturing a sense of what happened. In the center of Piatza Revolutiei sits this giant man with his back to the famous balcony. He's cut into pieces and reassembled.
Beside Cretulescu Church, adjoining Piatza Revolutiei to the east, stands a strangely disturbing split & headless statue with six arms that commemorates the dead of 1989.
Yet the story of Romania's "Revolution" must not be viewed with too much idealism. They also call it their "Puppet Revolution."
For insight into this, we visited Ghencea Cemetery, and walked to the end of a misty lane.
There lies a patch of earth that remained famously unmarked for seven years.
In May of 1996, what remains of the Communist Party of Romania erected a gravestone to mark Ceausescu's bones.
We noted, however, that his wife Elena's grave still lacks anything other than this unmarked cross.
Fresh flowers are laid at the dictator's feet today.
Which reminds us that he did not rule alone.
And the files of the Securitate have still not been opened.
In fact, the revolution puppet masters are leaders of the country today.
Which may explain some of the lack of enthusiasm for maintaining a reverent atmosphere around "Revolution Square," which is now lorded over by new powers that have blown in from the west.
The fact that the architects of a coup embraced a popular uprising does not diminish the accomplishments of those leaders or the Romanian People.
They are modernizing their economy and their government.
Those leaders were voted out of office, then voted back in, in three peaceful and fair elections since the fall of communism.
Which has led the great Western Powers to officially acknowledge Romania's progress.
On November 23rd, 2002, city man-hole covers were taped shut (welding, we suppose, is out this year) and 10,000 police migrated to the capitol to direct traffic as acres of the city center were shut down.
All this preparation was for the President of the United States, sometimes also known as Leader of the Free World, to come and invite Romania to 'Proudly Join the Team' by entering NATO.
While they still wait for inclusion in the European Union, most Romanians took a drink of pride at standing beside such an important nation.
Thus does the process of remembrance takes another step toward history as the building with that famous balcony got dressed up with slogans.
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