Border crossings between Hungary and Romania are
supposed to take a long time. It takes awhile to search a car and interrogate
its driver. They never know if they'll find forbidden guns, pornography,
time, however, the border guards wanted photos taken of us arm and arm
with them, victory signs extended, and shouting "Libertate" (liberty).
Instead of confiscating contraband they gave us tri-color ribbons and
even flags with the communist symbol cut from the center.
It was New Year's eve - only a week earlier
Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu, the dreaded dictator and his wife, were executed.
The man and the system that ruled with absolute authority were suddenly
the town of Oradea, our convoy of trucks with relief supplies was warmly
greeted. One man came up to us with a big smile talking like we were
old friends. Unfortunately, we had no clue what he said. For the first
time, Romanians were allowed to associate with foreigners and many of
them wasted no time in exercising this newfound freedom.
In Bucharest, we stopped by the house
of an 88 year-old man named Arthur. He was a printer by trade and spent
seven years in prison for printing bibles. As soon as he was released
he printed some more! As I sat in the dining room of his freezing cold
house smaller than my garage I realized this man was one of those you
only read about. He, more than most, knew what "libertate" really was
I sit at our edit suite I look up at my Romanian flag hanging on the
wall with the center cut out and remember that cold December nine years
ago. I can still hear the guards with their victory chants. I can still
see people greeting us like long lost friends. And I can still remember
Arthur telling the story of life in prison.