Last week a video found its way into my social news feed. I feel that “social” is an ironic choice of words, as the video depicted anything but:
Being born in Eastern Europe, the battle for freedom (and its tolls) is not such a distant memory. I was six years old when the Revolution broke in Romania in 1989 and Communism officially came to an end. Tentacles of its way of doing things went on for years to come and people’s mentalities have shown that they require even more time to change.
The documentaries on the Romanian Revolution have stamped many images in my mind: black and white video images of people gathering in what is now the Revolution Square in Bucharest shouting for freedom; men, women, old and young alike, marching on the streets facing the cold tanks; people falling under the showers of bullets cowardly triggered under the mask of nightfall; reports of people shot dead, then burnt, their ashes thrown down a canal.
I remember visiting the Revolution Museum in Bucharest several years ago and looking, through the museum case, at the bloodied pieces of clothing collected from the families whose fathers, sons or maybe even mothers or sisters died that winter. What an eerie feeling – an item that belonged to someone who died for the belief that our people deserved a better life was placed on exhibition in a museum box; myself, a beneficiary of the freedom won that season, standing on the other side looking at it. I wish I could say I felt the relief accompanied by being free, but the stains of blood on the woolen sweater in front of me made me feel like I was looking at death itself.
I got the same chill watching the video of the young woman in Ukraine: the chill of humans clashing in a fight for freedom, in a war of outlooks over who should rule in people’s lives: themselves or a dictatorial, restrictive state. It is, in almost every way, an archive of the Romanian revolution – replayed on a loop, on my social feed, a quarter of a century later.
Life under a repressive regime unfolds in several waves: there’s the initial fight against the unwanted constraint; there are the beatings, the intimidation, the depletion of resources, the need to make do, for decades in a row, perhaps, with very little for yourself or for your children. In dark and quiet corners, the voices of rebellion whisper for fear of being heard, they murmur, they come together, their hanging on to hope and to the conviction that freedom is theirs even stronger.
I absolutely believe that human beings are born free and that it is only the circumstances that they are born into that have a say into the manifestation of that freedom. If the floodgates for the Ukrainian freedom have burst open, then let this finally flow.