(Image source) Controversy indeed. A bronze bust of Adrian Paunescu sculpted by Ion Deac Bistriţa and Dragoş Neagoe was unveiled in Gradina Icoanei on Saturday at an event held by Nicolae Ontanu, mayor of sector 2. It has caused quite a stir - and, IMHO, rightly so.
(Image source: Liviu Ioan Stoiciu) For those now aged 45-60 who were present at those gatherings and remember them fondly (there are many), I understand this great desire to feel all that again - time numbs pain and sharpens happy memories on a general scale, we all know that. The guru-worship feels great, for at last there's something to cling to once again in a quagmire that today is the ruling government (whether it be PDL, USL or whoever - they are all the same) and political class.
For those who didn't live this period, however, it cannot be understood nor revisited. Not by stories à vive voix, articles and not even by youtube. The magic of the pied piper does not work by procuration. You had to be there to feel the bewitching effect of a modern-day Mefistopheles. The fanatical hero-worship of a mediocre poet and servant to Ceausescu (so successful that even Ceausescu himself got worried and stopped the flacari using the disaster at Ploiesti as the perfect scapegoat) hangs on the association of a glint of what freedom was to an abused society - and how that glint made them feel.
one interview in November 2010 saw the poor television presenter (Turcescu) hardly able to get a word in against a tirade of 'yes, I loved Ceausescu!' and 'Ceausescu was greater than Basescu!' affirmations and diatribes.the more disappointing the present is, the more one tends to yearn for the past and Romania seems to be suffering from a very dangerous form of amnaesia. I do not understand this lack of memory pertaining to one of the main propagandists of the 70s and 80s who had no reservations whatsoever. Perhaps, as has been mentioned often, he gave gifts and showed kind gestures, but that was NOT the full picture. Apart from that, Paunescu continued to react violently to anyone critical of Ceausescu up until his death -
This brings me to Paunescu's Mea Culpa episode back in '92 which sparked a (very) brief moment of sympathy within me. Paunescu poured ash on his head and performed Mea Culpa - but with two sentences: 'Sunt un porc. Sunt porcul dumneavoastra de Craciun liber.' Those two sentences were not an apology. The words I'm sorry do not feature. Before anyone says, 'you aren't Romanian. You can't understand what 'porcul' means to a Romanian,' well, I do understand very well. It was explained fully. And I stick to my original view: It was not an apology. Therefore, this form of 'mea culpa' could only have been for his own elevation and gain. Without an apology, 'mea culpa' does not work. It effectively cancels itself out.
It is strange, for when I lived in Bucharest and friends were suggesting poets and authors I should read to better understand the Romanian soul, I was advised Eminescu, Nichita Stanescu, Blaga, Bacovia, Cosbuc and a hoard of other wonderful, marvellous word-smiths. Never did anyone advise me to read Adrian Paunescu. Up until his death I had never heard of him. I was always quite proud of my knowledge of Romanian writers and literature as a foreigner....
Why a statue now and why him...? And who commissioned it anyway? Why not let the light shine for others who really do deserve it? There are so many marvellous, wonderful writers, poets, composers, artists who would have fit the bill so much better and without the controversy - far more talented and without baggage... Why this all-encompassing desire to make this man an icon who does not deserve to be. As a poet, he will be immortalised in his books forever. Isn't that enough? As a man he does not deserve the honour. HERE is an excellent article dating from November 2010 in Romania Libera which gives a few good insights as to why Adrian Paunescu suddenly made such a come-back.
At least, this is my opinion. I expect it will upset some and niggle many in which case I apologise for knocking down other people's sandcastles. But a man who wrote 'Sa traiti, Maria Voastra' at the end of a letter to the Ceausescus and created poems to them in praise and honour that I have since read in disbelief... no, I cannot think otherwise.
And as Liviu Mihaiu wrote on his FB page: "Not for the martyrs in the prisons, the partisans in the mountains, or for Elisabeta Rizea, but for a propagandist who was a vehicle of the regime??? FOR SHAME!!!"
Adrian Paunescu was indeed a genius - but only in his manipulating capacity. He was not a patriot in any way as far as I can see. Perhaps he loved his country in his own somewhat twisted manner, but to aid a dictator in his efforts to brainwash an entire generation is NOT an act of patriotism by any stretches of the imagination. A bust in his memory? To me, it is indeed an 'irresponsible gesture' and an insult to every victim who died at the hands of the regime.
Update 30th May: Please watch THIS video from Metropotam.ro on the unveiling ceremony in Gradina Icoanei on Saturday. The protester (a Mr Marinescu, I think?) was extremely courageous, standing his ground when NO ONE else moved a muscle to support him. Officials tried to move him on, even the police attempted to get rid of him. Eventually, journalists from TVR and other networks thrust microphones at him to capture his protest speech. And how right he was. People died in the 1989 revolution. Their memories are spat upon by the very presence of such a statue. RUSINE!
Following that, we see the unveling (RUSINE, too - thrice-fold) and then a group of youngsters who clearly have NO idea who Paunescu really was nor what he did. The fact they are in red doesn't help much, in my opinion. Ignorance. Naivety. Utterly misguided. None of which anyone corrects.
The video makes one sick to the stomach. Sick for the amnesia, the ignorance, the warped history, an honour paid to a communist propagandist. And one man, just ONE, with the balls to say how appalling, how foul, the act of honouring him is. Where was everyone else? Those that disagree so vehemently? Should I ever meet Mr Marinescu, I'll buy the man a very large drink. "Don't you feel concerned jeopardising your freedom?" someone asked him - a journalist I think? Is that democracy? When freedom is jeopardised for expressing an opinion that concerns honouring a man who doesn't deserve it? Indeed, RUSINE!
Scarba iti fac politicenii de astazi...