December 22, 1989 – the day communist dictator Ceausescu fled, shooting ran wild


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On December 22, 1989, tens of thousands of Bucharesters took to the streets which determined dictator Nicolae Ceausescu to flee by helicopter. A few hours later, public institutions were attacked by “terrorists” with gunfire. The ambulance doctors say they transported dozens of injured during that day.

On December 22 in the morning, after less than eight hours since Nicolae Ceausescu had announced that the demonstration was repressed and the central area of the Capital City was again peaceful, tens of thousands of workers from the big industrial sites were now heading towards the Romanian Communist Party’s Central Committee building and University Square, where the day before demonstrators were being shot.

People took the streets at 7 a.m. and marched from Militari neighborhood, from Pipera, from the “23 August” and Republica factories, heading towards the city center, with flags lacking the emblem of the Socialist Republic of Romania. Road obstructions installed to prevent the access to University Square and Palace Square proved to be unnecessary. Two hours later, the University Square was filled with demonstrators demanding the Army and Militia (the former communist police) to solidarize with them.

Shortly before 10 a.m., Nicolae Ceausescu was chairing his last meeting inside the Central Committee building, announcing he had took over the army leadership due to the extremely serious situation. He also informed he had set the state of emergency throughout the country, which was forbidding people to meet in groups formed by more than five persons. But, by the time he was heralding the measures, there were hundreds of thousands of people gathering downtown Bucharest.

The protesters who filled the square in front of the Central Committee forced the massive doors of the building and climbed the balcony. Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu fled on the roof of the building, where a helicopter was ready to take them aboard. After the dictator’s escape, protesters occupied both the Central Committee building and the public TV station’s headquarters, at around 12.30h, which is considered to be the moment of victory.

Despite the dictators’ escape, on the evening of December 22 the general euphoria state was replaced by chaos generated by the gunfire attack of various public institutions by unknown individuals generically called “terrorists”. Doctors on the ambulance recounted that they were called through the emergency number 961 to take up the dead and injured from various areas in the Capital.

During the upcoming days, military and volunteers used to patrol the streets in Bucharest and other cities in Romania, while crossfire with the so-called terrorists continued to make victims.

Official statistics say that 1,142 lost their lives during the 1989 Revolution, another 3,138 were injured and 760 people were detained.

The street war with some enemies whose identity is still partly unknown ended on December 25, 1989, when Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu, previously caught in Targoviste, have been executed following a quick trial, judged by an ad-hoc military court.

The Ceausescus were charged with genocide and undermining the state ruling, with prosecutors accusing that they had caused the death of 60,000 people during their rule,  had organized army actions against the Romanian people and had attempted to flee the country based on funds mounting to over USD 1 billion deposited in bank accounts abroad.

Based on these charges, the dictatorial couple was sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out inside the garrison in Targoviste on December 25, around 14:45h. Later, their trial and execution were broadcast on TV.

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