I have to admit: I was around 3 months before 2 years when the Revolution of ’89 happened, so my memories about communism are based only on what I heard at home, at school or in books.
During the communism in Romania, people were not allowed not to work: the state used to take care for each citizen to have a job and they were sent from their hometown wherever there was a job position. 2 of my uncles were sent in the opposite part of the country (at around 600 km away) in order to work in the mines. Free choice was something only some afforded.
The majority of Romanian population was rural, people living in villages, living on what they used to produce on their own lands/farms. The cities were mostly filled with other nationalities and this was changed during communism as beautiful houses (Bucharest was called Little Paris before WW2) were replaced by grey match box buildings. In the villages people had to give everything they had to the state and in cities they had to renounce having their houses and to move in small apartments. My grandmother used to have fields with cotton or with sugarcane and the family was forced to work the land and to give everything to the state – there were times they didn’t had any sugar in the house, but they used to make it. Keeping your house/belongings was again something only some afforded.
Being a rural population, highly religious, sex and protection were taboo. Especially in the North of the country, where the population is still hypnotized by golden churches. When abortion was forbidden there was a growth not only in the number of kids per family, but also in the number of abandoned children. And of women dying at illegal abortion – you probably heard about 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days movie having as main topic how abortions were done in that period.
Based on the job role and number of kids, a family used to receive an apartment. My parents had 5 and they have receive a 3 bedrooms apartment – if my father would have enrolled in the party they would have received a 4 bedrooms one. It was quite easy to receive an apartment, to pay a small rent for it and in the end to buy it – so the house was not totally free, but cheap.
If having a place to live in was not a problem, there were issues with: having a car, a phone at home, a good carpet or a curtain. Ironically, Romania used to produce all of these products, but they were only for export. People had to wait for 5-10 years to receive a phone or the right to buy a special carpet. When Ceaușescu decided to pay the debt of the country there was nothing left on the shelf for the normal people. Hunger took over, lack of heat inside the house, 2 hours of TV/day, punishment of jokes, a population which used to work in shifts (from Monday to Sunday) to raise unwanted children with food rationing.
The population was starving, but working in different industrial companies. Everyone was stealing from work, whatever they could, in order to make deals later on – nobody wanted money, they simply made exchange of objects. Having animals was prohibited, but people still used to keep the tradition of killing a pig during Christmas in hidden places. Everything from outside the borders was forbidden and a huge black market was developed for movies and songs. There is even a documentary about the movie’s black market (Chuck Norris vs. Communism) – which I truly recommend. You weren’t allowed to exit the country (unless you had some good connections) and if you were caught during your run you used to be imprisoned or even killed. At Danube there are many stories about people trying to pass it swimming to Serbia, but getting on the other side in Romania.
In 1989 the population had enough. Almost 10 years of hunger, of oppression. There were some people open minded, having contact with the outside world. When the communist block started falling in the rest of Europe, there was the time for things to change also in Romania. Ceaușescu couldn’t believe his eyes that the population went on the streets, but in the end, together with his wife, they were killed. In December 1989 people rushed to see his house, located in a highly secured neighborhood – called the Red Paradise. They entered the house and stolen the food, nobody touched the crystals or expensive objects, they were dying of hunger. And now take a look at some pictures I took in the palace – a 80 rooms house placed in one of the best neighborhoods of Bucharest. A kitsch, each room having expensive articles from different countries. If you are in Bucharest it is worth a visit: the guided tour is around 1h and 15 minutes and the fee is 10 euro. You can check it here.