On January 1, as though to illustrate how much the world had changed, three journalists announced their visit to us. They were from Die Welt, Liberation and Quotidien de Paris. Only ten days earlier, we would have rather hidden 'in a mouse-hole than openly receive western journalists in our homes. But they were at my home from morning to evening and did a lot of interviews, not only with me, but with Károly Király, with the poet Béla Marko, who later became a senator representing our newlyfounded movement, the Democratic Association of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), the physician Dr. Pál Kikeli, who became a Vice-President of the Mures County branch of the RMDSZ, and others.
It was fortunate that the stuffed cabbage had survived New Year's Eve, so that the Paris and Bonn journalists and TV people could successfully gobble it up, frequently praising Transylvanian food and hospitality.
I remember how surprised was Boris Kalnoky, the reporter of Die Welt, when in answer to his question I said I had confidence in Ion Iliescu, and considered him an intelligent man who favoured democracy, and that I thought he would keep the promises he had made to the minorities about protecting their rights immediately after coming to power, My illusions concerning Ion Iliescu were led also by Károly Király and by Dr. Kikeli, who at the end of the Sixties, as the president of the Students' Association of Tirgu Mures, was a close collaborator of Iliescu, the then First Secretary of the Young Communists' Association and Minister for Youth.
Alone, with my second doubts
Károly Király, as National Salvation Front Vice-President, was now mainly occupied in Bucharest. But then on January 9 - on account of his grave facial neuralgia complaint - he was removed even further from us, to Budapest, where he was operated on and nursed until January 25.
This was how I suddenly found myself in deep water. I shall try to indicate the torments involved in the gradual disappearance of the illusions I still entertained at that time.
In the aforementioned euphoria of those days, I found it a bit strange that not more publicity was given to the large amount of humanitarian aid with which Hungary moving as one man - assisted Romania. As an example I quote the December 26 issue of Adevarul, which published my article about Tökés. Presenting the "humanism without frontiers" it popularised the aid transports of six countries (Austria, Soviet
Union,France, etc.), but did not mention Hungarian transports at all. Of course, the saying "a leopard never changes his spots" generally fits the set of journalists who had so faithfully served Ceausescu. All honour, therefore, to the exceptions.
Today I no longer find all this strange, but have come to the conclusion that it was an intrinsic part of a well thought-out strategy.
The trap into which the Hungarian Foreign Ministry fell at this time fitted into the same strategy. In the first days of January, Budapest's Kossuth Radio read Foreign Minister Gyula Horn's statement in which he called on those Hungarians travelling to Romania to refrain from interfering in its domestic affairs.
The implication. Hungarians do not so much bring aid, but interfere in internal affairs. From here the repetition of the accusation of separatism was but one further step to Romanian ears this meant that the Hungarians wanted to
But before this very charge was first heard from the mouth of President Ion Iliescu himself on January 25, various things had happened.
On January 12 the whole country remembered the victims of the December revolulion,
In Tirgu Mures, an ecumenical service was celebrated from the steps of the Greek Catholic church. On behalf of the county leadership I spoke, in Hungarian.
I said that the memory of the six victims would stay with us forever, because their spirit which had achieved the beautiful and longed-for liberty through the common sacrifice of blood lived on among us.
This spirit teaches us as follows: that a singular historical opportunity is being offered here and now to everybody.
I said that this is the command of increased responsibility: the empty words which had been mouthed over so many decades and words silenced by violence, the effaced words: testvér - frate - Bruder [brother in Hungarian, Romanian and German] can be restored to their rights, each to the cathedral of their mother tongues.
After the observance I hurried to the Mures Inn, where we had to prepare with Géza Domokos and his colleagues the second national meeting of the Hungarian Democratic Association, the RMDSZ.
At 20:30 (while the television broadcast an anti-government demonstration in Bucharest) I was called from the Inn with the message that a large crowd was demonstrating at the town hall. Their grievance was that democratisation had been stopped and that the Securitate men were not being called to account. General Scrieciu asked me to speak to the demonstrators in Hungarian.
The text of my rather hectic speech was:
I have never addressed a popular meeting in my life and I don't want to speak now either unless you want to hear what I have to say.
I understand the difficult situation we are in. We must not forget that in this country there were 3,800,000 Party members and 70,000 Securitate men. In this country
for the first time in history, the phenomenon occurred that the driver had already died but the machinery continued to kill!
Exactly in order to avoid superfluous victims, the supreme leadership was forced to make the decision that the Securitate should be placed under the control of the military. Nobody told me this, this is my private opinion. I am not the hireling of anybody, I am the prisoner of my own conscience. I accepted the defence of László Tõkés. While I nearly dirtied my pants - I was so afraid - I would have been ashamed not to accept it,
The crowd: Thank you, thank you!
Unfortunately it must be understood that the Securitate men have not been touched - I am still afraid of them!
The crowd: Hear! Hear!
I was happy to hear that those among these outstanding warriors who had passed the age of 50 would be pensioned off. Though in my opinion a limit should be put on their pensions, otherwise we will be paying to give them the good life for all their remaining years, and against this we protest.
The crowd: To the mines with Them!
In vain would we send them to the mines, because they would be so clumsy that on their account a number of honest miners could die. In the mines honest workers are needed, not Securitate men. They are no goodfor that either.
The crowd: Hang them!
[Comment: after the Bucharest days of June 1990 - when Iliescu called the miners to the capital to violently suppress pro-democracy agitation - all this sounds a bit bizarre. EK.]
I have always said, and dare to say it now, that there is no more contemptible idea than collective guilt. This was invented by the dear old losif Visarionovich Dzhugashvili, whom history nicknamed Stalin. It has been applied since then too. You know how much the Kulak [rich Russian peasant class] children had to suffer, indeed all those whose family tree was not entirely healthy. What I mean is that somebody can be called to account only for what he is personally responsible
The murdering Securitate men, the policemen who maltreated the people and beat the freedom fighters, have no place in the police forces! This is as clear as two-and-two.
The crowd: Hear! Hear!
Feeling this support of the masses, I shall propose at tomorrow's leadership meeting that the list of those police and Securitate men who beat the freedomfighters on December 21-22 should be published.
The crowd: So be it!
I consider it revolting that this has not yet happened! Unfortunately this did not depend on me
The crowd: On whom?
Life is not unequivocal. There are people who want change, and there are those who are capable of anything so that there should be no change. In any case, those people who killed or beat the freedom fighters have no place in the police forces, but should be in prison!
We wish to build up the rule of law. In a democratic state where there is the rule of law there is no room for collective guilt nor for individual vengeance.
The crowd: There is no room for the Communists either!
My opinion is that the true Communists were those who let themselves be beaten half to death at that time for a dream.
The crowd: Like Károly Király!
That is like the old Károly Király. Because the Károly Király of today no longer believes in Communism, because he has discovered that this was a grave error of history.
He is an honest man who knows what Fascism meant - that old repression, which we have already forgotten about. When an English lord boasted to Prince Eszterházy in London that he had 40.000 sheep, Eszterházy answered that he had 40.000 shepherds. So there were times like that too. Do not let us forget that either. Those honest men [old Communists] risked their lives for a creed about which it turned out 20 or 30 years later that it was a dead end, one of the grave errors of the 20th Century. I still respect these people. I dare to say that I respect the old honest Communists.
The crowd: You are right (with interjections in Romanian - I promised to sum up my remarks at the end in Romanian).
It is not with the Communists that we should lose our time. There aren"t any Communists any more in this country - the poor wretches only sit at home by the stove and warm their sciatica.
Those who served the regime ...
The crowd in Romanian: Death for death!
...The vendetta, revenge, the death sentence is no solution... I do not even know them personally, but only from the television. It seems to me that they are intelligent European people, whom we should allow to get on with their work. Perhaps they can do something good, and if we see that they can do no good, then they must be removed. But we certainly must not make the mistake of kicking them in the pants before they have even started to work.
It is not the death sentence that we should discuss; how beautiful it would be if in this country, after the beastly dictator, it would no longer be necessary to shoot anybody. How much more the criminals suffer in jail anyway, in the cold, on prison food than if they escape it all through a quick death.
Interjection in Romanian:- Hear! Hear!
I do not interfere with this. This is the task of the legislators and of the judiciary. We do not decide this here at a popular meeting in Tirgu Mures. Let us not mix up what has to be done and when.
My address in Romanian:
Now I begin to speak in Romanian. What I do want to say, very briefly, is:
You are right if you believe that the changes are too slow and that the National Salvation Front has been changed into a national front for people to save their positions.
The crowd in Romanian: Down with them!
I am a solicitor and have stood until now on the other side of the fence and have tried to fight the powers-that-be. I accepted this new office with a heavy heart. I only accepted it in these troubled times so that I could try to help the country find the right road.
We can find this right road only with your help.
If you are able to formulate your demands as a platform which can be presented to the supreme leaders of the country, I shall be pleased to take it to Bucharest Monday night and show it to the supreme leadership.
I have understood that everybody agrees that radical measures should be taken, that we should no longer be afraid of the Securitate men, or of the policemen who maltreated the freedomfighters; these militia men... (the crowd: the police...) No, no, I do not want to abuse the word 'police', every society needs them. [Comment: the militia were renamed police after the revolution.]
...Well then, those militia men who knew what had happened in Timisoara and in Bucharest in the morning and who were nevertheless able later to maltreat the freedom fighters of Tirgu Mures, they should be removed not only from the police forces but should also be put before a tribunal, arrested, and their hair should be shorn off.
The crowd: Condemn them!
Everybody who knows and can prove who the Securitate and milita men are who maltreated the freedom fighters, who murdered them, should make a complaint at the military attorney's office. It is the legal duty of this office to find out the truth. If they do not find out the truth, then these attorneys must be removed from the military attorney's office.
The crowd in Romanian: How can you trust them?
This cannot be known, but if they do not find out the truth, like in the Aurel Dan affair, they must be removed.
[Aurel Dan was a senior administrator who stole from the aid transports, and was caught]
The crowd in Romanian: Down with them!
We demand that the attorney who tried to cover up that pilfering matter be kicked out, [since then he has been promoted!]
The question of the murdering volley [of shots against local protesters] is a very complex legal question. It must be established who issued the command, and afterwards who did the shooting. Those who were shooting will certainly say at whose command they did it.
I promise that if the investigation is not correct, I shall let you know in every possible way - through the radio, through television.
The crowd in Romanian: And here!
Yes, here too.
The crowd in Romanian: Thank you! The truth, the truth!
Köszönöm! Multumesc! Dankeschön! [Thank you in Hungarian, Romanian and German].
After I had delivered this, my first public speech, on January 12, the attacks started against me in the undeclared Vatra Romaneasca mouthpiece, Cuvintul Liber [Free Word]. Attila Jakabffy also received an ample share of attacks - although he had done no more than fulfill his duty as the chairman of the Nationality Committee of the National Salvation Front.
It should also be added at this point that - as I indicated when I told the crowd of my suspicions - the new Romanian leadership did indeed place the Securitate from the beginning under the protection of the army.
And further, that in Tirgu Mures, where on the night of December 21-22 the Securitate and police beat or shot more than 50 people, nobody was arrested for the six dead and 50 gravely injured. Those victims still living were set free by the revolutionary crowd on the afternoon of the 22nd.
In the first days after the revolution the Securitate men trembled., but then they again found the courage to walk the streets. The old Party leaders too found that they were not going to be called to account for their activities.
These facts carried within themselves the seeds of the regression that was soon to follow.
The Hungarians enter politics
On January 13, the second national meeting of the Democratic Association of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) was held in the "István Szentgyörgyi" theatre studio. I consider it to be symbolic that the Mures County branch of the RMDSZ was formed at Christmas 1989 in the office of Gyõzõ Hajdu, the former editor-in-chief of the local Hungarian literary monthly, and a Ceausescu stooge. Hajdu figured in two places in the telephone directory, both as Gyõzõ and as Victor [the Romanian version of Gyõzõ. After December 22 he fled from Tirgu Mures, being afraid that the anger of the people would not spare him. He has since returned to write for Vatra-type publications.
The engineering professor and Deputy Minister of Education. Dr. Attila Pálfalvi, said at this second RMDSZ meeting that the new government, true to the declared programme of the National Salvation Front, urged the restoration of an independent nationality-based education system. He said further that it would approve every initiative and solution coming from below. And he mentioned as an example the decision on the restoration of Hungarian secondary schools in the Transylvanian town of Cluj.
Indeed, a week before our meeting. the National Salvation Front still claimed (quoting from its Nationality Programme),
...that it condemns resolutely the policy conducted by the previous dictatorial system against the national minorities and declares solemnly: it realises and guarantees individual and collective nationality rights.
In consequence, the National Salvation Front considers necessary:
1)The new Constitution of the country should recognise and guarantee the individual and collective rights and civil rights of the national minorities.
2)The National Minorities Bill, detailing the provisions of the Constitution in a concrete form, must be elaborated and enacted. This Act should be adopted by Parliantent within six months from the entry intu force of the new Constitution.
3) In accordance with legal provisions, the establishment of the institutional system necessary for the practice of the fundamental rights of the minorities must be ensured, and thereby the free use of the mother longue, the care for the national culture, and the safeguarding of national identity. For this purpose a Ministry of Nationality Affairs must also be established... etc.
I have recorded the Nationality Programme of the National Salvation Front in such detail above in order to explain the reasons for Hungarian impatience and distrust at what proceeded to happen in educational matters.
Unfortunately, the mushrooming Romanian parties, the so-called historic parties, the National Peasant Party and the National Liberal Party - and the 50 or 60 other little parties, did not formulate a nationality programme at all. Or if they did, their programme contained much less than that of the National Salvation Front.
In this way, the Romanian parties calling themselves "democratic" committed a huge blunder: without wishing to do so, they made the national minorities believe that only the Front could ensure their rights. and that if the Front lost at the forthcoming May elections (in January it was still considered a very real possibility by many). there would be no Hungarian schools and no equal rights. This implied a deadline.
Consequently, desiring that the 450-year-old Hungarian Reformed College. the present Farkas Bolyai Lyceum, should once again become an Hungarian school (it
was made a joint Hungarian-Romanian institution in 1961, to the gradual detriment of Hungarians thereafter), the Hungarians of Tirgu Mures desired to achieve this change by the beginning of the second school term - i.e. immediately. For the elections which our supposed Front protectors looked very capable of losing were set for too soon after that date for the Hungarians to risk waiting.
Indeed, the official decision that the Bolyai Lyceum become once again Hungarian was made on January 18. The adoption of this resolution was linked to the names of Valer Galea. the Romanian County Vice-President of the National Salvation Front, the Hungarian teacher Tibor Wessely, Vice-Chairman of the Tirgu Mures Municipal Committee of the National Salvation Front, and the Romanian teacher Nistor Man, the Chairman of the Education Committee of the National Salvation Front.
This decision caused great consternation in the Romanian section of the Bolyai Lyceum and also at the corresponding Romanian (though also now mixed) Papiu Ilarian Lyceum. There was consternation too among the political - excuse me, cultural! - Romanian organisations associated with these institutions, i.e. Vatra.
The Mures County Council of the National Salvation Front discussed the matter at an extraordinary session.
The full minutes of this January 19 session should be published because they are exciting and instructive: they show what the boundaries of the navigable road are in the intelligent resolution of Romanian-Hungarian conflicts.
Those talented - usually young - Romanian politicians who had been brought to the surface by the revolution understood after our open - but not hateful - clash of arguments that the Hungarians were entitled to their own schools, and especially to the ancient Bolyai. (It is this class of Romanians which the hyenas of the Vatra Romaneasca have now for the time being removed from public life.)
The Romanian members of the National Salvation Front County Council agreed on January 19 to the restoration of the Bolyai Lyceum as a school teaching 'in the Hungarian language. But the Hungarian members for their part accepted that this could only be implemented at the beginning of the new school year (i.e. on September 15)
The healthy compromise was: the Bolyai should de jure be declared at once an Hungarian lyceum, but its Romanian students should be able to continue to attend it until the end of the school year, and not be torn from their classes in mid-course.
It was at this meeting that [local Romanian theatre director] Smaranda Enache for the first time spoke up for the restoration of independent education in the mother tongue. The effect of her intervention was overwhelming. Though she promptly began to receive mailed death threats and obscenities.
At this same time, I received a shocking memorandum. The authors put their names into a separate enclosed envelope. This fact showed how fear lived on in people, how they were afraid of the members of the old security forces who were still circulating freely.
I felt that I absolutely had to do something, and on the evening of the day of the meeting described above, I telephoned the President of the country and asked him for an audience. He was very forthcoming and readily received me the next day.
In the eyes of President Iliescu it was an extremely good recommendation that I had looked after the legal defence of László Tõkés. (It is possible that not everybody will find it appealing, but when speaking for the first time to anybody in the Bucharest leadership, I mentioned that I had represented László Tõkés. This sentence always had the effect of "Open Sesame".)
I was received by Ion Iliescu at 13:00 the next day. Iliescu was extremely kind and thoughtful. He greeted me at the door, asked my forgiveness for having made me wait, and did not sit down at his desk but at a table with me.
I handed him the Romanian-language text of the memorandum that had so shocked me the day before. It was written by certain members of the Hungarian community that inhabit the Szekler region of Transylvania. Photographs were enclosed.
In brief, what was involved was that in the summer of 1989 the police of a town of the Szekler region moved to new headquarters, Subsequently, in the courtyard of the old headquarters two human sculls and other bones were found in the dog kennel. In August 1989 these people were afraid to report it, but they kept the finds. Since the old policemen are around, they still wanted to maintain their incognito. I asked Iliescu to give the material only to reliable detectives. He said that he would hand it over to the attomey-general of the country. Since then I heard nothing about this matter.
In any case, the President was rather surprised to learn that this is what I had come to Bucharest to ask from him. So I made use of the opportunity of being able to speak in private to the first man in the country, and told him the following:
"Mr. Iliescu, we have confidence in you, but if you will not be more radical, if you do not take a stand against the guilty Securitate men, against the Party nomenclatura, we shall lose."
I emphasised that there could be no talk of collective guilt, but that those who had blood on their hands or who had gravely mistreated people must be punished. I declared that it was not sufficient to carry out actions against members of the old Political Executive Committee of the centre. Measures had to be taken also against the county leaders and key people of the Central Committee.
Iliescu stared in front of himself, and said only "Da. da, securitatea" (yes, yes, the Securitate).
I also mentioned that Romanian public opinion had to be prepared for the acceptance of equal rights for the national minorities. I gave the example that if - although absolutely correctly - an Hungarian headmaster is elected in the Bolyai Lyceum of Tirgu Mures, then this is seen from the Romanian point of view that there is now one Romanian headmaster less. Amd how decent the poor chap was, people will add.
He asked why we wanted separate Hungarian medical and pharmaceutical training anyway within the framework of the Bolyai University of neighbouring Cluj.
I told him the essence was not simply organisational, but that medical and pharmaceutical training in the Hungarian language should be restored. Unfortunately, the Romanian professors of that institution applied the "numerus clausus" game so enthusiastically that in the current first year intake there are only 14 Hungarians, while the number six years ago was more than 80! And this was not because fewer Hungarians were now applying. The total number of students had stayed the same, only the ratios had changed.
I said it is obvious to us that only our own institutions can ensure the assertion of nationality rights, and the secure education of our own intelligentsia.
President Iliescu commented that there had been an Hungarian Chancellor at the University of Tirgu Mures once before, and let there again be an Hungarian.
I said that this was much more difficult to implement than the general goal of restoring Hungarian education to its rights. For in addition, it would be wrong to put an Hungarian chancellor at the heart of an institution where there was a Romanian majority. The solution is two institutions and two chancellors.
Switching topics, and aware of the fact that the originally-picked Romanian ambassador to Budapest had recently refused. to accept the posting, I proposed that if they wanted to establish really new relations, then such a personality should be appointed to Budapest who was truly suitable and who would be able to conquer all of Hungarian public opinion.
I considered Smaranda Enache, who until then was entirely unknown in Bucharest, to be the best candidate.
President Iliescu answered that if she was such an outstanding personality we should make use of her in Tirgu Mures.
Staying on foreign policy., I told him that I found it strange that the same Constantin Oancea was Deputy Foreign Minister who for more than 16 years had directed the anti-Hungarian foreign policy of Ceausescu. I told him that I was in Timisoara for the hearing of the Tökés case, and thus saw on Hungarian Television less than two months ago - the despicable way in which Oancea tried to glorify Ceausescu at the press conference following the last Romanian Party Congress. In my opinion, he had lost face before the entire world, and this was not so long ago and had not been forgotten.
(An hour earlier, I had also complained to the Secretary of State in the Foreign
Ministry, Romulus Neagu, about the adoption of Oancea. He answered that it was Oancea who had arrested the heads of the Foreign Ministry during the revolution. This was how the bandit turned policeman. It was child's play!)
But returning to Iliescu, I also told him that many of my former university colleagues had been at the Foreign Ministry, and that I was therefore in a position to know that only those who also worked for the Interior Ministry (Securitate) remained shining stars in the Foreign Ministry.
I proposed that those who had been removed for refusing to work for the Securitate should be called back, and the Securitate informers should be directed to other areas. I added that if the President did not follow this course, there would hardly be any new Romanian foreign policy.
He listened attentively, made notes, and said only "bine" [all right].
After the conversation lasting 30-35 minutes I left with favorable impressions and I trusted that Ion Iliescu would sincerely support our endeavours for equal rights. He appeared to be an open-minded, pleasantly smiling person. This smile is nowadays no longer so natural, it has almost frozen onto the President's face.
The greater was my shock therefore when a few days later, on the evening of January 25, Ion Iliescu spoke up on television against Hungarian "separatist" ambitions.
I rang him next morning and protested, saying that he could hardly have chosen a more unfortunate expression. (I shall not list my arguments here, as I am repeating them in a newspaper article included in this book.)
Iliescu answered that he spoke against extremist phenomena on both sides, and asked what expression he should have used.
A bit taken aback, I said that finally the country had leaders who spoke Romanian excellently, and that in his milieu there were others who spoke the language much better than I did, since it was their mother tongue,- and who could offer better advice than I.
I said: "I believe, Mr. President, that you should have urged the strengthening and restoration of unity."
I discussed "separatism" with President Iliescu on one other occasion -, approximately one week after the phone conversation mentioned above. In the restaurant of the Hotel Continental in Tirgu Mures, I was giving an interview to A. Pintea, editor of the Bucharest Adevarul, about what we would like to achieve in the new, democratic Romania for the sake of equal rights. (Needless to say, this interview was never published.)
At a certain moment, a hotel employee arrived in great haste with the message that the President was asking me to come to the phone at the reception. He had been seeking me at home and had learned from my wife where I could be found.
Iliescu told me that two Romanian students of the Tirgu Mures Medical and
Pharmaceutical Institute had visited him and complained that the Hungarian students demanded a separate canteen too. Well, was this not separatism? In view of the gasping listeners around me. I said only that the matter was not as he had been told. Iliescu asked me to receive the two Romanian students in my office the next day. Of course. I immediately agreed. The two young men never called on me. They would have been ashamed to present such a canteen story to me. They kept it for misleading the Romanian public.