Szabolcs Horvath, the Hungarian headmaster of the Bolyai Lyceum, was with me on February 2 when Valer Galea, the County Mayor, brought to my office a deputation of Romanian teachers from the Bolyai. It was led by the Romanian deputy headmaster, Vasile Matei.
The deputation explained that they were coming from the County School Inspector, the Romanian Mr. Ciurca, who had sanctioned their message. They advised that the troubles that had blown up around the Bolyai Lyceum in the last two weeks had affected their nerves to such an extent that they would like to suggest an acceptable solution.
Their plan was that in future they would function as a separate Romanian lyceum in the building of the technical school. They would like to secure this building because technical school courses were conducted during the evening, leaving 13 classrooms vacant for their purposes during the daytime.
They asked me to pass on their proposal to the Education Minister, Mihail Sora, who should advise the school inspector by telex of his agreement.
I solely passed on this proposal from the Romanian teachers' deputation and I also relayed subsequent questions from the Minister. I therefore consider that I had essentially a messenger's role in the whole affair. (Though I am not claiming that I was not happy to pass on these messages, trusting that in this way the Bolyai issue would somehow be settled, and the situation would not become poisoned further.)
Before leaving, the Romanian teacher delegation asked that we should not publish the fact of their visit, and we promised this.
My role in this matter ignited a series of huge Romanian protests.
A Romanian demonstration of February 9 was broadcast in full by the Transylvania Television of Tirgu Mures, and part of it was even broadcast by the Panorama programme of Budapest Television. Thus many people could see the scene where the Romanian students and parents demanded that I should name the four teachers who had paid this alleged visit and made this alleged proposal. I refused to do so, at which point the microphone was wrenched from me.
It can also be seen clearly on the video pictures how Radu Ceontea and Dumitru Pop, Vatra Romanesca luminaries and good "Bolyai men resolutely scuffle with three visiting vice-mimsters for education.
After these "discussions" of February 9 the decision was re-affirmed that the Bolyai would become an Hungarian school from September. 0 tempora! Incidentally,
after the Education Vice-Minister Hans Otto Stamp read out this decision, Colonel Judea assured the crowd that they should have no fears, that the Bolyai would not be an Hungarian school from the autumn! He turned out to be right,, not the three vice-ministers for education.
I presently told Budapest journalist István Feketehelyi in an interview that we had become the victims of a base provocation, and that the purpose of this provocation was clear: this was how they tried to rid themselves of democratic intellectuals who were in favour of the complete winding down of the old structure, and who demanded that the murderers, the criminals, the Ceausescu hirelings should be put before a court.
The video pictures confirm the correctness of the appreciation which I then gave on the spur of the moment.
First, the demonstrating Romanian students (who allegedly had not been informed by anybody of the arrivalval of the vice-ministers for education, but who nevertheless went into the streets exactly on that day) shouted: "Jos cu Kincses! [Down with Kincses! ].
Second, Major loan Frandes (a well-known Vatra leader) blurted out that he had rung Education Minister Sora, who had been unable to give the names of persons who had phoned from Tirgu Mures about the telexed proposal to change the status of the Bolyai.
From whom then did the demonstrating Romanian students and the deliberately misled, Romanian public opinion learn of my name, and in such a mendacious context?
Education Minister Sora had been a well-known opposition intellectual, and thus the extreme conservatives could have killed two birds with one stone. (What they did not succeed in doing on February 9, they did later: Sora soon ceased to be a member of the Romanian government.)
The scenes of the demonstration broadcast by the Panorama programme were nothing in comparison to what I had to live through on that evening of February 9.
I learned that Tirgu Mures Television (which was started shortly after the victory of the revolution and was headed by the young Romanian democrat, engineer Augustin Morar) would broadcast after the end of transmissions from Bucharest a report on the demonstration of that day. It was there that I would figure as an extremist Hungarian, who as a "separatist" wanted to chase the Romanians out of the Bolyai. I felt that my life would immediately be in danger if I did not make public the names of the four Romanian teachers whose proposal had prompted the decision of the Minister in the first place.
Due to the lynching mood around the town hall, I asked the four teachers in vain for them to present themselves. They were understandably afraid.
I asked Augustin Morar whether he guaranteed my life and limb if I went to his
television studio. He said that of course he did. When I entered the large room of the studio, the civilian and uniformed Vatra men, at least 30 of them, were watching on two television sets the tapes made of the moming's events. They returned my greetings, but at once turned the sets off. (The enemy had arrived)
I gave Augustin Morar a video-interview, in which I told him how the telexed proposal had come about, and gave him the names of the teachers.
I told him: "Gusti, if you do not announce the names of the teachers, I will not recognise you again in life! You must understand that my life is at stake." He promised that he would at least announce the names; it was not certain that he could broadcast the actual interview (freedom of the press!).
After I got home (it is a fact that I dared to travel only by car, and in company) Augustin Morar called me and said in despair that army Major Solovastru would not permit the announcement of the names of the teachers.
I ran to my office and through a government telephone rang General Constantin Cojocaru, the military commander of the county. I demanded that he should annul Solovastru's illegal intervention, and should let the names of the teachers be anounced.
General Cojocaru first of all threatened that he would have me put before a military tribunal because I had "destabilised" the town (see, after "separatism" this other old-guard notion also made its reappearance). I answered that he had no right to do so. He could at most write to the military attorney's office and ask that proceedings be instituted against me. But I warned that I am competent at defending myself before lawyers. Then, however, we were still unaware to what extent the Romanian lawyers of Tirgu Mures had been penetrated by the Vatra.
Cojocaru answered that he knew what he was saying because he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Petre Roman...
After my persistent demands, he agreed that the four Romanian teachers' names should be announced. This measure -saved my skin - at least temporarily. (But since to this day the Romanian public of Tirgu Mures still believes that I had wanted to immediately chase Romanians out of the Bolyai, I assume that the four teachers simply denied that they ever paid me this visit).
February 10 was the day of a wonderfully peaceful Hungarian demonstration, where people carrying candles and books stood in silent witness to the Hungarian community's grievances.
The resolution concerning the Organisation of such a rally had been passed at a committee meeting of the RMDSZ in Bucharest on February 6.
The RMDSZ received permission for the rally the next day, February 7. Conse-
quently the Romanian charge that the Hungarian rally of the 10th was in response to the Romanian schools protest rally of the 9th, described above. is untrue.
Further, the Romanian demonstration of February 9 was supposed to be "spontaneous". and had not been advertised or authorised.
According to estimates, more than 100,000 people took part in the Hungarian demonstration, where, with dignity, they silently advocated defence of "our sweet mother tongue" and our schools. András Sütö spoke four times to the multitude in front of the sport palace. For it was organised so that four large groups listened in turn to his words before dispersing to be replaced by the next. They also prayed under the leadership of the Catholic priest, Gábor Köllö.
I quote a line from Sütö's address at the demonstration: "Brothers, countrymen! A hundred thousand of us have assembled silently, but this silence has been audible further away than anything.else!"
The mood of the demonstration was so exceptional and peaceful that the police, and even Colonel Judea, called it exemplary, and thanked us for it in the local press.
But after its own correct and professional reporting of our silent demonstration of candles and books, the local Transylvania channel of Tirgu Mures Television was banned. Unequivocally, I believe this was because of its honest and unbiassed reports, which were considered to be an impediment to the effective dissemination of the inciting propaganda of other local and central media. In vain did we subsequently ask for this channel's restoration.
It caused us great distress that Bucharest Television falsified the pictures of the two demonstrations I mention here. Perhaps one should regard this as a rehearsal for coverage of the March 20 pogrom.
First of all, it was made to appear as if both demonstrations had been peaceful and of the same size. In truth, the Romanian demonstrators manhandled 17 Hungarians and nearly gouged out the eyes of Hungarian TV cameraman István Farkas (the piercing tool hurt the skin under one eye). István Farkas was beaten up at a later Vatra meeting. And following the March pogrom (where he also filmed) he received such threats that he fled to Sweden with his family.
(At the beginning of February he also filmed a Vatra meeting in the sports palace from a secret hide-out, after which he came to me and said: "Elõd, I want to find the grave of the Ceausescus and put two flowers on it, because in them we have lost two great friends of the Hungarians".)
Further, concerning televised distortions, I was shown on Romanian Television as an enthusiastically acclaimed speaker at the February 9 demonstration of Romanians, even while the microphone was being wrenched from me, Neither Romanian Television nor the Adevarul was willing to broadcast or publish our protests about that incident.
In mid-February the National Salvation Front was extended to become the Provisional Council of National Unity. Two or three representatives nominated by other parties and organisations were also included in the leadership.
At this meeting I explained that the National Salvation Front had "forgotten" about the proportional representation of the nationalities. I said that since the law says nothing about the way in which the mayoral office should be reorganised, we are entitled to correct this omission of the legislature and can ourselves maintain in the mayoral office the 50-50 percent representational proportion that would reflect the nationality composition of the town.
I also reminded colleagues that in a democratic state the military must be free of politics, I therefore proposed that in place of Colonel Judea, a civilian (Emil Tirnaveanu) should be elected to head the town Provisional Council of National Unity. I added that the first vice-president of the county, Scrieciu, is also a military officer.
Judea answered by threatening that he would have me put before a military court.
The atmosphere of the meeting was typical. One month had seen a tremendous change in the attitude of the Romanian representatives. When in mid-January the Bolyai was discussed, they accepted the compromise solution which envisaged the school becoming Hungarian in September. Now the Romanians unanimously rejected it, and the Hungarians unanimously supported it. I thought that throwing fuel on the fire made no sense, and I preferred to withdraw my proposal concerning the future of our military friends.
To these discouraging signals was added the warning from Károly Király, who in the courtyard of his home asked me in mid-February whether I had my passport. I said I had, Király said that we might need them. He said Sütö and I should be very careful; we should not walk around alone, we should think about our own protection and should bear in mind that we may have to flee. He added that - unfortunately - some leading circles did not want to overcome the extreme hate-mongering going on, and even try to encourage it.
After their peaceful demonstration, the Hungarians saw that the matter of the Bolyai Lyceum was at an impasse and decided to wait and see. But the local and central media were now fully engaged in the incitement campaign and needed ever newer ammunition. They no longer considered the rehashing of old established "sins" to be sufficient.