After sending two open letters to RFE in the period 1982–1983 and discussing with her students texts by Paul Goma and Mircea Eliade which were not officially published in Romania, Doina Cornea was put under close surveillance and threatened by the Securitate, in order to make her give up her oppositional activities. In June 1983, she lost her teaching position at the University of Cluj because she had refused to cede to these pressures. Despite these repressive measures against her, Cornea continued to send open letters of protests and to show solidarity with other dissidents in Romania (Cornea 2009, 176–177). Among these acts displaying solidarity with other oppositional activities, those supporting the 1987 workers revolt from Braşov attracted the most violent reactions on the part of the Securitate.
In November 1987, Cornea learned of the Braşov workers’ revolt from RFE radio programmes. Immediately afterwards she displayed a placard in front of her house in Cluj through which she expressed her solidarity with the workers. On 18 November 1987, she drafted 160 manifestos written in violet ink on sheets of paper similar to A5 format with the text: “Solidarity with the workers from Braşov” (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, f. 109). These manifestos were spread with the help of her son Leontin Horaţiu Iuhas in various public spaces in Cluj, namely in the main squares and in factories (Cornea 2009, 194–195). On 19 November 1987, Cornea and her son were arrested by the Securitate and its employees conducted a detailed home search (Cornea 2006, 203). On this occasion the ink with which these documents were written and some copies of the manifestos were confiscated. The latter would be attached to the criminal file and invoked as proofs of the accusation during Doina Cornea’s interrogation by the Securitate in late November 1987 (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, f. 109).
Among the open letters addressed by Doina Cornea to Ceauşescu himself, that entitled “Stop the demolition of the villages” (Opriți dărâmarea satelor) was among the most significant and certainly the one that aroused the greatest international reaction. The letter opposed the programme of “rural systematisation,” which entailed the planned demolition of more than 7,000 Romanian villages (Ceaușescu 1989, 395). Cornea drafted the open letter in July 1988 in a period when the demolitions had been intensified. The letter was also broadcast by RFE in September 1988 and published later by the French newspaper Le Monde (Cornea 2006, 220).
In comparison with other open letters that focused more on future-oriented reforms (such as those dealing with the educational system), this letter is “nostalgic and past-oriented,” and deals with the protection of the Romanian peasants’ habitat and way of life, which she argues is the core of Romanian national identity (Petrescu 2013, 314). This approach was based on her readings of Romanian philosophers and writers such as Lucian Blaga, Constantin Noica, and Nicolae Steinhardt, who dedicated many of their works to the “spirituality” of the Romanian village. She thus places herself in a cultural tradition which since the end of the nineteenth century had emphasised peasant culture as a key element for defining Romanian national identity (Hitchins 1994, 298–299). Consequently, she considers Ceauşescu’s plan to restructure most of the Romanian villages as a malicious attempt to destroy “the soul of the nation.” She also invokes the fact that the rural habitat is a part of world cultural heritage and criticises the demolitions from a preservationist perspective. Thus, she asks Ceauşescu to stop the demolition of the villages and to consult of the will of the Romanian people concerning the future of the national programme of “rural systematisation.”
At the end of the letter, Doina Cornea mentions another twenty-seven persons who had expressed their solidarity with the open letter of protest and agreed that their names could be included on the list. Most of them were either Cluj-based supporters of her oppositional activity, such as the dissident Iulius Filip (who in 1981 had addressed an open letter of support to the Polish free union Solidarity), or part of a group of workers in the town of Zărneşti (Braşov county, Romania), who had initiated a local free union. This open letter, together with her interviews granted to Western journalists, inspired the collective initiative Opération Villages Roumains (OVR), “the largest ever network of transnational support against the abuses of Ceausescu’s regime,” which opposed the demolition of Romanian villages by encouraging a symbolic adoption of the endangered Romanian rural sites by Western communes (Petrescu 2013, 317).
After listening in November 1987 to the news broadcast by Radio Free Europe (RFE) about the anti-communist revolt of the workers in the factories of the city of Braşov, Doina Cornea openly displayed her solidarity with the protesters. On 18 November 1987, she drafted 160 manifestos, which were spread with the help of her son Leontin Horaţiu Iuhas in several public spaces in Cluj (Cornea 2009, 194–195). Consequently, on 19 November 1987, she and her son were arrested by the Securitate after a detailed home search (Cornea 2006, 203). During home searches on 19 and 23 November 1987, the Securitate confiscated many documents from Cornea’s private dwelling, including all the drafts of her letters to RFE.
Among these documents, the Securitate confiscated the handwritten draft of the first letter she sent to RFE entitled: “Letter to those from home who have not given up thinking with their heads.” According to interviews granted by Doina Cornea, this letter was drafted by Cornea and her daughter Ariadna Combes in July 1982 (Cornea 2009, 169-170). The document was smuggled to the West and sent to RFE with the help of her daughter, who chose to remain in France in 1976 and visited her mother in July 1982 (ACNSAS, FI 000 666, vol. 2, f. 11). In August 1982, the letter was broadcast by RFE during the radio programme “Talking with RFE listeners.” It was the first letter in a series of twenty open letters sent by Doina Cornea to RFE in the period from 1982 to 1989, through which she asserted herself as one of the most prominent Romanian dissidents (Cornea 2009, 195–196). The open letters sent by Doina Cornea to RFE intensified the surveillance and repressive actions of the Securitate, which had already been monitoring her closely since 1981. Due to the fact that the strict surveillance in communist Romania did not allow the development of a samizdat and tamizdat milieu, RFE played a key role in conveying the messages of Romanian dissidents to their fellow citizens (Petrescu 2013, 277).
The letter starts with a reference to radio programmes of RFE that had been previously broadcast. During these radio programmes, journalists specialising in East European issues had dealt with the crisis that affected communist Romania during 1980s and identified political and economic factors as the immediate causes. Instead of these causes, Doina Cornea emphasises in her letter causes relating to moral and cultural values. By idealising interwar Romania, she brings into discussion the destruction of the Romanian intellectual elite during the first two decades of communist rule and the decay of the educational system. In Cornea’s opinion, this “spiritual crisis” is illustrated by the everyday “compromises” and “lies” that citizens living under a communist dictatorship have to “accept and circulate” (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, f.1). Her argumentation in this respect is similar to that developed by Vaclav Havel’s essays and epitomised by his principle of “living in truth” (Havel 1990). Cornea argues that “the people is fed only with slogans,” which stifle all openness towards “truth, revival, and creativity” (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, ff. 2–3). She criticises the conformism of Romanian intellectuals and state policies which limit theoretical education (especially the humanities) and promote technical education in order to fill the need for cadres in the rapidly growing heavy industry.
She concludes her text by asking for a reform in the educational system and encourages those working in this field at least to take advantage of the limited possibilities available to them to promote what she considers to be authentic cultural and moral values. According to Cornea, those working with students should not teach them “things in which they themselves do not believe” and they should “encourage the creativity of young people and not be afraid to say what they think” (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, ff. 4–5). At the end of the letter, Doina Cornea inserted her name with the mention: “for the messengers of RFE listeners” (ACNSAS, P 000 014, vol. 2, f. 5). She did not intend to reveal her real identity to the listeners of RFE, but just to prove the authenticity of the document to the editors of the radio programme. Due to a misunderstanding, her real identity was revealed during the radio show.
In November 1987, after the draft of this document was confiscated by the Securitate, the secret police used it as an argument of accusation during Cornea’s interrogation. This focused especially on the channels used by Cornea to send the letter to RFE. Although she did not mention it during the interrogation, the Securitate suspected that her daughter Ariadna Combes had helped her in this respect. For this reason, Cornea’s daughter thereafter did not receive a permit to enter the country to visit her family until the fall of the communist regime.
The photograph represents Cornel Chiriac during one of his broadcasts at the Romanian desk of Radio Free Europe (RFE). Taken in 1970, it was sent together with a letter to his mother in Pitești. Unfortunately, the Securitate confiscated the letter and the photograph and thus they never reached their destination. The picture is very telling for Cornel Chiriac’s passion for music and his rebellious nature. He is smiling to the camera as he is about to play one of the many vinyl records on his desk. His broadcasts at RFE enjoyed huge popularity among Romanian young people. This popularity was partly due to his passion for music, his vast knowledge about it, and the dedication with which he performed his job as radio producer at RFE. The photograph also showed the same rebellious Cornel Chiriac with long hair and beard, and a lit cigarette placed on an ashtray. The outfit, a long-sleeved striped shirt and a jacket on a hook on the wall, complete his rebellious outlook specific to the period. It is interesting to note that, although Cornel Chiriac was the idol of an entire generation, many people were not at all familiar with his face. It is from this photograph in the Securitate files that many discovered the image of their hero after 1989: “The great majority of us did not even know what our hero looked like, but he had become a lively presence, our close-faraway comrade, the protector of our sounding utopia. In a Romania, which was more and more isolated in its unhappiness, the music that Cornel Chiriac offered us represented one of the few open horizons, one of the few breaths of hope” (Jurnalul 2008). Today, the photograph confiscated by the secret police is his most widely circulated image, and it was selected by his fans to illustrate the Facebook page which keeps alive his memory (https://www.facebook.com/Metronom-In-amintirea-lui-Cornel-Chiriac).
- Bucharest, Romania
- Charakteringas eksponatas:
Members of the Eighth Day Theatre have been very open and vocal about their criticism of the socialist reality in the 1970s in Poland. Their contestation of the regime became even more clear when they got engaged in the activities of the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). In response, the authorities started to obstruct activities of the Eighths. Members of the theatre collective were regularly denied passports and means to produce new shows. Mentioning the Eighths in the official press was banned. This part of the collection consists of the official letter exchanges between the Theatre of the Eighth Day members and the Ministry of Culture and Art and local authorities of the city of Poznań. These documents are a unique testimony of how the negotiations of the position of alternative art in the socialist cultural field looked like.