Awakened by our teenage daughter’s screams in the middle of the night, my wife and I ran to her room. We burst in and switched on the light. There she was, white as a ghost, sitting up in bed. The bedroom window was broken, the curtains torn. I looked out at the night sky: only the pearl-coloured moon and an ocean of stars.
“There was a bat … a man … a man that looked like a bat …..” cried Andreea, tearfully.
“Did he ….? Did he …..? I asked.
“Did he what?” she said, confused.
Well, obviously, he hadn’t. Relieved, I turned to Iulia and whispered an instruction that she must have a word with Andreea to check the extent to which the innocent girl understood the question, “Did he …….?”
I checked the window sill. Yes, all the objects I had left to repel vampires were there; a few cloves of garlic, a Christian cross, a Bible and several Manele CDs. But the scent of a virgin’s blood had sent the vampire mad. The talismane were useless against such brute instincts.
‘But what more can a responsible father do?’ I asked myself. After watching the late night news and the TV weather forecast the night before, I had listened attentively to the ‘Vampire Alert’ for Romania – Cod Rosu – code red, they said! And so I had taken adequate precautions, or so I thought.
But while Iulia was comforting the distraught girl, I noticed an envelope lying on her pillow. It was addressed simply, ‘To Romania’, but written in blood. I picked it up, opened it, and took out the folded letter. I could hardly believe the title written at the top of the page: ‘Ceaușescu’s message to Romania.’
“Did the vampire say anything?” I asked Andreea. She seemed calmer now.
“Yes …. no … yes, yes! He said he was a va-va-va-va-vampire!”
Aha! The conclusive proof it was Ceaușescu. The unforgettable speech defect. No wonder his speeches took hours to deliver. Anyone else could have said everything in five minutes. Can you imagine how annoying he was as a kid standing in the queue at the Post Office?
“Can I have a sta-sta-sta-sta …..”
“Oh, give the ugly kid a ‘stamp’, for Heaven’s sake. We haven’t got all day,” somebody in the queue probably said.
Anyway, I decided to read the letter to my wife and Andreea. After all, it was the middle of the night, and any prolonged message from Ceaușescu would certainly help us all fall asleep again. The letter ran as follows:
‘Tovarăși – comrades – yes, it’s me, Conducatorul! I’m back from the dead to give the Romanian tovarăliști an important message. But why? Because there is a c-c-c-crisis of leadership in Romania today. Has been for years. So, I thought I’d come back to breathe life into Romania’s collapsing economy. But first, I must clear up some misconceptions and lies told about me.’
(Later note: Ceaușescu was known as the Red Vampire – and you know that vampires can come back to life. But wasn’t there even one silver bullet in Târgoviște in 1989?)
‘So, you thought things were bad under Communism, eh? You criticized me for telling you to wear an extra coat in Winter. Hah!, now you can’t afford a coat. Some of you can’t afford a coat hanger. Maybe you could b-b-b-buy one with a b-b-b-bank loan, but look at the hidden charges in the contract. Your coat costs more than you think. Everything costs more than you think. And that’s why the Marxist-Leninist-Elena doctrine was the best. Just ask my wife, Mother of the Nation. She’s no fool. She’s got a Phd.
And Elena’s scientific thesis was written by her, not by someone else. Co-doi! See? A genius. And what about some of the government ministers today? Did they write their own Phds? Hai, lasa-mă’ – C’mon, don’t make me laugh!’
(Later note: Some things never change in Romania.)
‘And pay no attention to the critics, comparing me to a vampire. Vampires hate sunshine. Anyway, I was called ‘the light of Romania’. Check out the poet Paunescu’s take on me from ‘Viitorul Romaniei’ – ‘Romania’s Future’. He wrote, ‘Therefore, it follows that the source of sunshine does not come from outside, but that we have our very own Sun emerging from our capital city, Bucharest.’
And that’s why I was always surrounded by guys wearing sun glasses. They weren’t a bunch of mafia gangsters with ‘raybans’, they were genuinely blinded by the light emanating from me, ‘The Genius of the Carpathians’.’
(Later note: Megalomania the size of a planet. And an endless capacity to believe his own propaganda. But anyone can write laudatory scrawl. Paunescu was just a self-serving sycophant, not a poet.)
‘And give praise where praise is due. The first five years were OK, sort of. It was only later that people started to gang up on me and Elena and Communism, just to make us look dumb. They were jealous of our success. Everywhere I went, the markets were full to overflowing with fruit and vegetables. There are photos to prove it!
(Another note: Everywhere Ceaușescu went, there were flunkies hurriedly transferring the same fruit and vegetables to the next market he was about to visit. It had all been done before. Potemkin built fake villages to make the Czarina, Catherine the Great, believe Russia was a land of happy, rural peasants. Ceaușescu’s ‘apparatchiks’ pulled the same trick.)
‘And I wasn’t a real Communist, anyway. I visited the USA and took a ride on a rollercoaster at Disneyland. Did Stalin or Mao Tse Tung do that? And look at these guys running the country today, they’re not real democrats. They fix elections and make sure their own people to get the most lucrative positions. Yes, yes, yes, I know there were 27 close family members of the Ceaușescu clan in top positions by 1989, but these guys running the country today are no different. Relatives and close friends are promoted to top jobs, irrespective of their ability.
(Yes,some things never change in Romania.)
‘And then at my trial in Târgoviște, I was accused of starving the Romanian people. Just 200 grams of food a day, they said. But look at your ‘free’ society now. There are obese and overweight Romanians everywhere. IC Parhon says that around 40% of the current generation of kids are obese. Obesity will probably lead to health problems one day; diabetes and cardiovascular disease. I would ban ‘shaorma’. That’s not food, not real food.’
(And again, some thing never change in Romania. No food, or bad food. What’s worse?)
‘And the electricity cuts. They said I sacrificed the health of the nation to follow some crazy economic plan. And now? ‘Liberalization’ of energy prices, a-la European Union mean that Romanians won’t have enough money to switch on the lights and the heating. Was Communism so bad, by comparison? Isn’t ‘liberalization’ of energy prices a crazy economic plan, too?’
(And final note: ‘Plus ça change … ‘ The more things change, the more they stay the same. Well, call me a fool if you like, but the people who say that Ceaușescu’s time was not so bad when compared with today might have a point. In fact, I have heard people say that putting the government of today in charge of the country, was like putting a vampire in charge of a blood bank. And that’s worrying! Very worrying.)
By Angus McFarlane, guest writer