It always takes great sacrifices to achieve great things. The 32 men and women who died in club Colectiv after the tragedy on Friday night may be the spark that the Romanian people needed to get its eyes up from the ground and break the shackles of a corrupt system that has taken over the country in the past 26 years. Only so, their tragic deaths will not be in vain.
Why is the Colectiv tragedy such an important moment for Romania?
Because it comes on a background of public discontent and frustration with the generalized corruption and ineptitude of Romania’s political leadership.
Because it rakes the unhealed collective wounds and the personal tragedies of many. It’s not only the 32 in Colectiv that died because of the system. It’s thousands others. It’s the two who died in the Apuseni plane crash, it’s the four who lost their lives in the Siutghiol lake helicopter crash, it’s policeman Bogdan Gigina who died while escorting a minister. And it’s the thousands who passed away before their time because the Romanian healthcare system could not provide them with the medical care they needed, or because Romania’s roads are bad despite the billions of euros spent on public infrastructure. It’s the tens of thousands of children who grow up away from their parents, because this country has been incapable of offering them decent life conditions as families. Too many times have the Romanian let their tragedies pass in vain. They have bottled up their anger, they have tried move on. But they never forgot. And the pot is starting to boil.
Many of the people who rallied to protest on Tuesday night in Bucharest are among those blessed by fate to go through the last 26 years without facing tragedies. Many of them were too young or not even born in December 1989 when hundreds died for the freedom of this people, a freedom that has been confiscated by the corrupt political elite. Many of them have benefited from the 1989 sacrifice and have been lucky enough to graduate upper studies rather than be taken to work in communist factories. They have found well-paid jobs in large multinationals, they have started their own companies, and have become this country’s new middle class. And many of them have been aware for years of the corrupt system, but chose to ignore it thinking that they wouldn’t be affected.
They have been ignoring corrupt politicians. They have been looking over the inefficient system. They thought that if they didn’t go out to vote they were in no way responsible for what was going on.
Until they realised that questionable mining and shale gas projects would leave their children living in a polluted country, that the lack of infrastructure, hospitals and schools would steal their children’s chance of a better life, and that a corrupt and irresponsible system killed people. Their people, their friends. It could have been any of them in Colectiv, or in any of Bucharest’s other deathtraps. The danger is real! Corruption kills! We have to do something about it!
This is what is now boiling in these people. A whole generation’s anger and frustration. 10,000, 15,000, or 25,000 may not seem that many compared to 19 million. The corrupt politicians in the Government, Parliament, and local authorities may think that they will be able to fool these people once more by sacrificing some random pawns, but they may soon see how wrong they are.
Because these people are the influencers. They are well informed and hard to manipulate. They have the real power to drive change in this country. They have already proven this one year ago when they overturned the result in what seemed to be a clear-cut election and made Klaus Iohannis president.
32 had to die to start the moral revolution this country needs so much to complete the December 1989 Revolution and the June 1990 tragic protests. The silent minority is in the streets. It’s only waiting for a worthy leader to voice its aspirations.
By Andrei Chirileasa, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Romania-Insider.com