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Romanian Immigrants Pray for Uprising’s Victims, Welcome Ceausescu’s Death

December 25, 1989

Undated (AP) _ Romanian-Americans offered prayers Monday for their homeland and the thousands killed in the uprising that toppled a dictator, but there was no sorrow over the Christmas Day execution of former President Nicolae Ceausescu.

″I think this was supposed to be a gift to the Romanian people to let them know that they were rid of his reign and of his family who suppressed the country for so many years,″ Simona Simut, a Romanian-America n activist, said in Chicago.

Ceausescu, 71, and his wife, Elena, were executed Monday after a secret military trial blamed them for the deaths of more than 60,000 Romanians and the theft of more than $1 billion from the country, Bucharest Radio reported.

The Warsaw Pact’s last hard-line communist ruler was ousted by a popular revolt Friday. The uprising was triggered by the massacre of thousands of people protesting Ceausescu’s harsh rule, and at least several hundred more are believed to have died in fighting since Friday.

About 100 people attended a memorial service outside the United Nations in New York for those killed in the uprising. Mark Sherman, who left Romania five years ago to join his mother who defected earlier, said Ceausescu ″got what he deserved.″

″He’s one of the worst nightmares in Europe since World War II,″ Sherman said. ″His worst mistake was when he started to execute his own security people. He made a lot of mistakes and starved a whole nation but that was his last mistake.″

The group lighted 48 candles at the bottom of a wooden cross on which hung a lantern and a sign saying, ″In memory of the Romanian heroes who have died for freedom of religion, liberty and justice.″

A man held a small poster declaring ″Romanian Christmas″ showing a Christmas tree topped with a black tie and black bleeding hearts dropping from it.

″It’s incredible this tyranny is over. It’s like being reborn again. But it comes at such a high price,″ Sylvia Chelmu said.

Sherman said about 100 Romanians left New York Monday planning to go to Romania and do what they could to help their countrymen.

Isai Hotaran, 25, who left Romania in 1987, joined about 20 other emigres in Lansing, Mich., to set up a fund-raising network to channel aid back to their impoverished homeland.

″I am not pleased with the death,″ Hotaran said. ″Killing him is not enough punishment. Letting him and his family live in prison would have been more just. I don’t think that Ceausescu had any idea what he had done to Romania.″

Simut, the Chicago activist, said a public trial for Ceausescu wouldn’t have worked.

″The people of Romania hate him so much that they probably would have just ran to the courtroom and killed him themselves before he even got to a trial,″ she said.

A group of Romanian immigrants in Denver held a tearful memorial for victims of the revolt at the end of Sunday Mass at the Transfiguration Orthodox Church.

As their parents held candles behind them, children lifted up a table laden with food and wine in a traditional Romanian rite that memorializes the dead and celebrates the promise of resurrection.

″We cry and pray a lot that the people will have the power which they may need to succeed,″ said Magda Blagaila, who emigrated in 1973 and now lives in Boulder.

She said she hasn’t been able to contact her parents and sister in Moldavia, or her cousins in other parts of the country. ″I’m not sure if they’re still alive, or dead,″ she said.

Despite the anxiety, the congregation rejoiced that Romania is emerging from years of repression.

″Nothing can happen without sacrifice. This is the lesson of history,″ said Dumitru Manea, who came to Denver 11 years ago after three years as a political prisoner in Romania.

″We are happy because the people finally stood up and they fought for their dignity, for their desire and wish to live a normal life with the other European nations.″

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