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Revolution Unleashes Peasants’ Hopes for Democracy With AM-Romania, Bjt

December 29, 1989

CORNESTI, Romania (AP) _ No flags flutter from the hovels of Cornesti, and not one house has been scarred by bullets. But the revolt has unleashed hopes in this peasant village that are as fervent as any in Bucharest.

″We want to live just like anybody else in a free capitalist society,″ Laszlo Kiss said.

Kiss’s daughter, Tuende, said she already is making plans to run her own shop, an unheard of activity under executed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who allowed no private entrepreneurship during his 24 years of communist rule.

″Then,″ she said with a dreamy smile, ″I want to see the world.″

For Ion Ardilian, Kiss’s neighbor, the revolt that brought promises of democracy has opened the door ″to the possiblity of working as hard as I want and owning as much property as I can afford.″

The village of 600 people is less than five miles from Timisoara, the nation’s fourth-largest city, where a small crowd protecting a defiant Protestant pastor Dec. 15 sparked nationwide unrest that ended the Ceausescu era.

To the outsider, it seems another world, reachable only by a dirt road pitted with deep potholes.

The village of small houses showed no sign on a recent afternoon of the historic events of the past two weeks. The main dirt road was nearly deserted.

But villagers said the revolution has inspired in them the same pride and joy as those of their urban countrymen. And, while acknowledging that Cornesti appears the same in many ways as before the revolution, Kiss and others said change was coming.

″The same people are sitting in the village council chairs as before, but they’re just keeping the seats warm until new people are chosen,″ Kiss, 47 said. ″We’re not interfering, we’re happy to let things take their course.″

″The village leadership became Communist Party members just to be able to oppress us,″ added Ardilian, 32. ″Whenever someone did something they didn’t like, they bought in the militia to get their own way. But we’re not seeking revenge, we’re content to wait.″

The status of approximately 30 informers, until recently in the pay of Ceausescu’s infamous Securitate secret police, also remains the same.

″Nobody had anything to do with them before, nobody has anything to do with them now,″ said Kiss. Relatives gathered in the family’s cold and modest sitting room, where a bed-couch piled high with thick quilts competed for space with a kitchen table and chairs.

Kiss, a farm laborer with a small plot of land and some sheep of his own, painted a dismal picture of life in Cornesti under Ceausescu.

″As a villager, you never went to any functionary, whether in the city or here, without eggs, meat or other ’gifts,‴ he said. ″If you didn’t bribe them, you accomplished nothing.″

″I once had a herd of 100 sheep but was forced to sell most of them to the state,″ he said. ″When I refused, I was labeled an anti-socialist element and threatened by the Securitate.″

The family’s life was further complicated by their religious beliefs. As Seventh Day Adventists, outside the mainstream Orthodox Catholic Church controlled by the state, they faced hurdles at school and the workplace.

″My two sons and daughter weren’t allowed to complete high school, and the boys were forced to find work as manual laborers,″ he said.

There were no battles in Cornesti of the kind in the major cities that pitted the army and civilan revolutionaries against die-hard Securitate agents.

They offered their services anyway.

″We were told that civilians were not needed, and the army could mop up the terrorists alone,″ said Kiss. ″But decades of oppression have made us alert.

″We’re ready to fight and to die, if necessary, to prevent a return to dictatorship.″

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