Poetry in Context: Romania, 1989

One of my more popular poems recently was a short piece called If That Ain’t Love: Romania, 1989.  The poem was about the last moments of Elena, the wife of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

Despite what one feels about Romania’s communist past and the tenuous impact of democracy on its present, the love story of the communist dictator and his wife is fascinating.  23 year old Elena met 21 year old Nicolae in 1939 and reportedly remained faithful to each other from then until the end.  She stuck with him through various stints in prison for his political activities.  As he rose to power in Romania, she was his partner, both in life and politically.  By 1973, she was the second most important figure in the country behind her husband.

As communism fell around the world, so too went Romania in 1989.  The Ceausescus were captured and tried together, sentenced to death by firing squad to be carried out immediately.  Elena was defiant until the end, telling the soldiers “shame shame” and “I raised you like a mother,” before begging to die alongside her husband, instead of separately as intended.

Getting her wish to die with her husband, her final words were reportedly “you mother fucking assholes,” as a volley of rounds were fired at them both.

Here is the taped account of their being bound and led out of the hastily put together court, to their executions.

Pretty powerful stuff, no?

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