Shut up, comrade, we do not want to hear about the letter
Automated translation of the article published in Opinia Studenteasca 39, Septembrie 1990; corrections to be made time-permitting
It could be said that Gheorghe Zodian was the first nomenclaturist who openly criticized Ceausescu
He looked at me with a lot of suspicion at first. He didn't understand exactly what I wanted, he put his elbows on the table and looked at me, i.e., why are you interested in this, what do you want, why only that period, and so on. Eventually we got along. I knew he was a locomotive engineer, that's all, so when I found out he also held the portfolio of Deputy Minister of Transport I almost fell off the sofa in awe. In 1936, in the spring or autumn, he can't remember, he went to a meeting of the Democratic Workers' Bloc. That meeting, like many other meetings of that Bloc, was using a tea dance as a front. You went in there, after being checked at the door, possibly asked for a password, and listened to the speeches of those who took the stage. The room was generally full, many knew each other, but there were also many strangers who had come for the first time. He remembers that the tea dance that evening took place in a building on Theodor Teia Street in Galati. A city with a large proletariat, Galati was a fertile breeding ground for communist or social-democratic ideas. The tide of change was beginning to sweep through the workers and the dockers. Social democrats and communists alternated at the head of the workers' unions. Almost everyone wanted change. You could feel it in the air. The Social Democrats wanted to improve society, they said, to repair it, to make it better, which is why they were accused by the Communists of class treason. Bourgeois society could not be cured, as you can't cure a tuberculosis patient by putting bandages on him, it had to be done differently, more radically, the rot had to be swept away, said the communists. Well, that was the situation, Gheorghe Zodian told me, let's go back to dancing tea. I hadn't been inside for ten minutes, when the rumour started to circulate that Jordan Stanescu was in the room. Iordan Stanescu was the head of the security, he came on stage, he recommended himself as Iordan Stanescu and told us to stay peaceful, the building is surrounded. Gheorghe Apostol was arrested then, he worked at our C.F.R. workshops, I knew him, he was the big man over the union. They took me to the Security Police and there they asked me: "Yo, you're a young man, what do you have in common with these Kikes [the original text contains a slur against Jews]? Tell me, what is it with you and them? And they asked me to sign a statement accusing Apostol of speaking against the king. I didn't sign it, but still they called me to Apostol's trial, as a witness for the prosecution. There I said I didn't hear Apostol speak against the king and the prosecutor started yelling at me. On the way out, after the trial, Apostol said to me: Zodian, you alone remained a mensch, man! I understood from this that all the other witnesses brought in spoke against him. Apostol got twelve years in prison. After the whole thing, Apostolidi, the depot manager, moved me from the rebar shop to the wagon yard. Hard work there, pushing wagons. Later, Gheorghe Zodian succeeded at the mechanics' school in Iasi, where he arrived immediately after the Legionary rebellion. I ask him if he had any knowledge of the crimes of Stalin, whom the world saw as the saviour of mankind and the only one capable of opposing Hitler, and Gheorghe Zodian says no. In 1937, after the C.F.R. workshops in Tighina were closed, many Basarabians came to Galati, but they, too, had heard nothing concrete. Rumours of deportations circulated, but nobody believed them. Zodian began to believe more and more in the communist movement. He avidly read the socialist weekly "Era Noua", edited by N. D. Cocea, and wondered what the world would be like without "rot". He laughed, remembering an individual, Bogatoiu, who, on the eve of the general strike of the ceferists in 1933, came to the depot and gave a speech that ended something like this: We want a communist order, for better or for worse - we want a communist order! He laughs every time he remembers that nonsense. Check that out, "for better or for worse". He goes back to 1945 and remembers the pro-Soviet propaganda of that time as well as the sweet taste of the exaggerations he was aware of. The Russian soldiers let him down in a way. They behaved shabbily, got drunk often and didn't hesitate to pistol-whip or even kill you if you didn't please them. Later, he spent some time in Sibiu and remembers the hostility of the Saxons towards anyone who didn't speak German. The war was over and the Saxons still refused to call the city by its Roman name, Sibiu. They still called it Siebenburg. He returned to Galati, where he became party secretary for the depot. Those were the days when the proletariat was building a new, healthy society. He believed in communism. He saw it, indeed, as the only future for mankind. Communism or nothing. Nothing but communism could follow decadent capitalism. In this he blindly believed. After a spell in Făurei, where he was deputy secretary of the party committee, he went on to the regional C.F.R. Bucharest, and then ministerial councilor in the Ministry of Communications. After the Ministry of Communications was abolished and the Ministry of Transport was created, he became deputy minister. One day, Zodian recalls, Kisinewski, who was quite an influential person, decided to introduce him to Gheorghiu Dej. He went with Kisinewski to the master's office and there they entered. To flatter Dej, Zodian reveals that he has known him for a long time, since the time when he was working at the Galati depot and was called Gheorghiu the Electrician. When Dej heard this, he blushed red, but said nothing. The effect was the opposite. The master didn't like to be reminded of his proletarian past. He had always been first secretary of the party. The age of terror had begun. Until well into his sixties, Zodian claims he knew nothing about Dej's crimes. He knew there was a Canal, but he didn't know that an average of a hundred people died there every day. After a few years, he knew everyone in the communist elite. Ana Pauker? She was a funny woman, very casual at receptions and very approachable. It was only later that she began to put the screws to Dej. They saw things differently. He also met Pacepa later. He was a small man and a bit insipid. Ceaușescu? Everyone called him "the idiot". When he appeared somewhere, you heard: "the idiot has come again". Ceaușescu started by denigrating everything Dej did. Good or bad, everything had to be destroyed. In 1968, I was forced into retirement early. I was one of Apostol's friends. At that time I still considered that the communist regime was the only way to save mankind. But I was beginning to wonder. We had some successes, but it seemed that the capitalists were not standing still either. On the contrary, they were galloping well. So where is capitalism, as the books say, broken down and dying? Ceaușescu was for a time, before '65, the head of the organizational direction of the C.C. I think he had time then to study everyone's files, possibly to modify them a bit. I think so, because he eliminated them all too easily. Hardly anyone protested his foolishness. I think they already knew to fear him. That was around 1968, something like that. I told you I also went to college when I was young, part time. Later, Gheorghe Zodian joined the Transport Security Directorate, with the rank of colonel. He is therefore a retired engineer colonel. In 1974, on 23 September, he decided to write a letter of protest against the cult of personality of Ceaușescu, a cult that the mass media was practicing more and more incessantly. He wrote several copies of the material, three of which were sent to the major newspapers, and the fourth was sent to the county local party organization. He was arrested, not long after, and sentenced to three years in prison, after a pre-trial detention in Rahova. He appealed to the Supreme Court and his sentence was reduced to one year and eight months suspended. The trial was a sham and the prosecution was a travesty. When, at the trial, he asked them why they didn't mention anything about the letter, they all jumped up, shut up, comrade, we don't even want to hear about it, shut up. In the autumn of that year, the 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Romania (PCR) was held. Only four years later, at the 12th Congress, Pîrvulescu stood up and criticized Ceaușescu in the middle of the meeting. But this was four years after Zodian's letter, the first critical stance by a nomenclaturist against Ceaușescu. Some time later, the Securitate tried to eliminate him three times. In the car, a pill put in the brake fluid container, which after a while gives off heavy fumes, can render the brake unusable for several hours. After that time, everything returns to normal without a trace. What does he think of communism now? He laughs. I read "România libera" with great interest, he says. With much great interest.