Aurel Baghiu

* 1929  †︎ 2010

  • "In those days we used to say: What are we doing? The Hungarians are dying for their nation’s freedom and what are we doing? We’re learning cursed Russian? We’re eating maize porridge and learning Russian? We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We should do something. Do what? There were lots of ideas. One was to demonstrate in the street with slogans like: Russians out! We were aware of the fact that first we couldn’t, second there was the repressive apparatus. We knew that as soon as the revolution broke out in Hungary all the forces of oppression in Romania were on the alert: the Securitate, the Army and the Militia. They were all in a state of alert. In an atmosphere like that you couldn’t shout slogans in the street, it was absurd. (…) We were aware of the fact that as soon as a revolt against the Russians started in a so-called socialist country, it wouldn’t be possible for one to break out in a second country. Why? Because they took the measures that they took, so that nobody could move to the front. Because if nonetheless they taken to the streets in the same instant the machineguns would have started and shot them so that it wouldn’t spread. So that it wouldn’t reach the stage it had reached in Budapest. There it spread to the whole country. So we were aware of the fact. But nonetheless we had to have our say."

  • "You can’t even image. Imagine yourself in a room, as big as this, which was called a cell. I was put in isolation, which was a cell, let’s say half the size of this. With no bed and no food, but that was another matter, that was punishment. But there were fifty people in such cells. You had to sleep there. Bars on the windows, shutters outside. Here you can see the sky, the light, there you couldn’t see anything. The door was a door. There was no air. Imagine yourself there in summer, the terrible heat, we were sweating, we had a rash. We took it in turns to go to the cell door, naked, on our bellies, pressed to the cement, like fish out of water, so that we could breath the air. My God, the rash. There were doctors with us, who looked, but nobody knew what the rash was. A rash like you’ve never seen. Nobody knew where it came from, why, from the sweat…"

  • "In 1956 the Russian had a military headquarters in Timișoara. We saw that and our disgust increased day by day. As a rule, the populace had no choice and put up with it. All day long you saw Russians, soldiers and officers, walking around like they were at home. Worse still, in Timișoara, up until 1956 and after that, up until 1958, as long as the Russians were there, they had an entire district of Timișoara. The populace, the Romanian citizens, were evacuated, taken from their homes. The people of Timișoara, our colleagues, called it the Latin quarter, but those of us who weren’t from Timișoara asked them why they called it that. Come and see. And we went to see. Beautiful villas in the Banat style where the Russians lived. So, the people were removed from their houses and taken to Bărăgan or who knows where and the Russians moved in, the officers, that is, who brought their mothers-in-law, wives, children, dogs and pigs. In Timișoara they had Russian kindergartens, they had Russian-language elementary schools, they had lyceums and a Military Lyceum in Timișoara."

  • "Months passed without you having a shower. But when they took you to have a shower, you’ll read it here, because it describes the scene, what can I say. It was one thing in summer, but in winter… And if we were in the cellblock, the old cellblock, opposite, there was a bath there. The order came: prepare to bathe. You had to be quick: take your boots off, grab a cloth, a fragment of soap and wait. When the guard came you had to come out holding your boots and go down the stairs, at the double and amid blows of the truncheon, quick, quick. You crossed the yard, in winter, January, February, frost, a hard frost, the cobbles were frozen, snow, and you were running barefoot. In the bathroom when you entered there was a guard by the tap, because it was a central tap and it had funnels. He turned on the hot water, and if you got under you’d burn yourself and so you just tested it with your hand. It was boiling water. But even so you quickly wet yourself for a start, that was until we caught on, until we learned. If you soaped yourself, he stopped the hot water and turned on the cold. But freezing cold. Naked, cold water after hot, God forbid. And then everybody out. Still covered in soap, your hair sticky, God forbid, and you had to go outside. You went outside, maybe you changed your shirt, you didn’t even know whether to change it or not, or to keep the dirty one on and change it later…"

  • "In the Romanian newspapers there wasn’t anything about what was happening in Hungary, not a word, as if nothing were happening. On the 25th or 26th there was a small announcement: In Budapest disorder was caused by a clique of hooligans and thugs, sons of former landowners etc., who broke shop windows to loot them. After the vigorous intervention of Soviet troops, order was restored in Budapest. That was what we read. At that time in Budapest the Russians were in action, blood was flowing, people were being killed, a general uprising. What’s more, the students and the populace joined it, children, everybody, the Hungarian Army, even the police. Only the Hungarian secret police remained, the AVO it was called in Hungary, the secret police didn’t intervene."

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  • 1

    Cluj-Napoca, 14.11.1997

    duration: 02:05:17
    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
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In those days we used to say: What are we doing? The Hungarians are dying for their nation’s freedom and what are we doing? We’re learning cursed Russian? We’re eating maize porridge and learning Russian? We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We should do something

Aurel Baghiu in 1963, shortly after his release
Aurel Baghiu in 1963, shortly after his release
photo: Arhiva foto a Memorialului Victimelor Comunismului şi al Rezistenţei

Born 2 July 1929, Gheja, Mureș County. He graduated from the lyceum in Turda and then the Metallurgical Middle School in Mediaș. In 1952 he enrolled in the Mechanics Faculty of the Timișoara Polytechnic Institute. In October 1956, the reverberations of the Hungarian Revolution were felt in every country in Eastern Europe. In Romania students reacted immediately, and in October and November 1956 there were protests in a number of university cities, followed by countless arrests and expulsions. The most organised of the student movements was in Timișoara, where more than two thousand people were arrested. Aurel Baghiu was arrested on the evening of 30 October 1956, after organising a students’ meeting, at which representatives of the communist authorities also took part and at which a twelve-point list of demands was presented. Regarded as one of the leaders of the Timișoara student movement, Baghiu was sentenced to eight years of correctional servitude for “public agitation” along with seven colleagues on 16 November 1956. During seven years of imprisonment, Aurel Baghiu was moved between penitentiaries in Timișoara, Gherla, Stoenești, Periprava, Strîmba, Salcia and Văcărești. He was released on 6 February 1963 following a decree granting a general amnesty. After his release he settled in Cluj. A month later he married the girlfriend who had waited for him during his imprisonment, and three years after that, in 1966, he was allowed to enrol for the fifth and sixth years of university, taking evening classes. In 1968, fourteen years after first becoming a student, he was awarded a Degree in Structural Engineering. He worked in the Napochim Design Bureau and then as head of the Farmec Design Service. After 1990 he was president of the Cluj branch of the Association of Former Political Prisoners, vice-president of the Cluj Provisory Council of Union, a member of Cluj County Council, president of the Cluj branch of the Anti-Totalitarian Democratic Front and vice-president of the same organisation. He has published the following volumes of memoirs: Behind Bars, 2 vols., Editura Zamolxis, Cluj, 1995-2003 (2nd revised and expanded edition, 2 vols., Napoca Star, Cluj, 2006) and Biographical Fragments and Thoughts (2009). He died on 3 March 2010.