"Hundreds of thousands of my compatriots took to the streets and, against dramatic perils to their lives, manifested their willingness to regain their freedom. 'We shall die, yet shall be free,' was their battle cry – because a battle it was, facing as they were the repression apparatus of the dying regime," the ambassador said.

The world had watched the unfolding events in surprise and disbelief. The last dictatorship in Central-Eastern Europe had been crumbling down in blood. After half a century of war, violence and repression, Romanians were, at last, freeing themselves of communism, leaving it behind as something alien to their historical tradition and national character.

"Yet, in more than one way, the Romanian Revolution of 1989 was anything but surprising," Ambassador Lazurca said. "It is fair to say that what happened 30 years ago was only the culmination of a half a century-long struggle – at times silent, at times brutal – against a regime that had been perceived, from the onset, as a foreign occupation.

"It was by no means surprising therefore that Romanians' resistance against the Soviets had at first a quasi-military nature. Indeed, from 1948 until as late as 1962, an estimated one thousand armed groups, usually led by former officers of the Romanian Royal Army, were roaming the mountains, hunted restlessly by the forces of the new regime.

"A cable sent in 1949 by a British diplomat posted in Romania estimated at 20,000 the number of partisans fighting in the woods. Such a massive resistance would have been all but impossible without the solidarity of heroic women, who, like Elisabeta Rizea, offered food and shelter to the fighters and who were ready to suffer torture and confinement for their defiance of the communist authorities.

"The last partisan, Ion Gavrila Ogoran, was apprehended in 1976 and saved from the death sentence by the direct intervention of President Nixon. One year later, in 1977, communist Romania was shaken by a massive strike that brought the economy of the mining region of Valea Jiului to a halt."

This was the first time, after decades, that Romanian miners rediscovered, at their risk and peril, the political relevance of workers' unions, the ambassador said. It had been a useful experience, since, in 1987, it was the turn of the industrial workers in Brasov to go on strike and to send a powerful message of emancipation, heard all across the free world.

"The whole history of the communist regime in Romania was punctuated by – occasionally prominent, most of the time inconspicuous – acts of bravery and opposition. The peasants, for instance, didn't simply forgo their property; their obstinate resistance had to be crushed during the process of land collectivisation.

"Equally, intellectuals, like Doina Cornea, and artists, such as Paul Goma, chose to defy the regime in order to preserve, if only partially, their freedom of thought and expression under the iron dome of ideology and censorship. The clandestine magazine Ellenpontok, edited by a group of Hungarian intellectuals, while short-lived, is another relevant example of resistance to the propaganda machine.

"The Romanian Revolution of 1989 would have been inconceivable without this long series of acts of resistance, fearlessness and, sometimes, sheer heroism. Romanians took massively to the streets 30 years ago also because, somehow, the memory of the partisans, the resistance of the farmers, the

independence of some illustrious thinkers merged together to form a spirit of recovered, impassionate dignity.

"Let me also recall here a most fundamental fact: our revolution was also a formidable affirmation of our European identity, a way to claim our place on a continent we felt we had been forcibly exiled from. Our accession to the EU and NATO was built upon the Romanians' willingness, clearly expressed in the streets 30 years ago, to resume our European destiny."

The ambassador said that if he could stand here at the Marriott today, if he had been given the honour to speak on behalf of a free, truly European Romania, it was because the revolution had been successful. "Not simply because it put an end to an atrocious regime but mostly because it set off a profound renewal of my country. Indeed, Romania is today stronger and more prosperous than ever in her history.

"Those Romanians who fought the dictatorship, those who resisted the oppression, those who denounced the deceitful ideology have every reason to feel vindicated and proud.

"Long live Romania!"

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