Romanian Revolution Survivor Shares Tale

International Studies undergraduate Ingrid Ioan spoke about her traumatic experiences during the 1989 Romanian revolution Wednesday afternoon.

Born in 1977 in Bucharest, Romania, under the rule of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Ioan told of the daily life, the December 1989 revolution and Romania’s transition from a communist nation to a democratic one.

“The last nine years of the regime were the worst part,” Ioan said. “Ceausescu considered himself being all-around knowledgeable.”

With limited media coverage and near nonstop political propaganda, few opposed the restrictive government because “that was life,” Ioan said. Growing up, Ioan experienced strict food rationing, one hour of hot water per week per household and did homework by candlelight after 6 p.m. Ioan said when she was 12, protests against Ceausescu and the government broke out in the eastern city of Timisoara and lasted four days.

Although the government attempted to keep the protests relatively unknown to other Romanian cities, rumors of a revolt began to trickle through the country and eventually reached the capital.

“On Dec. 21, the rumor finally got to Bucharest,” Ioan said. “And the biggest mistake that the dictator made was to gather a crowd in Bucharest.”

Shortly following Ceausescu’s public appearance in Bucharest, protests broke out, forcing Ceausescu to flee the city. Although a majority of the Romanian army had sided with the people, the public was still on edge, awaiting a violent outbreak, Ioan said.

Thinking the explosions outside her apartment were fireworks celebrating the fall of the regime, Ioan and her family walked to the window and discovered the sparks in the sky were bullets heading toward buildings.

“I was shot in the revolution,” Ioan said. “One bullet came through the window, hit me (in the shoulder), exploded, hit my spinal cord, and came out in the back of my heart.”

After a scramble to a local hospital, doctors without gunshot wound experience attempted to save Ioan. She survived, but not without having a lung removed and enduring spinal cord damage, permanently paralyzing her from the waist down.

Following the final turbulent days of the revolution, Ioan completed high school and came to Eugene in 1994 in an exchange program, where she learned more about disability rights and education. She returned to Romania before coming back to the university to complete a degree in international studies.

Ioan’s presentation, put on by the University’s International Cultural Service Program, is the second in a series of six presentations on theimpact of war on students’ lives.

Undergraduate Natalie Nordyke, one of nearly two dozen audience members, said Ioan’s perspective and experience was particularly intriguing.

“It’s really moving to hear about a very recent communist overthrow,” Nordyke said.

“Ingrid’s amazing,” agreed event coordinator and International Programs graduate Kate Bodane. “I don’t think anybody that was here today can walk away and easily forget Ingrid’s story. It’s a different take on how we usually address these topics, to be thinking about the personal aspects and how these things impact.”