Iowa Writes

Traces of the Revolution

Walking around Timisoara, you sometimes come across façades still pockmarked by machinegun fire. Piata Victoriei is an obvious place immortalized on the 1989 photographs. Bullet scars in the old buildings with stripping paint do not surprise you: they are to remind you of the anti-Ceausescu revolution that started here.

But when you are away from the city center you may come across the bullet holes in quite unexpected places. In a quiet villa neighborhood, houses painted green or ocher, potted plants in the windows, you suddenly see what looks like a grave: a tombstone leans over a fence and a face of a young boy in black-rimmed glasses looks past you into the future from one of those ghostly funerary pictures. If you can read some Romanian, you will learn that it is a memorial to an eighteen year old shot on that very spot on December 23, 1989. Only then, you look around to see that he was not shot with a pistol. The machinegun fire left traces on the villas around.

Or you're walking in a wide street with tall communist blocks, you look up because an enormous billboard enlivens the grayness of the landscape, and there, by the twentieth-story window you see a whole sieve of bullet holes. You wonder and look around again, seeking to trace the story. When you see the police station right across, a storyline appears, like a Hollywood script; the puzzle becomes more solvable. You imagine a sniper sitting on the roof of that building, shooting across at the police, who respond with a Kalashnikov salute.

Revolutions adore logos. Each has a trademark: the Odpor fist in anti-Milosevic Serbia, the bloody red Solidarnosc with the Polish flag waving from the 'n,' and here the hand with the index and middle fingers in a V — the victory sign (or peace?) subtitled "RESPECT 1989." The bloodiest anti-communist revolution in Europe and the peace sign? I am not sure if it had the same function before the revolution as the other symbols did; if it was painted over Ceausescu's portraits and the communist party's election posters, or if it was only designed after the victory, when the respect was already won. On the walls of Timisoara, it acts as another trace of the revolution.

But the slogan seems so apt: isn't respect what revolutions are for?

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Polish by birth and Iowan by immigration, Ania Spyra is an Associate professor of English at Butler and a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She teaches Transnational and Postcolonial Literature, Translation and Creative Writing, and has published widely on multilingualism and transnationalism, most recently in Studies in the Novel and Contemporary Literature.

"Traces of The Revolution" is one of "Three Romanian Postcards," originally published in the February 2007 issue of 91st Meridian, a publication of the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa.

This page was first displayed
on April 05, 2017

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