Just when I reach the part in the book Train to Trieste, by Dominica Radulescu, when the main character Mona Manoliu, a girl in her late teens whose spirit and
development is profoundly repressed by Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship, is leaving Romania, I am arriving. Mona leaves Bucharest on a train to Belgrade. She travels out of Romania under the pretense of going as a tourist to Yugoslavia, but has the intention of then crossing the border illegally into Italy. She leaves her family behind, as well as her first love, Mihai, a brooding and secretive Brasov native who she comes to suspect of being a member of the secret police. But is he?
In the Romania of today, in Timsoara, the balcony of the National Theatre in Liberty Square (so-named after 1989) is closed to visitors – no one can enter. It stands as a monument to a week of protests in 1989 which were shouted from the balcony of the National Theatre and eventually spread across the country. It was the start of the revolution of 1989 that ended in Ceausescu’s execution and a new political era, and it began here, in Timisoara. In the sqaure below the theater is a tall
column with a metal sculpture of a wolf nursing its pups – a gift from the pre-war fascist government of Italy. The Orthodox church in the Romanian Brancoveanu style stands at the opposite side of Liberty Square. This architectural style is found only in Romania and is named after a 17th century King who was decapitated by the Turks. Here, at the Orthodox church in Liberty Square, protesters of 1989 revolution tried to escape police gunfire but were locked outside. Many protesters died.
What eventually happens to Mona? I don’t know yet, because I have not finished the book, but I recommend it for anyone who has an interest in Romania’s past and an appreciation for romantic historical fiction.