Sunday, December 8, 2013

The September 1991 Mineriad

22 years ago, in September 1991, I happened to be in Bucharest.  I was working in France, which had had strong links with Romania, and so after the 1989 revolution they tried to fill the vacuum and  sent us over for the first post-communist Franco-Romanian Biophysics conference. But we weren't the only visitors: several thousand Jiu valley miners had been organized  to come and cause trouble - the "Mineriad". Nice lads, most of them. They were wearing wellies and carried sticks (see above), slept in the parks, and shouted "Jos Iliescu" ("Down with Ion Iliescu", the President). Now, this confused me because I had thought it was Iliescu who had arranged for them to come in the first place, laying on trains etc (maybe a Romanian reader can clue me in?).

The night was full of the sweet aroma of CS-gas: Jean-Louis said he'd already experienced that, much worse, in '68. Next morning, they marched to the parliament building. We tagged along, at the back, so we missed the fighting, hundreds injured, deaths etc. They petrol bombed the parliament and the Prime Minister (Petre Roman) resigned. That was a momentous visit, I guess. The conference led to my establishing a strong association with the guys there, who throughout everything had maintained a love for science. I brought students back to Germany, France and the USA, and they did great stuff.  I want to go back to Romania, back to the monasteries in Moldavia, the mountains of Transylvania, to Bucharest, and all the friends I made there. Maybe even, one day, to drink beer with miners in the Jiu valley..........

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