The death of Mikhail Gorbachev filled the headlines around the world. For those that didn’t live the end of the eighties, the name Gorbachev might say nothing, or it might say too little. However, for an already old guy that I am, I had the luck to become a teenager right at the transition between the eighties and the nineties. Being born and raised in the communist Romania of the time wasn’t really a privilege but my memories are all so sweet, because those years coincided with the most vibrant period in one’s life, my childhood and my teenage hood. The events happening in Romania in December 1989, meant for us an abrupt change. We lived those somber days of a December, for the first time in decades, one without ground covered with snow, full of hopes. Suddenly, we could see our dreams and ideals easily realizable as – we thought at the time – finally, we were about the join the select club of a free, civilized, and democratic world. I am sure, each of us had original experiences, during those events, and none are more special than others, but mine are important because they belong to me, they are who I was at the time.
For my generation, the change has started earlier, through the American movies we were watching, some of them at cinemas, some of them interestingly being included in the two hours daily short television broadcast, and lately on video players. I don’t know how and when these formidable tools of propaganda have penetrated the iron curtain. Therefore, when the communist system was finally falling we were looking full of hopes towards America, the superpower that was about to become a hyper-power. I remember watching President George W. Bush in brief news clips and I was sure he was the author of the fall of communism, the hero that defeated the multi-headed Soviet monster. It took over thirty years to understand that the venerable President Bush had little to do about the defeat. The socialist system actually imploded, ruined by its own the economic system. The free market was the winner.
The main character was Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian politician who we mourn today. In 1989, I was looking at him as at the bad guy, the ugly Ivan of the east, cold and brutal. On the other side, I saw George W. Bush as the super body built good guy that could kill an entire army with just an arm and a machine gun. It was definitely an image I constructed in my mind after watching Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris, and others mighty like they were, many times, during unusual movie parties happening in the home of the privileged one that owned a VHS player.
What followed the winter of 1989 and 1990 wasn’t exactly what we dreamed about but eventually will materialize sometime. But the memory of those years, the hopes, the dreams and the opportunities that we had suddenly changed us into what we are today. There are people we’ll say we didn’t change for good and that will remain forever a subject about which arguments and counterarguments will forever coexist, but who we are today, the generation of the seventies and eighties, our character, our knowledge is based on the events of the early nineties.
That substantial change, had an uncontestable hero, the man that decided that enough is enough and left the iron curtain fall to reveal the splendor of a forbidden world to the nations that opted for communism in 1945, “encouraged” by the Red Army’s bayonets.
Thank you for the freedom you let us choose!
Rest in peace, Mikhail Gorbachev!