Dutch Ambassador Coen Stork and Foreign Doctors on Dum-Dum Bullets
(purely personal views as always, based on over two decades of prior research and publications, thank you)
Coen Stork, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Romania from 1988 to 1993, is understandably a favorite of the Romanian intellectual class and journalists for the support he rendered to dissidents during his tenure, (see, for example, http://www.revista22.ro/filaj-la-ambasador-coen-stork-in-vizorul-securitatii-5410.html , http://www.amazon.com/Dosarul-securitate-ambasador-Romanian-Edition/dp/9735039613 , http://www.romanialibera.ro/opinii/interviuri/romania-sub-ceausescu-a-fost-mai-brutala-decat-cuba-sub-castro-321991 ).
Significantly in that regard, in the following interview published on 2 January 1990, Ambassador Stork said the following (from Google Translator, if you know Dutch please verify/improve upon this translation, thank you!)
“But at the moment I saw all these dead people and physical havoc that a bullet can do …
The Securisti have been using dumdum bullets . That can not be otherwise. There were such big holes in dead bodies. When I realized what had been going on here . “
Nor was this just the speculation of an Ambassador. The author of the article quotes orthopedic surgeon A.B.M. Rietveld from Heemstede, Netherlands, who treated patients in Sibiu, and used, according to internet searches, a synonym or description of dum-dum bullets when he related the following:
Moments later provides orthopedic surgeon ABM Rietveld from Heemstede ,
also for Arsten Without Borders in Sipiu as trepidation borrower operates the evidence.
He shows me a series-produced buffed bullet.
“I have them surgically removed from the back of a Romanian. I got ‘ him as a souvenir like this patient. “
Nor is Dr. A.B.M. Rietveld the only Dutch medic, not to mention foreign doctor or medical professional who, in December 1989 or the months immediately after in 1990, attested to the wounding or killing of Romanian citizens with explosive dum-dum bullets:
“The Dutch Nurse, Sister Roza, thinks Mr. Beres, who was shot in the foot on the night of 22 December 1989 in Brasov, was hit by a hollow-nosed dum dum bullet because of the nature of the wound.” (Harvey Morris, “When the workers of Romania said no,” The Independent (London), 13 January 1990)
One wonders how long–how much longer–it will take Romanians, or at least Romanianists, to begin questioning the claims of former Military Prosecutor General Dan Voinea, longtime head of the investigations into December 1989, who flatly denies the use of exploding dum-dum bullets in the wounding and killing of Romanian citizens in December 1989?
– Munitia speciala, gloantele cu cap vidia sau dum-dum, a provocat victime? Presa de la acea vreme a fost plina cu astfel de relatari…
– Nu exista victime (persoane impuscate) nici de la gloantele cu cap vidia, nici de la dum-dum. Pe durata evenimentelor s-a folosit munitie de razboi, munitie normala care se gasea la vremea respectiva in dotarea Ministerului de Interne si a Ministerului Apararii Nationale. Confuzia si informatiile false au aparut de la faptul ca se foloseau calibre diferite si, deci, zgomotul produs era altfel perceput.
The uncritical, almost reverent treatment of Voinea hasn’t improved much since Tom Gallagher’s 2005 description of the “indefatigable efforts” of General Voinea (p. 190, Modern Romania, 2005) https://books.google.com/books?id=yLLIOejP72YC&pg=PA190&lpg=PA190&dq=indefatigable+voinea&source=bl&ots=RbbOVgBEB7&sig=mUa7_QDKobi3P7lN5J28LjFMUwE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=u5RgVaXrOYGYNpDpgYAD&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=indefatigable%20voinea&f=false.
Vladimir Tismaneanu still rhapsodizes about being personally introduced to Voinea by Sorin Iliesiu (http://www.contributors.ro/politica-doctrine/transfigurari-bezmetice-despre-o-adeziune-la-partidul-fratricidului-na%C8%9Bional/ )
Lavinia Stan takes the giant step–by contrast to other Romanians–of actually acknowledging Laura Codruta Kovesi’s dismissal of Voinea from the military procuracy in 2009 https://books.google.com/books?id=puqk2FF0FPYC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=lavinia+stan+dan+voinea&source=bl&ots=4o0nY-oR50&sig=e-s9MoNPh21SHpwTd3xBVL1SSXE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=c5ZgVaurHoHoUtXJgfgL&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=lavinia%20stan%20dan%20voinea&f=false, but can’t bring herself to mention Kovesi’s devastating critique of Voinea, beginning with the fact that he made elementary mistakes that Kovesi said one wouldn’t expect of a beginner http://www.evz.ro/kovesi-despre-revolutia-ratata-a-lui-voinea-a-gresit-ca-un-incepator-868918.html.)
The views of Ambassador Coen Stork, Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. A.B.M. Rietvald, and Sister Roza are not limited to the Dutch. Below, the testimonies of other foreign surgeons who treated those wounded in December 1989.
Because many Romanians are inclined to question the reliability of accounts by Romanian doctors or medical personnel–they were subject to the rumors, spread and amplified in the fear of the time, by Romanian radio and television; they didn’t have experience with gunshot wounds; etc. etc.–I list here some of the observations by
a) foreign doctors and medical personnel who came to Romania to help care for the wounded and in some cases may have had broader medical experience in other conflicts across the world, and
b) foreign doctors and medical personnel who treated Romanians evacuated abroad for treatment of their wounds.
1) Dr. Manuel Burzaco (Medecins sans frontieres, “Doctors without Borders)
La carencia de material médico mínimamente actual y la desnutrición que padece buena parte de la población infantil conforman el panorama sanitario de la Rumanía que ha dejado Nicolae Ceausescu, según manifestó ayer el médico vasco de la organización internacional Médicos sin Fronteras (MSF) Manuel Burzaco, a su regreso de aquel país. Burzaco formó parte de la primera expedición enviada por MSF a Rumanía el pasado 23 de diciembre.”Llegamos a Bucarest la víspera de Navidad, después de haber desembarcado con dificultades en el aeropuerto de Varna, un equipo de 10 personas, entre médicos, enfermeras y personal logístico, con una tonelada y media de material sanitario. Numerosos edificios estaban incendiados y se oían claramente los disparos de las ametralladoras pesadas”, explicó el doctor Burzaco, que durante la semana que permaneció en Rumanía recorrió las ciudades de Ploiesti, Brasov, Buzan y Braila. En su opinión, el aspecto más destacado de la ayuda prestada por MSF es la distribución directa del material a los hospitales y otros centros anitarios. “No se dejaba nada en manos de las autoridades. Es la manera más eficaz de que la ayuda llegue realmente a su destino sin dilaciones. En una ocasión, cuando llegamos a Ploiesti, nos recibió un comité de milicianos mandado por un capitán, del Ejército, que, quería hacerse cargo del convoy que transportaba los medicamentos. Nos negamos terminantemente”.
Burzaco se encontró en un país cuya población todavía no ha podido sacudirse la angustia creada por el terror. “Es el factor más esterilizante de la mente”. Mujeres y niños muertos o gravemente heridos por los disparos efectuados por la Securitate con balas dum-dum, que explosionan al hacer impacto en el cuerpo, eran el testimonio mudo de la época del dictador.
2) FRANCE: Dr. Richard Domergue (Marseille)
Below Dr. Richard Domergue from a hospital in Marseille discusses that the woman and her five compatriots who have been flown for medical treatment to France had been wounded by Dum-Dum bullets during the December 1989 violence in Romania.
Roumanie medecine, lead Cinq jeunes Roumains, blesses durant les evenements, hospitalises a Marseille
MARSEILLE 10 jan – Les premiers Roumains rapatries en France depuis les recents evenements, quatre hommes et une femme grievement blesses par balles a Bucarest et a Timisoara, sont arrives dans la nuit de mardi a mercredi, a Marseille, ou ils ont ete hospitalises.
Ces personnes, rapatriees par un Transall de l armee francaise qui avait ete specialement affrete, ont ete admises dans cinq des onze etablissements de l Assistance publique de Marseille. Aucune indication n a ete fournie sur ces hopitaux, ni sur la nature precise des blessures.
Selon le docteur Richard Domergue, responsable adjoint du SAMU de Marseille, qui a dirige ce rapatriement, la femme et ses quatre compatriotes, ” atteints par des projectiles de guerre dum-dum (NDLR: balles entaillees en croix, de maniere a provoquer de larges dechirures), souffrent de graves problemes fonctionnels mais nullement vitaux ” , a-t-il declare a l AFP.
Le docteur avait ete avise de cette evacuation sanitaire, dans la nuit de lundi a mardi, par un telex de la cellule interministerielle de crise, mise en place par le gouvernement francais depuis des evenements en Roumanie.
L equipe du SAMU, constituee de deux medecins et de deux infirmieres, a ete acheminee jusqu a Bucarest ou l attendait le Dr Lamare, de la cellule logistique en place a l ambassade de France.
Quelques heures plus tard l avion, transportant les cinq blesses, places sous perfusion, se posait sur la base aerienne d Istres (Bouches-du-Rhone) ou attendaient des ambulances.
Arrives a l hopital de la Timone, vers minuit, les Roumains, ages de 20 a 35 ans et parlant seulement leur langue natale, ont ete repartis dans divers etablissements, ” en fonction des places disponibles et des besoins medicaux : traumatologie, micro-chirurgie, orthopedie ” .
” Ces personnes ont ete atteintes lors de manifestations de rue pacifiques, par un ou deux projectiles, selon les cas, a explique le Dr Domergue. Elles presentent de grosses lesions pouvant entrainer la paralysie de membres ” . Elles vont subir un bilan de sante complet qui permettra notamment d etablir les risques eventuels de sequelles.
Ambiance soixante-huitarde a Bucarest, selon le medecin marseillais.
Il a precise que la femme a ete blessee lors de la manifestation de rue du 17 decembre a Timisoara. ” Elle a raconte avoir ete admise dans un hopital d ou elle a du etre evacuee apres que des tirs eurent ete entendus dans l etablissement ou des hommes de la Securitate achevaient des blesses ” , a rapporte le Dr Domergue.
Il regne a Bucarest, selon le medecin marseillais, ” une ambiance soixante-huitarde, un peu revolutionnaire. On sent une certaine exhaltation et il y a beaucoup de mouvements dans les rues ” , a-t-il temoigne. Il a souligne ” la chaleur touchante ” manifestee par les Roumains a l equipe medicale francaise. ” Ils ont une confiance totale en nous. Nous ne pouvons pas les decevoir. Nous allons les dorloter, ca parait le minimun ” , a-t-il assure.
Stan Gheorghe (Pisa) Adevarul 25 februarie 1990
(Rome) Trimis pentru tratament in strainatate…din cauza gloantelor DUM-DUM. Cazul Radu Sofran, 34, “sapte gloante au explodat in mine, gloante din acelea periculoase, dum-dum…” Tineretul Liber, 3 martie 1990
93. Mariana Mion Pop | 22 Decembrie 2010 21:48
Dl Presedinte Iliescu, a fost primul presedinte al Romaniei primit cu covor rosu la prima sa vizita in Italia la Venezia. Am fost printre organizatorii acelei primiri impreuna cu Dl. Gheorghiu , insarcinatul cu afaceri la Roma in acea vreme.
A tinut un discurs frumos, intr-o sala impunatoare.
Am trimis ajutoare la Sibiu cu camioanele, dar nici macar de la primar, nu am primit un …multumesc.
La spitalul din Dolo Venezia am primit doi baieti prin Crucea Rosie, care aveau cartuse ; unul intr-un picior, altul in coloana vertebtala. Au fost operati ; cel care avea Dum-dum in apropierea vertebrei bazinului a fost operat la Padova. A plecat de acolo cu un treinig de-al meu. Numele lui era XX Marian.
In acele zile,ziarele din Venezia duduiau de chemarea mea sa trimitem ajutoare in tara si sa ajutam niste marinari ramasi acolo , uitati….de situatie.
Eu nu am un certificat de … bun patriot.
In schimb am oferit si ofer ocazia multor romani sa studieze. O carte scrisa de mine, este ETICHETA SI PROTOCOL; as vrea sa fie difuzata
gratuit pentru binele poporului in care m-am nascut si l-am lasat in
As avea multe de spus,dar …toti romanii se plang; nimeni nu face nimic.
Prof. Mariana Mion Pop
from Flacara, 14 martie 1990, pp. 12-13, “Vederi din Italia”
What is courage? Recklessness or clear thinking? Mugurel doesn’t know, but says that he was not entirely aware of the risks he would be facing. I couldn’t imagine that bullets could do so much harm. Nor that tracers would make such beautiful light trails. All he saw was a militiaman suddenly emerge from a platoon of shields with a machine gun, looking around and smoking a cigarette. Then darkness.
He understands and says: Okay, I’ll move on
Mugurel’s story embodies what we generally define with the term good, and its opposite, evil. The evil recognized in Mugurel’s mother when she abandoned him at 3 months.
The evil of civil war erupting in a square in Bucharest on December 21, 1989, because that country offered its population no future, where Mugurel was even prohibited from dreaming of a dignified life.
A war in which Mugurel was seriously wounded by a militiaman who fired at him with a machine gun. Evil again in the hospitals of the Romanian capital, where the madness of war transformed the physicians into potential executioners. Their task became to identify collaborators with the dictator Ceausescu, the so-called “children of Ceausescu”.
Finally, good also appears, and it is the timely reappearance of Mugurel’s adoptive mother in hospital, where she saves his life by stating that the wounded person is her son and not a child of the dictator. All this while Mugurel is crying; crying tears caused and prolonged by several situations occurring within just a few moments. Strong and dramatic emotions: fear of dying or being left to dye, then finally finding the mother who saves him. Things that proceed at the speed of a camera shutter.
And then there is a lot of good. Good represented globally by Italy. A good that in any case has names and surnames. Maria Pia Fanfani, then president of the Italian Red Cross who became personally involved in transferring Mugurel to Italy, in order to start all the medical treatment required immediately.
The good represented by the multitude of hospital staff that treated and looked after Mugurel.
One special name is Prof. Piero Conti, with whom Mugurel would even form a father-son type bond. The effect of the professor makes him abandon his thoughts of suicide and gives Mugurel the strength to accept the wheelchair and begin a new life.
The good in bringing Mugurel back once more after returning to Romania for several years, and then requiring further treatment in order to avoid dialysis. Today, Mugurel is married to Malek and lives in Florence, in an apartment that can meet the needs of someone with spinal injuries. He receives an invalidity pension and has a job that he likes. Reading Mugurel’s story should stimulate each of us to pursue the path of tolerance and solidarity and hating any form of violence such as war. It’s easy to forget the theory of a famous seventeenth century Neapolitan historian-philosopher, Gianbattista Vico, who believed in history repeating itself.
By chance Mugurel had finished working by then. Again by chance, he stepped out onto the street in front of the hotel. Just as by chance, that afternoon he had met some friends. And by chance he entered into history.
There had been clashes at Timisoara two days earlier. An immense crowd it was said. Unimaginable. The city rebelled against the police. There was talk of wounded, and some fatalities. For twenty year old youths, this was disturbing news. For some time they had seen their country as an open air prison. Forbidden to move around. Forbidden to criticize the government. Hot water only for two hours per day. The same for electricity and heating. Forbidden to dream of a future. Also, there were shortages of medicines, petrol and sugar. Bread and oil were rationed. It seemed natural that the level of anger would grow. You could see it in the eyes of the old, who were not merely tired of life, but enraged about what had happened, and you could hear it in the words of friends, saying it was necessary to react, to do something. At Timisoara for example, after the Berlin wall had come down, something had happened. The world had started to turn. In short, there was new hope.
That it was a special day, could be seen in the people. The street, normally so empty, was filling up. What was happening? The answer was that the government had organized a huge event in support of Nicolae Ceausescu. A massive crowd was heading towards Ghoerge Gheorgiu Dej square and, along with that, heavily armed battalions of the Militia. A tidal wave aimed at responding to the growing unrest in the population. The party had to show that at Timisoara the disorder had been created by counter-revolutionaries. They wished to debate with the Soviets, in particular with Mikhail Gorbachev, the offender who had sent a telegram that was very critical of the president’s policies. Above all they wished to show the world the strength of Romania: a crowded square, one hundred thousand, perhaps two hundred thousand people, would have silenced anyone. It was December 21, 1989.
Laris Mugurel Neagu was an orphan. His biological mother had abandoned him at the age of three months. Fortunately for him, he was taken in by her aunt and uncle, a little advanced in years and without children, removing him from a squalid orphanage on the outskirts of Bucharest. And he was grateful to them. And thanks to this he had grown up to be as strong as a bull. He took part in Greco-Roman wrestling. At the age of fifteen he became the national champion in the 63 kilogram category. At seventeen he held the same title in the 71 kilogram category. On time with his studies. Then enrolment at the city’s catering school with the dream of becoming head waiter in a large hotel in the city center. He only had another three years to go. Then the money ran out. It was said that the reason for this poverty, burdening the country like the seven plagues of Egypt, was Ceausescu, who had built up an enormous amount of foreign debt for the country, whereby he exported all the goods produced by Romania. Starving the population.
Complicated matters. Twenty years old, it’s difficult to know what the foreign debt was. The gross domestic product. Agreements with the International Monetary Fund. At that age only the facts count. And the fact was that Mugurel could no longer continue to be a student. So he went to work as a waiter. A mere waiter. Evening shifts to earn more money. He was engaged to a girl who he loved with all his heart. If he had not met up with his friends that evening, he probably would have gone out with her. Or perhaps not. Certainly, two weeks later they would have celebrated their anniversary. They would have celebrated, they would have had fun.
History states that on that day in Bucharest, in that square, there were over a hundred thousand people. That Nicolae Ceausescu would appear on the Central Committee balcony together with his wife and a band of whining bureaucrats. That he would speak live on television. That after just eight minutes, for the first time in his life, someone below would attempt to break the police cordon in order to challenge him. Spitting, pushing, whistling and embarrassing shouts (“Murderer – Timisoara – Die”). That, in a panic, agents from State Security and the secret service would start to shoot into the crowd, and all control was lost, people were running around and trying to escape any way possible. Ceausescu was removed very quickly, and television transmissions were interrupted, groups of youths, finally free from fear, would occupy the streets, skirmishing with the Militia, breaking windows and setting fire to vehicles. History also states that among them was also Mugurel, a Greco-Roman wrestling champion who had no fear, not even for bullets. Mugurel, who could hit like a hammer. Who moved from one group to another. Who showed all his rage. Mugurel, who was desperate. Almost twenty years old with no future.
Among sirens, jeeps, fleets of vehicles and fire engines spraying freezing water, after an hour of clashes the boy was completely drenched. It was winter. It was freezing. He decided to go home to change. When his father saw him, he implored him not to go. Not to go out. He told him to stop, it’s dangerous. But how can you stop a boy, caught up in the excitement of the moment? So sure of himself. Too much anger in his system. “I didn’t listen to him” he says, seated in the sitting room of his house in Florence, “I only wanted to strike out and strike out and strike out again, to knock down the walls of that prison”.
What is courage? Recklessness or clear thinking? Mugurel doesn’t know, but says that he was not entirely aware of the risks he would be facing. I couldn’t imagine that bullets could do so much harm. Nor that tracers would make such beautiful light trails. All he saw was a militiaman suddenly emerge from a platoon of shields with a machine gun, while he was looking around, smoking a cigarette. Then darkness.
A friend was to tell his father, Mr. Neagu. He told him his son had been wounded. That they took him away in an ambulance. He immediately set about tracing the body. They went to one, then two, then three hospitals, before finding him in a basement. He was crammed haphazardly in a dirty and cold room, naked, amongst fifty other people. A kind of chamber of horrors, bodies buried under other corpses, pale, bluish, unconscious, while a nurse, (cigarette in mouth) washed the poor pile of abandoned limbs with a water hose, while blood continued to flow beneath.
Someone said that the bullet had hit a lung and a kidney and then exited from the youth’s back. They also said he had no chance of surviving. Too serious. “Take him home old man, give him a good funeral.”
The man took his son, but paid no attention to the doctor. Thus began the pilgrimage of pain. Hospital after hospital in a crazy Bucharest, between check points and road blocks, looted shops and columns of smoke. Until meeting a physician with more compassion than the others; “We’ll see what we can do.”
However, Mugurel only found this out six months later, indeed that’s how long he was unconscious for. He remembers little or nothing of his wounding, and what little he does recall is accompanied by an unbearable miasma of horror. He remembers, for example, being awoken on a makeshift bed where they removed his bloody clothes, he remembers that the blood coming out of his mouth was making bubbles, he remembers feeling cold, being in a dark room, he remembers the pain and the terror and a physician asking questions: “Are you a child of Ceausescu?” the man shouted “Tell me!” He remembers trying to answer no and that the other insisted: “Answer me or I’ll call the police!”
The children of Ceausescu, in the Romanian parlance of the time, were collaborators. Indeed, it was said that the dictator recruited soldiers for the Militia directly from the orphanages. In those days, accusing someone of being a child of the despot meant a death sentence. This is why Mugurel shouted no and that it wasn’t the case, that in the square he was on the other side, and that he hit those “children” with anything that came to hand, but it was useless. “Show me the documents,” the man insisted.
How could he explain that he was not well, that his mind was not clear, that in his trips from one hospital to the other he had lost his clothes, and that under the cover he was naked with no ID documents? He then began to cry. Desperately, a boy of nineteen, who just two years earlier had been the Romanian Greco-Roman wrestling champion, and five years earlier, a child attending middle school. Then, who knows how and informed by who knows who, his mother appeared, worried, terrorized and breathless. She said he was not a child of Ceausescu. He was her son.
Mugurel’s salvation came one cold morning with the face of a famous Italian woman, dressed in military clothes, a uniform full of ribbons and medals and signs of rank. She was the President of the National Women’s Committee of the Italian Red Cross. Her name was Maria Pia Fanfani, the wife of Amintore, previous Chairman of the Council and the Senate and, between 1965 and 1966, of the UN General Assembly. As part of her intense aid activities, taking her into the midst of the world’s greatest tragedies, she also arrived in Bucharest.
Television images of the revolution had by now travelled around the world. The former communist bloc was literally crumbling. By bringing down the Berlin wall, the policies of Gorbachev had set all of Moscow’s satellite countries in motion. However, only in Romania was the popular revolution so violent and bloody. Mugurel still did not know that on December 21, 13 youths had been killed. All shot by machine gun. He had no idea of the wounded like him. Just as he didn’t know that the powerful Nicolae Ceausescu had been shot, together with his wife, and buried in haste and rage by his own colonels. His country fell prey to political chaos. The hospitals were abandoned. The major institutions were without leadership. A provisional government was formed and forced to govern in total emergency.
A dramatic picture, where the severity of his wounds did not allow for much optimism. And so Maria Pia Fanfani said; let’s take him to Italy. But he didn’t want that. Italy? Where is Italy? An unknown country, far away. Never in his twenty years would he have thought or dreamed of going to Italy. He imagined and dreamed of staying in Romania, staying with his girlfriend, of making enough money to become a head waiter in the capital’s most important hotel. But his mother, who had been by his side and with his father ever since they found each other again, and had spoken with the physicians, insisted in between her tears; go to Italy, they’ll make you better there. There you’ll find what has been stolen from you here.
So he left. He did it with his heart on fire. In tears. He felt he was dying and would like this to happen in his own country, with his mother by his side. But there was something to be understood. His twentieth birthday would have been in less than ten days. Then he lost consciousness.
He remembers nothing of his arrival in Careggi CTO (Hospital Trauma Centre) in Florence. Just as he doesn’t remember the trip, the airplane or the ambulance. He says that when he came to, he was in an aseptic, clean room, full of tubes: in the nose, his mouth, all over his body. He had no idea how much time had elapsed. He knew nothing of his mother and his father. He knew nothing about anything.
While six months had gone by. Six months in a pharmacological coma. He was hungry. He asked where he was. He was amazed that they only spoke in Italian. He did not understand.
He still remembers little of those dramatic and excited days, and what little that emerged was confused. He had forgotten about the protests, the wounds, Mrs. Fanfani, but in any case he could see that her decision had saved his life. He also forgot that he had been wounded. Then, slowly, things began to emerge. And then when he was told that a lung had been removed, that he had spinal surgery to avoid gangrene, and that his condition was still very serious, he began to cry.
Then a small ray of sunlight. In fact, a miracle. Suddenly, at the door of the room, appeared his mother and his father. His surprise was enormous. Just as his state of mental confusion. He asked how they had managed to find him all by themselves in such a faraway place. He didn’t realize there was an entire organization following him. That his parents had been sent to Italy to give consent for another operation, a delicate operation this time. Very delicate. And that the medical staff could not proceed without their consent.
And so two days later he was once more in the operating room. The operation lasted more than fifteen hours. They removed the injured kidney and operated on the vertebrae damaged by the bullet. The aim was to remove the destroyed bone fragments and reconstruct the structure of the backbone. It was then they learned of the injury to the bone marrow at T1-T12-L1. That one of the bullets was the dum-dum type, with the head notched so as to explode inside the body and do as much damage as possible.
For Mugurel the memory is difficult. Some time later his mom and dad returned to Romania. He was once more alone, in a strange country with a language he didn’t understand. He almost immediately fell into depression. How does one imagine being in that condition at the age of twenty? At that age it’s necessary to have a goal. A purpose. A list of desires to be submit to destiny. Instead everything became gray and dark. What will happen, he asked, what will become of my career as a waiter? What will my future be like? It’s a daily war with yourself, filled with questions to which no reply can be found. At the same time the nursing staff are rushing around. Even the doctors are rushing. Only the surgeon who conducted the operation stops to listen.
His name is Piero Conti. He is a good man who understands his tragedy. A patient and competent person who slowly helps him to exit the glass bubble. It’s not for nothing he defines him as his surrogate dad. The surgeon’s brother, Professor Renato Conti, also intervenes, but in a different way: he provokes him, tries to get him to react. He stimulates him. In certain aspects, he worries him with his hard line and his severity.
With the passing days and weeks, he becomes aware that the two doctors are in fact playing roles. They have understood that the boy needs reassurance, but also to be stimulated, and so they have divided their roles. Each morning he is asked to get up, get dressed, and become familiar with the wheelchair, perform catheterization, and to get to know some patients with the same condition. A difficult battle. Exhausting. Because as soon as you wake up, the first question is; why all this? What’s the point?
Mugurel begins to believe that a life like that isn’t worth it. That it’s best just to die. He imagines throwing himself out of the window and in an instant immediately wiping out all the leaden thoughts keeping him bound to this disability. Until one day while on the panorama terrace, he talked once more with Professor Pietro. A long discussion. Difficult. Dramatic. Merciless. Where he was told: “You’ll never walk again”. And where he answers, with great difficulty and with tears in his eyes, “Okay”. A word that throws the windows wide open. Finally, everything was out in the fresh, sweet, spring air. The will to live. Because Mugurel agrees to collaborate. He accepts the wheelchair. He accepts the idea of looking for work and finding friends. He’ll do it because now he has faith. Because he has listened to the physicians around him. Because he has listened to the professor and understood him.
He starts going to the gym. He learns to perform intermittent catheterization. He currently weighs 41 kilograms, physically different from when, at the age of 17, he won the Romanian national Greco-Roman wrestling championship. He understands that his destiny is sealed. That his arms will become his legs.
He is transferred to the Spinal Unit. It’s a hard undertaking. Get up early in the morning, go to the gym and them work with the wheelchair. And then exercise, exercise and more exercise. For Mugurel it’s exhausting. So he asks to be transferred to Impruneta, near Florence, to another rehabilitation center. He’s there for six months. He then he decides to apply for political asylum.
He has just turned twenty-one. It’s uncertain. He looks around. He is not exactly sure of what to do. But Romania was calling. He makes it with mom, a few friends, and with dad. He makes it with his fiancée. He is still in love with the girl that was in love with him when he had his health, his legs, and his youth. She sends him a letter full of love and nostalgia. He believes that he must go with his feelings. He can’t live without love. So he abandons the plan for political asylum and decides to return.
But returning is hard. Very hard. The Romania waiting for him is different from Italy. His parent’s house is not equipped. It is a modest seventh floor home, with no elevator, on the outskirts of Bucharest. It has no equipped bathroom. It’s a disaster. Even without considering that mom and dad are old and can no longer help him. He thus finds himself a prisoner in his own home and decides to move to a military hospital.
Indeed Romania has now recognized him as a hero. A diploma and a medal dedicated to the uprising of December 21, 1989 with the inscription: “Diploma of a fighter for the victory of the Romanian revolution”. More prosaically, for him it means the awarding of certain privileges: free passes for buses, airplanes, and in this precise case, admission to military hospitals free of charge. No furnished housing for revolutionaries, no jobs, no monthly checks allowing a dignified life. Only the right to build a house on a plot of land provided by the state. But he does not have the money to pay for builders … Oh well.
So the hospital became his only possible refuge. There he has meals, a bed, and a lot of time on his hands. He wanders around the courtyard with other patients. Chatting. Smoking, a lot. He makes a few friends. But there is no gym, just as there is no rehabilitation. A trip to Italy every now and then for check-ups.
Things didn’t work out with the girlfriend. He pursued love and ended up down a blind alley. But it’s too late for regrets. In one of his many retorts, Professor Conti made him understand explicitly. It is not easy to reapply for Italian citizenship that has already been refused. So it’s worthwhile returning to Bucharest.
In the Romanian capital, as a hero, he finally found a house. But life knocks him with all that he had learned in Florence: no independence, unsurmountable architectural barriers, little solidarity. Little willingness. No assistance. However, he gets his driver’s license. He gets a sales tax registration and looks for work. Basically, he gets organized. He has his invalidity tools sent from Carreggi.
But his system cannot hold up. He is ill after a few years. The Romanian physician examining him is explicit: “The surviving kidney is full of kidney stones. The only alternative is dialysis. It would be best to return to Italy. Perhaps they can help you there.” This was in 2001. He decides to leave once more.
Through the Red Cross, and his friend the Professor, he returns to the Traumatology Centre in Florence. He is treated in Neuro-Urology. More suffering. More operations. The kidney is saved and the specter of dialysis dismissed. He finally achieves autonomous control of his bowel functions. This allows him an improved social life.
With his health improved, he finds a place in a group home. But he is not at ease. Almost all the other guests are affected by psychological illnesses. He feels isolated. He then calls the Romanian honorary Consul in Florence, who refers him to Milan. At this point in his story he sets the state bureaucracy in motion. Deep down, he is a hero. It’s a problem of image. Gratitude. So the ambassador is informed by the hospital physicians who confirm the severity of his condition and advise against returning to Bucharest, at the risk of a serious relapse.
His case is handled at the highest Italian-Romanian diplomatic and government level. Finally, an agreement is reached.
At this point, the precarious history of Mugurel’s status changes. He receives documents certifying his right to remain in Italy. He is granted leave to resubmit his citizenship application. He gains a position as an employee in a social care organization.
Between the highs and lows of waiting for a house, he sleeps in several communities (once even in a public dormitory) until he is given a furnished apartment.
From that point onwards, for Mugurel, the hero wounded in the revolution against Nicolae Ceausescu, his life was back on a more normal track. He gets an Italian sales tax registration. He trades clothing between Italy and Romania. A business with a good return. He is helped by his sister. During one of the many trips to go and visit his mother (his father died in 2001) he meets a girl. They like each other. They write to each other. They listen to each other. In the end they meet up and fall in love. Then they get married.
Her name is Malek, and she is studying Arabic in Bucharest. She has applied to continue her studies in Italy. In the meantime, he receives an Italian invalidity pension, and a smaller pension as a hero of Romania. He plays sports with the Spinal Unit associations. He is in business with a range of activities. In short, despite of everything, he has regained his life.
The first Spinal Unit was built by Sir Ludwig Guttmann at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, immediately after the second world war. Guttmann was a German neurosurgeon who felt his homeland’s responsibility for the dramatic war that caused, ruin, death and also many people with spinal injuries. It is sad that fifty years later, man had still not managed to control his destructive potential. For Mugurel, the colors of youth were transformed into an abyss.
He entered into a nightmare consisting of unrecognizable locations, cold faces and some friendly smiles, different languages. A healthcare emigrant, an emigrant for survival when everyone considered him finished. Rehabilitation, partly undermined by the negligence of youth, and partly by tiredness and the desire to return to his homeland after years of hospitalization. His was a homeland where you didn’t become a hero by chance, but by being a victim of events. This time, emigration was for healthcare reasons, but also for a more sustainable lifestyle. In Connie’s story, people with spinal injuries in Italy emigrated for healthcare reasons. Today we must learn to restore what has been given to those living with the same problems in the country by helping to establish the necessary facilities. Mugurel managed to give up his native land, and found himself and sustainable healthcare in Italy.
Alexandru Kos’s declaration for the military prosecutor, from 14 January 1990:
“[pe 23 decembrie 1989] am fost impuscat…cu o arma de calibru mare si probabil cu gloante dum-dum”
[on 23 December 1989 I was shot by a high caliber weapon probably with dum-dum bullets]
After discussing the exact incident mentioned above in the interview from 22 December 1989 about rounding up Securitate personnel on the grounds of Hotel Timisoara, where he says they had been for several days, he continues: “I saw two of those who shot at me, one in a blue uniform with a white helmet, the other dressed in black with something white on his head.” [in other words, no stupidity here about the Army shooting into itself and into civilians in the confusion of it all…]
From this site http://www.banaterra.eu/romana/procesul-de-la-timisoara-1990-1991-vol-v ]. The following are from Volume V. Alexandru Koos’ courtroom testimony during the so-called Timisoara trial (date of his testimony appears to be 3 October 1990). Koos discusses all of the above incidents in detail, and also the specifics of those detained during these days.
Alexandru Koos who was wounded on the night of 22-23 December 1989 also was treated in Austria however, where both doctors and experts confirmed that the bullet in question was a dum-dum bullet. (p. 600)