Many Romanians describe December the 21st, 1989, as the most important day of their lives.
After days of clashes in the town of Timisoara, discontent against communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu spread to the capital.
He tried to regain control at a large rally on the morning of the 21st, but was interrupted by unprecedented heckling.
Panic broke out, with unconfirmed reports of secret police firing on the crowd, and fierce street battles followed. People who were there have been sharing their memories.
Rock singer Zoltan Andras said: “It was clear that the balance of power and the whole situation was upside down and here on the Magheru Boulevard a large group of people formed spontaneously, chanting ‘Down with Ceausescu. Down with communism. We want freedom’.
It is estimated that the number of people killed in the revolution was between 12 and 15 hundred, with hundreds more injured. Soldiers attempted unsuccessfully to stop the mass demonstrations with force.
Writer and poet Florin Iaru said: “The day of the 21st, at midday, was the most beautiful day and hour of my life. It’s true that I lost some of my friends who died afterwards, but each year I cannot stop myself from being happy about the fact that I was not a coward.”
The chaos during Ceausescu’s speech from the balcony of the Central Committee building had been broadcast across the country. The number of protesters converging on the capital kept rising, and it was not long before they managed to occupy official buildings of the regime.
Ceasescu and his wife continued to believe they could reestablish control by declaring martial law, but in the end they were forced to flee by helicopter. They were caught soon after, however, given a brief trial and then executed.