OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Virginia Cristina Ion: The Sighet Memorial

The Sighet Memorial was created by the Civic Academy Foundation with the two major purposes of giving information to the general public about the generally unknown realities of Romania's political prisons, while at the time providing researchers about various themes and studies about the phenomenon of communist totalitarianism.
The Sighet Memorial is a museum about the victims of the communist system and it also illustrates the attitude of those who resisted the communist system, both in Romania and in seven other countries that were satellites of the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The purpose of the Memorial has been from the beginning to inform and edify our fellow human beings in order for them to be aware of the past with a view to the future: so that such horrors may never be repeated.
The Memorial was organized at Sighetul Marmatiei, in the extreme northwest region of Romania, close to the border with Ukraine. Its location is the ruin of a former political prison, now in disrepair, where in 1950-1955 over 200 former officials and other important personalities of pre-communist Romania were imprisoned. Situated on Romania's border with the former Soviet Union, Sighet was deliberately chosen as a top security jail for Romania's former elite, presumably in order to make it possible for the authorities to rapidly transfer the inmates to the USSR.
The Sighet prison was chosen for the Memorial, although in Romania there were other concentration camps and larger penal colonies to testify about communist Romania's political oppression, because Sighet marked the starting point where most of the methods as well as the basic forms of communist repression were put into practice; because Sighet is the place where the communist regime displayed one of its essential patterns in action: namely, that repression must first destroy the society's elite.
Over the past 8 years, in order to better engage the younger generation in the pursuit of the Memorial's goals, we have organized a series of sessions of the Memorial's "Summer School", to serve the needs and information interests of pupils. Such gatherings have given the Sighet Museum a lively extension into the present, with wide openings toward the future.
Research on the one hand and information-based education on the other hand are indeed the two basic coordinates and fundamental goals of our activity. We consider them important because finding out the truth about the past and handing such information over to the next generation is an essential duty of those who have witnessed the horrors of communism, as one of the harshest and bloodiest specific forms of totalitarianism.
The Sighet Memorial is an argument and a symbol about the importance and necessity of a civil society and of a state of law. In their absence, nations are just populations and history is just a tragic story about the malformation of the collective soul.

Virginia Cristina Ion is a History graduate student at the Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, Romania. Since 2004 she works as secretary on public relations at the Civic Academy Foundation in Bucharest, Romania. Her research focuses on the minorities from Transylvania between 1919 and 1928. She has published articles on archeology in Romania and Romanian and Saxon Journalists in Transilvania in Clio review.

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Date: June 8, Thursday

Time: 5.30-6 pm



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