I participated between November 16 and 18 this year in several events dedicated to the centenary of Monica Lovinescu, organized by IICCMER in Fălticeni. I found the quality of preparation and participation exhilarating. Several films completed the track record of the speakers: “The case of the engineer Gheorghe Ursu”, “War on the waves”, “Metronome”, “Liberty”. Two exhibitions were opened.
Gabriel Andreescu Photo: Personal archive
Evoked in the context of the centenary, alongside or only half a step behind, was the radio station Europa Liberă where Monica Lovinescu and Virgil Ierunca had supported, for about 30 years, the show “Theses and Antitheses in Paris”. Liviu Tofan, former deputy director of the Romanian section of the radio station, co-director of the film “The Case of Engineer Gheorghe Ursu”, spoke about his colleagues from Munich and released the third edition of his book They kept us alive. Radio Free Europe 1970-1990. Mr. Tofan, with authority through the past and through the speech, also brought up the galloping cancers that ended up with three directors of Free Europe. They perished, without a chance in the face of relentless disease, Christmas Bernard (at 56 years old), Mihai Cismărescu (at 66 years old) and Vlad Georgescu (at 51 years old).
Public opinion widely embraced the thesis that they were killed by the Security using a radioactive substance. This explanation was given by Mihai Pacepa in his book Red Horizons. Of course, her main challengers were the former employees of the Security.
In opposition to the widespread idea promoted by Pacepa, Liviu Tofan, a witness to the events, showed what I would call “epistemological caution”. In his book and in the debate in Fălticeni, he explained that the American security services had searched the offices of the Romanian section in the headquarters of Free Europe and had not discovered any trace of residual radiation. They found no traces of radiation in the body either. The support of a security officer from Vlad Georgescu’s file, that the measures taken by “them” had an effect, could be simple praise. Conclusion: since there is no evidence of the irradiation of Bernard, Cismărescu and Georgescu, the hypothesis of irradiation must be eliminated.
The murder of the former defected Russian agent in England, Aleksandr Litvinenko, was mentioned from the hall as a counterargument. In 2006, Litvinenko died after being poisoned by the FSB with polonium 210.
How he died Litvinenko
Regarding the assassination of Litvinenko, already mentioned, I suggest reading a material that deals with the legal issues of the criminal action of Russian agents, but also describes the facts in detail (here). Russian agents put Polonium 210 in Litvinenko’s tea, a radioactive isotope that releases alpha particles (two protons, two neutrons) instead of neutrons. These heavy particles cannot penetrate the skin. To be lethal, it must reach the body – possible, since polonium-210 is soluble. The former Russian spy was first infected in mid-October 2006, he felt sick, but judging that the portion that reached Litvinenko’s body was too small, he was visited by another FSB agent. After drinking the cup of tea with the second portion of polonium 210 on November 1, 2006, Litvinenko lived for another 23 days. A widespread cancer destroyed his bone marrow.
Is it conceivable that the Romanian Security has used such material? Of course, the intelligence services of the USSR and Romania maintained “intimate” ties. When Nestor Rateș had met Pacepa before leaving for Munich to take over the post of director, the general had told him about the Security’s attempt to bring portable irradiation facilities from Moscow (here). Of course the USSR was also interested in “testing” its radiological poison. Of course, Ceaușescu was ready to pay any price to punish his “impertinent” opponents. Considering how far it had come with the surveillance of Free Europe itself from Munichconcern for living space and employee habits, taking into account the virulence of pre- and post-broadcast threats Red Horizons, considering how unlikely it is that three executives die of rampant cancer one after the other, on the job (two under 60), the hypothesis of being killed by radiation (one, two, all three) is very reasonable. The identification of the cause, plutonium 210, is sophisticated, it is done by spectroscopic analysis (and not with the trivial Geiger counters used in Munich). The management of the radio station did mediocre investigations.
The only possible way to find out, today, the “real truth” about the eventual assassination of Bernard, Cismărescu and Georgescu would be a miraculous testimony or an indirect trace. Most likely, top-secret operations are not recorded in the CNSAS files. In the documents, the security officers do not “even” assume torture and violence, at most blackmail, threats and euphemisms for repression.
In conclusion, the rigor that expresses epistemological caution does not consist in eliminating a hypothesis. But at the continuation of its in-depth investigation, at the end of which it will be possible to establish not the facts as such (because today rather it is impossible), but how reasonableis the proposed explanation. The information we have about the context of the events, about the possibilities of ending the repeated threat from Bucharest, about the satisfaction expressed by the security officers when they communicated their “success” make, together, the hypothesis of the successive killing of the directors from Munich by irradiating with a fissile material with special properties (such as polonium 210) as believable as possible.
A few words about the posthumous interpretation of Mihai Pacepa’s book, Red horizons
On the occasion of the debate in Fălticeni, some sarcastic comments were made, some even with a kind of disgust (it seemed to me) towards the book published by Pacepa in the United States, in 1987, Red Horizon: The True Story of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu’s Crimes, Lifestyle, and Corruptiontranslated and read on Radio Free Europe in Romanian.
The importance of the defection of Mihai Pacepa to the Americans, the highest-ranking officer within the entire communist repression system, is far too obvious. It has been emphasized many times by American political leaders and intelligence chiefs. Pacepa dealt a blow to the entire “evil empire”. After the release of the book Red Horizons, Nicolae Ceaușescu lost his credibility in the West forever. There are inestimable merits. Let’s investigate today whether or not Mihai Pacepa did the political police, to guide our attitude towards him, it seems ridiculous to me. How could he not have done it (he and, above all, Iulian Vlad, to whom the CNSAS College bothered to give him a certificate of collaboration)? We need no research to know what was indispensable for an employee of the system of oppression to reach the top. In the case of Mihai Pacepa, he receives his role in weakening the “evil empire”. For this merit, I think of Pacepa with gratitude. It seems natural to me that others feel the same way.
But how to look at the book Red Horizons? I have heard in several cases, including Fălticeni, acid comments, from “she is full of lies” to “you must not believe a word”. I also perceived a kind of superior contempt for the ranks that in the 1980s were avenging a population crushed by humiliation.
The disparaging interpretation of the book advertises inconsistencies between what Mihai Pacepa tells and the known facts. – Read the rest of the article on contributors.ro