Imagine attending a local board meeting and questioning the motives of a political figure. You speak up and say, “I don’t really see where this is going.” Imagine instead of being seen, heard and perhaps supported by your colleagues, you are immediately arrested for speaking up, taken away and are punished by having your eyes injected with chlorine.
That is just one of the horrifying tales of torture that authors Thomas Sears and Radu Cristea tell in their historical biography, “Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage.” The book tells the brutal stories of nine individuals living in communist Romania, under the dictatorship of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.
In 2005, Sears, a professor at Hartwick and a former Daily Star freelance columnist, traveled to Romania on a faculty research grant in hopes of studying the country’s tax system. However, Sears said, his life was forever changed when he met Cristea, a Romanian man who grew up during Ceausescu’s reign. After discussing the country’s communist past, the two men became passionate about the topic and decided to write a book.
Cristea and Sears became fast friends and set off on a journey to uncover the history of communism in Romania. Over the course of four years, they made several trips across the country, researching and interviewing Romanians whose lives had been affected by the strict communist rule. They dug through secret prison files and saw the cells where torture was inflicted on citizens who were seen as a threat to the government.
Determining that the little-known history of atrocity had to be told, Cristea and Sears decided to focus their book on the people affected by the regime.
“I became very emotionally involved with both the people and their stories, and realized that once these people died, their stories would die with them,” Sears said.