A Kaleidoscope of Chaos

On the road from the border to Bucharest: people ricocheting between agony and elation, fear and hope

On Christmas Eve in Timisoara, the border city where the uprising against Nicolae Ceausescu first bubbled up, a young woman stood in a field, rocking back and forth, crying softly. "Bloody, oh, how bloody," she crooned over the corpse of an old man. His hands had been cut off, his body disfigured by boiling water and acid. He had been her father.

Nothing could have prepared the mind for Timisoara and the tableau of horrors left by the regime's last and worst spasm of barbarity. In the same muddy field, laid out on white sheets, were two dozen other naked bodies,...