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  1. ITV Report

Why Christmas has a different meaning in Romania

Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife were executed on Christmas Day 1989. Credit: AP

For almost 25 years Nicolae Ceaușescu's word was law in Romania.

But at Christmas three decades ago, the people rose against him and his brand of communism.

There was blood on the streets as Ceaușescu and his wife found themselves suffering the indignity of being arrested.

The one time dictator and his partner were placed in front of a military court and put on trial for their lives.​

It was a show trial, with their fates already decided.

Bullet holes still line the walls where the notorious dictator died. Credit: ITV News

Dorin Cirlan was a junior officer in an elite parachute unit sent to guard the deposed president.​

ITV News took him back to the now disused military barracks where the trial took place - in a makeshift courtroom eerily preserved just as it was when the Ceaușescus were condemned to death, a sentence served on Christmas Day 1989.

Mr Cirlan already knew he was part of a three-man firing squad tasked with killing the country's leader and his partner.

It was a shock, he says, as was the physical appearance of the president.​

"He was a poor man, filthy, unshaven, fearful and his wife as well.

"In that moment I realised what propaganda meant, I said to myself: 'Look was propaganda made of them; it made them appear like gods.'"

In the courtyard where the sentence was carried out, the wall is still marked by the rounds of his automatic rifle.

A military cameraman filmed the execution.

Mr Cirlan says these images live with him to this day - but he is not ashamed.​

A man lays flowers on the grave of the former dictator (left), and former TVR journalist El Marie Ionescu (right). Credit: ITV News

Back in 1989 Romania's state television station reported on the events as many celebrated the end of a dictator.

Today for some there's a different perspective.​

"I regret that it was like that," former TVR journalist El Marie Ionescu told ITV News.

"It wasn't human, in fact.

"He wasn't human with us but that doesn't mean that we have to be like that."

Today the president they executed has a place in a central Bucharest graveyard.

And while those who shot him may have no regrets there are some who visit this place and still mourn his passing.​