National Geographic : 1991 Mar
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA Monument to a megalomaniac, the nearly completed palace of executed dictator Nicolae Ceaugescu rises from the heart of the capital. During the past dec ade tens of thousands of workers slaved to satisfy Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, by creating gold-leaf walls, crystal chande liers, marble columns, intricate parquets, handwoven carpets. Their reward: breadlines and winters without heat. With more than a thousand rooms the pal ace is one of the largest buildings in the world. The new government of Presi dent Ion Iliescu, himself a for mer communist, hopes to enhance the area by adding trees, shops, and cafes. Such plans are small comfort to street sweeper Sanda Marin, who lives with her family in two small rooms. A Gypsy, she knows that despite recent political gains, including a seat in the new assembly, her people remain pariahs. "When I die," a Gypsy saying goes, "you should bury me standing, because I have been on my knees all my life."