” I’d like everyone to learn what we went through and what were our conditions and the chances of victory over communism. We already reconciled with the thought that we’re going to die.”
www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Declaration_on_European_Conscience_and_Communism – the Prague Declaration, strongly opposed by various interest groups, called for the study and publication of materials that show the full history and brutality of early communism. The initiative was opposed by political and media groups which insist on the Holocaust being the single most devastating regime in Europe.
Communism and WW2
Communism – a dark episode for Romanian history and ultimately, for all the countries whose liberty and sovereignty was sold away during the 1945 Yalta conference. Romania’s historic stance had been fiercely against communism since the 1917 Bolshevik takeover of Russia. In fact, communism had never been popular despite its spread all over Europe after 1919, and it was only in circumstances facilitated by war and chaos that it eventually managed to spread to Europe in 1945.
Drawing depicting the 1921 Polish-Romanian alliance against Communist threat. “The Bolshevik: Im going to have to dance along to your songs since you wont dance along to my song”
The first decade after the end of the war was the most brutal and oppressive – marked by mass arrests, executions, confiscation of all private property. It was a time when the new authorities, most of them lead by alien elements, were teaching a resentful society how to give in and obey.
Lithuania: anti-communist partisans tortured and executed by the KGB were displayed in public as an example (source)
Estonia: Execution of anti-communist resistance group lead by Paul Maitla.
Poland: Edward Taraszkiewicz, Stanisław Torbicz and Kazimierz Torbicz – anti-communist fighters photographed after their hideout was surrounded and attacked by the communist intelligence services.
Despite its so-called socialist aspect – fighting for equal rights of the oppressed and creating an uniform society – history had proven that communism installed itself through terror and lack of any consideration for people’s will. Communism was to erase all cultural and historic background in order to create a new society and a new man.
Communist terror had in fact begun earlier, with the 1920 bomb attacks perpetrated by Max Goldstein against the Romanian government. After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia which installed Marxist communism with an iron fist, communist activists tried to spread their ideology further, resorting even to terrorist attacks (see also the Sofia 1925 attacks). Max Goldstein’s anarchy attempt, though killing major government officials, did not succeed in causing a revolution.
Romanian cities, including its capital city, were heavily bombarded by the Allies from April until July 1944, during which civilian targets were repeatedly attacked to “demoralize the population”. A coup d’etat organized by the Communist with the help of King Michael brought down the anti-communist government in August. The Allies and the King urged the population to accept the Soviet troops on Romanian territory, guarantying a free future. Terrorized and exhausted by the bombings, the civilian population didnt oppose this new political move. The population and the army were cheated with a supposed signed armistice which didnt exist. The army was dismantled, the soldiers were taken prisoners to Siberia, and the country was left vulnerable to the new Communist takeover. The Soviet military resorted to acts of robbery, rape and murder against the population. The military reports of such acts were ignored by the “liberators”.
The communist authorities, now in power, resumed themselves to arrests, executions and various intimidation methods, which were naturally met with resistance by the population. The entire government body and the military were arrested and/or executed. Then, the arrests and executions targeted those who openly opposed communism in any form or shape, which included all individuals, with or without political affiliations.
Teachers, lawyers, priests etc – anyone who had any sort of influence, education or material possessions was arrested with no justification, and their goods confiscated. A hard-labor system was developed similar to the Soviet Gulag, where political prisoners were used as slave labor (the most infamous project was the Danube–Black Sea Canal). Malnourished and forced to work beyond their physical capabilities, many prisoners died in these camps.
This measure was meant to “create a new society” with no memory or attachment to its real identity.
In the words of Gavril Vatamaniuc in Memorialul Durerii “The generations of today need to know what happened, they are not aware and cannot imagine the full scale of it”
One of Toma Arnautoiu’s notes written in his mountain hideout, later discovered by Securitate police, said: “I am the metal from a world turned to dust / I am the eternal echo of a world long gone”
In popular culture, the word “partisan” is often associated with French or Italian resistance against the Nazis; although often times, these groups were made up of communist activists.
Less known are the anti-communist partisans, whose struggle was brutal and prolonged and, as it turned out, much more tragic as they never saw a liberation.
The anti-communist resistance, or the partisans were people who fled the arrests and abuses and who willingly engaged in organized military movements in hope of a revolution that will overthrow communism. They also included well-trained military men who had fought in World War II and who became leaders of their groups. All political divisions faded and they united into one. With the Romanian army totally dismantled by the Soviets and Communists after August 1944, the partisans remained the only armed opposition left. However, well aware that they couldnt overthrow the government on their own when the Army had been dismantled, they tried to create connections with other partisan groups (including foreign groups), and more than anything – they were certain that the war had not ended, and the world had not allowed communism to win.
Unaware of the Yalta agreement signed by Stalin and the western Allies in 1945, they continued to hope that the communist occupation was temporary, unable to accept that the so-called civilized world accepts bolshevik occupation as a legitimate state. Their hopes started to fade towards late 1950’s, especially after the fail of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, when Soviet tanks invaded a rebellious Hungary and the world stood-by and watched.
The communist authorities referred to them as “bandits” and “terrorists”. The anticommunist partisan movement started to develop with the rise of communism in 1946-1947. In order to stop and limit the partisans’ actions, the secret police used violent retaliation against families and entire communities. The conflicts lasted until early 1960, when the 1956 Hungarian Rise against communism in neighboring Hungary pressured the communist authorities to erase every trace of anti-communist movements within Romania in order to avoid a similar scenario. The mid-1960’s brought a relaxed political approach – with new international amnesties for political prisoners and with a new leader – Nicolae Ceausescu, however by this time the harm had already been done.
The bodies of the “terrorists” were never returned to their families, being instead buried in common graves or incinerated. Centrul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului is actively searching for victims’ graves in order to confirm their cause of death and to bury them accordingly.
Together with their lives, their memories were erased as well. All personal photos were confiscated from the families, the only surviving photos being those found in Secret Police files after 1989 or photos carefully hidden by family members (Gheorghe Hasu’s sister sewed his photo on the back of a Saint Mary icon).
A common accusation brought by the communist police was “conspiracy to disintegrate the unity of the (communist) state”; any opponent was categorized as an “enemy of the people”.
Maria Cenusa, wife of Constantin Cenusa (4 months pregnant at the time of the arrest): “They beat me so badly to confess where my husband is. But no matter what they did, I didnt tell them anything against my husband because I loved him so much…” (for more – watch the documentary)
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes – governmental body which analyzes, investigates and supports public awareness on the history of communism in Romania through publications, studies and works – Official Website
Centrul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului – actively involved in forensic work – Official Website
After 1989, the Securitate (communist secret police) archives were desecretized. Most of the partisans were executed or died in prison, very few survived. The following are a few stories out of many.
Gavrila group – from upper left to right:
Olimpiu Borzea – sentenced to hard labor for life for assisting the partisan group.
Andrei Hasu – shot in 1952.
Georghe Hasu – captured in 1955, executed in 1957.
Ion Chiujdea – captured through betrayal in 1955, executed in 1957.
Remus Sofonea – wounded during an ambush and saved by a local in 1955. He shot himself together with Laurean Husea in desire to spare the villagers from harassment by authorities, left a note thanking them for support.
Ion Gavrila – the only fighter who managed to escape for 30 years. He was captured in 1976.
Marcel Cornea – a medical student, he’s shot in the house of a local teacher in 1950.
Ioan Mogos – killed during a fight with the secret police in 1950. His remains are found in 1994 when he is buried near Craiova.
Nicolae Mazilu – killed with Ioan Mogos in 1950.
Victor Metea – captured through betrayal in 1955. Executed in 1957.
Ion Ilioiu – severely wounded in 1954 during a fight. He was captured and interrogated under torture despite his wounds.
Laurean Hasu – shot himself together with Remus Sofonea in the house of a local after they had been ambushed in 1955. He survived but was captured and executed in 1957.
Gelu Novac – son of a teacher, he was shot in 1952. His sister Gema died shortly after being released from prison (families were often imprisoned and treated to inhuman treatment to reveal the whereabouts of their relatives).
Nelu Novac – captured through betrayal in 1955. Executed in 1957.
Gheorghe Sovaiala – shot by the secret police in 1954.
Ioan Pop – captured through betrayal in 1956, executed in 1957 in unknown location.
Toma Pirau – killed during fight with the secret police in 1950.
Silviu Socol – wounded and captured in 1950. Executed in 1951.
Gavrila group in undated photo – some members were as young as 18
Susman family – a well-established family of Huedin “country of moti” (romanians native of Apuseni mountains, western Carpathians). In the 1920’s he militated for the rights of locals to own the land and forests surroundings them – which had been under austro-hungarian rule. He became a mayor and was well-respected figure within his community. When he refused to sign up for the Communist party in 1946, he and his sons were blacklisted. Aware that they wont be having a fair trial, Susman senior and his sons chose to escape in the mountains.
Teodor Susman senior
Susman senior was shot in 1951. Though ruled a suicide, it was proven to be an execution-style killing when his remains were found in 2010.
Susman’s sons continued to hide for 7 more years and always escaped from numerous ambushes and confrontations with the secret police. In 1958, they were surprised by an unexpected attack when the shed they were hiding in was set on fire. They were incinerated and their remains were publicly exposed in the village. All relatives and neighbors were arrested by the authorities, who were aware of the support the Susman’s had received from their community.
1958 – the shed where Susman brother were incinerated. Their bodies visible on the right.
Susman brothers’ cremated remains GRAPHIC CONTENT
The cremated remains of the young Susman brothers were left exposed for a few days for the villagers to see, and then were thrown into a pit. They have yet to be found to this day (click photo for full view – graphic content).
Their father’s remains, Teodor Susman senior, were found in 2010. Officially ruled as a suicide by the communist authorities, the 9 pistol bullets and the gunshot wounds proved that it was an execution.
Traian Susman, the third son of Susman, was captured, interrogated and severely tortured which left him disabled.
Shepeherd sheds were common hideout in Fagaras mountains
Gavril Vatamaniuc, sergeant major, fought in WW2, a native of Bucovina (region divided by the Soviets in 1940). He was excluded from the army for openly expressing anti-communist views. He was arrested but managed an escape and retreated in the mountains, where he became one of Bucovina’s partisans.
Rare candid shots of Gavril as a partisan.
He was captured in 1955 and sentenced to hard labor for life. Released in 1964 due to an international amnesty, he lived until 2012. Incredibly intelligent and with a clear sharp mind until the end of his life, he gave detailed descriptions of his experiences – both on video and in writing; which serve as a precious encyclopedia of a partisan’s life and the traumatic socio-political changes experienced by Romania.
Extract from movie made on Fagaras partisans
Elisabeta Rizea – her uncle was executed in 1948 for being a political party member. She supported the partisan movements, for which she was arrested, tortured and spent 12 years in prison. After release, she continued to help partisans despite the risks.
Dumitru Opris – supported the partisan groups of Fagaras and spent 3 years in prison for it, after which he returned home weighing 45 kg.
Alexandru Macavei – native of Rosia Montana where his family owned a goldmine. Highly educated and a member of political party; in WW2, he served as a second lieutenant. After the war, he became an instant target of the secret police. Alexandru and his 3 brothers opposed the arrest attempt and a shooting erupted, which they managed to escape.
Alexandru Macavei died in 1949 during a shootout after he and his brother were surrounded by police forces. He managed to escape but received a head wound and, aware of his limited possibilities, he shot himself. He was buried in unknown location by police forces and his body has yet to be found. His brother was captured one month later.
Macoveiciuc group, with over 40 members. They ambushed Soviet troops which had occupied their native Bucovina. When some fighters were captured and deported to Siberia, the leader Vladimir Macoveiciuc attempted to form a solid partisan movement by getting in contact with partisans from Romania and Ukraine.
Vladimir Macoveiciuc, leader of the group. Attempted to form a solid partisan movement by getting in contact with partisans from Romania and Ukraine. He was tracked down due to betrayal; wounded during ambush, he committed suicide to avoid capture.
Body of “bandit” Gelu Novac, shot on August 6 1954
Vasile Motrescu, a peasant from Bucovina turned partisan. Described as “a tall man always dressed in national clothing”. He participated in WW2 and when northern Bucovina was invaded and annexed by the Soviets, the farmers turned fighters instantly. Forced to remain alone, Vasile’s story is both amazing and sad; he left a short diary behind, which survived to this day.
Excerpts from his diary
“To call oneself a partisan must give up everything, you have to give up life and put it in service of the nation, for the conquest of freedom for the Romanian people“
“I did not bring the Communist Party to Romania, nor can I remove it. This is not in my power, I cannot break you down, but neither will I help you.”
“Your policy is like a spider’s web, you collaborate in the beginning with slogans, stages, periods, etc, until you reach the age of maturity, then you show your teeth of beast …” “Since you started using the Soviet methods, the country lacks in everything: the country of wheat had no bread …”. “The Communists are the patriots without a home.“
“Bucovina is crying, bathed in blood…”
“Every night I fall asleep alone and cold. And every single night I dream that I am at my father’s place.”
More diary extracts here (Romanian version)
During the war, Vasile fought on the Eastern Front in the Mountain Hunters division. Once northern Bucovina was invaded by Soviets, he became part of Constantin Cenusa’s group. After the war, he built a family and tried to live a normal life but from 1949 onwards he was pursued by authorities due to his anti-soviet war participation. He escaped to the mountains and but he was captured with his 2 colleagues. He agreed to collaborate with the secret police (Securitate) and infiltrate a partisan group as an informer. He broke his promise by turning against the officers once they infiltrated Ion Gavrila Ogoranu’s partisan group. The agents were shot in a spontaneous shooting and the partisan group was spared. After this episode, he could not return (and did not wish) to the authorities, nor was he trusted by most villagers, being suspected about being a collaborator. Motrescu spent long periods alone, in harsh winters, with help from a few friends.
Ion Gavrila Ogoranu’s recollection of the episode: “Motrescu was sitting in my back and his two colleagues in front of me. He was sitting so closely to me, I could feel his breathe in the back of my head. I was uncomfortable, I felt cornered. I noticed the man in front of me was playing with his gun, it looked like he wanted to shoot me. But he couldnt because Vasile, his man, was sitting too close to me”
“You thought I’d betray my brothers?” Ogoranu described Motrescu’s famous words when he turned against the secret agents.
He briefly joined forces with Gavril Vatamaniuc but was left alone again when their hideout was discovered by soldiers, from whom they escaped after a violent shooting episode. Gavril was later captured. He survived until 2012 and recalled Motrescu in Memorialul Durerii “This man had no flaws. He only had one problem – he couldnt bare loneliness.”
Though initially hopeful in a political change (as were most partisans), despair and hopelessness had finally gotten to Motrescu, as seen in his diary:
“Why cant I have the happiness of living in the village or to at least have someone with me, to not be alone, sitting in the wilderness with the beasts of the forest, leading the life of a hermit at the age of 32, living by partisan’ rules… Its hard to imagine all the shortcomings, suffering, pain of body and soul, I dont even have time to get sick. Cold, hunger, lack of clothes and everything that a man needs … what do I suffer for?“
In 2005, the Romanian Academy published his diary in a book called “Diary of a partisan: Vasile Motrescu and the armed resistance in Bucovina”
Motrescu’s mother was sentenced to 20 years of hard labor, his brother was tortured leaving him paralyzed. His 2 children were not allowed to further their education past 4th grade.
April 3rd – Easter Day
“Bitter and full of thoughts and I spent this day. As soon as I got up, I went out in the sun and read the Bible and I realized the Easter is coming and Im here. Easter spent in trouble. I’m desperate and living without hope, and I live by the grace of the Lord until God will have mercy and I will take me away from the land of the living.
I sit in the sun and think about loved ones back home; at Easter, every soul, regardless of how poor they are, they still enjoy at least freedom and being around people. I sit alone and I cry without comfort, hungry, sad, hopeless, tense mind, accusing and forgiving life companions and all the enemies of my soul.
How much trouble, how much toil, pain, fatigue, and thoughts unnecessarily we encountered in these years of persecution, imprisonment and captivity. My body is exhausted and my soul is tired. There is no creature on earth able to imagine the life of dog that I lived these years. In the evening I went around the hut, I went up in the tree. On top of the tree I found my name written since the autumn of 1944, when I was a runaway in these places for fear of the Russians. I lived hard back then too, but not as hard as now.
Back then I was persecuted by the Russians, now by my brothers. Yes, persecuted brothers are traitors who have sold their souls country for a kg of sugar and a pound of oil and brought the country into so much suffering that even the baby in the bud now feels that the Bolshevik heaven.”
Vasile Motrescu was captured in January 1958 and he was executed in July same year. The photos above were found in his secret file, they were taken during the investigation, shortly after his capture.
Among his writings was also poetry, a will (where he talks of his love of country and sacrifice) and the sketch of a house he dreamt of living in one day. His brother built the house in Vasile’s memory. See more about Motrescu’s final days in a documentary produced in the mid-1990’s “Recurs in cazul Motrescu”.
Ion Duicu was part of a strong Banat partisan group, made up of well-trained military men, extremely active in offensive actions.
Ion Duicu death certificate – he was killed in a 1950 surprise ambush by secret police forces.
Nistor Duicu, brother of Ion Duicu. He escaped the 1950 ambush which killed his brother, but was killed 2 years later.
Gheorghe Hasu‘s note to his wife Eugenia, which was discovered by her 60 years later. “Dear wife, I havent seen you and the children in such long time, I really miss you. And I can not see you. However, God is watching over us all …” Hasu was executed in 1957.
Maria Andreescu and her husband Nicolae, a priest, assisted the Arges partisans with food, clothing and information. Nicolae was executed and Maria was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Constantin Cenusa, leader of Bucovina partisan group from which Vasile Motrescu was part of, allegedly said “Look at all the mountains around us, all its trees are wet with the tears I shed.” He surrendered after his pregnant wife was arrested and beaten. Sentenced to 25 years of hard labor, he died in a suspicious suicide 2 days after his release.
Sighetu Marmatiei political prison turned into Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance
Sighetu Marmatiei political prison turned into the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance
Ion Ilioiu joined the partisan movement as an 18 year old in 1948. In 1954, he was wounded and captured.
Ion Ilioiu in prison. After his capture, he was interrogated and beaten despite being wounded. The torture endured in prison left him with permanent health problems. “If it would start it all over again, I’d do the same thing”
He was released in 1964 due to a special international amnesty. He lived until 2012.
Vasile Lupu High School students – sentenced to death for developing anti-Soviet slogans after the 1940 Soviet occupation of eastern Romania (when territories were invaded and annexed after the secret Nazi-Soviet pact). Their ages were 18-19. The participants younger than 18 were condemned to 25 years in prison and deported to Siberia (most died in detention). (more here)
Their biggest offense was considered the replacement of the red Soviet flag with the Romanian flag on public institutions in Orhei on Christmas day.
“All we wanted was a free happy life, not one crushed under the occupant’s boot and Soviet tanks.”
NKVD office in Orhei. According to witnesses, the students were buried in the courtyard, one only half-dead. Due to the fact that Moldova is still under Moscow’s political influence, forensic work is made difficult.
Students photos retrieved from NKVD files
Spiru Blanaru – lawyer by profession, he became leader of partisan movement in Banat.
Though initially engaged in offensive actions, Spiru’s group resumed itself to defense when the authorities retaliated through punishing actions against the population. When a few members were captured, they attacked the Teregova police station and freed them. A massive operation was developed, especially designed for Blanaru and his group. Dozens of arrests were made in surroundings villages, and, under torture, the secret police obtained information from civilians about partisans’ whereabouts.
Three units surrounded them in February 1949 and, after a long exchange of fire which lasted the whole day, the partisans escaped. The harsh winter had weakened them and, while trying to get supplies in March, they were wounded and captured. They were executed in June.
Memorial risen in front of mayor offices in Teregova, where bodies of dead partisans had been exposed.
In April 1950, 13 members of a partisan group in Cluj were executed. Their bodies were never found.
Names of the 13 members were: Emil Dalea, Ioan Bedeleanu, Mihai Angheluta, Mihai Florinc, Petru Margineanu, Emil Olteanu, Florian Picos, Victor Vandor, Ioan Robu, Nicolae Nitescu, Simion Moldovan, Alexandru Maxi, Alexandra Pop. Photo taken while in detention.
The Cluj group included a woman, Alexandra Pop, whose grandfather, Ioan Andresel, was also executed in August same year. Photo taken while in detention.
Oliviu Beldeanu (sitting down in middle), a Romanian sculptor who was living a tranquil life in Switzerland, away and safe from communism. Unable to bare the situation back home, he militated for the liberation of political prisoners from communist prisons. Aware of the passive attitude of western authorities, he resorted to desperate methods like the Berne incident.
During the Berne incident, they seized the Romanian embassy in Switzerland and requested the release of political prisoners. During the siege, an altercation occurred during which the driver was hurt. When the team surrendered, the documents they had obtained from embassy for the release of the prisoners were returned by Swiss authorities to the communist authorities. Beldeanu was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
After his 1957 release from prison, the communist secret police tracked him down, lured him into a trap by making him walk into East German land (under communist control), where he was kidnapped in broad daylight and taken to Romania. Secret archives uncovered by Georg Herbstritt şi Stejãrel Olaru revealed the kidnapping episode in east Berlin. After a kangaroo trial, Oliviu was executed in Jilava prison. Beldeanu’s attempt to attract attention to the abuses taking place under communist rule faded into forgetfulness, while the western authorities proved a disappointing compliance with the new communist governments of eastern Europe.
Mihai Tantu – founder of the Romanian Commando Units (created during WW2). Native of Bessarabia (eastern Moldova) which fell under Soviet occupation and became part of USSR.
In 1946, Mihai was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for “conspiracy to disintegrate the unity of the (communist) state”, common accusation brought to all military men and to all anti-communist (from politicians to ordinary peasants).
He managed a miraculous escape from prison and fled to Vienna, but chose the risky return to Romania as a secret agent with the help of French authorities. He attempted to help the anti-communist partisan groups but was captured and imprisoned again in 1950. Released in 1964 due to an international amnesty agreement for political prisoners, he died in poverty and anonymity in 1979 due to health problems developed in prison.
Toma Arnautoiu – lieutenant in the Mounted Guards Regiment. Together with colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu, they formed a communist resistance movement made up of 16 people, including 4 women. A part of them were arrested or killed during confrontations, leaving Toma as the sole leader.
Toma Arnautoiu resisted for 9 years in difficult conditions. After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution when the west showed total passivity towards the anti-communist movements, Toma gave up hope of regime change and prepared for prolonged life in isolation, refusing to give in to communist authorities.
Partisans Maria Plop and Toma Arnautoiu became a couple and had a daughter, born in their mountain hideout in 1956.
Toma and one of the female members of the group, Maria Plop, became a couple during their partisan years and had a daughter. Retreated in a mountain hideout – a high cave, they were impossible to track down.
They were captured through betrayal in May 1958, when Toma Arnautoiu and his brother were drugged with drinks by a collaborator of the secret police. The mountain hideout was encircled by police forces, where Constantin Jubleanu, Maria Plop and her daughter were located. Maria surrendered with the little girl in her arms but Jubleanu refused to be captured and a fire exchange started until he eventually used the last bullet on himself.
Maria Plop and daughter coming down from the hideout.
Constantin Jubleanu laying dead after the shooting episode. Constantin had retreated with his parents and brother, the entire family being on the black list of the authorities. After a confrontation with the police forces, his parents were killed. Jubleanu senior was asked to dig his wife’s grave before being executed himself (according to official records from Securitate archives).
Maria Plop and 2 year-old daughter after 1958 capture. Maria is visibly weakened by the difficult isolated 9 years in the mountains. The little girl was sent to an orphanage, Toma was executed in 1959 toghether with 20 other family members and friends, and Maria died in prison due to the unbearable conditions.
Raluca Voicu Arnautoiu – the little girl born in the mountain cave, pictured here as a young student. Her identity was changed and she was adopted. Her cousins, left orphans after the executions, remained in the orphanage.
The daughter of partisans Maria and Toma became a musician (violinist). She learned about her biological family after 1989 when communism collapsed.
Toma and Maria’s daughter went to court in order to officially receive her biological father’s name of “Arnautoiu”.
Ioana Arnautoiu requested access to all Secret Police files and became an activist and spokesperson for her parents’ partisan group and for anti-communist movements in general.
Ioana Arnautoiu sitting next to her father’s photo, taken after his capture.
Money and notes written by Arnautoiu group partisans
One of the notes written by Toma Arnautoiu said:
“I am the metal from a world turned to dust.
I am the eternal echo of a world long gone.”
“Pine trees break but dont bend” book by Ion Gavrila Ogoranu, partisan who escaped for over 30 years. After his colleagues were executed, a poor widow with children hid him in her house. She later became his wife. Captured in 1976, he escaped the death sentence when his wife sent a plea to the American authorities for intervention. Because the political system was more relaxed from the late 1960’s onwards, Gavrila was spared.
Ion Gavrila Ogoranu as a young partisan. Before passing away in 2006, he made every effort to release his memoirs (wrote 7 volumes) and to promote knowledge on the anti-communist partisan struggle.
“For Romanians, communism was always a strange thing alien to their soul, both as an ideology and as a political regime. The Communist Party of Romania, before 1944, had only few members, almost all of them of foreign ethnic background. “
In 2006, he wrote an official letter to the minister of Justice, accusing the authorities of marginalizing and neglecting the anti-communist activists, and also the war veterans and their widows. One month later, he passed away.
Fagaras partisans as students
Though the 1989 revolution was supposedly against communism and had gained the Romanian people the freedom that they had been waiting for since 1946, those who came to power were in fact members of the old communist party, which may explain the marginalization of the surviving anti-communist fighters and the lack of patriotism and national interest in the post-communist leadership.
The daughter of partisans Toma Arnautoiu and Maria Plop accused the authorities of the same neglect and took it upon herself to promote their cause to the public.
Victor Metea with mother
Victor Metea – “They’re not content with just killing us, they want to compromise us morally as well“
Victor Metea came from a family of affluent farmers with a good situation, which made them an instant target of the secret police (anyone who owned more than 5 hectares of land was considered “enemy of the state”). Victor refused to join the communist party, which was mandatory after 1947. After various neighbors were arrested, Victor ran away with his father and later joined the partisan group lead by Ion Gavrila Ogoranu.
“We were hoping in the outbreak of a war, when we could fight to overthrow the regime. For this, we had to remain alive at any cost. And this was quite difficult. Our conditions were impossible, from all points of of view “
Victor was preparing to study medicine, and despite becoming a partisan, he still carried books of chemistry and physics in his kit.
Victor’s little brother Ioan was arrested 18 times and tortured to pressure him to reveal his family’s whereabouts. After 1990, he recalled:
“In Sibiu, I was locked in a small wet cell, without window. I couldnt see anything, but I felt that when I took off my shoes, rats were biting my feet. I had a bunk, a plank and thats it. The investigator was a colonel dressed in a white robe who threatened to castrate me with a knife if I didnt give information about my brother. When I went to Fagaras, it was electric shocks. They connected my hands and feet with electric wires and used it until I had no strength left. They were also beating the soles of my feet, after they tied my hands and feet over a wood. Another time they covered me with a board and hit it with a sledgehammer. “
Partisan Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, the leader of the group from which Victor was part of, described in his memoirs:
“For 3 months they lived in the snow, driven from one place, in another place not expected by nobody. They found some frozen potatoes and ate them but that made them very sick. They endured thirst, as water from snow does not stop thirst. They slept in the woods or in deserted places. Sometimes they made a fire when they had something to roast or boiled, but never to warm up, to not get used to comfort. For weeks, the wolves howled all around them at night. For 10 days they hid in a foxes den. All winter they dreamt of a piece of polenta with cheese. They crossed Olt river seeking a shelter with food, but the bear took it ahead of them. Staggering on their feet from hunger, at the beginning of April they made a fire at the foot of the mountain. Thats where I met them.“
After another harsh winter when Victor had had pneumonia and had only found a single dose of penicillin, they stopped in Daffodil Glade to rest after 2 days of walking. Unaware that the communists had changed the Flower festival celebrations to a different date, they found themselves surrounded by secret police forces as public celebrations were underway. Gavrila described how they tried to blend in:
“I took the prayer book and tried to act like I’m casually reading. But I was not reading, I was praying. Victor was pretending to be fishing. You could hear rumble of drums, songs of fanfare, shouting. In a scene, rural youth was singing and playing to entertain secretaries, activists, MPs, officers, presidents seated amidst the sea of daffodils. Young people were competing to entertain those who sent their the parents to the Channel (romanian synonymous of a Russian Gulag) or even the firing squad, symbolic image of a nation of serfs, trained for centuries to lick the hand of those who put the chain around them and beat them.
People came from time to time near our place. Once, a policeman came. Two children went to Victor, fascinated with his fishing rod, and he taught how to fish. Their parents called the children to come eat and God, how we were craving the roasted meat! We looked at the clock but minutes were standing still. Two girls who picking flowers saw a pretty boy (Victor) fishing and kept walking in his front, trying to get him to talk to them. We didnt want anyone to come to us, especially Victor – since his village was only ten miles from here. The whole day we sat shirtless, so they couldnt see our dirty torn clothes. In the evening, we tucked ourselves under the covers and we fell sleep exhausted. At last I saw them leave together with the police trucks. We were saved. “
Victor is captured through betrayal in 1956. Aware of the inevitability of his death, he defied his captors until the end by criticizing how they cannot speak Romanian properly during interrogation and by correcting their grammar mistakes during declarations. He was executed in 1958.
Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu lead a resistance movement in Arges until 1961, when he was captured and later executed. Photo and document, named “Criminal transcript sheet”, taken from the Sighet Memorial of Victims of Communism and Resistance.
When Arsenescu tried to open a business in 1947, he was accused of economic sabotage and was put under surveillance. An experienced military man, he became resilient of communism and formed a partisan group. His capture was impossible for over a decade, when he was finally arrested through betrayal. He was executed in 1962.
Bodies of Ioan Leonita, Ioan Burdet and Toader Dumitru uncovered in 2009. The 3 men were executed without a trial on June 24, 1949 in Dealul Crucii. Toader Dumitru (mayor of Rebra village) and the other 2 men were blacklisted after not allowing the falsification of the 1946 elections. The executions without a trial were hidden behind accusations of attempts to escape, which are often dismantled by forensic work at the crime scene. Photo courtesy of CICC (Center for the Investigation of communist crimes)
The final resting place after the 3 men had a proper burial – “The true heroes are those who die for truth and liberty”
Ion Ilioiu: “We didnt take up arms to fight for vain ambitions, nor for the spirit of adventure, nor out of hatred for anyone. What drove us was the love of this nation“