Gavril Vatamaniuc [EN]


Non-commissioned gendarme officer sentenced in 1956 to hard labor for life for „terrorism”.

Gavril Vatamaniuc

In 1943, at my request, I was sent to the front as a volunteer. I spent six months in Crimea, then we were taken out by airplane, by the Germans, because Crimea was already encircled, and many had fallen prisoners. I joined… signed up for Non-Commissioned Officers School No. 1 in Fagaras, from which I was later sent to the front again, in Czechoslovakia.

/…/

At the beginning of 1954… At the end of the war, we spent another three months in the mountains, in the woods, 100 km from (???), and only after that did we, the entire Romanian army, return home. On foot. It took us three months to get home, because all the trains were taken by the Russians for their spoils pouring out of Germany. One after another. We stood waiting at railway junctions, we stood a long time until all those trains passed, loaded with factories, and spoils I had never imagined in my life, plundered from Germany and the occupied territories. After I returned to the country, I was transferred to the gendarmes, because I hadn’t obtained higher grades in military school, and they needed young cadres in the Gendarmerie. I went to Carmen Sylva judiciary school, and studied criminal law, and criminal and special procedure with professor Praporgescu. I graduated a year later, and I was assigned to various posts around the country. It did not last long, because in 1948 I was taken by 2nd Gendarme Battalion in Tirgu Ocna. There was a political officer there, I don’t remember his name, because it didn’t take too long with him, I mean in that unit, before we came into conflict. He claimed that the Russians had saved us from starvation in ’46-47, when famine struck in Romania, especially in Moldavia. I had seen service in Constanta harbor, and the ships Victoria and Panama, American ships, that had brought assistance, such as food parcels, corn – two ships of corn; I had escorted a few myself, to Helga and Gane, in Bucharest, where maize and wheat flour was mixed to make bread. And to Patirlagele, to Buzau, and other locations. I knew precisely where the food had come from; the Russians didn’t have enough for themselves.

/…/

And now the political officer comes and tells me that the Russians helped us during the famine. But I served in Constanta Port and never saw a Soviet ship bringing food. I once saw a ship that brought cotton and sailed back with canvas. It took the canvas to Russia. During our conversation, I kept emphasizing that Bessarabia and Bukovina were Romanian territories. That was the first reason why I was dismissed from the Romanian army. I didn’t get angry. I went to work on a Craiova building site and make a living.

/…/

I was living at a friend’s, but they knew I was working on that site. So one day two civilians came looking for me; they told me, „You’re coming with us to the commandant’s office to sign a declaration, then you go back home.” I knew what it was to sign a declaration and then go back home after many, many years. Or never, as it happened to many Romanians in the golden age of communist dictatorship. I seized a moment when they left me with my face to a wall to report to their superiors; they had taken me to a sort of hallway; they had seen that, at the other end of the hallway, there was another door to the courtyard. I went out to the courtyard, and luckily found there an open gate, and off I went, all the way to Bukovina. I first took the train and went to Bucharest, and from there to Suceava. I stayed in hiding for a few months, preparing to go up in the mountains, with my brother Ion beside me. On 25 November 1949, we left. It was very hard, because snow had already fallen, but it soon melted. It was a typical autumn: in November, the mountains in Bukovina are already snowy. But it melted a little, and we chose a place on the southern slope, where the sun shines all day long and the snow melts quickly. There I built a hut, with his help. We worked by day and went for food at night. We made three or four transports, with 2 backpacks of food each. Then heavy snows set in; my brother left, and I was left alone that winter. In the spring of 1950, I went down to the village, got in touch with my brother, and he told me that there was another man from the village who had taken to the mountains, Hreorciuc Savulet; he was with a group, somewhere around Humor monastery, near Gura Humorului.

/…/

I contacted this man and I stayed for a while, a very short while with them, near Gura Humorului. We separated on a peak, (???), in the area, because we couldn’t come to terms. As a proof they were in the wrong, only a year later, in ’51 or ’52, that guy, a first sergeant who was promoted Securitate lieutenant for his exploit, infiltrated among them under the guise of a partisan. I wouldn’t have accepted him. God forbid. So I was left alone again. But then two men fled from the village of Sucevita. One of them, Chiras Gheorghe, had been arrested, they had taken him from his workplace – he worked as a miller for somebody. It was not his property, he was poor, dirt poor. They went to his brother, Ion Chiras, to arrest him. The latter had heard that his brother had been arrested; so he locked the door and got himself ready to flee to the mountains. While he was preparing at home, two men in thick, long coats, the kind we wear in Bukovina, came to his door. He had a big, white dog, a bear hunter, who could have torn them to pieces if he had broken loose from his chain. His mother heard the dog bark furiously, and as she lived across the path between the gardens, she came and asked them „Who are you looking for?” „The owner of this place, Ion, he’s got a problem at the sawmill, he must come and solve it.” He worked at a sawmill indeed, but he had no problems there. His mother knew he was inside making preparations to leave, and as her other son was under arrest, she said, „Why, sir, he’s not married, he has got no wife, no kids, no-one, he doesn’t stay home.” „But I see the dog’s food is still warm.” He loved his dog, and he had told him, „I’m going up in the mountains, I don’t know who’ll feed you from now on, and if I’ll ever be the one.” And, for the last time, he had given food to his dog. He was crying, he loved that dog very much. So that man said, „The dog’s food is warm.” „Well, he fed his dog and left. If you have some time, wait for him, he’ll be back.” So they waited about an hour, pacing back and forth on the road, while he left through the back door, through the orchard; the mountain was very near, a common thing in Bukovina: the villages are scattered among the mountains, especially at Sucevita. If you know Sucevita, you realize how easy it is to run out of the house and straight into the wood. He went to a nephew of his. Coincidentally, his brother escaped from the militia station and went to the same nephew, because he didn’t have suitable mountain outfits or food. You don’t venture into the mountains unless you fulfill certain conditions. The mountain is your friend, but also your enemy if you don’t observe its rules. So they both met at their nephew’s.

/…/

That was all we needed. I went down and found them. What can I say, as I have told you, it would take me a whole month to recount everything, but I’m cutting corners now – I could tell you how I looked for them and how many days it took me to find them. We stuck together from 1950, as I said. From that moment until 1955, we were never separated. Quite the opposite – Marciuc Vasile joined us; he had hosted them, and he had been arrested, but he escaped from Securitate and came to join us. He was undressed, and his soles were so swollen from beatings that he could barely run. But he was a very sturdy man, very resistant. They had all fought on the Russian front, so they knew how to handle the firearms; they were all sharpshooters, and had perfect training. Later on Motrescu Vasile also joined us.

/…/

In 1955, on a July early morning, I was with the Chiras brothers and Marciuc Vasile, between Dragusinu and Ursoaia Mare. We used to cook at night. One of us, or two, if necessary, would keep vigil, and one would cook. On wood, dry wood, which didn’t smoke or crackle. You see, there were many rules we had to observe. Let me tell you only that, when we treaded on a path, we were careful not to break even a spider’s web; we would take a roundabout way, and go back, because we knew someone had been there if it was broken. When a stag walks by, it leaves traces, because it weighs 300 kilos. And the hoof… While a man doesn’t tread… Any trace… But the grass is bent into that direction (???). And many such things we had to be careful about. We had the dog of the woods, the blackbird, which will bark to let you know whenever someone is coming. It has its specific tweet, but when a creature appears, be it an animal or a human being… It has a specific way of giving the alarm. We would hear it, there were many blackbirds around, and knew precisely something was going on. We were on the alert. There were many conditions we had to take into account. I was telling you about the wood… We cooked our food, ate, and put one-day supplies in our knapsacks too, just in case. We stood there with our bags ready. Suddenly, I felt something. I came out, and there they were… I saw the Securitate men, who had surrounded us. They had a dog, and the dog scented us. They had come by night, a 12-men patrol. I gave the alarm – through gestures, of course, I could not speak -, and we ran away. They didn’t take the good way, as I and Vasile Marciuc did, through a creek. Sure, they could catch us through the creek as well, as they had been through it too. But I turned about, threw a grenade and fired a round. The soldier ducked behind the bend, and we escaped. The other two, Ion and Gheorghe, made for a barren ridge, and were gunned down. Both died on the same day. Only I, Marciuc and Motrescu Vasile remained.

/…/

In 1955, on the 18th of January, I was with Motrescu Vasile at Bitca Corbului, in a hut; a forest ranger, who was also the village hunting warder, turned us in, so we were surrounded by a battalion or a company – I think it was a company, from the research I did after I got out of jail; the company was led by lieutenant Cuciuc Gheorghe, so it must have been a company, since a lieutenant does not command a battalion; a battalion is usually led by a captain, at least. They surrounded us. We escaped after heavy fighting. Motrescu shot two Securitate men, and I took down a Securitate trooper and a dog. We broke through the encirclement and fled. But we were left without food and the hut. Until spring, we lived under a tree, without lighting the fire, on cold food. Whatever the forestry workers would give us. A piece of bread, frozen bread, because the temperature was 20 degrees below zero, and we didn’t light a fire, and ate snow instead of drinking water. Securitate was on our track all the time, and we had to take precautions.

/…/

After Motrescu split away, and the Chiras brothers died, only Marciuc and I were left. It was hard, very hard for me, for Marciuc was not the fittest man for work or partisan combat. He didn’t pay much attention… On the front, he was a hero, he destroyed seven tanks or so – he had been in an antitank gun unit -, seven Russian tanks; he was great at that, but here you had to be like a mongoose, have eyes at the back of your head. However, because of his wife’s arrest, his children left to their fate, his house watched by Securitate more closely than an embassy, he was totally absent-minded, and I had to look after him too. In October, we went down to the village of Marginea for food. The woman we went to told me, „Toaderica is not at home. He has been arrested. Everyone in Marginea has been arrested.” Only Tinu was free, because he was the one who had betrayed. Constantin Mihailescu, a.k.a. Tinu. He betrayed all those who had hosted me in Marginea, and they were arrested. A little while before, about one month, the hosts from the village of Sucevita had also been arrested following betrayal. We were in a very critical situation. We went to the field, took some corn and potatoes. It was in October, yes, in October. Then we crossed the main road to another mountain, toward Putna. But Marciuc Vasile said he had a good friend in Voievodeasa, with whom he had been hunting in the mountains, and suggested we go to him. We took a roundabout way and went in that direction. We went into the man’s barn. Marciuc Vasile knew him, but I didn’t; I didn’t even know the place where he lived. We stayed in the barn. In the morning, the man came and we talked with him. We remained there a few days. We went out and hunted a deer, and brought it from the field to his place at night. He was a very poor man. As a herdsman, he looked after the cattle in the village, and had four or five children, but no land. We ate apples, as he had many apple-trees in his garden. One day Nicu came and said, „Vasile, God is on your side. I’ve got news for you. Your wife was released from prison.” But the Securitate men had broken the news in the village before him, claiming that his wife had gone mad in prison and she had been sent to Socola, in Jassy. Imagine, he was a thoughtless man, he didn’t care about himself. He only thought of his wife and kids. When he heard the news, he told me he was going home to see if his wife was well. But Nicu told him, „She’s fine, man, I talked to her by the gate.” /…/

Vasile Marciuc fell. He fell on the night he left. I didn’t know anything about it. He was all through the day at Suceava and Radauti Securitate; I know nothing of the methods they used, although I met him after he was released from jail; he didn’t tell me, and I did not insist, because I wanted to spare him that embarrassing moment, telling me he hadn’t withstood the pain and he had had to tell them where I was. He did not withstand, sure thing, he told them where I was. So a lieutenant, dressed in his clothes, accompanied by ten other officers, among which Captain Comarita, Capt. Comanescu and another captain, three captains in all, plus lieutenants and a company of soldiers surrounded the house. They rushed in, with the lieutenant dressed in Marciuc’s clothes. They captured me at Nicu’s, on the following night. They hit me on the head with the rifle butt, here, where I have this scar, and I fell to the ground at once, as if gunned down. I was stunned. Then they kicked me with their boots, and a captain bawled, „It is true that I only like truth, because I have a lot to say about my life. I don’t need to add a thing.(????)” And someone shouted, „Leave him alone, stop kicking him, let us show the bandit we’re more humane than him.” It was Capt. Comarita, I think. That is what I heard. Then I began to come around, little by little. Two hands grabbed me and lifted me to my feet, but I was shaking: not with fear, but from the blow I had received. I leaned against the wall, because I was dizzy and I felt I was going to fall down. I didn’t want that to happen, so I leaned on the wall. They all came to me. „Where is Motrescu?” „I don’t know where Motrescu is.” I really didn’t know where Motrescu was, but even if I had known, I would have told them I didn’t, because he was not a thing that you put in one place and find it there later. He was a human being. „We split, how should I know where he is now?” I did not inform, and he did not inform. None of us did that, informing on our hosts, because if one of us fell, they would know about our hosts, where I was hiding, who was feeding me.

/…/

Without information, we would have been dead in the first year. Most villagers were on our side. They knew our moves, and we knew about them. For instance, one night they told us there were about 30 Securitate men at the command post, most of them dressed as civilians, with long coats specific to our region, and they were going to arrest people from the village. They didn’t know whom exactly. I volunteered to rush and warn a couple of them, and sound the alarm. Those who knew they would be arrested were all ready. I went to the church, climbed in the belfry and set two bells ringing. I tied the ropes and pulled at them for half an hour. Indeed, the people heard the bells at midnight and realized it was an alarm, so they fled. The Securitate men made no attempt, but they summoned the villagers at the community center in the morning and threatened to block them there and forbid them to go out as far as Radauti; they said they would die like rats in there, because they were in touch with the bandits in the mountains, and added they were after us, they hadn’t come to arrest people. Whatever. Throughout the summer of 1952, I printed manifestos: „Romanian people, brothers, do not surrender to Communism! Communism is the Antichrist, and the Antichrist must perish. The whole civilized world will not allow God’s and man’s enemies in the midst of Europe! Be patient, we shall get rid of them. Don’t join the party, don’t join the collective farms!” There were two types: „Christian brothers” and „Romanian brothers”. Against joining collective farms and against renouncing the church and surrendering to communism. Against coming to terms with them. We printed over a hundred manifestos, as Gh. Chiras, remember, worked at the mill as a mechanic – a very skillful, an extraordinary mechanic. He made a printing press, I brought him ink and paper and we printed those manifestos with big letters, like newspaper titles, so that people with glasses and old people could read them. I covered my head with a hood made from a black cloth and I put on a black cloak; I also wore a beard and long hair, like we all did; I went out on the night of 5 to 6 August, the dedication day of Sucevita monastery. It was the 6th of August, I was at the monastery, it was the Transfiguration. Thousands of people were streaming in, coming on pilgrimage as if to Mecca. They usually come a day or two before, and pray on their knees, walk through the monastery yard, alone with their woes. I entered the crowd, leaving the other two in the orchard, at the corner of the monastery. Had they tried to capture me, I would have run to them, and they could rescue me. I could take the other one, I wasn’t scared. I went out and handed out manifestos: „Take it in the name of faith, brothers, in the name of faith!” Many took them, among which a Securitate agent; they were everywhere, dressed in civilian clothes. He took it and went to a fire by the waterside, and read it. When he saw what it was about, he asked, „Where is the man who is handing out manifestos?” I heard him, and I slunk through the crowd; the other two had also heard, and told me, „Come on, he smelled you.” I had a few more manifestos, which I distributed by the main road. I went to the people who passed by in their carriages at night, and handed them. Well, the next day it was bedlam! There was Securitate on horseback too! It was the second year of typhus in the village, and crowding was forbidden. But people had come from across the mountains. This is how a fight with them took place: when we came face to face, it was a real skirmish. They were shooting, we were shooting. In particular, had we only wanted to – I’m saying that in front of this camera, for everybody to hear – we could have killed thousands of Securitate men… Anything that moved. Anything! But we also wrote to them: „Send the Russians after us. Why are you coming after us? Shall we shoot at each other? Send the Russians, for it is against them that we are fighting! Bukovina and Bessarabia are not under your occupation, but theirs, and that is why we ran up to the mountains. The Romanian Securitate, the Romanian authorities, are persecuting those who fight against the Russians. They consider the Russians their friends, because they brought them to power; they even sold the Serpents’ Island to the Russians, against a delivery and receipt note. And they are capable of giving away half of Romania, not only Bukovina and Bessarabia.”

/…/

As I said before, that night they caught us, tied us with rope – they had ropes as thick as my finger – and they took us, me and my host, to Radauti Securitate. I didn’t want to eat; Tuesday was a fasting day for me, I never ate on Tuesdays. A lady offered me a plate of hominy and meat. I refused it. „I’m fasting today, ma’am.” In the evening she said, „Enough! When are you going to eat?” „After sundown.” „Well, the sun has set.” „No, I can still see it through the window.” „Come on, you’re leaving, and you have to eat.” She forced me to eat, then they handcuffed me. They also took Marciuc Vasile out, and took my picture and Ticu’s. And the three of us – I in the middle, the other two on my right and left, escorted by six Securitate men, three in front of us and three behind us – got on the van and were taken to Suceava. We were forced to keep our heads down. It was very hard, 60 kilometers. Traveling with your head bowed… I was tied up, I had been beaten up the night before, and spent all day in handcuffs… I was exhausted. Besides, my head hurt where I had been hit, and my ribs, from the kicking. That is why I still have kidney problems.

/…/

The interrogation went on day and night. There were few nights when they didn’t take me to interrogation. Then I would sleep, but my bed was made from cement. There was no heating in the cell. The window up there was not shut tight, and my teeth chattered with cold. It was obligatory to take off all your clothes except your shirt and drawers, and keep your hands out, on the blanket. Horrible! The prison commandant would come – Bubtiu, that was his name, he was two meters tall and weighed 100 kilos, I guess, and he wore boots like Stalin’s. He said, „Hey, you, why are you lying there? You came here to serve your sentence!” And he ordered me to rise; I stood barefoot on the cement floor, in my shirt and drawers in that terrible cold, while he was dressed in a furred coat and had his boots on. If you look at my feet, you’ll see only holes in the flesh and bone, they’re rugged, like tree bark. I was hopping like a bear on hot coals, but what could I do? After he left me alone, I went to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep because of the pains and the cold. There were months of pain and suffering at Securitate. Finally, I was brought to trial, and sentenced to hard labor for life. I was really lucky: the decree on the release of war criminals had just been passed. Peace was looming, safeguarded peace. I had the newspaper Nicu had brought me – when they captured me, I had the Scinteia newspaper with me. The decree concerning the release of former political prisoners, war criminals, was published in it. There was an incredible thaw at the UN, the Russians and the Americans had struck some deal. And I said to myself, „Now it’s OK. Our day is coming.” They caught me, but the trial was a bit more civilized. None of my hosts, for example, received more than 10 years. 6, 7, 8, 10 years. When Motrescu’s hosts were arrested two or three years later, they got hard labor for life. The events that had been going on in Hungary exasperated Securitate, and the laws worsened. Many were taken from their cells and shot. Cioca Ion and a companion of his from Banat were taken from their cells at Jilava, acquitted in Timisoara, then shot in Arad. I was lucky to catch a good period of détente, and I got off with hard labor for life.

/…/

As I said before, we sought to avoid skirmishes, because we didn’t want any bloodshed. But it happened twice. Once I caught a soldier who had strayed. He was coming down a creek. We had dodged their patrol; they had been combing the area – it was like combing your hair, when a battalion went through a grove. Combing, man next to man, with tracking dogs. I dodged such a patrol and crossed a creek to another mountain, and I was watching down the creek to see if they were also going to cross it to this other side, so that I might know which way to go. And I saw one walking along the creek. I jumped out and summoned him, and he did not oppose. He put his rifle down. I said, „Take off your clothes!” He began to undress, took off his belt, and started to cry. His name was Calistru Butnar. He had also had to suffer, because at the education class he had objected, I mean, not objected, but he said that unplowed ridges were not so bad for agriculture after all. They planned to do away with those unplowed strips, in the name of collectivization. He said that his mother was raising goats on that strip, so it was helpful. They put him in solitary confinement, where he suffered a lot. It impressed me when I heard he had no father. I told him, „Get dressed, and never tell what happened to you here.” „No, sir, I won’t, sir.” That is what I call a human being. And there was another incident. We had various combat tactics, which made it difficult for them to hunt us in the mountains. I, in particular, had military training; I had spent one year of my military school in the Fagaras mountains, in night practice, I had been on the front and in police school, and I knew a lot about tactics. It was hard to catch me in the mountains, really hard, even impossible. I was cowering once under a blackberry shrub and thick dwarf firs; only my eyes could be seen. I felt them coming, but I didn’t run off, because I would have stumbled upon those who lay in ambush, and they would shoot at anything that ran. I knew that. So I used to lie in wait. This is another technique. They happen upon you. You shoot, open a breach behind them. This is one method. Another: if you have enough time and know where the end of their line is, you run to the right or to the left, to the end of the line, and turn up behind them. I had no time to do that then, and if I had run they would have sensed and hit me. They were aligned in the shape of a horseshoe; I would have run into their flank, which I couldn’t avoid. When I saw one of them about to trip over me – he was only a meter and a half or two away -, I stood up. I had to take control of the situation. I ordered him to halt. He was struck dumb. He stood gaping and watching anxiously to the right and to the left. He could hear something, but he couldn’t see because of the thicket. He only made a gesture, like „Don’t shoot!” When I saw him, I said, „Go down the valley!”, which he did. He looked at me… He passed by and cast a glance at me, he didn’t know whether to salute me, raise his hand, or what, he was a lost man, I say, he was lost.

/…/

I was asked if I had a lawyer, and I said, „If it would cost me two pennies, I still couldn’t afford a lawyer.” So they gave me one appointed by the judge. He said in court that I had armed myself to hunt wild animals. But I couldn’t accept that. I said, „Mr. President and honored court, I armed myself and went to the mountains to fight against communism.” „While you stayed there, how did you picture your freedom?” „I was hoping for a war.” „Who against whom?” „Between the Americans and the Russians.” „Comrade prosecutor, please put this on the record.” I could only envisage my freedom if a war broke out between the imperialist hordes and the Soviet Union. „Mr. President, I did not say either imperialist hordes or the Soviet Union. I said between the Americans and the Russians.” „Never mind that!” As long as I was under investigation, I told the truth – what I had been fighting for, and… That I had fired my gun. „Mr. President, you have little experience, but I pray you live long enough to experience such a moment. When someone is raising his gun to shoot you, and you have a gun too, your instinct tells you to defend yourself. Even a tomtit you hold in your hand will nibble at it to break free. This is inevitable, without even being aware, almost unconsciously, you raise your hand to shoot, to protect yourself. I didn’t go up there to wait for you to come and raise my hands. I went to fight against communism, as I told you; I cannot love or accept it, I cannot tolerate living in a society that is against God and man.” /…/

I told the truth, and that was it. I was sentenced to hard labor for life: chains and cell no. 1 in the basement, at Suceava, in solitary confinement. After two months, they put me on a special prisoners’ train and sent me to Jilava. There they put me in cell 0, the cell of death convicts. That was it. There was a toilet and everything in it, including bullet traces. Then they took me to cell no. 4, with chains on my feet.

/…/

Finally, I ended up at Aiud, still with my feet in chains. At Aiud, I was alone in my cell. I stayed there about four months. One night I was put on a prisoners’ rail car and sent to Jilava. At Jilava, I stayed three weeks, in cell no. 16. From there I was transferred to isolation – isolation 1 and 2 were on the corridor, between the two sections of Jilava. I found there Admiral Horea Macelar, and General Marinescu Stere, who had been Antonescu’s aide-de-camp, and accompanied Antonescu on his last trip to meet Hitler. He told me what Antonescu had discussed with Hitler, and why he had paid that visit to him. After their return, Antonescu was arrested. He told me everything. „Mr. Vatamaniuc, I’m telling you all this because you’re a young man full of life. We are old, we may not live through this. But you must know these facts, and tell other people.” He told me extremely important things. And so many, it would take three cassettes.

/…/

They didn’t beat me up at Aiud. I understood I was on provisional terms. I spent only three months there. And I was alone in my cell. I knew about the regime at Aiud and I tried not to give them an occasion. I didn’t talk to the walls… I mean, talk to the dead, or contact my neighbors, as was usual in jail. I didn’t want to give them an occasion. I thought, „They can shoot me here, I’m all alone in this cell. They may kill me.” I was sent to Suceava, then Jilava, where I met these people. After 16 days, they took us out, in chains. All of us had life sentences with hard labor. The admiral, the general, the colonel. And they put us on the prisoners’ train. Each to his cell, for the car was partitioned: half was a large cell for common-law convicts, and the other half was divided in small, steel cells, all steel. They put us each in his cell. They gave me food for three days, cold food. We traveled five days. It took us to Tirgu Ocna via Buhusi, Jassy. The train traveled around, prisoners would get off or get on, this is how a prisoners’ train goes. A week or two on end, all over Moldavia, to all the prisons, and it takes and leaves prisoners. And I was there. It took me to Botosani. Why? To be confronted with Motrescu, the last in my group, and confess. I knew he hadn’t been captured, and I feared that he might get caught and I wouldn’t know what he confessed; on the other hand, I knew what I had declared. Moreover, as I said before, they used to take out and shoot those who… God gave me strength, for I saw many things in my life, many, many things. I played the role of an epileptic. They brought dr. Eschinazo, a butcher. The physician of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a Jew; he lives in Switzerland now. But this young man brought many to their graves. They called him, and he consulted me. He said, „I want to see him when he gets into a fit.” There was a doctor, Margineanu, he lives in Jassy now, he was a student then, not a doctor, but I trusted him a lot. I told him, „Doctor, don’t give me these pills,” – they gave me Hidaltoin – „because I don’t take them, I throw them to the toilet. I do not suffer from epilepsy. Look, look!” He looked in amazement. „Mr. Vatamaniuc, Eschinazo will find out, and they’ll shoot you.” „He won’t find out.” He said, „He is in this unit right now.” And I replied, „It doesn’t matter, I won’t let him wait long.” And I went into a fit. He was sent after, he came, he looked. I was sticking my finger into my nose, scratched a bit, and my nose was bleeding. Two or three men couldn’t keep hold of me, my force was terrible. Three first sergeants were sweating around me. Once they even put me in a straitjacket. Well, he pulled off my drawers, took a needle and stuck it from up here down my body. I didn’t pull my leg. Then he took a vial file and slashed the sole of my foot. It took a long time for that wound to heal. But I didn’t pull my leg, I didn’t budge. I was just looking at them. Then my fit was over. But I had heard all they had been saying. And dr. Bogateanu, dr. Eschinazo said, „Yes, he’s got Jacksonian epilepsy, with right mono-paresis.” That was because I was feigning with my foot too; I didn’t want them to put me in chains, hoping I would be able to escape. I feigned that my foot was paralyzed, but they still kept my feet in chains. They didn’t trust me. And I was sent to Botosani.

/…/

When he realized there was no way he could talk to me, he rang a bell and a sergeant came in. He gave him a note, and whispered something in his ear. Then I was taken to pavilion 3, which was enclosed with barbed wire, in addition to the prison fence. Common-law inmates were not allowed near it. It was destined to political prisoners. I spent 14 months at Botosani.

/…/

After 14 months, during which they never unchained my feet, I was sent back to Jilava, still in chains. From Jilava, I was sent to Gherla, and from Gherla I was released. At Gherla I suffered most. I served there a long time, years of beatings and hunger. It was the time of… There was the butcher Istrate, lieutenant Istrate, there were the Somlea brothers, and first sergeant Biriianu. What can I say, they brought there lieutenant Margineanu, from the military unit of Prundu Birgaului, a mixed unit. Artillery and tanks and infantry – a mixed unit. He had set up an organization in his unit, which planned to take over the military compound and arrest the officers, then storm Gherla prison and set the prisoners free. With the armed prisoners of Gherla, he wanted to liberate Aiud, and start off a countrywide revolution. He had about six sergeants in his group, which he planned to promote officers on that day. When it was his company’s turn to stand guard, he placed his men at the main gate, the ammunition depot, the general staff room, everywhere. The operation was planned for that night, but one from the group informed Securitate; they came and arrested all of them. He fled to the mountains. They knew he had a mistress in a nearby village, and waited for him there. He made a mistake I for one wouldn’t have made for the world. They were waiting for him there, and four or five days later, when he came down to his girl for information, they captured him. He was sentenced to death and dispatched to Gherla, where lieutenant Istrate plucked out his fingernails one by one, one a day, with a pair of pliers; he was torturing him and threatening, „You bandit, I’m going to kill you with this gun, I’m going to kill you myself!” They tortured him like that for months, then they shot him.

/…/

One day in 1963, while I was at Gherla, a group of officers dropped in. They didn’t wear buttoned-up, Mao-style uniforms, nor Russian epaulets. They had Romanian epaulets, and neckties. We were amazed. What was going on? Their behavior was also civilized, no „bandits” and so on. „Good morning, how are you doing? How’s life in here? Do you get enough food, do they give you kettles, do they take you to the shower?” They wanted to know how we were getting on. We told the truth. „All right,” they said, „things will improve.” From then on, we were given good food. The inmates were rounded up, given a personal kit, and told, „A separate room, and you have the right to send letters.” Never before had we been permitted to write home; if they had found a piece of paper as small as that, they would have killed you. No, for nine years I was as good as dead for my family. No one knew whether I was dead or alive. The same holds true for the tens of thousands of political prisoners. They gave them the right to write home, to receive parcels, but what if a prisoner died? You are responsible. They knocked at the door at night, someone was feeling ill. That’s it. The first sergeant said, „The decree!” And things were set going. Indeed, food was better, and in „63 you could even get diet food. Here, those with gastric diseases, they get food for gastric diseases; there, those suffering from… Dystrophy, they get the regimen for dystrophics. There were many dystrophics, they were skin and bone. Preparations began for our release. First came those with shorter sentences and the healthier. They went out in groups. Every three days, 40-50 left the prison. It had begun. They gave us newspapers in our cells, Scinteia (The Spark), then they would take us out… Until then, they would have killed you if you got in touch with… any of the cells on the long corridor. I saw the movie A Smile in Midsummer in that period.

/…/

The day arrived for our group, the last group. On that day, Mavrocordat, George, Nicolae’s brother left. Nicolae remained at Jilava, and later I heard he died in Germany or in England. He was a true Anglophile. Nicu Steinhardt, who was my colleague there, also went out, and another princely offspring from Jassy, Dumitru, I don’t remember his other name… All in all, we were about 24 people to be sent home on the night of 5 to 6 August 1964. We spoke, they called us, took us out of our cells, gave us our clothes and took back the prison uniforms, and they gave us our release notes. I arrived home. But I still had to suffer a lot, because they wanted me dead. They invited me to a deer hunt, but I refused. They said I knew the terrain and I could track the deer. Had I accepted their invitation, they would have shot me dead. Like they did to Mereuta Dumitru, who was shot in his house, through the window, after he was released from jail, or to Macovinciuc Silvestru, who was hit by a Securitate car while he was riding a small motorbike. They slammed him into a ditch, and left him there to die. Cenusa Constantin was hanged in his house in broad daylight – someone saw it through the window. His wife was visiting her sister in Putna; Putna was a big town, and she was at the far end of town, when three guys came in a car. In the evening, she found him hanging, with his knees down, there, in the barn. Vasile, from my group, had rheumatism. After the fifth or sixth injection against rheumatism he died. None lived through.

/…/

As I wrote in a poem, „The last sunbeam/over the village in the valley/and the endless night fell/and lasted forty years.” That was the endless night that fell over Romania. Few people know, and I regret to say it, that out of the thousands of mountain fighters, only 60 are left in the whole country. The whole country. In Bukovina, there are two, both bed-ridden with paralysis, because we were, as I said… I don’t have to tell you that, when we went to prison, they beat us up, either for a letter, or for cursing a party member… But we fought, arms in hand. And what did we get? Chains, beatings, and solitary confinement. I set all my hopes on God. The Bible says, „Set your hopes on Me, call Me on your day of sorrow. I shall redeem you, and you shall glorify Me.” Praised and hallowed be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They can shoot me, they can hang me by my feet, brand me with hot iron: God is the Father and Creator.

This article is a courtesy of Stefan Constantinescu, source: Archive of Pain (click on link to redirect)

Lasă un răspuns

Completează mai jos detaliile tale sau dă clic pe un icon pentru a te autentifica:

Logo WordPress.com

Comentezi folosind contul tău WordPress.com. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Poză Twitter

Comentezi folosind contul tău Twitter. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Fotografie Facebook

Comentezi folosind contul tău Facebook. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Fotografie Google+

Comentezi folosind contul tău Google+. Dezautentificare / Schimbă )

Conectare la %s