Category Archives: Translations in English

Destinies from the Saharan-Siberian Space (5)

An Israeli Born in Bacau

Kidush was not born yet, but his family knew he was a mischievous baby. He pushed his foot so hard through the taut skin of his mother’s belly that his whole family could guess the shape of his heel. His mother, Suzana, a beautiful woman, white as snow, black hair as ebony, eyes as two blue berries, nose similar to that of a Greek effigy, quivering nostrils and Rubens’ body shape, fit to make children. When he arrived in this world, Kidush immediately began yelling for his mother’s breast. But what a scream! The first time he released a brief scream, softly. If he did not received in seconds what he wanted, he began a deafening scream. The midwife who attended his birth and was coming daily to visit him remarked that he was «the loudest, greediest and pooping the most» of all children she had hitherto seen. Kidush was born June 27, 1941, when General Ion Antonescu telephoned Constantin Lupu, the military coomander of the city of Iasi, ordering him to «clean the city of Jews». No one had yet learned about the tragic news of the pogrom. His father, Tzalim («Photographer») wanted to call him Ghidus, Mischievous, but the «Law Decree of the legal status of Jewish residents of Romania», signed August 8, 1941, by King Carol II, it forbade Jews to have  Romanian names. Therefore, he gave his a name that is pronounced almost the same way, Kidush, a name which in Yiddish has a meaning quite different: the sanctification of the wine on the Sabbath and on other occasions as well!

Tzadic, the surname of Kidush, has a particular resonance in Yidish, because it means «just». In Jewish religion, there is the concept of the thirty six just men – «lamed – vav tsaquidim» – the Hebrew letter «l» («lamed») meaning «thirty», the letter «v» («vav»), «six» and the word «tsaquidim», «justs». It says in the Talmud that every generation has thirty-six just men who receive the grace of God. If even one just man is missing, it would certainly be the end of the world.

The parental home of Kidush actually belonged to the paternal grandparents: Aizic, called Itsic, and Rashela Tzadic. It was a one level building, elongated, railway passenger car-type, perpendicular to the street, with the roof of galvanized sheet metal being covered with ferruginous stains. The roughcast damaged by the time exposed the bricks used in the construction of the house. These bricks were a sign of prosperity in Bacau, where generally the houses were made in framework. The house occupied a strategic position; both ends of the building and of the court yard were leading to the street. The courtyard was narrow; only a horse carriage could enter.  In one end of the building, Aizic had arranged a photo studio with the door and the window facing Strada Mare, one of the few avenues, in those times of war, paved with cubic stones of granite – a luxury – as were Strada Centrala, strada King Ferdinand I (the old Bacau – Piatra), Calea Marasesti (the old Bacau – Focsani), Ionită Sturza and few others, being counted on the fingers of two hands.

The room, from the other end of the house, had the front door right next to the Central Market, and had been transformed by Rashela in a shed. There was a bit of everything, barrels of wine and brine, firewood, crates of vegetables and fruits, a sawbuck  for cutting wood,  wood choppers, hammers, nails and many other household items. There were all old fashion things, achieving prolonged years of use. There were things  definitely ready  for the rubbish container, but their time had not come yet: used clothes, broken furniture and many other objects found in homes. It often happened that the shed was used as of a coop for all hens purchased at the market, at an occasional price. Rashela did not put the hens into the cage; she left them free enough and gave them seeds, even if they were to be scarified next day, in accordance with tradition. In order to facilitate their capture, the woman attached a rope, a few cubits long, to one leg of each hen. The hens were sacrificed the kosher way. In order to do this, as revenues had declined since the beginning of the war and they were coming to the last edge of subsistence, Rashela could not call anyone. Aizic knew how to cut the carotid artery so that the hens might struggle for a few minutes and thus empty themselves of all their blood. Immediately, after, Rashela cut up the hen; it was part of her role of a good housekeeper. Jews do not like to eat rare meat, which is totally not recommended especially in a warm climate as Middle East, where they lived since the time of the biblical patriarch Abraham!

The house had only one exit that opened onto the courtyard, overhung by a whitewashed porch and flanked by two simple columns, without capitals, made of bricks, which were rudely carved. The pediment showed a relief and a few blue letters discolored by the wind on a white background which indicated, according to the custom, the year of construction, but this time more detailed: «February 25, 1924». It was the day when an important law was issued: all the inhabitants of both former Austro-Hungarian Empire and Russian Empire, residing December 1, 1918 in Transylvania, Banat, Crisana, Maramures or residing November 8, 1918 in Bukovina or residing April 9, 1918 in Bessarabia received Romanian citizenship. Kidush remembered perfectly all that, as his father had often spoken to him about it, well before he went to school, as he was a precocious child and knew how to read and write at an early age:

– This law was imposed by the «Treaty of Minorities» that Romania signed in Paris, December 29, 1919, with the «Allied and Associated Powers», and by the Romanian Constitution promulgated on March 29, 1923.

Tzalim Tzadic was a small man, brownish, with a shiny baldness, visible despite the black kipa in the top of his head. He had distinctive long curls  as sideburns, «peyots», coal eyes, sparkling, a slighty hooked nose, a little too long, a thin and mercantile smile, and a respectable belly. He wore a black suit, black shoes, well polished up, and a white shirt floating above the trousers with four attached fringies, «tzitziyot», white too, which hung down under the jacket, two in front, two behind.   Tzalim Tzadic was born August 14, 1914, when Romania declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was a Sephardic Jewish family, which  came from Istanbul after the promulgation of the «Code of Calimachi», which granted the Jews, according to the article 1430, the right to buy houses and shops in towns, but forbade them to purchase of any property in the rural areas.

– Who was Calimachi? Kidush asked during one of the dialogues he had with his father.

His curiosity, showed from his earliest childhood, was natural; he wanted to know not only the past of his homeland, but also of his nation.

– Calimachi, whose full name was Scarlat Calimachi, was one of Fanariot monarchs of Moldova. In 1827 he promulgated a civil code written by Christian Flechtenmacher, code in which he was supported by the lawyers, as Andronache Donici and Alexandru Bojinca. It was realized according the Austrian civil code.

The brilliant mind of Kidush was vigilant, he made quickly synapses. Then he asked at once:

– Christian Flechtenmacher has something to do with Alexander Flechtenmacher, the famous composer of Hora Unirii? Are they ours?

– Bravo, you have a good intuition, my little mischievous! his father congratulated him. It is true, Christian Flechtenmacher had a son, Alexander Flechtenmacher. It was he who composed the first Romanian operetta, Baba Harca, as well as many other operettas and vaudevilles. They were Romanians, but of German origin. So, they are ours, without being Jews…

– But… among ours, there are personalities of Romania? I wish very much to know…

– Well, pay attention! A famous Romanian Jew; engineer Lazar Edeleanu, the inventor of the first oil refining process using sulphur dioxide. Similary, men of letters Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, who was called Solomon Katz, Mihail Sebastian, Iosif Hechter – his real name, Aurel Baranga, Aurel Leibovici – his real name, Tristan Tzara, who was called Samuel Rosenstock in reality. The latter was born near Bacau, in Moinesti. Ah! I was about to forget Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, born in Budapest, the author of the famous painting The revolutionary Romania.

– Tell me how our family leaved Istanbul?

– It is like the story of the Wandering Jew, that I told you many times when your infinite curiosity was pressing.

– This is the first myth that you spoke to me, Kidush remarked, before we arrived to the Greek mythology.

– Our ancestors lived on a shore which lies north of the Golden Horn, near the Galata Tower. There is even today a large Jewish community. On the other shore lies the Fanar; several monarchs of Moldavia and Wallachia are native from there. In Istanbul there were frequent conflicts between ours and Turkish Muslims, who attacked the synagogues, looted and killed. Therefore, our family decided to leave for Moldova, a Christian and peaceful contry. They settled in Bacau, a crossroads city in the center of the principality, where they found after a series of research an interesting place from a business perspective, and opened with great effort an inn. They understood that many people who came in Bacau driven by different interests had to spend at least one night. But the emancipation of our ethnic group has encountered difficulties. The union of the Principalities dating from January 24, 1859 has aroused great hopes in our hearts, because Alexandru Ioan Cuza  considered us as «Romanians of Jewish rite». The moment the monrach had to leave power, marked our transformation into stateless people in accordance with article seven of the Constitution of 1866. Following the pressure excerted by the Congress of Berlin in 1878, this article was amended so that non-Christian inhabitants became Romanian citizens. However,  «naturalization could be achieved only individually and through the law». The only ones who benefited  from a collective naturalization were eighty-eight people who participated in the War of Independence of 1877. Our situation began to deteriorate in this country and abroad. On January 21, 1938, the government Octavian Goga, a great poet also, gave a decree that all Jews were forced to submit, within twenty day,  the justifying documents required by the law of February 25, 1924. Among the six hundred and seventeen thousand three hundred ninety-six taken in census, only three hundred ninety-two thousand one hundred seventy-two kept their citizenship, the others being considered of foreign origin. This was followed in Germany by the so-called  «Kristallnacht» pogrom which took place between 9 and 13 November 1938 and which ended with four hundred deaths and thirty thousand  prisoners in concentration camp. The black series continued with the pogroms of 1941. The pogrom in Bucharest, dating from January 21, had one hundred and thirty deaths. During the pogrom in Iasi, the bloodiest, held between 27 and 29 June, four thousand Jews were crammed into freight cars – «trains of death» – and walked through various stations in Moldova. Lacking of food and water, and having to bear a deadly heat in these overcrowded cars, they were sure victims. Three day later, there were registered two thousand eight hundred and sixty deaths. Only after February 2, 1943, after the battle of Stalingrad, when it was already clear who would win the war, Antonescu, which wanted also to please the United States, tried to disguise his policy. In July 1943, seventy-nine Jews including philologists Aurel Candrea, Alexandru Graur and Henric Sanielevici were assimilated as Romanians.

– Dad, I think the myth of the Wandering Jew is still present for our family, Kidush said in a meditative tone.

The workshop «Tzadic & Son» was very well stocked. Before September 4th, 1940, when the legionaries were allied with General Antonescu to create a «National Legionary State», it was the most popular photo shop in the city. Sometimes there were so many customers waiting for their turn at the photographer that the two-horse carriages formed a queue that streched all along the street. Aizic Tzadic worked happily with two cameras. In the workshop, as in the theater, there were exotic settings (palm trees, camels, boats) or local («the gate of the kiss», cymbals, ceramics of Horezu). There were also carnival costumes, both for men and women, so that anyone could be photographed in posture of: minister in a tuxedo, peasant man or peasant woman, Gypsy man or Gypsy woman, Tyrolean or Tyrolean woman, hussar, Russian or Russian woman,  odalisque, Turk, pirate, Snow White, Father Christmas, Dracula, Zorro, Napoleon and many other characters or personalities.

Tzalim Tzadic considered himself a man who flourished from a professional point of view. He loved with all his heart this trade he learned from his father and mastered perfectly the play of shade and light that haunted him even in his sleeping hours. For him, being a photographer, it  was more than a way to make his existence, but it was an art and he was a true artist in the branch. He put his passion in everything he did. He was never bored. He wanted his guests to bring other customers interested in being photographed.

Suzana Tzadic was born in Chisinau, March 27, 1918, when the Council of the Country declared the Union of Bessarabia and Romania. She had not known his mother, who died while giving birth. This type of unfortunate event was common at the time, since penicilin was not discovered yet. A suffering aunt, who had a bump growing was  responsible for her education. Dad, as Suzana called him since childhood, Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud («Sonofajew»), was the chief of the carrying trade at the train station («jeleznodorojnii vokzal»), erected in 1870 in Chisinau, a monumental building because its two lateral bodies of two floors and tin roof excessively charged with decorative turrets. Years later, Gavriil told Suzana how their ancestors arrived in Chisinau:

– It is a story that resembles the myth of the Wandering Jew…

– I did not heard anyone speaking about.

It all began in 1228 when a Benedectine monk, Mathew Paris, told a story about an Armenian monk, who visited the monastery of St. Albans, near London. In short, a Jew named Ahasverus, who witnessed the crucification of Jesus, and walked the Mediterranean countries, found that no country  wanted him. The story became popular and spread throughout the whole of Europe, where it gave a wrong impression of our people, who was seen as escape goats for all the ills of the world.

– When will the myth end?

– When we will have a country, of ours, «Eretz Israil».

– Where will it be, possibly in Bessarabia?

– I do not believe that, because on April 6-7, 1903, there was yet a pogrom in Chisinau, when nationalist Russophile and Romanophile elements, but also have made forty-seven victims. Maybe Israel, about we have so much dreamed, will be based under the sky of Palestine.

– What is the story of our family, dad?

– Our ancetors lived in Rome until 1555, when Pope Paul IV ordered the construction of a ghetto. Then they sold their house and settled in Pereyslav, east of the Dniestr. But in early 1637, during a pogrom, they were forced to flee. Two thousand traders, farmers and tax collectors were killed by Cossaks led by Bogdan Khmelnitsky. Our relatives moved in stages through the valley of Dniestr. They arrived in Kiev, then in Zaporozhye. After the signing of the Peace of Bucharest on May 28, 1918, when Bessarabia was annexed to the Russian Empire, our ancetors moved to Chisinau.

– Why, there was not a Russian domination?

– Sure, but during the first years, until 1825, when Tsar Alexander I died, Bessarabia was an autonomous region within the Russian Empire and enjoyed many commercial advantages. But subsequently, Bessarabia became a «guberniya» with all that implies: the Siberian exile of the local population, russification etc.

After this discussion, the myth of Wandering Jew did not come out of Suzana’s head and the desire to live in «Eretz Israil» has become a holy thing. After the Union of Bessarabia and Romania, her father did not know where to turn because of his work. As the repair of the railway track Ungheni-Chisinau, one hundred and nine kilometers long, had just begun, track put in service in June 1, 1875, the number of packages had increased: wasn’t enough room to store them. The Romanian army had regained control over the entire territory stretching from the Prut to the Dniestr, and it was met with hostility not only by Russians speakers, but a part of the Jewish community as well, which represented almost half of the urban population from Bessarabia and Transnitria, especially in Chisinau, Balti or Balta. In truth, the leaders of the Jewish community, who had good relations with some friends at the top of the socialist movement in Russia, Leon Trotsky (Lev Davidovich Bronszein), Grigori Zinoviev (Apfelbaum Hirsch) or Lev Kamenev (Lev Borisovich Rosenfeld), had already received promises for the creation of a Jewish Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the future Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud did not have the same attitude to the Romanian Army. As he did not respect the Sabbath and did not necessarly eat kosher food, Gavriil was, in short, a Jewish atheist. He did not identified himself as an inflamed Bolshevik, one of the waves in vogue in these times would appear, wave launched by the Manifesto of the Communist Party developed by Karl Mary and Friderich Engels early 1848. He was not a Romanophile and did not agreed with the socialism, so he saw the union with the Kingdom of Romania as the only possible way of salvation.

Suzana became nostalgic when she remembered her childhood in the Bessarabian city, where she could play with the Romanians, Russians, Jews, Gagauz and Gypsies, childhood with nice memories. Avalanche  of childhood mementos have shaken her eyelids many years later. If someone would watched her face closely, it could say that she was crying. She tore up easily when her childhood came to mind.

Their house was in the Gavriil Bădulescu-Bodoni Street, just steps from the Public Garden. She enjoyed walking along the shaded paths lined with flowers and green hedges, getting herself soaked by water droplets carried in the wind from a fountain, near which was hoisted, at Tsarist time, on high solitary pedestal the  gray-green bronze bust of Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin. His eyes were fixed to the distant nothern horizon of Moscow, or, who could know for sure, to the unforgiving Siberia or,  a place where his beloved was waiting for him or…  where only his mind could still travel.

Whem she went to school, Suzana was participating in outings to the many parks of Chisinau, organized by her teacher, a woman native of Bacau, who came voluntarily to teach children the Romanian language. The primary school teacher, feeling great affection for her pupils, knew how to turn walks into veritable cultural trips. When the pupils went through a cluster of oaks, the teacher reminded them of  «copper forest», when they arrived to birches, she reminded them of the «silver forest»,  the flowers were «as full of honey», the grass – «sleepy»,  the air – «incensed». All of it came from the desire to instill in children the love for the poetry of Mihai Eminescu.

Thereafter, Suzana’s father advised her to follow the courses of the Normal School for Girls in Piatra Neamt. To get her far from Dniestr, Stalin’s «soviet» nation has been a long time goal of Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud. There, in Piatra Neamt, even if she was far from her family, he knew she was in safe. The times were so troubled and he wished only the best of his daughter. Something told him that Bessarabia will not resist the expansionist policy adopted by Kremlin. He did not expect opposition from Bucharest. The fact that the Russian railroad gauge was not changed to the European narrowest gauge, for the track Ungheni-Chisinau, represented for him a sign that Romania was giving up  Bessarabia. Therefore, Gavriil Iosipovich Binyehud wanted to ensure his daughter’s future,west of the Prut, in the «kingdom», as he always said, the old manner way, even when Bessarabia was part of Romania.

Being the daughter of a railwayman, Suzana has travelled free of charge by train to Piatra Neamt. For seating, the trains had wooden benches, very uncomfortable. This travel took a day and a night, but it was not a problem for Suzana who used the time to think about her childhood as a little girl,  her dolls, all the things that made up her training period, the first «seven years at home». This outing in the world meant a lot to her imagination. The «Normal School for Girls» in Piatra Neamt was, literally and figuratively, a fortress, built in 1919, at the base of the Pietricica Mountain.  Inner working code included strict rules; students were allowed to go into town only on Sunday afternoon. Suzana was happy when during the school  week, her turn came shopping for her classmates school supplies in the center of the town.

She flipped through the books and then chose one to read at night in the dormitory, but only if it contained erotic passages. In a bakery nearby, cheesecakes were prepared, and the little girl’s mouth was watering just looking it. But, being nearly penniless, she had to save money and to allow to be immersed in the smell of these cakes. When she saved up a little money, she bought by coins a book.

Suzana and Tzalim met for the first time in Piatra Neamt, in the highest of three clearings along the road curving up the Cozla Mountain. It was a sunny April Sunday in 1935. Tzalim came with his father, who was invited to a wedding to take photos. Having enough free time, the young man went for a short walk on the mountain. For him, who was  a bacauan man, it was just an «urban» curiosity. In those days, the adornment of fir trees growing on rocky slopes had not been destroyed by the ignorance of men.

Sheltered in a carved wooden pavilion, a military band entertained mountain hike lovers. Suzana was sitting on a bench reading a book. Tzalim noticed her and sat beside her. You could say it was love at first sight, like a thunderbolt. Sometimes in life a new, magical feeling arises, a romantic ideal, a strange affection for a person  totally unknown to us. Tzalim thought it was the greatest love. Maybe Suzana felt the same thing, his eyes staring into hers. Suddenly, she did not  understand one single word she was reading. The continuity of letters began to fray…

They resisted the temptation to touch each other; as they acknowledge what was going on, nothing more, the fire began to burn in their hearts. Tzalim’s self confidence, usually very strong and palpable, vanished as if by magic. Suzana was breathing rapidly, intimidated and overpowered by what was happening. They did not speak much. In fact, nothing particular was said. They just mumbled a few words and have agreed to meet next Sunday at the same place. After a while they began to meet  less often, even after one month. These long separations made their dates even more wanted.  Tzalim understood that Suzana was his great and unique love, the eternal teenager he had tried to find among all the women encountered till then. Jewish bigot, he believed they were predestined to one another forty days before their birth, as stated in Talmud. In addition, he  learned in these scriptures that a man without a woman could not receive the blessing or to know the happiness. At first, Suzana did not say much to her dad about Tzalim. Only her prolonged sighs pushed her aunt to wander about girl’s sudden change in personality. Her father, in exchange, had no time to observe these changes. The work and thoughts overwhelmed him completely. Gradually, her aunt managed to get her to talk about Tzalim, about their meetings and she repeated everything to her father. The following year, Tzalim proposed to Suzana. In such circumstances, Jews like to say for a laugh:  «When a man takes a woman to be his wife, he pays a huge compliment to her, but, unfortunately, this is the last one».

The marriage took place in Bacau, Tzalim’s hometown, respecting the tradition. The ceremony  was officiated by Alexandru Safran, born September 12, 1910, the head of the Jewish community, who became March 3rd, 1940 the chief rabbi of Mosaic worship of Romania. He stopped exercising this function in 1948, just days after the abdication of King Mihai I, December 30, 1947.

The wedding day was not a religious holiday, for not to mix one joy with another. They chose a Tuesday, lucky day in which God said twice «Well done!»: after splitting the sky and the waters and appearing of the dry land, and after allowing the morning sunrise and the evening sunset. During the twenty-four hours before the event, they have not eaten anything and thus preparing not only physically, but also spiritually, according to the tradition, as it is also in the day for the forgiveness of sins, Day of Atonement («Yom Kippur»). The two were dressed in white, symbol  of purity. Tzalim added to his suit a white scarf («kitel»), as it is also in «Yom Kippur». The bride offered to the groom a white scarf for prayer («talit»), whose ends are decorated with long fringes, thirty-two in all, number symbolizing the heart («lev»). Then came «badeken»; the groom entered the bride’s room and covered her head with a white veil. Thus dressed, the couple came together under a canopy covered with velvet and provided with four pillars («hupa»). The groom sat on one of the two thrones covered in leather and stuffed with sea grass. As the bride and the groom are treated like a royal couple throughout all the wedding, there were, of course, «royal» thrones. The bride circled around the groom seven times, a custom with several meanings: the seventh day, Josua, son of Nun, was seven times around Jericho before conquering the city, according to the Kabala, the Jewish mysticism, the bride is coming in this way in the seven spheres of the groom, saying «when a man takes a woman» appears seven times in the Holy Book. Then, Suzana sat on another throne, to the left of the groom. A blessing was followed by a glass of red wine, when only the bride and the groom have the right to drink («kidush»). Subsequently, in accordance with the same archaic ritual transmitted by the «wandering Jews», who did not want to lose their tradition, it was the moment consecrated, seven times running, to a second cup of red wine,  drank by the revelers, starting with the groom’s parents and the bride’s father («kidushin»). When the time of delivering alliances arrived, Tzalim said: «You are consacrated to me by this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel».

Subsequently, always under the canopy, he crushed a glass with his foot on the ground, a sign that happiness cannot be totally fulfilled, as the temple of Jerusalem is still destroyed. Immediately after, the revelers began to shout in chorus: «Mazel Tov» («Good luck!») and «Shalom bayit» («Peace at home!»). Then Tzalim and Suzana signed the marital contract («ketubah»), where the husband undertakes to respect the three traditional obligations of every man to his wife : provide food, clothes and make love at least every Friday night, and at the same time, to pay her a pension in the case of a divorce.  The ceremony was held in open-air, so the young  married couple might receive God’s blessing. Tzalim and Suzana then retired five minutes in the bedroom, although they might have spend half an hour. However, they did not want to try the patience of the guests who were waiting to start the party,  tasting traditional dishes and dancing.

Towars morning the couple retired again in the bedroom to spend the wedding night. The room was illuminated, according to tradition, only by seven-branched candelabra  («menorah»), with walls making visible the mysterious play of lights and shadows. In the spirit of the tradition, Tzalim wanted their embrace to be in the goal of procreation, without sexual pleasure at the same time. After he undressed his wife and put her in  bed, Tzalim handed her a large white sheet with a hole. The hole was the size of a pretzel and had been repeatedly scalloped to keep a circular shape. To conceal his emotion, Tzalim said sternly:

– Cover yourself!

Suzana, raised by her father as an atheist, was not very pleased. In theory, her step mother had explained to her how to proceed.

– Should I cover my head too? she asked hoping the answer will be negative.

– Slide your hands under the sheet!

Suzana, submissive, listened to him. The obscurity  did amplify her clumsiness as a virgin. Through the translucent sheet, she saw the lights of candelabrum, nothing more, and guessed Tzalim’s movements by the noise he was making undressing himself. She wanted to see her naked husband by simply curiosity, but she did not dare to remove the sheet. Her hands started to grope below the sheet to find the scalloped hole. Given the emotion, she felt it would have been easier to find a needle in a haystack. At that time, she lifted slightly her head and incidentally caught a glimpse of Tzalim. Shivering, she hastened to tidy well, as she  considered, the sheet to the embrace and waited, while exhaling and inhaling slowly, to calm herself down.

However, profuse perspiration flowed throughout the body of the young man. He had had some sexual experiences in brothel located on the side of the Fildermann Mill, but apparently, was not of big help. Tzalim was very excited and felt that if he did not hurry, he would spread his semen on the carpet, which was in contradiction with the Talmud writings. So in despair, he threw himself on Suzana and felt her warm and soft body through the silk sheet, which uncovered more than covered the forms, fact that increased his excitement. It was no time to waste. The young man began to look for the hole and pushed with all his strength… total failure! He only succeeded to stain the sheet. Since, Tzalim decided to forget forever the sheets with scalloped hole, and Suzana,  submissive, agreed.

The appearance of Kidush in Tzalim’s family hearth of Tzalim was a blessing after years of illusory hopes, when they became convinced that there will be no children. The joy was nevertheless overshadowed by the news of the pogrom in Iasi. The spectrum of a pogrom in Bacau seemed imminent. After closing the doors and windows shutters, the whole family went hiding in the house. They did not even switch on the light, trying to give the impression that there was nobody home, they sat in the semi-obscurity offered by the candelabra. They didn’t go to the synagogue either. For the following days, they ate the food kept in the shed, especially vegetable with edible roots, bitter herbs, like Passover fasting. They prepared unleavened bread made solely from flour and water («matzah»). One night, when they had all gone to sleep, they heard knocking violently at the door towards the Strada Mare:

– Open, will be a search!

The whole family jumped out of bed and trembling, gathered around Aizic, who, a lighted candelabra in one hand, approached the door. The thought that they would end in «train of death» paralyzed them all.  Aizic fainted and the candles of the candelabra scattered on the floor. The fire danger added to the general panic.

– Open, if not we will break down the door!

– Just a moment! shouted Tzalim, assuming temporarily the role of head of family, trying to keep his calm:

– Mom, put the candles in their place! Suzana, help me bring dad in the room!

– Open the door, Yids communists as you are!

Tzalim hastily moved  aside the various objects – tables, chairs, armchairs – which were gathered near the door as a barricade. But Rashela, who was at her husband’s bedside, fainted suddenly.

– Mom fainted! shouted Suzana desperately to Tzalim, who dropped everything to rush into the bedroom. They laid Rachela on the bed and, a second later, the commotion behind the door intensified.

– Open the door, if not we burn down the house!

Shortly after, but it seemed like an eternity, Tzalim managed to undo the barricade. Some soldiers, weapons ready to fire, burst immediately into the photo studio.

– Hands up, face the wall! the order boomed.

Suzana and Tzalim  thought their time had come.

– We have a child, very small, do not kill us! Suzana shouted, tears in her eyes.

– Shut up! If we find communists posters and radios, you will die!

– We do not have communist propaganda! We do not listen either to Moscow nor London!

– This is what we will see!

After an hour of searching, the soldiers left empty-handed, but not before a final threat:

– We will come often back, remember that, wandering Yids as you are!

A sepulchral silence descended on the house. Suzana and Tzalim entered the room where Kidush was fast asleep unaware to everything that  happened around him. Then they checked on their  parents, who had go over their faint. Being alive was a miracle in their eyes. Aizic decided:

– Starting tomorrow, we will stay not more confined at home! There will be no pogrom in Bacau.

– We will open the workshop? Tzalim asked.

– Yes, tomorrow we will also go back to the synagogue.

– Now, let us pray for our salvation!

After reciting the prayer which is said by the New Year («slihot») and which is pronounced at the end of the day of Yom Kippur («neila»), Aizic confessed: «We will have peace only in “Eretz Israel”. Thus we will loop the loop of peregrinations of our people; our ancestors have left the territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and we will go back». At that moment they all had in mind the myth of the Wandering Jew and gave reason to Aizic; a long-term strategic objective was established.

The Jewish life became much more difficult than before. On August 8, 1940, King Carol II signed the «Decree Law on the legal status of Jewish residents in Romania» issued by the government of Ion Gigurtu. It was considered a Jew any person of Mosaic religion or who opted for a mixed marriage, although he was an atheist. Military obligations of Jews were transformed in into fiscal or work obligations. They were forbidden to bear Romanian names. In Octomber 4, 1940 were designated so-called «commissioners of  Romanianization». Also, was created the National Center for Romanization on the base of the «Decree-Law for the Romanization of company staff», which became effective on December 31, 1941. The bacauan figure Mircea Cancicov, Minister of Economy, was responsible for the application of the decree. The few Jews who worked at the City Hall were dismissed.

Tzadic family has been lucky, since they had a liberal profession, with their own photo studio.  The arrival of Soviet tanks and of «Muscovite faction» led by Ana Pauker, born Hanna Rabinsohn, of a father being Kosher specialist and of a grandfather being rabbi, was welcomed by Tzadic family. After all these years of persecution under the Antonescu regime of Antonescu, immediately after August 23, 1944, the staff structure of the municipality of Bacau was radically changed: more than ninety per cent of employees were Jews and Suzana was hired as a civil  servant.

The entrance of the Red Army in Romania also had its downsides for Tzadic family. They learned from a railwayman that Suzana’s father, who was considered a collaborator by the former regime, was exiled in Siberia, in a unknown city. In vain  she tried to contact him; a long time elapsed before she might learn something new about him. Gavriil Iosipivich Binyehud experienced one of the cruelest version of the Wandering Jew myth.

The first to take the path of «Eretz Israel» were the parents of Tzalim. The selection was rigorous. The old people had priority, those able to work should remain to participate in the construction of socialism. It was the spring of  1946. The communist regime led from shadows  by Ana Pauker, who still enjoyed the support of Stalin, helped Jews to leave again to the «Promised Land». On May 7, 1946, the parents of Tzalim left for Constanta, where they boarded the ship Smyrne, renamed Max Nordau, according to the Zionist leader. It was the first ship, having on board self exiled Jews to leave Romania after August 23, 1944. The destination was the port of Haifa. Before leaving, they have not received a passport, but a «one way travel sheet», for which they paid one thousand lei, a respectable sum in those days. They lost the Romanian citizenship and were forced at the same time, to renounce all their properties.

Tzalim’s parents took the train to Constanta. They did not have much luggage, just a few clothes. They have bought on the black market ten thousand dollars, that Rashela was at pains to hide. They were taken to the station by the whole family and many friends. The scene of the departure of his grandparents remained forever etched in the memory of Kidush, especially as it was for the first time he had the opportunity to see a steam locomotive, which seemed to to be a dragon from a fairy tale. It was talked about the myth of Wandering Jew, and the attendees  wished, on many voices, «Have a good trip!» and even in Yidish «Nesia tova!» The train left and the image he saw last was the smoke rising on the horizon. The desire to leave for Israel to see again his grandparents was immediately clear in his mind…

In 1948, Kidush went to school. He attended renowned educational establishments in Bacau as the General  School No. 19, the former Boys’ School No. 2, founded in 1859, and the Theoretical Lyceum No. 1, the old lyceum  «Prince Ferdinand I», founded in 1897. He loved to learn and to play sports as much. Kidush was an eminent pupil and a performance volleyball player. In his class, almost half of his classmates were Jewish. Most of them had relatives in Israel and received beautifully colored postcards. At first they did not receive other gifts. In one of the postcards, sent to Kidush, his grandparents said they joined the kibbutz Ashdot Yakov:   «The name of Yakov was given in 1936 in honor of James Rothchild, who had donated a piece of land to the Jewish National Fund. “Ashdot” means “waterfall” in Hebrew», this name was chosen  because there were some waterfalls in the region.» Kidush also received pictures of the kibbutz. One of them represented a water tower, and, on the back, there was the following explanation: «The first urgency was to build this water tower, while the men slept in tents or under the stars. At that time, the Jordan Valley was only burning sand, without any agricultural cultures.»  Then his grandparents began sending packages that contained things that were difficult to obtain those days in Romania and aroused envy of those who were not so lucky.

Kidush handily passed the entrance exam to the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Polytechnic Institute of Bucharest. He could have been even the first on the list of passers, if the exam had been correct, but the P.C.R.[1] or, in other words, the system of  «Pistons, Collaborators, Relations» worked perfectly, the marks being modified according to orders from «above» or for considerable sums of money.

Kidush had became an attractive young man: he was about a five-six tall, blond hair, blue eyes – traits inherited from Suzana and Chiness fan-like  sideburns. He resembled his father, especially with his long nose, thin and malicious lips.

One particular souvenir that he kept was related to a Palestinian fellow who was at the university in the same class with him. His name was Mujahid Alfilistiny («Palestinian»), a young man of medium height, brown, short hair, elongated face and an aquiline nose. He had a bushy beard which let to catch sight of big libidinous  lips. The two young men, aware of their mutual ethnic groups, looked at each other with caution, but with curiosity. A torrid Saturday in May, Kidush went to 303 or «three-hole-three», as was called in student slang  a campus located near the Izvor bridge, at No. 303, the buidings of the former royal stables, where it was organized a evening dance party. The architectural complex had a kind of a patio, a courtyard paved with glazed tiles, an expensive eccentricity at the time of its construction, but which was perfect to accommodate a dance ring in the open air. In the central part of the patio, there was a fountain surrounded by four willows cut at top to the height of a telegraph pole, gaving a romantic ambiance to the place. At one moment, Mudjahid and Kidush were simultaneously directed to the same girl to invite her to dance. She accepted the invitation of Kidush, fact that angered the other suitor:

– Wandering Yid!

– Son of a servant! Kidush replied. He was refering to Ismael, who is considered, according to tradition, the ancestor of the Arabs, and was the son of Abraham with the Egyptian maidservant Hagar.  Isaac, on the other hand, traditionally descent line for Jews and Christians, was the son of Abraham  with Sarai, his wife.

After finishing his studies, Kidush was appointed as young engineer in a large ready-to-wear clothing company in Bacau. At first he worked in the maintenance department. He was responsible for solving any problems determined by electric failures, starting with the problems caused by high voltage in low voltage transformer, which was in the courtyard of the company, and finishing with the replacement of an ordinary wall socket. He loved what he did, especially when he was called to repair sewing machines. The women working there, who were all paid in piece rates, were praying to him to fix the sewing machines as quickly as possible, to not diminish their salary. There were many who had a little crush on Kidush, especially because he was young, athletic, intelligent, funny and dressed in fashion, right from a «gift package», as was said about those who received packages from abroad. His grandparents sent him at least one package per semester, with jeans, shirts, T-shirts, «cowboys» jacket, socks, shoes, belts, charms, attaché cases, school bags, bracelets, rings and many other objects that were not found in stores of socialist commerce.

Kidush lived in a studio given by his company, which he transformed into a kind of brothel, where he brought along almost every day different women. They had the opportunity to smoke extra long cigarettes, savour fine beverages or natural coffee, things otherwise scarce at that time on the market, and all these for free.  Given this concern, women were in their turn carrying… to the young engineer, always for free… The time passed very quickly and in a pleasant manner, so he did not think seriously of marriage, although he came near his thirties.

But the destiny of Kidush took a new turn. In spring 1970, Nicolae Ceausescu convened Ion Stănescu, the head of the Security State Council, and Gheorghe Bolintinu, the head of the Department of Emmigration and Counter-Espionage, who gave the order to initiate the famous operation «The Pilgrims», which established an «occult» tax of minimum two thousand dollars, tax that every Jew had to pay to get permission to leave the country. Everyone knew, but nobody had courage to speak openly.

Several prominent people or relatives of emmigrated at that time: the family members of Gheorghe Gaston Marin (Gheorghe Grossman), including his step-son, Radu Osman, grand-son of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej,  but also, Ghita and Andrei Chisinevschi, the sons of Iosif Chisinevschi (Jakob Roitman).

This news came like a thunderbolt on Kidush. To leave or not to leave, it was a big dilemma for him. Freedom reprezented by the Western world tempted him, but he realized that the sweet life of Don Juan he was living in Romania washard to give up. However, he liked the challenge, as all life’s challanges, but he was afraid of the unknown. He told himself that he didn’t know to speak Yiddish, he would have to enter the army and so many other things… His parents did not want to leave either, because, first of all, they had jobs. Suzana worked at City Hall and Aizic, in his photo studio, which, meanwhile, had been nationalized by the state, becoming the Cooperative  «The Work and the Art». Secondly, they approached the retirement age and felt too old to start a new life.

Events rushed. The whole Tzadic family was upset by a message received via an Israeli tourist: Gavriil Iosipovici Binyehud succeded to reach the «Promised Land»! After August 23, 1944, he was imprisoned in a camp-type gulag near Arctic Circle, in the region of Kamchatka, where he worked in a coal mine storage. After Stalin’ death, he lived in an assigned residence at Birobizhan, the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region («Evreiskaya Avtonomnaya Oblasti»), located on the border of the Soviet Union with the People’s Republic of China, on the shore of the Amur River. There he worked at the carrying trade of the railway station of Birobizhan, where it was a shortage of male workers. Soon after, he heard they were preparing lists for those who wanted to emigrate to Israel and put his name down. Federal Sovietic authorities made him understand that he would not get permission to leave if  he will carry correspondence with foreign countries, including Romania. He was therefore forced to wait nearly two decades until  his turn came. For Suzana, the news was completely unexpected, even something in her soul had always told her that her father was alive. Suzana was filled with happiness. With the same tourist, she could transmit to his father the address of kibbutz where her parents-in-law worked.  She would really have wish to take part at the reunion of the two last-named and her father, for whom the mythical cycle of the Wandering Jew has ended.

On January 3, 1975, was signed in Washington the Jackson-Vanick amendment by which the clause of the most favored nation was rejected for the counties whithout a market economy and without the right to freedom of movement. As it was impossible for a socialist economy to fulfill the first condition, Ceausescu thought somehow to respect the second condition by accelerating emigration to Israel.

Kidush got wind of this new opportunity to leave for Israel. He had three grandparents and a lot of old schoolmates who were there. As he was not a party member because his origin, and he was a little «flighty», he could not attain a position of high importance in his company. Nor the gallant adventures attracted him  more. He was nearing the age of thirty-six and felt the need for profound change. In spring 1975, Kidouch enrolled for emigration. Soon after, he was called into the personnel office of the company. It was required to take a stance against a citizen who asked to leave the country permanenetly, while all the communist propaganda brought fabulous praise for the «golden era».

– Comrade Tzadic, I’ve heard that you have ridiculed our collective labor, which had completed the five-year plan in four years and a half, you asked to leave our beloved country, where we are building communism, the future of the world, under the command… ah, ah, ah…the genius of the Carpathian… much beloved… ah, ah, ah… superlatives fail me… the General Secretary Nicolae Ceauşescu.

– You know… the human rights…

– Enough! False American infatuations! This is capitalist propaganda. What, you have no right here? Do you have the right to work or not?

– I have my grand parents there…

– The State and the people have spent money on your studies, and now you are leaving. It is correct?

– I have worked ten years in this company. I have paid my dues.

– Comrade Tzadic, starting today, you are no longer our comrade. You must know it. During this day, you will be informed of the rescission of your contract of employment. You have the right of fourteen days notice. You said you have no rights! At the time of termination of the notice, you will return the key of the studio, because, I remind you, it belongs to the company. And now go to work! Automatic installation of cutting has a failure!

Three months later, during which he was unemployed, Kidush flew to Bucharest and the same day, he left for Tel Aviv.

Through the porthole, he watched his hometown Bacau, disappearing at high speed. A sense of regret filled his soul. He felt that something had broken within him, tears streaming down his cheeks. A stewardess handed out the newspaper Scanteia, a routine duty. Kidush saw the portraits of «the great comrade» and of «the great comrade’s wife». This was enough to get him out of his nostalgic condition. He politely declined the newspaper. For him, communism was no longer present, nor future, but a page of the past. Similarly, tha myth of the Wandering Jew was no longer a living reality. Now it was a closed topic, a story to tell to the descendants of his descendants. Kidush pressed his face to the porthole while looking back and searching insistently. He thought that he had seen the house of his parents in the urban area of Bacau. His eyes filled with tears  and did not clear up until he arrived in Bucharest. His childhood and his youth remained far behind…

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author himself.



[1] P.C.R.: Romanian Communist Party.

Destinies from the Saharan-Siberian Space (4)

The Bacauan*  Man Who Penetrated

the Iron Curtain

 

Teodor Exilescu was born in Bacau, on the morning of March 6, 1945, just few hours before Petru Groza became the first head of government imposed by the tanks of the foreigners… This is why whenever this subject come about, the bacauan says both smiling and grimacing at the same time: «I lived under capitalism of Ion Antonescu, with the emanation of faded monarchy, with mixtures of heavy odors of gunpowder and trains crammed with refugees, and also unde the selfisolated socialism behind the Iron Curtain», with miasma of Ana Pauker, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Nicolae Ceausescu. If I was not born under capitalism, I would have perhaps not tried many times to penetrate the Iron Curtain. It was if someone was born in a house built on the ground and then forced to move in a basement and pay steep rent. He would always desire to return to his first address.»

His parents had a framework house built next to the railway, in the parish of  Domnita Maria, which after August 23, 1944 became neighborhood of the city of Bacau.

From the building of the old town hall remained only the service of mating, where the bull still remembered the importance of the place. The bull was a vigorous animal, impressive, which, despite the fact that his horns were cut, always went out of his enclosure mad, as in a Spanish-style bullfighting, shedding his foam on the ground. His head was disproportionate to his massive body – advantage for heifers, during calving.

Children of all ages rushed in front of the fence when they saw someone take his cow to mate. They curiously observed what was going on the yard, wide-eyed. Nothing escaped them. The steward, who was indeed very patient, competent and with much experience in the field, put the cow in a special enclosure, made of wooden beams, moved aside the tail and thus preparing the cow for reproduction. Then he freed the bull that made the jump to ride the cow, but, in his impetuous desire, took the wrong direction and scattered his seed on the ground, to the great despair of the owner of the cow. So the steward, a profesional man, took the «member» of the bull and headed it to the right direction, to the cheers of spectators who were on the other side of the fence.

It happened that even senior aged people attended the show. Once, one among them made a remark that Teodor found strange: «On the other side of the Iron Curtain it is done by artificial insemination.» He heard for the first time the words «Iron Curtain», words that obsessed him all his life.

Teodor grew up near the paper mill Letea, which, since its establishment on May 21, 1885, was a leading industry of Bacau. The siren which was howling daily every eight hours – the ending time of a shift – had impressed Teodor. It could be heard throughout the entire city within a radius of ten kilometers. It was the sound symbol of Bacau.

At six in the morning, Teodor heard it in his sleep, but he did not wake up, he was accustomed to it. It even gave him a sense of security. The siren sounded only once outside of regular hours, on March 9, 1953. At one o’clock, for three minutes was a national moment of silence, during which Stalin, the «little father of the peoples» had been laid to rest, next to the mummy of Lenin in the Red Square mausoleum.  It was an order given by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej himself: all Romanians were to observe a moment of silence and to pay respect for the vanished man.   Romania as a whole it seemed died for three minutes. The whistling of the siren found Teodor on his doorstep.

In the street, all vehicles stopped. Pedestrians stopped too, rooted to the spot, as if they were covered by the ash from Vesuvius in Pompeii. No one dared to move. Stalin was scary even in death. Only a tormented citizen stood out. He staggered and cried his grief: «Stalin, my little father, I would like to cut your balls!» Further down the road, a few «good men» broke their silence, seized in great haste the drunk and took him into a black vehicle. After this event, Teodor realized that Stalin was not loved by all the people, as was said on the radio. He did not realized at that time, but it was the first time he penetrated, at least in thought, the Iron Curtain.

The center of the neighborhood was represented by the bazaar, a one flor red brick building, in which were a few shops. The ground floor housed a grocery, whose manager was also a vendor. He was a plump Jew who had all the front teeth gold plated, a sign of prosperity in the early ’50s, when even bread was rationated.  He wore an apron that was once white, used to wipe his fingers every time they got sticky. They were sticky very often, because the manager had known how to offer diversified products in large quantities: hemp sacks with flour, butter, feta cheese, halva, marmalade in wood boxes covered with paper, sugar, oil in aluminum barrels, olives in stainless steel cans, smoked herring in bulk, different kinds of salami, lemons wrapped in transparent paper, cocoa, coffee and chicory substitute in package, colorful candies in transparent jars which attracted the eyes of children. Food was weighed in bulk on a balance, then always packed in a thick heavy cardboard with many remnant wood shavings,  as it was produced in the Letea factory. People did not care that the cardboard was sold at the same price of salami, they were happy to finally find!

Teodor has waited impatiently for his parents to send him to the bazaar, because it was a crazy and intriguing world there; groups of representatives  from across the country came to buy paper. But what he loved most was to watch the raft men who bringing fir logs for papermaking. They arrived by raft from afar, from the Valley of Bistrita, right from the mountains of Ceahlau or Sarul Dornei. They were workers burned by sun and wind. Their hands were covered with calluses. They wore in all seasons astrakhan fur hats, white linen shirts, grimy collars, wide belts with numerous pockets for putting money and poket knives, fleecy wool coats, richly decorated with braids, and high boots made of rubber. After pocketing their dues from the cash desk of the factory, they went directly to the  grocery store to buy a half bottle of brandy of rye. Being thirsty, they  swallowed it all in one gulp. Then everyone took a smoked herring, a handful of olives and another bottle of brandy. They paid royally, without waiting for small change.  They opened the cardboard packing and put it on the wide windowsill. During the meal, the raft men were in a good mood and belched with pleasure. One day, a resounding speech of Gheorghe Gheorghiu- Dej was heard on the grocery store speaker.

– This is the comrade Gigi, said one of the raftman, he is one of ours.

– Shut up, do not be silly, your Gigi is full of cash, he lives like nobility.

– My brother, do you want to die at the channel?

– No, listen to me. I’ll run away on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Teodor did not listen any longer to the rest of the discussion, he hurriedly left the grocery. He was afraid that the «good men» might come and take away everyone, randomly, as usually happened in this situation.

A great memory from Teodor’s childhood was represented by the «sprait», name that the town people gave to the place where the riverbed of Bistrita was dug and widened in order that more rafts could moor. An iron wooden dam was holding the water. As for the riverbanks, they were supported by beams – «spreizen», according to a German project, hence the name of the place.

Downstream, the water flowed beneath the dam, undulating like a feline, sprang forth on a tilted bed of wooden planks, long enough for touching a high speed, and then descended with a noise of thunder, from a height of a man’s stature. It was there, in the foam of the vortices created by the waterfall, that thrill seekers loved to plunge. For a good thirty seconds, no one could come to the surface. The water has continually fallen on their head and the vortices  had kept them in place. The technique you had to use in order to get out was to swim to the bottom about three meters, until touching the riverbed pebbles. Then it was necessary to swim downstream to leave the dangerous area. Afterwards, for a good swimmer, rising to the surface was a trifle.

Teodor too, was attracted by this dangerous and infantile activity. He had learned to swimm near his home, in the Letea Channel that was dug parallel with the main bed of Bistrita to draw water for papermaking. But it was the «sprait» which was the ultimate test!

One day, Teodor went there, as usual, without telling his parents, so as not to worry them.  He knew the road well. He turned the path on the Cornice of Bistrita. When he arrived near the old Girls’ Normal  School «Domnita Maria», he took another path, perpendicular to the first, which was right on the «sprait». From both sides there were ears of wheat, which came up to the shoulders and in which mingled thistles, poppies and other weeds.

Because of the powerful sun, the air was  vibrating, blurring the outline of things. Susliks crossed his path, a true country lane, where they stopped for a few seconds standing on two legs, to perceive who had entered their territory. The passage of Teodor was marked by the precipitated beating of wings of sparrows and  starlings taking their flight close to him, covering for a moment the constant chirping of crickets. Sometimes the buzzing of a few hornets disturbed him.  Nobody entered  the path.  This country desert caused him a slight pinch of heart. Teodor remembered suddenly he heard that during winter, packs of wolves passing by and leaving skeletons of men. This thought gave birth to a fright in his soul. A cold sweat ran in torrents down his back, as he was scourged. Teodor began to walk faster, but with attention to every sound came from the fields. And he finally arrived at «sprait».

The young man stopped besides the dam. Then, after he got confortable with the surroundings, he descended on the lateral dam, downstream. Below, through the mist formed by the waterfall, he perceived somewhere, a little lower than he imagined, the turbulent liquid surface engendered by the incessant fall of tons of water. Suddenly, the courage left him and he retreated a step. A tiny old man passing on the other bank, asked him:

– Ha, ha, my little boy,  the Bistrita scared you? But have you heard speaking about the Danube?

– Yes… yes…

– If you have courage to jump in Bistrita, one day you could jump into the Danube.

– Why? The Danube has a «sprait», too?

– Ha, ha, you know nothing! There are several. Remember well what I tell you now. Whoever can swim across the Danube River can make it to the other side of the Iron Curtain. I do not have the strength anymore, but you will grow up and be a strong young man. So jump in the Bistrita and train yourself!

At first, Teodor watched the old man in astonishment. But what is this Iron Curtain, which he heard so much talking about? How are the «spraits» on the Danube? All these things were mixed in his head. He did not understand the words of the old man, but he did not hesitate a second before plunging into the abyss. Pluff! Torrents of water fell down upon him, but he knew how to proceed. He regained the bank ten meters further downstream. He had just defeated the «sprait», the biggest challenge of his childhood. Teodor was still unaware that another chalenge has wated him on the Danube, the challenge of adulthood this time: to go to the other side of the Iron Curtain! But this was to  happen much later.

In the early ’50s, the city of Bacau had only a few imposing buildings, one could count on the fingers of one hand. Although they were a few, they gave to Teodor the feeling of being a city dweller. Once, he went with his parents to the city center. He insisted that his parents give him plenty of information about the history of the city and its inhabitants. They arrived at the City Council, located in Calea Marasesti, the old street Bacau- Focsani: «The building was raised in 1930. Part of the roof is glass.»

They took a few more steps. «On the opposite sidewalk there is the Philharmonic building. It was the Municipal Palace, which, among other things, hosted the Athenaeum in 1925, on the initiative of the pedagogue Grigore Tabacaru and the poet  George Bacovia.» Then, walking through the center, they arrived at the People Regional Council. «This is the old Administrative Palace, erected in 1889», his father told him, pointing to the building. His child’s eyes sought carefully memorize everything he could. All he learned was new to him; it was for him the first time into the city center.

They continued their walk to where Calea Marasesti crossed March 6th Street, the former Ionita Sturza Stret, which is bordered by the Regional Library. «It is one of the oldest building in Bacau, known before as Mortun House, which was purchased in 1865 and turned into the headquarters of the City Hall. Begining in 1893, one of its room housed the library», slipped to him the words of his father.

Beyond the crossroads, visitors arrived in  the Nicolae Balcescu Street, the old Central Street. All three of them crossed the street and found themselves in front of a four-storey building, the largest in the city, which included the State Theatre and the Central Hotel: «Here is the former Marasti Palace, opened in 1929 in the presence of Queen Maria. In the begining the complex hosted a theater and a hotel», echoed the details from his parents, as if they had been told by real guides. The child was absorbing everything with a voracious appetite. He wanted to know more, but for the moment, it seemed satisfactory.

The young man kept only one souvenir concerning the Philharmonic, souvenir dated from 1957, when, in the auditorium, it showed the The World of Silence movie by oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Apart from the sub-aquatic scenes, Teodor could see scenes shot in Monaco, where there were tall buildings, as he had never seen  before and gave him the sentiment of being a little less urban. Twelve years after the communist regime came into power, the State had no representative building erected in Bacau. Gradually, through books and movies, Teodor learned that in other countries, where there was no communism,  urban development was more advanced. The French film had lifted part of the Iron Curtain created by Stalin and so, Teodor got his first glimps of the western world…

As student in Bucharest, Teodor felt the need to write poetry, writings he red in the frame of the literary group organized by the Cultural House of Students. The inspiration came before falling asleep or just after waking up, when he felt inspired, storing everything in a notebook he kept always at his fingertips, under the pillow. His habit was to write it all down on the spot, otherwise, the idea was lost. Teodor had filled two notebooks. The young man followed with a passion the cultural phenomenon at the time. He woke early in the morning to buy the weekly newspapers Contemporanul and Gazeta Literara at the University campus (named «Regie») kiosk. Small linguistic subtleties, with meanings, made figure of political dissidence, which enchanted him.

In the late ’60s, the Romanian cultural world was shocked by Eugen Barbu’s situation, who was accused of plagiarism. Substitute member of the Romanian Academy, Eugen Barbu was a respectable writer, but who adulated in his work more, than others the regimes of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Nicolae Ceauşescu, while naming with servility Elena Ceausescu as  «the first lady of the country». Part of the third volume of his novel Incognito resembled, to the stupor of all, like two peas in a pod with Old Times and Tormented Youth books, written half a century ago by Konstantin Paustkovsky. Since then Teodor had trusted less men of culture of great notoriety.

After finishing his studies with a degree in electronics, Teodor returned to work in a machine tools factory, to be opened in the early ’70s. But the socialist planning  was one thing and reality was another. That year in the honor of the 23rd of August, the National Day of Romani, it was reported through the official channels of the Communist Pary and State that it had been produced a boring and milling machine. A lie! In fact the machine tool was purchased, but only on paper, by the neighboring factory. The lie did not stop here. The machine tool package, empty inside, was elevated on an allegorical truck, which was in the front of a parade of demonstrators from the factory, hidden, of course, behind the portraits of the «leaders»… The official stand applauded the procession, and the press, radio and television spoke of a new victory of socialism.

At the inauguration of the statue of George Bacovia, which took place in autumn 1971, Teodor also attended the ceremony celebrating the ninety years since the birth of the poet. The statue was placed between the Popular County Council and the County Library. It was a day with some downpours, cold autumnal  rain, a real Bacovian landscape. The family of George Bacovia was present, his wife Agatha and her son Gabriel. The most absent person among participants was the sculptor, Constantin Popovici, who was in a particular state…he tried unsuccessfully to keep his balance with his umbrella used a support stick. At the end of the ceremony, Teodor approached the artist to request un autograph, just when an official party representative was addressing him in the typical communist jargon: «But, comrade Popovici, is this possible? We strive to build the new man, a communist, to be an example of our behavior and you, an intellectual, from whom we expect a lot, you arrived in this drunken state.» So the winner of Visual Artists Prize of 1957, author of Prometheus, sculpture located on the Vidraru dam, let his anger explode: «You either, do not know what are you talking about!» Then he walked quickly toward the restaurant of the Decebal hotel complex, located across the street to find happier «comrades», in a time of sad memories.

Teodor had enough. He could not stand this system based on lies and which equalizes the people making them poor. He had become allergic to eternal queues at the grocery stores, electrical power outages and the two hours a day TV program. Pompous propaganda like: «record production» and «high living standard» gave him nausea. The only way to let off steam was to use, as toilet paper, the front page of newspapers, which exhibited in obvious manner the photo of the «illustrious» leader of the nation.

The bacaun man began to think seriously about finding ways to leave the country. His profession would give him compensation at least ten times more in the West. He enrolled for a trip to Yugoslavia, but did not received his passport since the borders of the neighboring country were very «permissive» towards the Italy. Romanian fugitives passed mostly through Yougoslavia. This was a hard blow for him, after which it was difficult to recover. He even thought of suicide. But it is known that at dawn, when it is the coldest temperature, the sun rises: he won twenty thousand lei at Lotto.

Teodor then tried something else to escape: a trip in China. And he received his passport when he least expected. He had to fly for twelve hours over the Himalaya in a Tarom flight, which made only one stop, in Karachi. He thought to flee from Pakistan or from China. The departure was scheduled for August.

In the same time he bought a thousand dollars from the foreign tourists arrived on the Black Sea. At Otopeni Airport, travelers were rare, waiting rooms empty. Only the flight to Israel was more animated. At the customs he was frisked, but the dollars were hidden in his socks, so he passed through. When the plane took off, Teodor made the sign of cross with his tongue, not for the plane to not crush, but to thank God for having escaped… to have penetrated the Iron Curtain.

At midnight, the plane landed in Karachi. When the passengers disembarked from the aircraft, they were unpleasantly surprised by a hot and humid fog, a kind of natural sauna. A bus took them all in the transit lounge. At the entrance, a swarthy soldier, in military summer uniform – short-sleeved shirt and sandals – sat directly on the floor, on the refreshing tiled surface, welcomed the newcomers with a total indifference, being too attentive to his toes, too busy with the removal of his calluses. He abandoned his submachine gun, which leaned vertically against a glass wall.

Teodor mingled with the rest of passangers in the transit lounge, but a few moments later he went out just near the soldier, who was always busy extricate his calluses. Teodor ran through a the dense fog on the concrete surface to a container. He hid behind it with the intention of staying there until the plane took-off and then he would seek political asylum. Nevertheless, the group’s guide, a vigilant woman, immediately realized his absence and called the police from the airport. A dozen armed men went to search for him. They found him  after a few  minutes and Teodor justified his absence by saying he went out of the airport building to see the planes up close.  The incident was quickly smoothed away  and the Tarom flight continued it’s journey to Beijing with all passengers on board. During the trip in China, however, Teodor was continuously monitored by the Romanian guide, and also by Chinese guides.

Back home, Teodor was escorted out by the Otopeni Airport militia and an investigation was conducted during the whole the morning at the headquarters of the Securitate, located in the Rahova Street. Teodor was carefull to dump the dollars in a trash can in China. So it was nothing compromising about him. Outside was a heatwave, but in the cell the air was even more unbreathable; the humidity was high with a horrible smell of rats adding to it. Investigators, irritated, had taken off their jackets, showing a glimpse of the holsters with their pistols in it. Resilient to the psychological pressure and not changing his report, Teodor was released. However, he understood that he would never see his passport again.

In 1982, the young man was reading these verses in a book: «(…) We are vegetable people / Who has ever seen a revolting tree?» This was an excerpt from the poem «What are we?», written by Ana Blandiana. Dictatorship entered in its final phase. Delirium of grandeur reached new heights. Romania agreed to pay its external debt, while  people  lived in painfull conditions. Teodor was already thirty-seven years old and his dream to penetrate the Iron Curtain had not been realized yet. This idea obsessed him to the point that he did not even want to get married.

He had learned that the best way to leave the country was to pass through the Cazane area of the Danube River, where the railroad  ran along the riverbanks. However, he had also heard, and it was a terrible thing, that every border guard received three days’ leave for each killed fugitive. Teodor was ready to put his life in danger, but he waited for the right moment to reduce the risk of being shot. Initially, he bought an air mattress for one person. Then he took the train to Turnu Severin several times, to familiarize himself with the surroundings.  Finally, he waited for the weather report to announce that thick fog had formed in Cazane area.

Teodor immediately took the train to Bucharest and arrived around midnight at Turnu Severin. He planned to pull the alarm signal when the train would reach the city of Orsova, on the exact place where only a few meters separated the railway from the Danube. But he did not have to pull the train alarm himself. Someone else had done it before him.

The young man jumped from the train and ran down along the rocky bank of the Danube. He removed his clothes except short trousers. He had put his papers in a plastic bag he kept in a pocket. The bank was abrupt. He heard the lapping of water, indicating that the Danube flowed a few feet below. The approach of the Iron Curtain filled him with emotion. Teodor found an imposing rock and did not hesitate one second. For a brief moment, the time he plunged into the water, the memory of «sprait» of Bistrita River appeared in his mind.

The Danube flowed rapidly, the water was warm. Firstly he let himself be taken by the current of water, to have time to inflate the mattress. Then he climbed over and started rowing with his arms. It was dark and the fog so thick he could not even see his hands. Just five minutes later, the bacauan man hit someone. There was a young woman, who also wanted to pass onto the Serbian bank. She unfortunately fell during the abrupt descent and lost her air mattress of the latter. The young woman was exhausted. She would  have drowned if she had not met Teodor. She clung desperately to the mattres of the latter. Teodor felt the hot breath of the unknown near his mouth. And, at that moment, he forgot the Iron Curtain, the soldiers, the bullets, absolutely everything; he grabbed her by the shoulders and embraced her. The young woman reciprocated,  passing a hand around his neck and caressing his head with other hand.

Their kiss was a nervous discharge which could have been prolonged, if the two young people would not have heard the engine of a boat. The Romanian coast guard was going in search of fugitives. Teodor and the unknown woman remained motionless. A luminous disk blurred by the fog, approaching them. Everything seemed finished. Teodor got down from the mattress and seemed glued to  his unexpected partner. He felt the legs of young woman hugging his pelvis like pincers, and enjoyed the contact with her tender thighs and the warmth of her belly. Instinctively, the bacauan man, who held the mattress with one hand, hugged the young woman with the other hand, until he felt her breasts against his chest. The boat came so close to them, they heard a border guard saying:

– What sons of bitches, these vagabonds! They jumped from the train like rabbits. Catch them if you can and put salt on their tail!

The danger had past. They took the opportunity to find their names:

– Teodor, from Bacau.

– Angela, from Cluj.

They did not want to say more. In two steps and three movements, his short trousers and her shorts were already on the mattress. Their embrace came naturally, as a liberation. Angela was the first to regain her composure after the ecstasy. Rushed, without putting her shorts, she rose on the mattress, belly down, and started to row with her arms whispering:

– Let’s make the crossing. Otherwise we risk finding ourselves on the Bulgarian bank!

Teodor obeyed in silence. He was holding his hands on Angela’s back and the head on the mattress, between the woman’s ankles, still navigating, olfactory, inside her body. He began to bend and straighten the knees in the water, like a frog, in a dynamic stereotype which enabled him to let his thoughts to circulate freely. He had not expected to penetrate the Iron Curtain between the legs of the fair sex.

On the other bank of the river, not too far away, exile awaited him. But, for the moment, a total obscurity had settled in his mind, like the night surrounding him. Yet, he knew that soon the frog will lift and he will perceive the light at the end of the tunnel, he will see the world up close, the world where he desired to live since childhood…

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

*Bacauan: inhabitant of the town Bacau in Romania.
The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author himself.

Destinies from the Saharan-Siberian Space (3)

The Sorocean* Man

Who Was Mutilated

by a Shell in Peacetime

Stefan Basarabescu, whose friends called Fanel, was a native of Soroca. This was a place where the banks of the Dniester are just separated enough from each other to form a shallow ford, where the limpid water comes to the knee and whose bed is paved with small flat stones that make many jumps when they are thrown across the water. The topography, flora and even air are characteristics of Bessarabia Plateau, beyond the Prut, which is near the Hills of Bucovina.

A strong fortress built in the time of Petru Rares, where, as evidenced by the chronicler Grigore Ureche, the monarch “rested after the wars”, has overseen since July 12, 1499, on this region. Petru Rares was an illegitimate child – great men have weaknesses too – son of Stefan cel Mare and Maria Rares of Harlau. Since March 27, 2004, exists a phallic construction, called «The spark of recognition» and it is situated five kilometers downstream, which also oversees those lands and waters.  The monument is consecrated to Badea Mior, name given by Ion Drută to the unknown author of the ballad Mioritsa. Maybe that’swhere  Badea Mior is seeking always a paradise for his eyes.

Fanel was born March 5, 1954, exactly after Stalin’s death, which told Churchill that «a man’s death is a tragedy» and «the death of several million men is statistics».

His father, Alexandru, a native of Dumbraveni village, beside Soroca, had his right leg atrophied as result of polio contracted at the time of his childhood. The disease had mutilated many children in this region. So he was always receptive to human sufferings. His ambition was to become a doctor. He enrolled at the School of Nurses  and Midwives in Soroca, where he attended classes until 1939. Then he was hired in one of town hospitals.  He wished with all his heart to carry his dream forward and  continue his studies in Chisinau. But the occupation of Bessarabia, following Stalin’s ultimatum of June 26, 1940, ended his desire. In the days following the ultimatum, Alexandru did not flee to the west, beyond the Prut, as did many young men of his generation. His physical handicap was behind his decision. Because the Soviets did not consider him  dangerous, they allowed him to continue working at the hospital. With his handicap, he also escaped the wave of purges of June 13, 1941, when twenty-nine thousand Romanians were deported. The Bucharest authorities returned there after June 22, 1941, when General Antonescu gave the famous order: «Soldiers, I command you cross the Prut, crush the enemy who lies to the east and north, free our captive brothers from the red yoke of Bolshevism!»

Alexandru continued to do his job, which was also in great demand during the war. He worked to exhaustion, slept rarely and, most often, in the hospital. On August 23, 1944, when the Red Army broke through the line Iasi-Chisinau, he was still in the hospital, administering care to the wounded from the front. He had experienced famine in the summer of 1946 and many other sufferings.  But he was not involved in the thirty thousand political trials, after which more than eight thousand people were executed or died during interrogation. And like that, perhaps due to his handicap, he was able to escape the waves of deportations of July 6, 1949 and April 1, 1951, when thirty-five thousand inhabitants of the area between Prut and Dnietre, from whom about thirty thousand Romanians, were sent to Siberia, the Caucasus and beyond the Volga.

The name Basarabescu, with strong Romanian resonance, brought him many annoyances. He did not speak Russian well. All his studies were in Romanian. When he tried to enroll in the Medical School, his documents were not admitted.  Hoping to improve his russian language and to avoid, thereby, persecution and terror of the communist regime, Alexandru married Bejenitsa («Refugee»), a beautiful Russian woman, who camed with her parents from the shores of Volga, Kazan, to avoid the persecution of the majority Tatars. His father, a specialist in boilers, worked at a central heating plant in the neighbourhood. This is how the Russians came in Bessarabia, as great «specialists», when in fact they had only secondary school or they were  just caretakers, cleaning ladies etc.

After getting engaged, Alexandru became Sasha, since Bejenitsa called him that way. They celebrated the wedding in a restaurant in Soroca and, after the civil ceremony, they went dressed in their wedding attire to the medieval fortress. They entered through the the door of the imposing tower and stopped in front of the fountain in the middle of the fortress, where they drew water using a bucket. Tradition says that whoever drinks water from this fountain will have a long lasting marriage. Even the Russians themselves were tempted sometimes by local traditions out of curiosity or because they liked this kind of folklore. They traveled the circular walking way with an outer diameter of thirty-seven and a half meters, the path that overlooked the eighteen meters high ramparts. The newlyweds stopped in front of each of the four cylindrical towers and took many pictures.

Stefan came into the world shortly after marriage. Despite the pressure from the his wife  and from other «good men», Alexandru named his son after the great Romanian monarch and not Stepan, in Russian. To avoid being seen by neighbors and reported to KGB, the couple organized the baptism in a church in Balti. That’s  how people lived in Bessarabia until the second half of the 50s. The baptisms were not allowed by the authorities, religion being considered, according to Marx, as the «opium of the people.» Alexandru chose the name with great respect for the «knight in Christendom», after he had the opportunity to talk about it with a historian of Chisinau, who was hospitalized in Soroca, following a heart attack:

– Fragmentation of Moldova began during the era of Stefan cel Mare, in 1484, when he lost the citadels Kilia and Ackerman. The great monarch had many legitimate and illegitimate children, recognized by him. But we must not believe that it was the struggle for the throne between the son and grand-son of Stefan cel Mare, which led to the «dismemberment» of Moldova. The most important territorial losses occurred much later. On May 7, 1775, Bukovina was taken by Habsburg Empire, and May 28, 1812, Bessarabia was incorporated into Russian Empire.

Fanel was educated in Russian, with Russian textbooks learning that Vladimir Ilici Lenin devoted all his energies to the struggle for the happiness of the people («Vladimir Ilici Lenin otdal svoi sili boribe za schastye naroda»). Much later, in 1979, Grigore Vieru published for the first time in Romanian a book entitled The little bee, but written in Cyrillic. He learned Romanian language at home, especially at night, thanks to his father. His mother  stammered few words in Romanian or «Moldavan» as she used to say. His father compared the «Moldavan» language to the fifteenth Army, which was attached to the Fourteenth Army stationed on the banks of the Dniestr. The Romanian period between the two wars was presented in the Soviet textbooks as monstrous, because the police of the kingdom indiscriminately beat both guilty men and innocents. Article seventy-one in the Penal Code provided that the mere declaration of the Romanian identity should to be labeled as proofs of nationalism and punished, usually by deportation to Siberia.

By  the   age  of  fourteen, Fanel remained fatherless. Alexandru Basarabescu died, taking with him to his grave his handicap which helped him so many times to overcome many problems.  His mother guided her son to a military career that could ensure him a steady and more than adequate income. Fanel enrolled in the School of Officers of Kiev, where he met people from all over the Soviet Union. He had the opportunity to discover that Bessarabians were not alone in hating Russian occupants, but also Ukrainians, not to forget the Armenians, Georgians or those from Baltics: Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians. After finishing his studies, he was sent, to become quenched, in a military unit of Kamchatka, where the temperatures dropped frequently at minus thirty Celsius. What seemed the hardest to endure was his turn as the guard («karaul») in the dark of the night, under the sky of ice. Home, especially over a glass of vodka, he was accustomed to confess stereotypically to his friends:

«So I took refuge in a hut for my feet not to become frozen. There, I dried my socks on top of a cast iron stove, next to those of my colleagues. Do you know how they stink, the soldiers’ wool socks?» he asked with a coarse laugh, hiding himself behind it. «Well, the stench», he continued, «the stench, I always feel into my nostrils!» But what he did not love to talk about was that the soldiers, taken by  annoyance, even Bessarabians, tattooed themselves on their shoulders, in Russian, «Maya rodina» («My Homeland»). Commanders congratulated them for this type of tattoo. So it was the change at the end of military service, from young men to what was called the «new, Soviet men», with a lingering heavy smell of soldiers’ socks in the nostrils and Russian inscriptions on the skin. Fanel resisted that temptation. for him, these words should be written in Romanian. After being accustomed to Siberian cold, he was transferred to a garrison near Tiraspol. And even there only Russian was spoken in the Army. His Romanian name was frowned upon by the commanders and, therefore, he was transferred to a military unit in Chishinau.

At the entrance to the Jardin Public, Fanel saw, for the first time, the statue of Stefan cel Mare, made in 1932 by Alexandru Plămăseală. The monarch was sad, as he foresaw the fragmentation of Moldova. The young man was interested to read the inscriptions in stone and placed around the cylindrical base. He scored seven victories: those of Lipnic, Baia, Vaslui, Valea Albă, Cit of Bug, Scheia and Padurea Rosie.  He was proud to bear the name of the monarch. However, it was a question that worried Fanel:  «Why was the battle of Codrii Cosminului against the Poles not mentioned? Maybe because the Moldovan army was assisted, according to some historical sources, by the Turkish army?» Close to another park entrance, guarded on either side by two marble lions, Fanel discovered the Alley of the Classics which opened onto green area and a fountain. Next to the fountain climbed a statue of Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, dating back to 1885. The lane contained the statues of twelve native writers from Carpatho-dniestrean territory: Vasile Alecsandri, Gheorghe Asachi, Dimitrie Cantemir, Ion Creanga, Alexandru Donici, Mihai Eminescu, Bogdan – Petriceicu Hasdeu, Alexandru Hasdeu, Nicolae Milescu Spataru, Costache Negruzzi and Costachi Stamati. A passer-by even informed Fanel that Pushkin often went into the house of Costachi Stamati  «to dance for fun and to practice fencing between 1821 and 1823, when he was expelled from Moscow». «Nice exile, from the sub-polar cold of Moscow to the mild climate of Chisinau, where the platan trees are still living! exclaimed Fanel himself. Then another question gripped him: «Where is the statue of Mihail Sadoveanu?» He could not know that the Alley of Classics was to be expanded after 1989 with the statues of the following writers: Tudor Arghezi, Lucian Blaga, George Călinescu, Lucian Blaga, George Coşbuc, Mircea Eliade, Octavian Goga, Mihail Kogalniceanu, Alexei Mateevici, Mihail Sadoveanu, Nichita Stanescu, Constantin Stere, Nicolae Iorga and George Bacovia.

White skin, blond hair, green eyes, medium build, the officer had a uniform that suited him. He was young and he had money… On his first holiday he went to a hotel chain  for militaries («voienaya gostinitsa»), where accomodations were free throughout the Soviet Union. As he had never seen the sea and as he had heard that, since the time of Peter I, many beautiful women around the country, attracted by high salaries of naval officers, came to Leningrad, he opted for this city. At the hotel there were daily dances organized, where, with the exception of patrons, only women had access. When he entered the saloon, Fanel noticed that there were more women than men. Suddenly, the lights went out and someone approached him from behind and covered his eyes with soft hands while whispering: «I live on Vasilevsky Island. Will you take me  home?» When the lights returned, Fanel made the acquaintance of a komsomole girl. She was to his taste, inviting hips, large breasts, sensual lips, eyes pale green. She introduced herself: Liubiashchaya («Lover»), or, for short, Liuba.

They danced and immediately bonded to each other, without reservation and with some despair. He kissed her, barely perceptible on the neck and felt a mixture of sweat, cologne («odekolon») and pheromones. They didn’t hear the music anymore and focused on discovering each fold of skin of the other.   The undulating, soft, warm and welcoming body of his partner wrapped him in an intoxicating manner. The music no longer mattered. He was forced to excuse himself and go to the toilet. Being pressed by time, he had to implement an effective procedure, learned in the military school. He came back one step lighter, more relaxed but still focused on the tactile exploration of the body of his partner. Around midnight they detached from each other and left together walking down  to Vasilievsky Island. In Leningrad, in August, the nights are white until one o’clock in the morning. Everything was magical, romantic, only mosquitoes, true little beasts, bothered them with their needles sharp and long as syringes. The two young people arrived at the point where the Neva split in two to include between its arms the largest island among a hundred islands of the delta.

When they arrived before the house of moderate rents where Liba lived, the draw bridges on the Neva were raised to allow passage of ships, which made it impossible for Fanel to return to the hotel. It was one more reason to spend the night with her…

The holiday passed quickly, as always. The two lovers separated with difficulty, pronouncing vows of eternal love. But everything changed  suddenly. Fanel went with his infantry platoon to a shooting range of Boudjak, north of the Danube Delta, where the training was done in real war conditions. The shells were falling at a distance of five hundred meters from the young people. But as everything was done in haste,  because of socialist competition, one of the shells contained more explosive powder than it should have and lasted longer. Boom! Fanel was taken to hospital as quickly as possible.

By the time he recovered after the concussion he suffered, the surgery was already over: he lost an eye and, more gravely, all his «manhood». He was urinating through a rubber tube. Fanel was disgusted with himself. He wrote to his beloved to tell her that he was wounded by a shell, but out of fear, he did not provide any details about the incident. Liubiashchaya came by air to Chisinau. When she saw that he lost an eye, she thought it was the only injury produced by the shell, and she accepted the situation. But, when she also noticed the rubber tube, she could not live with it. Fanel understood;  in fact he expected such a reaction from her part. They separated in tears, definitively. Then another misfortune occurred. The same day, Fanel found out that his mother, receiving the news about his injuries, had a heart attack and died. A misfortune never comes alone!

Fanel received a studio in Chisinau, a military pension, and another income, this time for invalidity, which allowed him to live decently. The military people were the highest paid during the Soviet regime. Finally he got used to his status of a wounded major. He had plenty of spare time and participated in all activities that occur on the Stefan cel Mare Boulevard. He had the sublime satisfaction of attending the manifestation of August 31, 1989, when, under pressure from an impressive crowd assisting there, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Republic of Moldova appoved the appointment of «Moldovan» language, indeed Romanian, as state language and the transition to the Latin alphabet.  The conscience of the nation and of the country was the born. He was really proud to be Romanian. And besides, this was his last happiness. The next day, an infection in the urethra had spread and a rampant septicemia took hold of his body.

Fanel was burried in the cemetery Buicanii Vechi, in Chisinau, attended by some of his neighbors. At his grave site was installed a simple cross, made of fir wood from the Carpathian Mountains, on which was written: Stefan Basarabescu / 1954 – 1989. The first epitaph written in Latin letters since 1944.

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

*Sorocean: inhabitant of the town Soroca in Republic of Moldova.

The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author himself.

 

 

Destinies from the Saharan-Siberian Space (2)

A Siberian “Velikorusse” *and 

the Gun Souvenir from Afghanistan

Vsegdapianii (“Alwaysdrunk”) was the proud owner of one bedroom apartment in Kurgan, in Siberia, a town not far from the Ural Mountains. Several times a day, he loved pacing thoughtfully in the sitting room – with thrown out chest, hands behind his back – and saying to himself: “This is my territory!” (“Eto moya territorya!”) He had bought this apartment following the liberal measures taken during “perestroika” of Gorbachev. He had paid six thousand rubles in cash – when the ruble was a dollar and a half – a huge sum in comparison with the salary of a secondary school teacher with  average seniority, salary which amounted to approximately one hundred fifty rubles a month!  He enjoyed his accomplishment while admiring the apartment triumphantly, as a leader of troops on the battlefield, after a great victory, as did formerly Suvorov. Vsegdapianii had a great admiration for Suvorov, due perhaps to the fact that he identifed in may respects with this great commander: little stature, blond, blue eyes, keen glance and agile. The difference was that he had a weakness for drinking and the left arm completely paralyzed.

Vsegdapianii, whose full name Vsegdapianii, Vodoboyaznovich (“Hydrophobovich”) Solioniiogurets (“Pickledgherkin”), was born in Kurgan in 1968, when Brezhnev, the absolute ruler of the Soviet Union, ordered the tanks to suppress the «Prague Spring», an exceptional opportunity for communism to acquire a human facade. Vsegdapianii’s mother was a laundress and his father a truck driver. His grandfather had fought as a soldier under the command of the famous Chapaev, major in the Red Army during the Civil War with which confronted the Soviet Russia, war about which he was accustomed to tell in every detail to his grandchildren. He loved with all his heart to tell jokes about Chapaev. So, whenever drunkeness and discussions were mingled, he stuffed his stories with «Chapaev» jokes:

– Well, you know who was Chapaev? You know nothing at all. You are a pathetic beings («jalkie vidi»). He gave his life for Mother Russia («Mati Rossia») so it could be extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Remeber, poor whores («bliadi») that you are, that the desire of the enemies to reduce the area of the USSR to the dimensions of the Red Square in Moscow will never be fulfilled! Where was I?

– At Chapaev, our beloved (“nash milii”).

– Vasilii had a young officer for his personal services, called Palka. He also had a cook, Anka. She was the mistress (“libovnitsa”) of both men. Ha, that is funny, isn’t it? One night very late, Palka entered to the bedroom of Anka and tenderly invited her to a walk in the moonlight. Ha, what do you say? Anka apologized kindly, saying she did not dress appropriately for such a walk. So, Palka, furious, opened one after another the doors of the wardrobes in the room and, pointing to the clothes arranged on the hangers, said: «And this one, it does not suit you? Or this one, it is not good ? Good evening, Vassilii Ivanovich!  And this one, it is not good?» And now let’s get serious. Cheers! (“Na schastie!”)

– Bottom’s up (“Do dna!”), do not forget the slogan: “We do not eat anything after the first drink!”  (“Posle pervovo stakana ne zakussivayut!”) – someone said among the guests to incite them.

– That we know! I’ll tell you another joke: «There is no unpleasant woman, but there is some vodka». What do you say about that?  Are we, Russians, misogynists?

– Vsegdapianii Vodoboyaznovich, you have our respect, you know how to ask the right questions. But, instead of answering you, I’ll tell you what’s our saying:  “During youth: vodka, a boat and a young woman; during old age: kefir, meringue and a latrine well heated” (“V iunosti: vodka, lodka i molodka; v starosti: kefir, zefir i tioplenkii sortir”).

– I’ll tell you another joke about Chapaev. One evening, Vasilii wanted to go in the room of Anka, but, being tormented by all the bullets, that had passed right by his ears that day, he lost most of his virility and was afraid of compromising himself again facing the young woman. Furious because he was not fully aroused, he then began to give orders  to his own “thing”…

– You told us already that joke, we know what he was shouting: “Get up, stand up!” (“Ravnaisi, smirna!”)

– Ha, how much I love jokes about Chapaev! As I said, in the room next to Anka’s, Palka, who heard through the walls the cries of his superior, stood up where he was in the bed, whenever the command «Ravnaisi, smirna!» was pronounced. Ha, how much I love jokes about Chapaev!

– One more joke, what do you say?

– …

– It was a test of the mind of those men after drinking hundreds of mililiters of vodka. With regard to the American, a car appeared on the screen of the unit that carried out the test, for the French –a woman, and for the Russian’s turn, nothing at all. The Russian had to drink another shot of one hundred mililiters of vodka and so on until he swallowed up an entire liter. And there on the screen finally appeared a little black dot. Scholars have expanded the dot just enough to understand what it was: a pickled gherkin… then became visible on the screen.

– Damn, are you reffering to me?

– No, old man, that is what is saying in the joke.

Frequently they came across a «paradoxical» problem that they could not solve:

– I do not understand, said Vsegdapianii for inciting the discussion, how is it possible that the Nederlands’, whose the territory extends only on a time zone, have guilders worth more than rubles, than what we have in our great country, where, when the sun sets in Vladivostok, in Murmansk is just rising?

-Yes indeed it is normal that the dollar is smaller than the ruble, because the Yankees’ territory is smaller than ours. But, why this rule is not applied in the case of the guilder? If our country is the world’s largest, the ruble should be the strongest currency!

Vsegdapianii was, somehow, the team leader (“desiatnik”) of drunkards, especially, since he often has paid all in carouses. His friends were accustomed assembling at his house Friday night and the drinking continued until Sunday night. Their reserve was about ten bottles of vodka for a group of five or six people. Regarding the food, they  had smoked herring caught in the Bering Sea.  When the carouse was in full swing, they shouted satirical cries (“chastushky”), so to speak. One of their favorite was saying: “I married a woman. / She loved me, / she cheated on me only once, / but then decided: / ah, once, once again, / still many, many times. / Is better forty times for once / than nothing for forty times” (“U menea bila jena. / Ona menea liubila, /  izmenilasi toliko raz / i potom reshila: / ah, raz, eshcho raz / mnogo, mnogo raz. / Lushche sorok raz po-razu, / chem ne razu v sorok raz.”

Around midnight there was obviously nothing to drink. The empty bottles were arranged as bowling pins under the kitchen table. Then they  began to manufacture the so-called «vodka Mendeleev», according to a recipe  well known in Russia, mixing water (two parts) and 96 percent ethyl alcohol   (one part). This gives you an alcoholic beverage of 96 proof. When this source was exhausted as well, they went for a walk in the neighborhood looking for manufacturers of  «samagon», a home made beverage obtained by the distillation of fodder beet. The smell was so fetid, that it made really easy to find it at the right locations. Ultimately, to quench their thirst until morning when the stores finally opened, they swallowed a drink made from shoe wax with alcohol. They smeared slices of bread with this shoe wax. After the bread absorbed the alcohol, they removed the wax with a knife. Then they sucked the bread. It was simple… and, especially, ingenious to satisfy their appetite.

Before falling into a deep, blessed Bacchus sleep, blessed sleep, Vsegdapianii repeated sadly, but with all his heart: «Sach, Sacha!», the diminutif of the name Alexander, his son’s Alexander nickname, who lived far away in his mother’s custody. Vsegdapianii’s addiction  to  alcohol was the cause of this separation. This weakness was accelerated from 1988, when he was sent to Afghanista, a country invaded by the Soviets under the orders of Brezhnev in December 1978. He had crossed much of the steep mountains of the Hindu Kush as a gunner of a tank. If a human appeared on the horizon, he shot it in the name of maintaining the power of the communist clique of Babrak Kamal. Killing became a profession like any other. He killed from his tank the Mujahideen, Taliban militants, innocent civilians, the bullet did not know the difference. Vsegdapianii drowned his sorrow in vodka and, from that to addiction, was only one small step.

Krassavitsa (“Beautiful”), his wife, missed him often, especially at night. Each week he made every effort to send her a letter. He had met her in 1985, in autumn, at night school. Both of them were studying to become electricians. They weren’t  really in love. It was more of a carnal attraction. On the morning of the first Sunday after their meeting, Vsegdapianii invited Krassavitsa to the cinema. They saw Moscow does not believe in Tears (“Moskva Slezam ne verit”). When Rudolf and Katerina had sex in the film, Vsegdapianii and Krassavitsa began to fiddle with each other… She whispered in his ear:

– The characters  make love like in the days of Lenin.

– How?

– In the rigid proletarian manner, without fantasy. Now we live perestroika, the change în every thing.

– But what does perestroika mean when it comes to sex?

– Let me show you, she said, while leaning her head on his knees, under the cover of obscurity.

– I understand much better now… perestroika… Gorbachev… acknowledged, while panting, Vsegdapianii, after a certain period of time. Yes, this, is the communism with a human face!

They left the cinema holding hands. They crossed the Siberian city, capital of the Kurgan region, south of the oil basin of the Tiumeni region, the second in size after the Caspian Sea. The city of Kurgan has grown during the disaster, following the precipitate removal of the military factories beyond the Ural Mountains, removal determined by the defeat of the Red Army in the early part of World War II. Public housing built at that time resembled brick dormitories of a garrison. Walking through some neighborhoods in Kurgan somehow it makes you feel the atmosphere of Soviet  years between 1940 and 1953. The name of the main avenue in the city was Lenin even during the time of Gorbachev.

The couple waited a few seconds, eyes riveted to the official stand, which was never dismantled, a stand in front of which were held annually parades on November 7 and May 1. The only thing missing was the bus restaurant. Parked behind the stand, it was at the disposal of dignitaries for hot tea, perogies, and even had toilets.

They entered the central park, where, in the rhythm of a military band playing in a pavilion, a few old ladies and veterans of war, their chests covered with medals, danced proudly and ostentantiously, two by two, while men, veterans, too, being outnumbered, chose to remain on a bench and watch them. Next they crossed the bridge over the river Tobol, near the universal store TUM, «Tsentralinii Universalinii Magazin», an old name for a new and modern building. There were many fishermen with lines in the lake formed by the dam below the bridge. A few steps more and they were already in the endless Siberian forest of birches. The nearest urban oasis was represented by the city of Omsk, which was seven hundred kilometers in the distance. A forest road, partially covered by fallen leaves, was their guide. They walked a few minutes before rushing behind the first birch tree on their path. And they united in the same thick layer of leaves, without to worry about passersbys, who could see them. In truth, they heard not very far groans calling to work… No one could have bothered them, not even a glance. There is in Siberia a feminine variety appropriate to satisfy almost instantaneously the masculine sexual impulses. The Siberian taiga is a «nest of madness» that knows no limits.

The two lovers separated from one another and during a few minutes they preferred to lie on their back and rest. Under the weight of their bodies they felt the warm and soft leaves. That year, the  autumn was long and, in the afternoon, it was thirty degrees and more. A peak was looking for insects under the «Dalmatian» bark of a birch. Yellow leaves filtered the sunlight. The surroundings were  suitable for vows of eternal love. But sometimes the time destroys everything…

Vsegdapianii remained in Afghanistan until February 15, 1989, when Soviet troops finally retreated. He returned home with a Makarov pistol, he had hidden in his shirt. Vsegdapianii kept it as a war souvenir. It was not difficult to obtain weapons from dead comrades. In the accounts of the army all theese weapons passed for loss of war.  Who could really keep count?

Since his demobilization, Vsegdapianii received as compensation one hundred rubles, money he spent on drink. Krassavitsa did not tolerate his new habits. And quarrels began… Desperate, she left with Sasha to her parents. Vsegdapianii tried repeatedly to persuade her to return home, but to no avail. In a weak moment and in an advanced estate of drunkeness, the Siberian man had threatened suicide if she did not return home. «Sach! Sacha!» shouted he over the phone for the last time, before pointing his pistol-souvenir to his heart. He closed his eyes and fired. Boom!

He awoke in a hospital room. Drunk as he was, he did not reach the heart, but one of his arms. The bone was broken and the nerve so damaged it was impossible to suture it. Additionally, he contracted osteomyelitis. He was transfered to the Kurgan Scientific Center «Restorative Traumatology and Orthopaedics». They removed all the infected bone. Then, using a device invented by the doctor Ilizarov, the two remaining ends were reassembled and pressed close together for three months in order to connect. Six months later, the cured bone was cut and, thanks to a similar device, both ends were pushed aside by one millimeter per day, until the arm reached its original length. Three months later, enough time for ossification, Vsegdapianii left the hospital.

It was summer 1990. What to do with a disabled left arm? He was inspired to rent a room under the stairs of the House of Culture from Kurgan, in which he laid out a workshop to repair color TV sets – a novelty at that time in Siberia. He asked forty rubles to repair a unit, a sum with which he could have purchased one hundred and sixty loaves of bread. And he had plenty of customers. In a year he was able to purchase a one bedroom apartment. He was very lucky, since the ruble, which was the symbol of stability of Communism, was quickly devaluated thereafter. He became an once a week drunk, the desire to make money overcame partially his costly addiction.

Time passed without major changes in  Vsegdapianii’s life. The hope that he will get a job of a leader has died slowly and surely. The Leninist thesis – «the children of washerwomen will govern the country» – was no longer valid. He saw Gorbachev as a traitor («izmenik»). On Monday, August 19, 1991, while President Gorbachev spent his holidays in the Crimeea, in his «dacha», Vsegdapianii heard a statement made by TASS news agency: «Mikhail Gorbachev is no longer able to fulfill his duties because of health reasons and had been replaced by Gennady Yanayev.» Events rushed: the head of the KGB, Vladimir Krutchikov, and the defence minister, Dimitri Yazov, declared a state of emergency for a period of six months, while announcing the restoration of censorship and directing withdrawal of tanks in Moscow. Boris Yeltsin, who was then in the Parliament building, came out and asked people to civil disobedience. The tanks crushed three young people who were throwing Molotov cocktails. The next day, thousands of people defied the tanks. At night, the tanks finally withdrew. Wednesday, Gorbachev returned to Moscow and Thursday, members of the coup were arrested.

Vsegdapianii was increasingly confused. On the one hand, he dreamed of liberal changes and, on other hand, he felt the disappearance of the USSR was imminent, so it disliked him. But he could not escape what he feared most. On December 8, 1991, it was organized a «hunt» in the residence «Viskuli» of the President Stanislav Shushkevich, which was in the natural reservation Belovezhskaya Pushcha, near Brest. The guests were the presidents Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk. Three of four republics that had founded the USSR, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (the forth being the Transcaucasia) signed a treaty for the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was formally  a dagger  planted in the heart of the state union envisioned by Lenin. Gorbachev also called «Mikhail free of country» («Mikhail bez strani»), accused Yeltsin of having accelerated the dissolution of URSS, because of his excessive desire for power, and Yeltsine blamed the coup of August, 1991.

Following these events, Vsegdapianii was hurt to  his very soul «velikorusse». He was at least satisfied that his new country, Federation of Russia, had reduced the number of Muslims by non-inclusion of the former republics of Azerbaijin, Kazahstan, Kirkizia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, opinion based on his experience gained during the years in Afghanistan. But his greatest consolation was the fact that he had become the owner of a one bedroom apartment, reason for which every night, when he was not drunk, he pace the room in zigzag, repeating in a high tone, sometimes threatening:  “This is my territory!”

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

*Velikorusse: a partisan of the Great Russia (“Velikaya Rossia”).

 

The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author.

 

Destinies from The Saharan-Siberian Space (1)

A Sinner Ficherman and the Sharks of Al Dakhla

Salid («Ficher»), nicknamed Atsim («Sinner»), was, throughout his life, an octopus fisherman in Al Dakhla, a small dot on the map, near the Tropic of Cancer, on the  West Coast of Atlantic. Son of a peasant, he was only fourteen when he fled to Casablanca. It was an ardor of  teen-ager who could not adapt to the reality of life and who did not want to plow the field of his father, a land covered with stones and sand that his family had owned for centuries and was part of the Plateau of Phospahtes near Khouribga.

After the short period of rain that came with the month of February, his parents sowed wheat, but Allah rarely took pity to let a few more drops falling again from the sky. Usually, around the month of April, the sun had burned everything. His parents then hurried to mow the wheat still green, whose ears were not formed, in order to use it as feed for sheep and goats.

Salid was the oldest of seven children growing up at home, four sisters and three brothers – a normal family in Morocco. Sometimes he worked as a day laborer on the farm of a large land owner. But this opportunity happened   so  rarely  that  it droved  him  to   despair.

Since his childhood, Salid had liked sleeping in the sun and had let himself to be overcome by a mild drowsiness similar to the one which takes hold in a drug addict. Also, the young boy has spent time with the cattle he had to graze. However, he has learned by heart the daily prayers – «pre-dawn» («fajr»), «noon» («dhuhr»), «afternoon» («aasar»), «sunset» («maghrib»), «evening» («iisha»), the prayers coming up from the Hijri time, a veritable oral library.

Finally, Salid arrived in Casablanca. There he got hired without a work permit on a building site. They were  constructing a four-storey villa, typical housing of many middle class Morrocan families. All day he shoveled up gravel into the tank of a mini concrete mixer.  He had a lunch break for one hour, from 12.00 to 13.00. That was the time for his noon prayer. Salid relaxed well during the noon and afternoon prayers, and to this end, he tried to extend a quarter of an hour the time allocated to the seven prostrations included in each prayer. He also gained time by washing his face, mouth, ears, nose, arms – to the elbows – and feet, according to the preliminary proceedings transmitted by the Prophet Muhammad. In addition, he wet his hair, fashionably.

Salid spent the nights on the site. He slept on a large fifty centimeters mattress made of polyurethane, which was lying on the floor in a hut made of planks of wood that he shared with five or six other comrades. Fortunately, the joints of the planks were not vera tight and made possible a natural ventilation. Otherwise, the smell of the sweat could make them feel a tad nauseous. Salid bathed with cold water taken directly from a pipe that was right next to the mini concrete mixer. The few clothes he had, were washed on Sunday, his only day off, in a basin that everyone used on the building site. The sun and the breeze dried them in an hour at most.

He usually liked to eat half chicken with rice («nasf jaja maa aruj»). It was very affordable: he could be well fed with only six dirhams (1 dollar = 3 dirhams). The young man ate near the building site in a fast food restaurant, Arabic style. The restaurant had a terrace shaded by a few figs with leaves covered by a thick layer of dust. The  building was small with unplastured walls  and whose bricks came from a demolition site. The table was made of sheet metal and its dye, largely erased. A thin boy with a dirty apron, with spots left to guess the menus of the last days, was moving among  the tables, dispaying a toothless smile of an accomplice. Although he had the hands of a laborer, all calluses were white, as they were washed with strong detergents. And all this was in contrast with his brown and shiny epidermis, of a dark man with sunburned skin.

The money earned on his job  was enough for Salid to buy food and cigarettes. His big concern was  where to sleep and what to eat. But, over time, a new concern began to take shape: with whom to have sexual relations. He had been taught from childhood many things related to sexual act. In addition, since he was little, he looked carefully the animals arround the house.  He figures out the rest by listening to the older boys and girls. However, he had not enough practice.

On a Sunday, he went to the neighborhood of «Al Fan» («Art») which was renowned throughout the city of Casablanca for its few clandestine brothels, which operated with the tacit approval of the authorities. King Hassan II, King of Morocco from 1961 to 1999, believed that men become calmer by having sex and this could reduce any appetite for popular revolt.

Salid walked into one of the brothels, the most suitable. In the doorway was standing a woman so ugly that  she could be mistaken for a beggar. In the reception room, occupying the place of honor three plump women, with dyed red hair and breasts like two deflated footballs were wating for potential clients. The hair in the middle of their head had become black again, the natural color of the hair.   The Arabs, also as Gypsies, like big breasted women. The three bitches appered to be over fifty, even if they were much younger. He had chosen one at random, called Quahba («Whore»).

«The total» was thirty dirhams, one tenth of what he earned per month. They entered a room  on  the  first  floor, a high standard by French standards between the two wars with a metal bed in the middle. A hook and a table with two chairs completed the furniture. The wallpaper was torn and faded , looking like the «indecent»  plane tree. The floor creaked with every step and when Salid sat on the bed, it creaked again. The young man felt a spring out of the mattress. «Spread your legs» («Karshi arjul»), ordered Salid at a some point, after his gaze swept up and down the naked body of the woman. Then the call to prayer started.

The decibels from the four speakers installed on the top of the mosque minaret, visible even from the bed, reached them through the window: «Allah is the greatest. Allah is the  greatest. There is no god except  Allah. There is no God except   Allah. Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Come to prayer! Come to prayer!  Come to salvation!  Come to salvation!  Allah is the greatest, Allah is the  greatest. There is no God except  Allah. There is no God except Allah.» («Allah acbar. Allah acbar. La Illah ila Allah. La Illah ila Allah. Muhammad Rasul Allah. Muhammad Rasul Allah! Haya aala Salat! Haya aala Falah! Haya aala Falah! Allah acbar. Allah acbar. There is no other God but  Allah.») At each call, Quahba, frightened, stopped suddenly in full movement. Religion is powerful among the Arabs and Allah may punish in an exemplary manner those who do not meet the five pillars of faith: profession of faith (There is no God except  Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah); performance of the praying ritual five times a day; respect of fasting during Ramadan; alms-giving ritual; carrying out a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in the lifetime by every able-bodied and that can afford to do so. Even children who are still in the womb of their mother hear the muezzin’s call; they probably could say it by heart from birth if they could speak.

The temporary frigidity of his partner made Salid furious. He himself said that instead of enjoying the erotic fantasies for which he had paid a small fortune, he was forced to listen to the call to prayer. The blood began to boil in his veins. Irritated, he asked Quahba to do her job. But, unwittingly, she could not comply with orders received, as her mind was filled with the fear to Allah. She smiled through, a set of hideous teeth. As result of receiving punches from other guests, she didn’t had not more front teeth. The money spent in vain for a woman, it was too much for an Arab! Salid was a bundle of nerves. A strong punch given from top on bottom, in the face, made the blood to spart from the swollen lips of Quahba. Once more a punch. «Come to salvation!» The woman – still inert. Another punch. «Allah is the  greatest!» A new bestial punch. The woman’s eyes were still. In  doubt, Salid stopped the rain of punches. The woman did not move anymore. A massive heart attack was fatal.

After a short trial, Salid was sentenced to fifteen  years in prison for murder. He could have received the maximum sentence, twenty-five years, but there were extenuating circumstances: the death of Quahba was not caused only by his punches!

Salid was imprisoned in the penitentiary of Casablanca, where he became the preferred partner of his cellmates, as he was… young, «fresh meat»! In return, he was rewarded with hashish (the «kif» in the North African dialect). Salid used it to make, in a traditional way, a cigarette, the   «juan»,  as the Moroccans used to call a cigarette with hashish. Here it is the way he fixed it: first he crushed a cigarett and got out the tobacco. Then he warmed the «kif» for two seconds, using a match, to make it malleable. Then he kneaded well in the palm of his hand tabacco and hashish, then rolled this mixture into a sheet of cigarette. There is no prohibition on the consumption of hashish in the Coran and it is used officially by the Shiit Islamic sect of  assassins, whose name derives from «hashashun», word designating  hashish smokers. They became famous for the cruelty used to kill their enemies. The term assassin, with the meaning of killer, started with them.

For five years, Salid had looked totally resigned through the square window, as big as the half of his head, to the district of Burj al Aiin (The Source of the Fortress). At the end of this period,   King Hassan II organized the «Green March» («Khadira al Massira»).  It was November 6, 1975, when three hundred and fifty thousand unarmed Moroccans crossed the border of Trafayaa, in order to annex the former colony of Spanish Sahara. It was a territory that had belonged to Morocco between 1147 and 1269, the time of the Berber dinasty of Almohads.  After the occupation, the territory had to be «morocconized», so the State could win the referendum proposed by the United Nations to recognize or not this annexation.

But who would go voluntarily in an area covered ninety percent with the sand of the Sahara Desert? King Hassan II decided to send prisoners who wanted to settle there in exchange for commuting their sentence. Salid was among the first volonteers, so left the cell where the sun seemed to be square and as large as the half of his head for an exile life in the desert of Al Dakhla.

Al Dakhla is a small town at the end of a narrow peninsula, twenty-five kilometers long and five kilometers wide (a kind of Gaza strip, but smaller in size) in the shape of an «L». It is located in a rectangular bay, two miles wide, with the same name. The peninsula is flat, bordered by an abrupt  ridge, about twenty feet high. The waters of the Al Dakhla Bay is home to numerous species of fish, crustaceans and marine mammals. But the richness of these waters is, in fact, represented by the octopuses. Their fishing is the main activity of the inhabitants of Al Dakhla. The Japaneses, who enjoy seafood delicacy for dietery and aphrodisiac qualities, had built a cold storage, just adjacent to the port.

Arriving at Al Dakhla, Salid had to choose between fishing in a boat, off the Atlantic Ocean, and fishing in a rowing boat in the bay of Al Dakhla. He chose the second proposal  – octopus fishing. Local authorities provided him with a rowing boat, ten plastic can of five gallons and a metal spear, sharpened at one end. The plastic cans had the top removed and a hole in the bottom large enough  so the metal spear can pass through.   Salid found that his job was relatively simple and the octopus are not very smart.

Every night he led his boat in the middle of the bay. He let the cans to fall to the bottom of the water. All the cans were fixed in a horizontal position with a rope. Octopuses, who were seeking a shelter, entered the cans. In the morning, Salid had only to lift the cans, while the octopuses, instead of running away, clung even stronger with their suckers to the walls of the false shelter, while believing that they could better protect themselves against marine predators. Then Salid picked up all the cans, introduced the spear through the hole that had the bottoms of each can and pricked the octopuses, which, in pain, left the «shelter». Then he carried the caught octopuses to the cold Japanese store and sold them. On average, Salid fished daily four octopuses, in exchange for which he received a total of thirty dirhams, representing at  that time and, specially, in exile, a decent income.

Salid lived in the neighborhood of Matar («Airport»), in a rented studio. The building, a former dormitory barrack, was not at all pleasant. By building some interior walls, the space was divided into several small pieces. Every exterior wall of each room had a door. Beside the door was a small square window, just large enough that one could get his head through. As for furniture, Salid had a bed, a luxury for many Moroccans, one table, two chairs and a wardrobe. The kitchen: a bottle of gas for cooking. In the corner, separated from the rest of the room by a curtain, there was the toilet. A Turkish closet, with the subsidiary role of a shower, and a sink formed all the plumbing. For this studio Salid payed a rent of two hundred and ten dirhams.

Half of the rooms in the building were rented by women who practiced the oldest profession in the world. They, also, had chosen exile rather than prison. At Al Dakhla, nobody bothered them and so life in exile was more bearable. With their faces pressed against the barred windows they watched the passerby and if somebody was interested, you could hear them say:  «You come in?» («Intsa aji?»). The neighborhood of Matar was the poor relative of the famous Red Light District of Amsterdam, where fifty-one windows offered the show of summary dressed prostitutes, wrapped in a red light. Salid had quickly made friends with two of his neighbors. He brought them fish  caught  during  the  night;   the  women prepared the meal and rendered him other services. It was a real barter to survive. Sometimes, he even gave them money, because he had some.

Salid was twenty-five years now. He became a strong and self-confident man. His new frown beard gave him the allure of a boat captain. Even his clothes were those of a sailor. His life became orderly.  He spent the night in his boat and in the morning he gave his two neighbors a hemp sack full of fish. In exchange the women offered him a hot breakfast. If they were busy with customers, they packaged his food to go. After eating, he went to bed. He slept like a log until two o’clock in the afternoon. Then he went to the harbor and spent two to three hours in the shade of a terrace to the east, from which one could glimpse the African continent. He loved gazing  at the infinite extent of the land more than that of the sea. It gave him a sense of security. Salid sipped one or two glasses of mint tea and smoked a half pack of cigarettes. However, to keep up with the news,  he undertook a short discussion with the people sitting at other tables. Once he learned that a convoy of trucks was attacked by members of the Polisario Front near Al Dakhla.  Men were killed during the confrontation and trucks caught fire.

– Frente Polisario?  What does that mean? Salid asked a guest.

– This is an acronym for Frente Popular de Liberation of Saguia el Hamra y Rio de Oro. «Po» comes from «Popular», «li» from «Liberation», «sa» from «Saguia», «ri» from «Rio» and «o» «Oro».  The organization was officially incorporated May 10, 1973, in order to free the Sahara from the Spanish rule. After the Spanish withdrew, following the signing of the Agreement of Madrid on November 14, 1975, members of this organization began to fight against us. They say we, Moroccans, occupied their country.

Salid’s daily schedule continued with another  snooze of two hours at most. Then he went fishing. Once in port, he took his boat and rowed one to two kilometers before he anchored and set the cans at the bottom of the bay to catch octopuses. Then he threw the line to catch some fish. He loved most nights of full moon («Lyal maa al badr»).  A deep silence fell upon his soul. He had the time to think about his life, his future plans, and to remember all sorts of things. Only the episode «Quahba», he tried to forget, but could not manage it. He asked himself if this exile on the edge of the Sahara desert was a punishment enough for the homicide. In such circumstances, Salid preferred watching the vastness of the sea, broken up here and there by the dorsal fins of sharks, jumping dolphins or other marine creatures.  Sometimes a few hours after midnight, an exhaustion overhelmed him, giving him a cold sweat in the back. He lay curled  up at the bottom of the boat reliving the nightmares of Quahba. Then he would wake up and could not longer sleep until dawn.

There  were  two  things  that bothered him teribly at Al Dakhla: the storms and the invasions of flies. When the storm came, he could’t go  fishing and his income declined drastically. Sometimes the storms lasted even a week. As Salid could not stand being bored, he drowned his bitterness in drink. He spent his days on the porch of the port and could empty ten beer bottles, while smoking two packs of cigarettes. Then he became aggressive with everyone. Those who knew him, octopuses’ catchers  avoided him, taking fright. The only one who dared speak to him was the owner of the terrace, who said, with the pipe in the corner of his mouth: «Salid, you are a sinner! You will not die in your bed, by old age! You have a special destiny.» The second annoyance was when the high wind was blowing from the continent. The Sahara desert was a huge dump of garbage dumped by passers-by, where flies would develop rapidly. The swarms were sometimes the size of a hot air balloon. When the wind began to blow, flies took flight, otherwise they would have been covered by sand. Carried by the wind from the east, they were pushed towards the ocean, to certain death. If by any chance, an obstacle came in their way, like a house, they would hang in despair forming a black and thick layer over it. If there was a person – as well. The flies entered their ears, nostrils, under clothes, covering them head to toe. The unlucky  ones looked in great haste for shelters, in houses or taverns. The drivers could not continue, their jornay, because the windshilds were covered with flies, like a black curtain through which no ray of light could pass. If  they would  have tried to use  the wipers, an opaque film of viscous blood would have form instantly.

At Al Dakhla, it was yet another unpleasant thing awaiting Salid which turned out to be fatal. In a calm night with a full moon, he laid down at the bottom of his boat. His ears trembled with all the noises made by passing  sharks or playing dolphins. However, a huge wave, a tsunami triggered by an undersea earthquake, was heading into a sepulchral silence towards the Gulf of Al Dakhla. The wave lifted to ten meters above the sea and capsized the boat of Salid. The metal spear stung one knee of the fisherman. Stunned and hurt, he found the force to swim to the surface. The wave had passed, but Salid remained alone at the sea. His boat sunk. He stripped naked and began to swim slowly, economically, to the shore. He had at least one kilometer to go before he got there. Feeling pain  in his knee, he turned on his back and lifted the injured leg. He was able to see that the prick was not too great, but was bleeding slightly. He calmed down and continued to  swim.

Five minutes later, one shark strated circling him. Then another. The drops of blood attracted a dozen hungry sharks. Salid realized he could not escape them. Next, a bite came on the   bleeding   leg.   The   unbearable   pain   was overhelming. In his mind appeared, like a flash, the terrified face of Quahba, his nightmare. His suffering lasted a few seconds. Salid was pulled to the bottom, becoming the target of the famished fury of the sharks.

The next afternoon, all the octopuses’ catchers  from Al Dakhla gathered on the terrace of the Port to discuss the tsunami and realized that only Salid was absent. The owner of the terrace, with the pipe in the corner of his mouth, mumbled mostly to himself: «May Allah, Most Gracious and Most Merciful, forgive him sins! I knew that Salid  will not die in his bed, by old age. He had a special destiny.»

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The translation and the adaptation are realized by the author himself.

 

 

 

 

Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (12)

In the period May 8, 1921 –  April 4, 1944,

the Communist Party of Romania

had seven general secretaries,

of whom six were of

allogenic ethnicities: Jewish, Ukrainian,

Polish, Bulgarian and Hungarian

 

Communist Party of Romania was the forerunner of the Romanian Communist Party in the period May 8, 1921 – October 16, 1945.

Because it officially declared that Romania is a multinational, imperialist state, which annexed Bessarabia from Russia, Transylvania from Hungary and Cadrilater from Bulgaria, territory to be retroceded, the Communist Party of Romania was passed in illegality on April 5, 1924, under Ion I. C. Brătianu government (6).

Creation of the Comintern (n.a. in Russian writing “Коммунистичекий Интернационал” in transliteration, Komunisticeskii International), the Communist Party of Romania began to have two  political bureaus in the Stalinist era, until the disestablishment of Comintern, on May 22, 1943.

However, being under the direct control of Joseph Stalin, which is why the Comintern was also called Comstalin, the Communist Party of Romania was struggled to keep under silence a long series of aspects.

One of these was that the general secretaries, except the first, named Gheorghe Cristescu, were allogenic, belonged to ethnic groups, namely, Jewish, Ukrainian, Polish, Bulgarian and Hungarian, in personns of: Elek Köblös, Jewish ethnic, Vitali Holostenco (n.a. in Ukrainian writing, Виталий Яковлевич Холостенко, in transliteration, Vitalii Iacovlev Holostenko), Alexander Danieluk Stefanski (n.a. in Polish writing, Alexander Danieluk Stefański), Boris Stefanov Mateiev (n.a. in Bulgarian writing, Борис Стефанов Матеев) and Stefan Foris (n.a. in Hungarian writing, István Fóris). There was also an interim general secretary, Bela Breiner, of Jewish ethnicity.

In the interwar period, all the congresses of the Communist Party of Romania, excepting the first and the second, were held abroad: Congress I, in the period May, 8 – 12,  1921, in Bucharest, when as general secretary was elected Gheorghe Cristescu, Congress II, in the period September 3 – 4, 1922, in Ploiesti, Congress III, in August or September 1924, in Vienna, when as general secretary was elected Elek Köblös, Congress IV, in the period June 29 – July 2, 1928, in Kharkov, when as general secretary was elected Vitali Holostenco, Congress V, in the period December 3 – 24, 1931, in Gorikovo (n.a. locality situated near Moscow), when as general secretary was elected Alexander Danieluk Stefanski .

It is noteworthy that Boris Stefanov Mateiev became general secretary in 1936, not after being elected at a congress, but designated by the Comintern as a result of friendship with Georgi Dimitrov, who, on July 25, 1935, had arrived general secretary of the Comintern, post never left till on May 22, 1943, when the Comintern was disestablishment by Joseph Stalin, to gain the confidence of the Allies.

Among other specific activities of a communist meritorious illegalist, Boris Stefanov Mateiev compiled and sent to Moscow so – called “list of Trotskyists”, which included almost the entire leadership of the Communist Party of Romania, including Marcel Pauker, who was “purged “by gunshot on august 15, 1938. In 1938, Boris Stefanov Mateiev considered it is better to flee the country in Moscow, where he worked beside Georgi Dimitrov. Taken aback by the Ribbentrop – Molotov Pact and not knowing which is the new policy of the Kremlin, Boris Stefanov Mateiev published in the “Communist International” (n.a. in Russian writing, “Коммунистический Интернационал” in transliteration, “Kommunisticeskii International”), the official newspaper of the Comintern, an article in which he continued to stigmatize with proletarian anger the fascism and the national – socialism, which was verge cost his life; his luck was also named Georgi Dimitrov, which has protected, indeed, to avoid he staying in Joseph Stalin’s murderous gaze, he took him in Bulgaria to build communism there.

The interim leadership of the Communist Party of Romania, caused by the absence from the the country of Boris Stefanov Mateiev, has been exercised by Bela Breiner till March 10, 1940, when he died of stomach cancer.

Then, the same Comintern appointed as secretary general Stefan Foris, who led the party until April 4, 1944.

If the manner of organizing congresses abroad can be justified by the fact that the Communist Party of Romania has been passed in illegality, but, choosing the general secretaries only from the ethnicities reveals the extremely small depths of the roots of this party among Romanians, who were in overwhelming majority. In this regard, two aspects are relevant. The first refers to the name of Romania, that means not a party of the Romanians, but one implanted in Romania. The second is the very small number of members of this party, from the category of pocket, for example, between 794 and 1,150 members registered in June 1944, that is a member of about 20,000 inhabitants. Like a bad note for this party, based on a story of Eugen Cristescu (n.a. director of the Special Intelligence Service in Romania), it seems that a significant part of them was in the pay of the Special Intelligence Service.

As an aside, in addition of classical ideological guilts such as Trotskyism, working with the Special Intelligence Service has been invoked repeatedly during the trial, if they were, and during the purges by shooting, ordered by Joseph Stalin, as in the cases of Elek Köblös, Vitali Holostenco and Alexander Danieluk Stefanski. That is, all general secretaries of the Communist Party of Romania, elected at the congresses held abroad, under the guidance of the Comintern, were killed!

Under the same charge, another general secretary of the Communist Party of Romania, Stefan Foris, was executed without trial on the order of Gheorghe Gheorghiu – Dej, this time. He was arrested on June 9, 1945 and brutally questioned even by Gheorghe Pintilie, born Pantelei Bondarenko, with the diminutive Pantiusa, who was the first director of the General Directorate of State Security, established on August 30, 1948. Stefan Foris died in 1946, due, apparently, to the hits with a crowbar, received on the head, executed by Gheorghe Pintilie (n.a. it is not known the exact date of death of Stefan Foris).

During “dejisto-ceausist” communism it was said very little, more in whisper  about the fact that in the period May 8, 1921 –  April 4, 1944, among the seven general secretaries of the Communist Party of Romania, except one, the others belonged to ethnic groups.

After the revolution, started on 17 and ended on December 25, 1989, when the communist bicephalous hydra was shot, Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu, it began to flow compromising revelations of the Communist Party of Romania and, of course, of the Romanian Communist Party. But, there is always a but. The nostalgics for communism, who worked in culture and have contributed to a greater or lesser, depending on their desire for affirmation and personal capacities, to the building of the communist dictatorship in Romania, they always had in head the idea of rehabilitation of communism and, implicitely, of their. Therefore, through the influence they have, sometimes very strong, have tried, tried and will try to hide all the black spots of the communism, including ethnicity of the general secretaries of the Communist Party of Romania, in the period May 8, 1921 – April 4 1944.

As an aside, Ion Iliescu, with high positions before and after 1989, for example, Minister with Youth Problems in the period December 11, 1967 – March 17, 1971, President of Romania in the periods Mai 20, 1992 – November 29, 1996 and December 20, 2000 – December 20, 2004, in any book, whose author is, he did not remind that his father, Alexandru Iliescu under the pseudonym Ignat, was one of the 38 delegates of the Communist Party of Romania, who attended the Congress V, in Gorikovo, and there signed a joint statement in which, inter alia, it was made the assertion: “contemporary Romania is not in itself a union of all Romanians, but a typically state with several nations, created on the base of predatory system of Versailles, on the base of occupation of foreign territories and on the base of enslavement of some foreign peoples. The bourgeoisie and landowners in Romania, doing their own imperialist plans and fulfilling, at the same time, the charge from the imperialist powers in Europe to create on Dniester an outpost against Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, conquered Bessarabia, Transylvania, Bukovina and Banat and subjected to a stunning national oppression and to a semi-colonial exploitation of the 8,000,000 Moldavians, Hungarians, Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Germans, Turks and others. ”

These were the Romanian communists, nothing but the ax queues of Russian imperialism; they even from the interwar period supported the fragmentation of Greater Romania!

And this truth must be said loud and clear, not in whisper or, if it could be possible, passed under silence, as wish the nostalgics for communism, the majority of them with “multilaterally developed” activity for establishing and supporting “dejisto – ceausist” dictatorship, activity paid “in conformity of  the quantity, quality and social importance of the work” (n.a. quote from the Law 10 of November 25, 1972). And nostalgic in this category were well paid, had all kinds of material advantages compared to the general population, because they stood very well, especially on the criterion of “social importance of the work”!

 

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)

 

Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (11)

The assassinations of

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu,

of “decemviri” and “nicadori”

have been made

  under the protection of

the Romanian Orthodox Church

and other 242 legionnaire leaders

under the protection of

the Romanian Army

 

The Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army are two basic institutions of Romania, they enjoying, generally, a lot of trust among the population. and the one who brings touches, even he has right, risk being accused of lack of patriotism.

However, when the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army intervened in politics, even leading governments through their representatives, high priests, respectively, senior officers, there were many deviations from the state of law.

In this regard, revealing to me are two events in the interwar period, period of flourishing of Romania, namely, the events of the night between November 28 and 29, 1938, under the government of Patriarch Miron Cristea (2) (n.a. President of the Council of Ministers, in the period March 30, 1938 – 31 January 1939), and on the night of September 21 to 22, 1939, under General Gheorghe Argeşanu (n.n President of the Council of Ministers in the period September 21 – 28 1939).

In the first case, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, nicknamed Captain, together with “nicadori” (n.a. the legionnaires Nicolae Constantinescu, Ion Carinca and Doru Belimace) and “decemviri” (n.a. the legionnaires Ion Atanasiu, Gavrila Bogdan Iosif Bozantan Ion Caratanase, Stefan Curca, Stefan Georgescu, Ion Pele, Grigore Ion State, Ion Trandafir şi Radu and Vlad) were executed because, according to official motivation, they would have tried to escape.

Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, born on September 13, 1899, in Husi, with the name Corneliu Zielinski, a high military school graduate and studies in law, had a fulminant political ascent, in which nationalism, orthodoxy, anti-communism, anti-Semitism and the cult of death played a leading role.

On May 20, 1922, he founded the Association of Christian Students, replacing, in the same time, the Law Students Association, whose president he arrived. At the beginning of the academic year 1922/1923, finding that it will no more take religious service, he was barricaded in an amphitheater. Shortly afterwards, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was expelled from the faculty. Being a very good knowledge of the German language from Eliza, his mother, born Brauner, of German origin, he went to Germany, where he tried to continue his studies in law, but also to start a business. Thus he got to know the activity out of commun, theatrical, of parade, of Adolf Hitler, newly member of the Executive Committee of the German National – Socialist Labour Party (n.a. in German, “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei”), also known by the abbreviation Nazi Party, from the first and the sixthe syllable. Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was so impressed by agitation and the uniform of Brown ShirtS, an informal name of Battalions of Assault in Germany that much later, at the wedding on June 14, 1925, with Elena Ilinoiu, at which came to assist over 80,000 people, the brides wore on their heads a crown with a swastika.

On March 4, 1923, was set up the National – Christian Defence League, as president being elected Alexandru C. Cuza, and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was responsible for organizing the party at national level. The nationalist and anti-Semitic orientatiom of party had the opportunity to express after March 23, 1923, when was amended the Article 7 of the Constitution, meaning that Jews in Romania can receive Romanian citizenship automatically. Then Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was one of the main agitators among students and organizers of street demonstrations, followed by clashes with police

Subsequently, on June 24, 1927, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, dissatisfied, it seems, because he failed to be elected with the National – Christian Defence League, he took off from the party and founded the Legion of the Archangel Mihai, also called Legionnaire Movement as a paramilitary organization, inspired by the model of Battalions of Assault in Germany (n.a. “Sturmabteilung” with the acronym S.A.) and Protection Squadron in Germany (n.a. in German, “Schutzstaffel”, with the acronym S.S., which was a sort of praetorian guard for Adolf Hitler).

In 1929, for electoral reasons, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu founded the party Iron Guard, as a “fence against the expansion of communism”. On January 11, 1931, Iron Guard was dissolved by the government of George G. Mironescu (2) (n.a. governed in the period October 10, 1930 – April 17, 1931), with Ion Mihalache as Minister of Internal Affairs. Following a trial, the party’s ban was lifted and at the partial elections of August 31, 1931, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu became deputy in Neamt. In this mandate, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was noticed by the attitude taken against the Law of Agricol Conversion, in which was proposed halving the landowners’ debts to banks, he stating that, if peasants had an average debt of about 30,000 lei, other “peasants” had debts of millions of lei, as for example, Constantin Argetoianu, with a debt of 80,000,000 lei, or Nicolae Titulescu, and he with a great debt, of 20,000,000 lei, money borrowed not only for agricol spending. Although all these inequities, the law was approved.

On March 17, 1932 it was again dissolved the Iron Guard by the government of Nicolae Iorga (n.a. governed between April 8, 1931 – June 5, 1932). Again, on December 10, 1933, the Iron Guard was dissolved by the government of Ion Gheorghe Duca (n.a. governed during  November 14 –  December 29, 1933).

In the same year, on December 29, as reprisal, Ion Gheorghe Duca was assassinated by the “nicadori”, who surrendered to authorities and were arrested.

Four years later, on July 16, 1936, the  “decemviri” assassinated their colleague of party, Mihai Stelescu, who was desconspirat that he planned the assassination of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and then, after being pardoned by the Senate of Legionnaire Movement, he began to criticize harshly the same Corneliu Zelea Codreanu. As “nicadori”, “decemviri”  surrendered to authorities.

As an aside, it is to note that long before, on October 24, 1924, and Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was charged with murder, when he shot deadly Mihai Manciu, prefect of Iasi. On May 25, 1925, after sentencing trial, which took place in Turnu Severin, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, which brought him a great notoriety throughout the country.

On the night of November 29 to 30, 1938, the 14 legionnaires, the Captain, the “nicadori”, and zhe “decemviri”  were transferred from Ramnicu Sarat to Jilava. On the road they were executed by the accompanying gendarmes. At Jilava, their bodies were thrown into a mass grave and covered with lime and earth.

These horrible assassinations were planned and executed by the Patriarch Miron Cristea government (2), that is under the protection of the prelate with the highest function of the Romanian Church. It is an unfortunate example of meddling in politics of the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is revealing in this regard and the declaration of Patriarch Miron Cristea, on February 27, 1938, during the first term of government (n.a. the President of the Council of Ministers, in the period February 11 – March 29, 1938), on the occasion of the promulgation of the new constitution, through which the king not only reigned but also governed: “Today was destroyed the hydra with 29 electing heads (n.a. the number of parties), who antagonized no avail all, to the detriment of the whole country”.

It is obvious that the blame for the executions of 14 legionnaires did not belong only to Patriarch Miron Cristea, but also to Armand Calinescu, Minister of Internal Affairs and, for the most part, to King Carol II, which according to the new constitution was the “head of state”.

It should be added that King Carol II decided the assassination of 14 legionnaires, considered by him as the main political opponents, after the visit he did on November 24, 1938 to Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden. Then he was threatened with annihilation (n.a. in German, “Verninchtung”), because he refused the recommendations coming from the “Führer”, among which, the worst for Romanian king, to bring to the government the Iron Guard.

The fact that the referendum on February 24, 1938, of the 4,303,064 voters registered to vote, the new constitution was accepted by 4,297,221 voters, showed a certain appetite for dictatorship of Romanians from that time, which was explained by Emil Cioran thus: “Democracy did not make from the eternal stupid crowd an active factor of history (…) the “ahistoric” (n.a. “ahistoric” is a term introduced by Pamfil Seicaru, meaning somebody who does not draw lessons from the history) crowd had only one ideal: the loss of (unnecessary) freedom. The crowd does not want to judge, others to do it and to take the responsability and, from fear of anarchy, the crowd delights of terror”.

In the second case, 242 leaders of the Legionnaire Movement were assassinated, about 90 percent of legionnaire elite. The corpses of the assassinated were displayed in the streets, to be seen by the public.

This horrible, impermissible reaction in a state of law, was triggered by the assassination of Armand Calinescu, on September 21, 1939 by a group of legionnaires, led by Miti Dumitrescu, formed of Ion Ionescu Ovidiu Isaia, Ion Moldoveanu, Gheorghe Paraschivescu, Cezar Popescu, Traian Popescu, Marin Stanciulescu and Ion Vasiliu.

Armand Calinescu, at the moment of the assassination, was President of the Council of Ministers (n.a. President of the Council of Ministers in the period March 7 – September 21, 1939), cumulating and the position of minister at National Defence.

On the same day, September 21, 1939, King Carol II appointed General Gheorghe Argesanu as President of the Council of Ministers, who stayed in office only a week until September 28.

The assassins of Armand Calinescu were caught and brought even at the scene of crime, at the road cross between Cotroceni Bridge and the street Barbu Stirbei, where they were shot and their corpses were left a few days at sight. Another 147 legionnaire leaders were shot, about three in each of 52 counties (n.a. Greater Romania had 71 counties), whose corpses, in the same way, were some days left in plain sight. Also, 95 legionnaires were executed in detention.

It is obvious that the blame for the executions of 242 legionnaires did not belong only to General Gheorghe Argesanu, but and to another general, Gabriel Marinescu, Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as in the case of the assassinations on the night of November 29 to 30, 1938, in the most part, to King Carol II, who, according to the new constitution, was, as I yet mentioned, the “head of state”.

The two nights, between November 28 and 29, 1938, under the Patriarch Miron Cristea government (2), and between September 21 and 22, 1939, under the General Gheorghe Argesanu government, constituted the blackest pages in the history of 22 years of Greater Romania.

Each of them threw one big black stain on the reputation of Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army, especially since they, at the time, did not take an attitude against these crimes.

Therefore, about the involvement of Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army in these horrible crimes without trials, did not speak at all during the “dejisto – ceausist” communist regime, to protect only the Romanian Army, which was used by Nicolae Ceausescu in criminal purposes, in repression of demonstrations, as for example, in Timisoara, demonstrations began on December 17, 1989, when were shot 59 martyrs of the revolution.

In the period after 1989 it is speaking very little or not at all, especially from officials about the involvement of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army in the horrible crimes during Carol’s dictatorship, not to decrease the public confidence in the two institutions.

But if you do not tell the truth about the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Romanian Army, that they, sometimes through their representatives, were used as institutions of criminal oppression, we will not draw appropriate lessons in history, we will be prepared in order to avoid repeating history .

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)

 

 

 

 

 

Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (10)

Cadrilater was ceded without a fight

by General Ion Victor Antonescu government (1),

just as King Charles II had done previously

in the cases of Northern Transylvania,

Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina

 

The coming to power on a wave of a large popular discontent against the policy of the old government and, among the first measures of the new government, to be just continuation of the old policy generating that discontent, one of the many facets of hypocrisy of the policy in Romania, it is exemplary illustrated by General Ion Victor Antonescu government (1).

On June 26, a month known in Romania as the popular name of “ciresar” (n.a. in Romanian, “ciresar” means the month when cherries ripen), of the year 1940, it came the cherry on on the “coliva” (n.a. in Romanian, “coliva” means a cake given as remembrance of the dead people at funeral and memorial services) of the Greater Romania, the ultimatum note from Joseph Stalin, through which was demanded the “return at all price” of Northern Bukovina, of Bessarabia, including the Herta Region, until June 30, meaning a loss of 50,762 square kilometers of the territory of Greater Romania.

How, as usually, a calamity does not come alone, on August 30, month known in Romania as the popular name of “gustar” (n.a. in Romanian, “gustar” is an alterative word from Roman word “august”, under the influence of the Romanian word “a gusta”, meaning to taste) of the same year, by the Second Vienna Arbitration, called by us, Romanians, Vienna Dictate, it has lost Northern Transylvania, that is 43,492 square kilometers, an event not at all on the taste of Romanians, ordered by Adolf Hitler.

The cede without a fight of Northern Bukovina, Bessarabia, including Herta Region, was made during the Gheorghe Tătărăscu government (6), which governed during the period May 11  – July 3, 1940, and Northern Transylvania during the Ion Giugurtu, government, that governed in the period July 4 – September 4, 1940.

These territorial losses led to ample street demonstrations, seized by Legionnaire Movement, which, by their leader, Horia Sima, imposed Carol II to appoint Ion Antonescu as President of the Council of Ministers. The king accepted with the condition to form a national coalition government. The historical parties were unwilling to stand near the Legionnaire Movement, so on September 4, 1940, Ion Antonescu formed a government composed in majority of members of the old Ion Giugurtu government: General David Popescu, at  Interior Affairs, Mihail Manoilescu, at Foreign Affairs, Gheorghe N. Leon, at National Economy, Ion. V. Gruia, at Justice, Dumitru Caracostea, at the National Education, Ion Nichifor Crainic (n.a. born Ion Dobre), at National Propaganda, Vasile Gomoiu, at Health and Social Care, and the Legionnaire Radu Budisteanu, at Religious Affairs and Arts; at National Defence appeared a new name… Ion Antonescu.

In the period September 3 – 6, 1940, it was held the so – called “legionnaire revolution”, which led to the abdication of King Carol II, on September 6, 1940.

The same day, Ion Antonescu declared oath as a member of the Legionnaire Movement. Horia Sima, confirmed as commander of the Legionnaire Movement, founded Legionnaire Police, after the model of Assault Battalions from Germany (n.a. “Sturmabteilung”, with the acronym S.A.), also known as the Brown Shirts, with the main purpose of the liquidation of the political opponents.

On September 7, although Ambassador Alexandru Cretianu, head of the Romanian delegation, has opposed, Ion Antonescu urged Henri Meitani, a delegation member, to sign a treaty – I quote from “Letters of a Dniesteran – Tiszan Man” (n.a. Gunivas Publisher House, Chisinau, 2013) – “through which Romania ceded Cadrilater, with an area of ​​7,726 square kilometers”. A few days later, on September 13, Ion Antonescu “ratified this treaty in the following terms: «We, General Ion Antonescu, Conductor of State and President of Council of Ministers, seeing and researching the Treaty between Romania and Bulgaria, signed in Craiova September 7, 1940 (…) agree and entrust that we receive the Treaty, with the Protocol, the Accords and the letters that precede, approve them, strengthen them and promise to do to be fulfilled in their form and scope, without letting them to be violated in any way. Towards the faith that we have signed this act of ratification and we ordered to be invested with the Romanian State Seal. Given in Bucharest, on September 13, 1940»”.

Behold that even the General Ion Antonescu government (1) did to be pleeased to Hitler and ceded from the territory of Greater Romania, in this case, Cadrilater, which is exactly what did previously the governments of Gheorghe Tatarescu (6) and Ion Giugurtu. But, at this time there have been no manifestations of discontent of the population, because the Legionnaire Police took care to destroy any initiative in this regard.

As an aside, I have to quote a mention, which I did in “Letters of a  Dnisteran – Tiszan Man”: “Hitler did not love Romania, victor in the World War I, when it annexed territories (…) becoming the Greater Romania, while Germany was humiliated, converting from the German Empire («Deutsches Kaiserreich») in Weimar Republic («Weimarer Republik»)”.

Then the German Empire lost the colonies in Africa (n.a. Togo, Cameroon, German South – West Africa, the current Namibia, German East Africa, the current Burundi and Rwanda), but also several territories in Europe (n.a. Alsace and Lorraine, to France, Eupen and Malmedy urban areas, to Belgium, North Schleswig, to Denmark, Western Pomerania, Posen Province, Eastern Silesia and Soldau Zone of Eastern Prussia, to Poland, Hulczyn area of Upper Silesia, to Czechoslovakia).

As another aside, I have to quote a mention that I made also in “Letters of a Dniesteran – Tiszan Man”: “Hitler considered Germany a kind of suffering sister of Hungary, and it a big loser in World War I”.

Thus, Adolf Hitler returned to Hungary 11,927 square kilometers, taken from Czechoslovakia (n.a. First Vienna Arbitration, November 2, 1938, parts of Southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia of South – West), 43,492 square kilometers, taken from Romania (n.a. Second Vienna Arbitration, august 30, 1940, Northern Transylvania), 10,123 square kilometers, taken from Yugoslavia (n.a. Armistice of Belgrade, April 17, 1941, Backa and Baranja).

The fact that Ion Antonescu also placed a cherry on the “coliva” of Greater Romania, ceded without a fight a part of the Greater Romania, was not mentioned in “dejisto-ceausist” Romania, in order not to disturb the communist friendship between Romania and Bulgaria and, especially, not to offend Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which had incorporated inside its borders Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia, including Herta Region.

Also, the same fact is overlooked by nostalgics of the Legionnaire Movement, very numerous and influential, so that in post-decembrist Romania, this subject was avoided in all events I participated or about which I read, consecrated to Greater Romania.

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)

 

 

Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (9)

At the Massacre from

the Penitentiary of Jilava,

on the night of September 26 to 27, 1940,

the Legionary Police killed 64 prisoners,

but no communist prisoner

 

In the movie “A Commissioner Accuses”, released on April 1, 1974, Sergiu Nicolaescu, in the quality as a director, but, especially, and as scriptwriter (n.a. Sergiu Nicolaescu was the scriptwriter of the movie together with Vintilă Dumitru Corbu Economu Popescu and Eugen Burada), slipped a lie in a style of a villain “culturnic”.

Surprisingly, perhaps due to my ignorance in some respects, obscure to ordinary people, it seems to me the fact that  much later, the “culturnic” Sergiu Nicolaescu,  one of the revolutionaries of the first rank, with televised appearances even since  December 22, 1989, he even led the Senatorial Commission Investigating the December 1989 Events, commission existing in the period  1990 – 1992, which did not satisfactory response to the question: who shot and made the 1,166 victims?

Also, surprisingly it appears to me that the other two “culturnici”, the co-scriptwriters Vintila Corbu (n.a. with the full name Vintila Dumitru Corbu Economu Popescu) and Eugen Burada fled the country illegally in 1979.

The lie in “A Commissioner Accuses” is that a guardian releases the communist prisoners from the Penitentiary of Jilava before a group of Legionnaire Police to begin the massacre on the night of September 26 to 27, 1940, when, in fact, nobody touched the communist prisoners, being shot 64 inmates, only those involved, in one way or another, in the execution of about 90 percent of the elite of the Legionnnaire Movement.

To better understand the Massacre from the Penitentiary of Jilava, I consider necessary to introduce some brackets

As a first bracket, the Legionnaire Movement or Green Shirts, was founded on June 24, 1927 by Corneliu Codreanu, nicknamed Captain. He was executed on the night of November 28 and 29, 1938, in an alleged escape action. Simultaneously were executed the “Nicadori” (n.a. a term coming from  the first two letters of Nicolae, Carinca and Doru) Nicolae Constantinescu, Ion Carinca and Doru Belimace, the Legionnaires who assassinated on the day of December 29, 1933 the President of Council of Ministers Ion Gheorghe Duca, who, on December 9, 1933, outlawed Iron Guard, in fact, the party of the Legion of the Archangel Michael, to not participate in the elections of December 20, 1933. On the same night were executed “decemviri” (n.a. a term coming from the Latin words “decem”, meaning ten, and “viri”, mining men) Ion Atanasiu, Bogdan Gavrila, Iosif Bozantan, Ion Caratanase, Stefan Curca, Stefan Georgescu, Ion Pele, Grigore Ion State, Ion Trandafir and Radu Vlad, the Legionnaires who assassinated the day of July 16, 1936 Mihai Stelescu, the legionnaire who had the courage to criticize Corneliu Zelea Codreanu.

As a second bracket, on September 14, 1940, the King Mihai I proclaimed Romania as a National-Legionnaire State, the Legionnaire Movement has become “the only movement (n.a. political party) recognized by the State”, and Ion Antonescu, who already on September 6, 1940, had deposed the oath of legionnaire, received the title of “conductor of state and chief of the legionnaire regime”.

As the third bracket, also on September 14, 1941, it was formed the General Ion Antonescu government (2), which was maintained until January 24, 1941. Ion Antonescu appointed Horia Sima as Vice President of the Council of Ministers, who was Minister of Religious Affairs and Arts between July 4 and 8, 1940, in the Ion Giugurtu government, in the period July 4 – September 4, 1940. Starting with September 6, 1940, Horia Sima was confirmed the commander of the Legionnaire Movement and the president of the Iron Guard Party. The same day, Horia Sima established Legionnaire Police, modeled  like Battalions of Assault in Germany (n.a. “Sturmabteilung”, with the acronym S.A.), also known as Brown Shirts, the paramilitary formation of the Legionnaire Movement, which acted alongside Romanian Police. The aim of the Legionnaire Police was, primarily, the liquidation of the political opponents.

After the night between November 28 and 29, 1938, when 14 legionnaire leaders were executed, imprisoned in different prisons, Horia Sima took refuge in Germany, where he received tasks related to the relationship with Romania of Legionnaire Command in Berlin.

On August 15, 1939, he returned to Romania. After September 21, when the President of the Council of Ministers Armand Calinescu was assassinated by a group of legionnaires, led by Miti Dumitrescu, formed of Ion Ionescu Ovidiu Isaia, Ion Moldoveanu, George Paraschivescu, Cezar Popescu, Traian Popescu, Marin Stănciulescu and Ion Vasiliu, have followed reprisals ordered by King Carol II, which took place on the night of September 21 to 22, when 242 legionnaire leaders were killed without trial, their bodies being displayed in public places.

Horia Sima escaped of the reprisals, he tooking refuge later, precisely on October 26 in Berlin, where he became head of the group of legionnaires from there. The fact that he was not among those killed seems a miracle, but the explanation may be the status of collaborator by big money of the Secret Intelligence Service of the Romanian Army, led by Mihail Moruzov, according to the charges of Ion Zelea Codreanu, the father of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, and his departure from Berlin had been made for two reasons, not to arise suspicion among legionnaires and to do new espionage actions in Germany.

On May 5, 1940, Horia Sima again arrived in Romania. Shortly thereafter, on May 19, he was caught by the authorities, but after no more than a month, on June 14, he was released “surprisingly” from the prison. It seems that Sima’s last departure from Berlin was due to Wilhelm Franz Canaris, the head of the Intelligence and Counterintelligence of the German Army, felt that he has to do with a spy. Through Mihail Moruzov, Horia Sima was reconciled with King Carol II, he being agreed to enter in the Ion Giugurtu government. Horia Sima resigned from the Ion Giugurtu government after only four days to not arouse suspicion among the legionnaires, but remained in the entourage of King Carol II.

Shortly followed the territorial amputations ordered by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, in June 1940, that led to manifestations of discontentment from the part of  the opposition parties, events confiscated legionnaires, which led to the so-called “legionnaire revolution”, which was held from September 3 to 6, 1940. Horia Sima advised Carol I to appoint General Ion Antonescu at the head of the government. King Carol II approved the nomination, but was forced to abdicate on September 6, his place being occupied by King Mihai I. The newly formed government, the general Ion Antonescu government (1), has functioned during the period September 6 – 14, 1940.

The brackets being closed, through the 64 prisoners executed on the night of September 26 to 27, 1940, were the following: 1. Mihail Moruzov, director of the Secret Intelligence Service of the Romanian Army, in the period  May 1, 1925 – September 5, 1940, who provided King Carol II with incriminating documents regarding Corneliu Zelea Codreanu and Ion Antonescu; 2. Gheorghe Argeşanu, general, President of the Council of Ministers during the period September 21 – 28, 1939, when, on the night of September 21 to 22, 1939, were executed without trial 242 legionnaires leaders; 3. Victor Iamandi,  Justice Minister in the government of Miron Cristea (2), in the period March 30, 1938 – January 31, 1939, when, in a judgment notified on May 27, 1938, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor and to 6 years of the loss of civic rights, after what, legionnaire leader was executed on the night between November 28 and 29, 1938; 4. Gabriel Marinescu, general, interior minister in the government of Gheorghe Argeşanu, in the period September 21 – 28, 1939, when, on the night of September 21 to 22, 1939, were executed without trial 242 legionnaire leaders; 5. Ioan Bengliu, general, general inspector of the Gendarmerie in the period 1938 – 1940; 6. Constantin Sarbu, sergeant, who strangled Corneliu Zelea Codreanu in the night between November 28 and 29, 1938.

The official communiqué of the national – legionnaire government was as follows: “On the night of November 26/27, on the occasion of  the exhumation of the bones at Jilava, the  legionnaires working on this exhumation penetrated into the jail and shot some of the political prisoners who are there and considered the principal authors of crimes against Captain and the legionnaires under the former regime”.

It seems that the Legionnaire Movement was well satisfied with the result of the Massacre from Penitentiary of Jilava, because the Special Commission, founded on September 23, 1940, by Decree 3,321, was abolished on the basis of the Decree 3,009 on December 8, 1940.

Even Antonescu had, in his turn, at least one reason for satisfaction, that to know Mihail Moruzov killed, who supplied King Carol II with compromising documents about him and his family.

The movie “A Commissioner Accuses” brings to light some abominable crimes from the period of the National – Legionnaire State, with a Council of Ministers headed by Ion Anonescu and Horia Sima, president, respectively, vice president. Thus, in the movie appear also fictionalized sequences from the murder of historian Nicolae Iorga (n.a. adviser to King Carol II during Carol’s dictatorship) and of Virgil Madgearu (n.a. editor-in-chief of the review “Romanian Life”, of anti-fascist orientation) in the same day, but at different hours, in the afternoon, respectively, after the nightfall, on November  27, 1940, by a group of legionnaires, formed with Traian Boeru, Stefan Cojocaru, Tudor Dacu, Stefan Iacobuta and Ion Tucan.

Sergiu Nicolaescu had the opportunity to learn about the crimes of the Legionnaire Police during General Ion Antonescu government (2) even from Traian Boeru, who had became a wealthy businessman in the former Federal Republic of Germany. Their meeting held in Munich, during the Feast of October (n.a. in German, “Oktoberfest”) from 1972.

However, Sergiu Nicolaescu introduced in the movie the lying action, of the  release of eight communist prisoners from the Penitentiary of Jilava (n.a in the movie, the Penitentiary of Viraga) by a guardian. Two of the communist detainees are caught in the fight between prison guards and legionnaire policemen, led by a commissioner (n.a. in the movie, Commissioner Paraipan).

The movie has enjoyed a large audience, only from 1974 to 2007 recorded a total of 6,146,991 spectators, being on the place 17 in a ranking of the most watched Romanian movies.

It follows that to 6,146,991 spectators, to over a quarter of the population, it was induced the idea that during the Massacre from the Penitentiary of Jilava was intended to be executed and the communist prisoners, hiding them at the same time the fact that a good period of time, until 22 June 1941 the fascist regime in Nazi Germany has reconciled very well with the communist regime in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, following the Hitler – Stalin Pact, signed on august 23, 1939, and, as a result, the Legionnaire Police did not dare to touch a hair of the Romanian communists.

The “dejisto – ceausist” propaganda was from the begining in accord with the lie of Sergiu Nicolaescu, it ran like the devil from the incense from the subject of the Hitler – Stalin Pact, because it would have brought into the public eye the Moscow Ultimatum, from  June 26, 1940, when Romania was forced to cede without a fight Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and the Herta Region, territories incorporated in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, taboo subject, that would have upset very much the “big brother”.

And now, “nostalgici” for communism in Romania pass under silence the lie of Sergiu Nicolaescu, even from their reason, that what was done then was very good.

Likewise, the politicians with corruption cases, who see only approaching Moscow they will escape criminal sentences, they do not want to draw attention to their citizens on the lie of Sergiu Nicolaescu, because it would bring into discussion the Hitler – Stalin Pact and, implicitly,  the Moscow Ultimatum, from  June 26, 1940, unwanted subject to be discussed again by Russian Federation.

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)

Files from the Whispered History of Romanians (8)

Romanian Armies III and IV,

the weakest links of the front line

from Stalingrad

 

In World War II, the Romanian Army participated both in alliance with Axis, between June 22, 1941 and August 23, 1944, and with the Allies, between August 24, 1944 and May 8, 1945, Victory Day in Europe, when has entered into vigor the capitulation of Nazi Germany. In the case of leaving the Axis in the presence of tanks of Moscow on the territory of their country, were, especially, armies from Finland, after September 4, 1944, from Bulgaria, after September 8, 1944, from Hungary, after January 20, 1945. In the same situation, but in the presence of american tanks on the territory of its country, was the army from Italy, after October 13, 1943.

During the battles, the Romanian Army suffered heavy casualties; there were killed 91,022 Romanian soldiers, of which 72,291 on the Eastern Front and 18,731 on the Western Front. Of the 72,291 deaths on the Eastern Front, 4,271 fell on the space between the Pruth and the Dniester, but the rest, of 68,020,  on the Est of the Dniester.

It is to note the sad truth that the greatest tribute of human lives paid by the Romanian Army, was in the battles from the East of Dniester, putting, thus, in question at least three aspects: the fighting equipment, the morale of soldiers, as well and the military genius of the generals.

The equipping of the Romanian Army has proved to be in insufficient quantity and quality. The deficiencies in the Romanian Army have been felt particularly acutely in the battle of Stalingrad, in particular by the relatively small number of antitank guns, as artillery pieces or mounted on tanks, with a caliber of more than 50 mm, capable to pierce the armor of 45-63 millimeters of Soviet T34 tanks, which, also very important, had had mounted on them guns of caliber 76,2 millimeters.

The arming of Romania was based on its production, and on imports, especially from Czechoslovakia, France and Germany.

By the Decree – Law on February 18, 1941 were militarized state and private enterprises. By the Decree – Law, on October 2, 1941 were suspended vacations and daily duration of work rose from 8 hours to even 12 hours.

The import was affected by a number of international events. On October 10, 1938, the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was invaded by German troops. Impatient, Carol II had a meeting with Hitler at Obersalzberg, on 24 November, 1938. Then they discussed a Romanian – German cooperation. The speeding of it by the Romanian part was made after a series of events: on March 14, 1939 it was formed the Slovak Republic and on March 16, 1939 it was proclaimed the Protectorate of Bohemia and the Moravia as part of Germany. Thus, the Economic Treaty was signed on March 23, 1939, and the Oil Pact on May 29, 1939. By the Oil Pact was established to supply a mutual exchange of commodities: oil from Romania, weapons from Germany.

On July 21, 1941 was completed the pipeline to carry oil between Ploiesti and Giurgiu, from where, on the Danube, this stock has reached more rapidly Germany.

In exchange for oil, Romania has received weapons from Germany, directly at the gates of factories, but also from that which was looted from Poland.

The other major arms supplier of Romania, France, capitulated to Germany on 21 June, 1940. Thus was halted imports from former basic supporter of Romania.

About how much has lowered the morale among the Romanian Army, after it crossed the Dniester, on August 1, 1941, it can get an idea by the fact that was introduced corporal punishment of 25 lashes imposed on those who err seriously about soldierly obligations; this punishment appeared on the Order of August 14, 1941 issued by General Iosif Iacubovici, the Minister of National Defence in the period January 27  –  September 22, 1941.

About “military genius” of some generals, the notorious example in this regard is General Ion Glogojanu, about whom, even his superior, Marshal Ion Antonescu, arrived at his tomb, made the following statement: “You fought like a hero for Odessa and died in Odessa like a silly”. On October 22, at 17.45, blew up the building on the street Friedrich Engels, number 40, which has became the headquarters of the Military Command in Odessa. Ion Glogojanu was informed by Mayor Gherman Pantea that was learned from a Russian woman that the building was the seat N.K.V.D. and that, before leaving, the Soviets had mined it, but the general did not do proper researches. As a result, 79 died and  were wounded 43 troops. Even military commander of the Military Command in Odessa,  Ion Glogojanu died in the explosion.

On October 15, 1942, at the request made by Adolf Hitler to Ion Antonescu, the Army III, led by General Petre Dumitrescu, and the Army IV, led by General Constantin Constantinescu-Claps, took positions shared by the German High Command on the front line of Stalingrad, with a long sector of 110 kilometers, on the northern arm of the Don’s Elbow, between German and Italian sectors of the front line, respectively, a sector long of 200 kilometers, after the German sector, at the end the southernmost front line. The Army VI, led by Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus, was located in the isthmus between eastern arm of the Don’s Elbow and the western arm of the Volga’s Elbow, at the outskirts of Stalingrad from the right bank of Volga. Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, led by Hermann Hoth, was located on the south of the German Army VI.

For more precision, on November 18, the front line included the following sectors, from south to north: the Army IV, led by General Constantin Constantinescu-Claps, the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, led by Hermann Hoth, the Army VI, led by Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus, the Army III, led by General Petre Dumitrescu, the Army VIII, led by Italo Gariboldi, the Army II, led by Gusztáv Jany, the Army IV, led by Hans Kurt Eberhard von Salmuth.

The Soviets chose to start counteroffensive, known as “Uranus”, not at German sectors, not at Italian sector, not at  Hungarian sector, but at Romanian sector, but not at only one, but at both, in two days, one after another. Why? Were they considered by Soviets as the weakest links of the front line?

On November 19, 1942, the Army III, with an effective of 152,492 Romanian troops, has been overwhelmed by the Soviet attack, led by Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin, being sprayed and thus the northern flank of the Army VI remained uncovered.

On November 20, 1942, the  Army IV, with a staff of 75,580 Romanian troops, was also overwhelmed by the Soviet attack led by Andrei Ivanovich Eremenko, leaving uncovered the southern flank of the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks.

With flanks discovered, the encircling of the Sixth Army by the Soviets was accomplished in a very short time, on November 23 at Kalach, the locality situated at west of Stalingrad, at a distance of 80 kilometers.

The German attempts to get out from the encirclement, which was attended and by numerous Romanian troops, failed, only a large part of the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, escaped and formed the Hoth’s armed group.

Although on January 30, 1943, Hitler promoted him as “generalfeldmareschall” (n.a. field marshal, the second highest level after “reichmareschall”, marshal of the empire, in  the German Army between 1935 and 1945), Paulus surrendered the next day, Soviets taking as prisoners 24 generals, 2,500 officers and about 107,000 German soldiers.

But, as at the failures there is always the desire to look for guilties, this disaster at planetary scale led to a series of furious accusations of Adolf Hitler, “der Führer und der Reichkanzler” (n.a. Conductor and Chancellor of Empire) against Ion Antonescu, Conductor and President of the Council of Ministers, on January 10, 1943, during the visit of Ion Antonescu to “Wolfschanze” (n.a. Wolf Den, the headquarters of Adolf Hitler on the eastern front, in the town of Rastenburg, now  Kętrzyn, in the north-eastern Poland).

The peak of paradox is that the greatest Romanian military disaster and, also, with the greatest echo in the world of an action of the Romanian Army, was attributed to Ion Antonescu, the only one with the highest military rank in Romania, that of Marshal active (n.a. this degree was withdrawn on May 17, 1946, by the People’s Court in Bucharest when, in the same time, Ion Antonescu was sentenced to death for war crimes, sentence confirmed, with some amendments, on December 5, 2006, by the Court of Appeal in Bucharest, later, on May 6, 2008, reconfirmed definitively without amendments, by the High Court of Cassation and Justice).

However, it should be noted that the Army VIII (n.a. named in Italian as “Ottava Armata”, and also “Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia”), led by Italo Gariboldi, was in its turn sprayed by the Soviet counteroffensive, called “Little Uranus”, also in one day, December 16, 1942.

Also, the Army II (n.a. named in Hungarian as “Második Hadsereg”), led by Jány Gusztáv, was in its turn sprayed by the Soviet counteroffensive, called Voronezh – Kharkov Strategic Operation, in one day, January 13, 1943.

At the question put previously, the answer given by most specialists in the field is affirmative: the two Romanian sectors were the weakest links of the front line, at Stalingrad, that changed the course of the war, and thus, implicitly,  the fate of hundreds of millions people, in particular, from the Central and Eastern Europe.

This historical truth is passed under silence by many Romanians, in particular, by the nostalgics for the legionary, fascist regime, or by the nostalgics for the communist regime (n.a. both communism and fascism are dictatorial regimes, with one party), thinking that, in the otherwise case, they would not be patriots. This way of falsifying the history by omission, does conduct that we, Romanians, to continue to live in lie, the propaganda began and developed “on the highest peaks” during the “dejisto – ceausist” communist regime, to not  learn the proper lessons from the history and to repeat the past mistakes.

 

Doru Ciucescu

 

The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”

 

(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)