Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu – biography

The following biography is exclusively based on Pine Trees Break, They Do Not Bend, the work that the author dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in the armed anti-communist resistance in Făgăraş mountains, Romania.

Ion Gavrilă (Ogoranu[1]) was born on January 4, 1923 in Gura Văii, a village at the foot of Făgăraş Mountains.

At the age of 11 he enrolls in Radu Negru High-school in Făgăraş, a school rooted in the long tradition of Făgăraş Country. While in high-school he joins the “Cross Fraternity”[2].

Having graduated high-school, he attends the Faculty of Agronomy in Cluj and becomes a member of the “Petru Maior[3] student society. At the end of 1945, the University of Cluj returns home from exile – after the Vienna Diktat in 1940 the university had temporarily functioned in Sibiu and Timişoara. The atmosphere on the streets of Cluj is full of enthusiasm and hope.[4]

After the general elections in 1946, when for the first time a communist government is legitimized by means of intimidation and fraud, Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu realizes that the Romanian youth had to organize and to fight communism with the same weapons  the communists were using. Therefore, he joins the youth organization in Făgăraş county, led by one of his former classmates in high-school, Gheorghe Toader, a Chemist Engineer. The organization gathered, besides legionaries, who constituted the majority, members of the Peasants’ Party and people having no political affiliation.

Upon his return to Cluj, he finds there an organization already established at the Faculty of Agronomy, formed mainly by “cross brothers”. This was a political organization that could be transformed into a military one during armed conflicts with the communist regime.

In March 1947, the leader of the Student Centre in Cluj proposes him to work in the regional Cross Fraternity covering Ardeal, as a replacement for those who were under police surveillance. He accepts it but shortly afterwards he is forced to interrupt this activity as he is also followed by police. He will return to the student organization, but will remain in isolation for a while.

In May 1948,  numerous students and professors are arrested.  Guided by civilians, military troops raid the University and arrest those they have on lists.[5] On the Christmas Eve of 1948 Ion Gavrilă manages to avoid being arrested.

On New Year’s Eve, 1949, he returns to Jibert, spends here 10 days and then heads home, to Gura village. At the end of February 1949, he arrives in Gura and hides at his uncle’s house. At about the same time, the village council displays a sentence on his name: he was sentenced to 19 years of prison.

Upon his arrival in the village he gets in contact with other fugitives: Laurean Haşiu (a colleague from the Faculty of Agronomy), Haşiu Andrei (he took refuge from Arad, where he worked in the wagons factory and came back home), Mihai Maga – medical student, Ion Chiujdea – student in natural sciences, Gilu Radeş – student in engineering with Politehnica University of Timişoara and Gheorghe Şovăială – worker in Braşov.

The young men usually gathered in the night to discuss the news they heard on the radio and to make future plans. At dawn they spread.

“What were our thoughts? What were our hopes for the future? Those days the war in Korea had begun. We were not at all happy about it. We did not understand why a former Japanese colony was deemed more important by the West than Eastern Europe. At that time we had the impression that Western countries were very weak. The communist parties in these countries won significant results in the elections and a communist regime was likely to be established anytime in a western country. ”[6]

On the night of April 23, 1949 (Saint George) they decide to go into the mountains starting with May 1, 1949. The group is exclusively formed of those who had nothing to lose, as they were already followed and sentenced in absentia.

An effervescent period, that Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu describes as an “Era of Romanticism” follows: manifestos printed abroad are spread in Făgăraş region. Some of these are signed by the Romanian Council in France while others bear the royal emblem.

As Securitate (political police) intensifies its searches, the group is prepared to fight. Their weapons come from various sources. During the war, most of the Romanian soldiers on leave left their guns and ammunition at home. Back in 1918 their parents had done the same. Many of the soldiers of the German Army in Prahova have passed through the villages in Făgăraş on their way to the regions inhabited by Transylvanian Saxons. They left their guns to “our people”.

They even had weapons from the Russian soldiers who tried to rob the villages and got caught and disarmed by Romanian peasants during the autumn of 1944.

From the very beginning the group led by Ogoranu opted for a defensive strategy. They were to use their guns only to protect themselves.

The mission we had assumed was to live in the mountains, to force them (Securitate)into a continuous search that would drive them out of their minds, until maybe a divine miracle would make a true liberation fight possible. We meant our resistance to be a little light giving hope and confidence to all those who knew of our existence.” [7]

Over a period of approximately 8 years the group tries to resist in the mountains. Many of them are shot by Securitate.

An important part of the group is arrested and shot in 1957.

After approximately 8 years of group resistance, Ogoranu prepares for solitary resistance. Other 21 years would pass till Securitate will finally arrest him.

At first he takes refuge to Galtiu, at Ana Săbăduş, widow of doctor Petru Săbăduş, who had been arrested by the communist regime and who died in prison. After five years of providing Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu with a place to hide and supporting him, Ana will marry him and will stand by him until death will separate them.

In the spring of 1976 Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu is arrested by Securitate for 6 months and thoroughly questioned by numerous high ranking officers.  During his time in prison he writes his autobiography.

Upon his release, the authorities have fabricated for him a new identity: Ion Pop.

It is the beginning of a period when he tries to live a life as normal as possible, but he is under permanent surveillance. He has enormous difficulties in finding work and is only hired temporarily, as unskilled worker on various state owned farms.

On the Christmas Eve 1989, when the Romanian revolution starts, he travels to Bucharest and tries to get to the Romanian Television and tell his story. Despite his attempts at explaining who he is and why he is there, he is not permitted to enter the building.  A news presenter asks him: “Did you fight against communists or against legionaries?”

After 1989 he strives to bring to light the facts about the Romanian anti-communist resistance and has a major contribution to the set-up of “Pentru Patrie” party. He manages to rise in Sâmbăta de Sus a monument that honors the memory of the fighters in his group (Carpatin Făgărăşan). His memoirs are published under the title “Pine Trees Break, They Do Not Bend”.

He died on May 1, 2006 and was buried in the cemetery of Galtiu village, in Alba county.


[1] Members of his family were dubbed “Ogoranu” according to the documentary “The Memorial of Suffering” produced by Lucia Hossu Longin

[2] “The Cross Fraternity was created in 1924 by the leaders of the student movement in 1922. It was established as a youth organization dedicated to educating Romanian pupils in the Christian and nationalist spirit.” Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, Pine Trees Break, They Do Not Bend, Vol. I (Baia Mare, România: Editura Marist, ed. 2, 2009), 29

[3] Established in 1881 in Budapest,  this is the oldest association of Romanian students

[4] “In the afternoons the streets surrounding the University were packed with young people. Long corridors opened from time to time through the crowd and along them came all smiling reputed names of Romanian science and culture: Emil Racoviță, Iuliu Hațegan, Lucian Blaga, Alexandru Borza, Ioan Lupaş, Nicolae Mărgineanu and others.” Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu,, 26

[5] The “Popular Power” had to chase out of the academia all the professors who were deemed to be reactionary, fascists, obscurants, enemies of the people, agents of imperialism who were against people’s happiness and democracy. Little did it matter that among these professors were Blaga, Hațeganu or Lupaş. Their reputation was, in fact, one more reason to get them out of the universities as soon as possible. Their students had the same fate.” Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, 63

[6] Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, 99

[7] Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, 114

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