Life at camp
When I look back, I realize that none of us – the fifteen people of our group, plus those who joined in later – none of us was attracted to an adventurous life. We took it as a painful but necessary duty. None of us was the kind who would rush in where angels fear to tread. If our world were a true world and our country a true country, we would have lived peaceful lives, not even one of us would have wanted to be any different from the rest of our community.
Student Ion Chiujdea wanted to become a teacher, to help other people’s children grow into “men”. Ghiță Haşiu wanted to be what he already was: a ploughman and a roofmaster, like his father. When we stopped in the woods, he would talk about each of the fir trees on our path, explaining how it could be used, and when he saw dead fir trees, he literally felt pain at the thought that they would decay and waste away. His brother, Baciu got enthusiastic about bee keeping and then started to graft wild fruit trees while we were hiding in the forests at the foot of the mountains. High school students had their mathematics textbooks in their knapsacks and some of them got killed while they were still carrying them. Among them, Gelu Novac was the only one who had a clearer idea of his future. He wanted to be an aircraft building specialist and a priest of the Romanian Church United with Rome. Gheorghe Şovăială was planning to design a fresh water submarine, similar to a torpedo. If I were to name what best described that period of our lives, I would say that it was the bond of affection that united us. We knew each other since childhood, our qualities and defects were no longer a secret. And we were also united by our faith in God. Climbing the mountains had brought us even nearer to Him. We had a deeper understanding of these lines from the Hunters’ March:
God is nearer,
As we tread, we feel His presence
In the soft murmur of waters,
In the forest’s sacred sounds.
The circumstances had shed a different light on the Bible quotation: “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”
We were Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christians in our group. When we went down to the valley, we would all see the same priest. We preferred the fugitive priests: Moldovan from Recea, Motoc from Săsciori, David from Gura – Văii and Stanislas from Lisa. Their own suffering in the name of Christ opened them to understanding our sufferings. I recall a confession to Father Moldovan – we were at the village edge and the field was scanned by the searchlights of Securitate cars. We could feel the priest’s shiver, but he did not leave until he gave us absolution and the Eucharist. When Father Arsenie Boca was at Brâncoveanu Monastery, we would have wanted to go and see him, but he was under strict surveillance and we didn’t want to harm the monastery, if our visit was discovered. This is the reason why, during those eight years we never went to that holy place. On some Sundays and feasts when we were wandering nearby, we would get close, in the forests. The divine service was held outside and fragments of church songs reached our ears. Father Serafim was our last contact person during those years. I remember one Easter when we were in the forests on the summit east of the monastery and we pledged that, should any of us survive, he would gather the others’ corpses and bury them in the monastery cemetery. Who would have guessed that this would be such a difficult task when Romania would be free again? As I write, none of the dead has a grave and our efforts to erect a memorial cross shall continue to face difficulties. We did not go to Father Arsenie, but our families and all the oppressed in Olt Country ran to him, seeking words of comfort or encouragement.
We had spent several months in the mountains and Securitate had not yet discovered where we were hiding. They were in no hurry to bring larger forces. They had searched twice, but in other places. On the other hand, they kept the villages under surveillance, probably to prevent people from supplying us. On several occasions we met small Securitate groups, but some minor show of force like the loading of our guns was enough to scare them away. We had to open fire twice. First, at the edge of Lisa village they warned us and afterwards fired, but when we fired back they didn’t dare to continue shooting. The second time, on an ugly rainy day, we were at the gate of the cemetery in Gura Văii when we ran into a group of Securitate agents. Baciu shouted at them, fired once over their heads and they ran away.
In 1949 and 1950 Securitate used against us mounted patrols of six persons. These patrols were active both day and night. This kind of pursuit was most convenient for us. A mounted patrol is noticeable from far away, especially because the horses neigh, so we could see, hear and know where they were passing by, as they were forced to follow the roads and the boundary trails. When we sensed their presence we simply had to stand still and wait till they left. There were numerous occasions to kill them, had we wanted to. One of them was an acquaintance of ours, the former chief of Gendarmerie, whom we thought trustworthy, Mureşan, a “gentle cat” that eventually, according to the proverb, scratched badly indeed. He sent to prison many people who trusted his honey-coated words. That’s what happened, for example, to my co-villager, Ion Trâmbițaş, an invalid man with only one arm who never returned from prison. I subsequently found out that Mureşan was a sacristan at some church in Făgăraş. Who knows, he was either repenting for his acts or willing to mislead God Himself. As I already said, we did not shoot at them because we knew their thoughts and because they had zero achievements. In fact, we had made some decisions from the very start and we strictly respected them till the very end; I mean, till our very end: we never opened fire from our own initiative.
We said to ourselves that the soldiers had no guilt, they were forced to pursue us. They were young just like us, and they were fulfilling their military obligations. Guilt laid on those who led us into killing each other on the mountain paths, but we had no opportunity to aim our guns at them. The tactic we used was the following: we were never to accept an open fight, we fired back in short rounds and afterwards disappeared without trace, only to reappear who knows where, at our convenience. 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.
In 1976, while I was under arrest at Securitate headquarters on Calea Rahovei, a prosecutor (probably of the Republic) expressed bewilderment that during our activity we had never destroyed one single economic or social objective. We had not taken advantage of having on our side officers who were guarding the explosives plant in Făgăraş. We had never produced any material destruction because we were deeply convinced that the goods belonged to the Romanian people. We thought that in the future, when we shall get rid of communists, all goods shall be needed. We did not blow up the factory and did not destroy mountain chalets, not even those that Securitate had used to hit us. We never set fire to forests. For years we made at least two fires each day, but it never happened to set a forest on fire. We chose our places carefully and we only left after making sure that the embers were fully extinguished. On the other hand, we had put off fires in their beginning stage, carelessly kindled by Securitate agents in places where they had stopped.
Our actions had moral grounds: we were soldiers of Christ and soldiers of our country. As a matter of fact, we signed: “Armata Naţională Română” (Romanian National Army). Our deeds had to be in full accord with the military code of honor and with Christian morality.
Books full of lies were written and films were produced by those who accused us of all sorts of wicked acts. For over 40 years they smeared our fight and, as a result, young people have unfortunately come to think of us as inveterate criminals, unscrupulous or ruthless robbers who were ready to sell themselves to foreigners for money or rapists who attacked young girls, women and brides.
During the years of our resistance we had contacts with thousands of people: mountain shepherds, people from villages, tourists, girls, married women, Romanian nationals, foreigners, people whom we met either purposely or by chance, friends or foes, but no one can reproach us that we failed even once to behave as Romanian fighters and Christians.