MY SECOND UNIVERSITY by Stanciu Stroia with Dan Dusleag











Free Hit Tracker and Free Web Site Stats by WebSTAT  page hit counter  Excerpt from INTRODUCTION

A Piece of Romanian (and Family) History

To better understand my grandfather’s memories, one must be familiar with Romania’s political situation before and during World War II and in the eventful period that followed. The next several pages do not represent an attempt at an exhaustive history lesson—numerous comprehensive textbooks written by competent individuals serve that purpose. Rather, they constitute a succinct and chronological presentation of the essential events and circumstances that shaped Romania’s fate. The intention is not to overwhelm the reader with superfluous information, but to provide a framework for facilitating comprehension of the book’s content. Historical facts often differ in their packaging and labeling according to the distributor’s opinions. The information selected here comprises well-known, rudimentary data and dates, accompanied by interpretations based on my own reading, observations, and conclusions. It is researched history supplemented by personal experience. For the apparent redundancy of ideas, I ask the reader for forgiveness. It is aimed at underscoring necessary points. Ultimately, this introduction’s ambitious proposition is to provide basic answers to timely questions: How was Communism in Romania possible? What happened to the people who opposed it? Why is it important for you, the reader, to know about it? What is the story’s contemporary relevance? If the following text succeeds in delivering the intended message, the significance of knowing these answers will be evident. [...]
To forgive and to forget are entirely different concepts; one does not consequentially imply the other. A crime can be forgiven, but if it is forgotten, the victim’s punishment becomes continual. The survivors must not forget, while those who have been spared must not ignore. Without subscribing to the notions of “competitive martyrdom” or “monopoly of suffering,” the Communist repression has to at least be put in its proper perspective. And although I am equally appalled by other atrocities committed throughout the world—particularly at the time of this publication—I believe that the Stalinist crimes of the past century should occupy a well-documented and deservedly infamous place in the historical literature. Their significance has not faded over the past fifty years, and they represent a history lesson that ought to be told, so that the world learns from it and avoids a repetition of a terrible past. Ignorance is at the root of all evil—according to an old maxim; a clear understanding of how Communism was possible is crucial for our own self-preservation. [...]
One can argue that it takes a multitude of socioeconomic and political elements, favorable internal circumstances, and a permissive or powerless international community for a radical government to emerge. Unfortunately, auspicious conditions develop frequently, and the results are painfully similar. This personal saga is an eye-opener regarding events with a true potential for recurrence if collective political vigilance fails. One glimpse at the current international situation is sufficient to reveal the present-day relevance of this memoir. [...]

Excerpt from CHAPTER I - FAMILY

The Little Bag

Cred în Destin si in puterea cereasca pe care o numesc Dumnezeu.
I believe in destiny and in the heavenly power called God. That is the reason why I will fill this notebook with the moments of my life that cost me many years of freedom.
As they resurface in my memory, important events will be enumerated in imperfect chronology, and they are to be read only after I die. Until then, the manuscript will be placed in sacusorul de de canepa, the small bag made of hemp in which I saved my prison clothes, some of which I wore without interruption for almost seven years.
Today, that little bag can be found in Cacova, inside the large wooden chest, which is placed under the window looking out to the front street. At one end of the bag’s lace is the needle that a fellow convict made from a booklet staple he found in the prison yard. This needle could be spotted only with a greater skillfulness than that of the prison guards who never found it, despite the countless searches they performed on me.
With the help of that needle, I sewed thousands of meters of thread taken from the seam of the mattresses, after I had used all of the thread from three pairs of socks. That particular needle and the sewing—I always had some petece (patches) that I took from wherever I could—saved me from an irremediable mental depression. When I was alone in my cell, in total isolation, and did not know what to do with my time, I sewed. The guards knew it because they could see me through the small cell door window, and they would shout at me, nodding their heads, sometimes in a lenient manner:
Iara cosi, doctore? “You’re sewing again, Doc?”
My family mailed me this little hempen bag in the spring of 1952, and it remained the only package—without a letter—I was permitted to receive during seven years of imprisonment. [...]

Excerpts from CHAPTER II - ARREST

First Interrogation – Fagaras, October 1950

It will soon be thirty years since that fateful day. It was on a Sunday evening, the first day of Easter, on April 30, 1951. I had just returned home to Fagaras from Cacova, where I had visited my mother. It was a quiet and relaxing family night as I was telling my wife and children about the holiday I had spent in my mother’s company. Even though it was getting rather late, none of us was interested in going to bed.
Around midnight, a persistent knocking on the dining room window disturbed the peaceful atmosphere. As I cautiously looked outside, I recognized the local Securitate chief officer standing in front of my window, surrounded by several militiamen who were quick to greet me. I also noticed two armed individuals in uniform right behind the chief and another man, an older officer, dressed in civilian clothes patiently waiting at the gate. He appeared to be carrying a gun as well and was not making any efforts to conceal it.
Without much introduction, the captain entered my office with one of the men and proceeded to perform a thorough search. He focused on the area around my working desk and spent quite some time in the library, reluctantly giving up his search after it proved fruitless. Disappointed by his failure to uncover compromising evidence, he ordered me to follow him to the Securitate headquarters “right now!”
Since the end of October 1950, when I had my first encounter with the secret police, I had been waiting every day for someone to return for my arrest, living with that unpleasant sensation of the inevitable. After six months of observation and analysis of my political situation had gone by, I sensed that I would be “picked up.” I had been offered missions as an informer in the interim, but following my stubborn refusal to cooperate, I feared that the police had not given up on me. I could not have imagined, however, that I was not going to return home that night. [...]

A Frightening Encounter

[...] The guard removed my glasses and led me—carefully carrying my bowl in his hands—toward the door of the hallway. I was pleasantly surprised by his almost humane behavior. I did not know what was going to happen next, but when I saw the blue sky through the door of the first room on the right, at the entrance of the basement, and the daylight coming from the stairway, I was almost certain I would be freed. . . .
My happiness was short-lived, however. The guard pushed me into the next cell, and when the door to the basement suddenly closed behind me, I found myself in the most frightening situation of my entire period of detention. The first thing I noticed as I entered that room was a tiny window with iron bars and about twenty empty and ravaged black metal beds, some on top of each other. It was pitch black, the air was thick and foul-smelling. For a moment, I thought I was going to be murdered: A bulky young fellow sitting on a bench in the corner of the cell near the door, about 24 years old and over two meters tall, charged me like a madman. Through a miraculous balancing act, I managed to save my bowl of soup from spilling and my piece of bread from falling to the ground.
The man, unshaven and looking at me with big, bulging eyes, had a frightful appearance and wore the lost expression of a crazy person. I was convinced he was a Securitate hit man, sent to exterminate me. He grabbed my left arm violently and started to groan, his breath wretched. I pleaded with him to let go of me, but he kept moaning and mumbling nonsensically, unable to utter a clear word. He appeared to have had a shock when he saw me and was speechless as a result. My immediate thought was to hit him hard in the groin or testicles, and then attempt to make my way to the small cell window looking out onto the yard, with the intention of shouting or crying for help in case I was badly hurt.
After a few agonizing moments of wrestling, the man, who appeared to have calmed down, realized that I failed to recognize him and started to talk to me, looking me straight in the eyes while shaking me by the shoulders:
Doctore, doctore!
Still very suspicious, I firmly replied: Lasa-ma in pace! Nu te cunosc! “Leave me alone. I don’t know you!”
But he insisted: “Of course you do. It’s me, Lae Greavu! I’m married to Melita Balthes, the butcher’s daughter from Fagaras!”
I recollected instantly that she was one of my patients, and I knew that her husband was the only individual in Fagaras with that unusual name. Lae Greavu was a theology student and a native of Oltet village, where several farmers and students had recently been arrested. He told me he had been isolated in this cell for several days and felt as if he were losing his mind. The room we were in was a horrible mess, with the twenty iron bunk beds in total disarray. Depressed and exasperated at his lengthy isolation, Lae had tried to hang himself, but he could not manage to get his sizeable head through the loops of the bed frame. My fear, at least, had vanished.
Years later I returned to Fagaras to discover that Lae’s wife Melita, a German girl, had divorced him, as many wives were coerced into doing by the Securitate. [...]


In Memoriam

The first in a series of three lists of political detainees includes more than eight hundred names of individuals from Fagaras County and surrounding villages, arranged in alphabetical order, who were not afraid to say “NO!” to the Soviet occupation and Communist takeover of Romania. When challenged by history, these incorruptible spirits had the courage to speak out. The result was their arrest, imprisonment, or death at the hands of the Securitate during the state-sponsored purge that continued from 1945 to 1964. The list is published for the first time in these pages, courtesy of History Professor Ioan Ciupea from the National Museum of Transylvanian History in Cluj, a specialist in the Romanian anti-Communist resistance. According to Professor Ciupea, the list consists of people representing the entire political spectrum of interwar Romania, as well as many individuals with no political activities or affiliations, such as Dr. Stanciu Stroia. The only experience common to this heterogenous group was the struggle more than half a century ago to oppose the imposing of the Communist plague on the Romanian nation. . . . Out of Romania’s population of eighteen million people in 1945, half a million were imprisoned or deported during the Red Holocaust. That represented one incarcerated individual for every thirty-six “free” people, a relative notion for those living under dictatorship. Almost three percent of Romania’s inhabitants were political detainees in the 1950s. The reader should keep in mind that the eight hundred names of prisoners listed on the next pages are only the known ones, from one county out of Romania’s forty-one. Fagaras County consists of seventy communities, which means that each village had more than ten arrested subjects. Out of Rausor (Valeria Stroia’s birthplace) alone, a tiny rural community numbering 767 souls and 170 houses in 1956, thirty families (almost one in six) had loved ones who were detained. Unmentioned in the total number are the countless relatives and friends of the imprisoned who suffered various persecutions short of incarceration. This sad but proud record places Transylvania’s Fagaras County and its brave inhabitants at the center of the Romanian anti-Communist resistance. [...]

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