The day before deportation

Another narrator from Do Not Avenge Us, the book in process of translation for Reflection Publishing, is Teodosia Cosmin. This story is of the day before deportation. It was the year of 1949, after the great famine orchestrated by the Bolsheviks to force people join the kolkhoz. Teodosia was 11 years old. Her father had been arrested before the famine and taken to Siberia. The family knew nothing of him. Teodosia lost one sister and one brother to hunger. She remembers how, before dying, her sister Ilenuta used to say, “Mamica, if God brought taticu home, he would bring us two loaves of bread and two pretzels!”

Things then got better, but immediately after the famine came another wave of deportations:

1949 seemed to be a good year. But on July 6 we were deported. The day before deportation we had people for hoeing.  During those times, people helped one another, for it was difficult for a handful of women, as we were, to work the land by ourselves.
On July 5, 1949, it was our turn to hoe the land—corn, sunflower… what we had. Mamica was a strong character. Regardless of how difficult it was, she knew how to get to the end of things and to resist during difficult times. After they finished hoeing, mamica told to the people who helped her:
“Let us have a dance!”
They held each other by hands, sang, and danced. In the evening, they came home. On that day, I played like a fool. You can see it was not a good sign. I played with a girl in the neighborhood all day long. We played, wrestled, and laughed all the time. Especially me, I was laughing with tears. She laughed as well. Then she stopped, looked at me, and said:
“Teodosia, what’s up with you?”
“I don’t know, but I want to laugh, to jump!”
It was not a good sign.
In the evening, when mamica came from hoeing, she put all those people to the table, to have dinner. By then, I was sad, very sad. It was as if I was taken some other place by my own thoughts. I could hear what they were saying, but I could not be attentive. I had a pain on my soul. Someone even noticed this and said:
“Look at this child how sad she is! What may be the problem?”
Mamica said:
“Did you see how many trucks were on the road today? Why so many trucks?”
Someone said:
“Don’t you worry; the trucks have their business.”
Someone else said:
“I hope we don’t have another war!”
These trucks were going here and there; they were assigned on villages and districts, to pick up the deportees.
The people remained at our place for a long time. After dinner, they talked. You know how it is in the villages: they say jokes, talk about things…  By now it was very late. One of them even said:
“Look how long we stay at your place today! As if we did not meet again tomorrow!”
Mamica said:

“Who knows? It is a long time until tomorrow…”
 
That night–it was always during the night, so the terror would be even stronger–the Soviet soldiers came and loaded them in trucks. It was the beginning of the long road to Siberia.

The Nazis and the Bolsheviks

During the WWII, Bessarabia had experienced both the Nazi and the Bolshevik troops. Ion Moraru, one of the narrators from Do Not Avenge Us, was a child when the German troops were crossing Bessarabia toward the front with the Russians. Later, when the Bolsheviks arrested him, he was a teenager.
 

Here are the two events that show the disregard for human life of both these murderous regimes. The first one with the Nazis:

“Since the bombardments were quite close to the village, I was not going far with the cow, but I held her by the rope, right on the side of the road where the German troops were passing. One day, I was very close to a well, and I saw a convoy of Jews accompanied by Germans. O young Jewish woman of a rare beauty, with a long plait on her back that reached her loins, asked a German soldier to allow her to drink water. The German made a sign that she could drink. The girl put her head into the bucket and drank avidly. He looked at her smirking, and all of a sudden—buff!—he shot her right in her neck.

“Scared, I ran home, leaving the cow there. I rushed to bunelul (Romanian for grandfather), who worked in the apiary, and I told him everything. He covered the beehive, and we both ran after the cow because she nourished us. We led her slowly with the rod and brought her home. The convoy went further, and the Jewish woman remained like this, with her head in the bucket, suspended alone between the sky and the earth. Nobody got close to her until evening came, but she was not there in the morning; at the border between Slanina and Drochia appeared a fresh tomb, without a cross, which was a sign that the Christian peasants had buried her.”

Second event, with the Bolshevik persecution: Ion Moraru is taken to the secret police and persecuted after he had written a letter to the leaders of the party complaining about the abuses of this secret police. At the end of the interrogation, the investigator “told me that regardless of where I would complain, I would get to him, and he would make it so that I would be shot as a dog.”

Ion Moraru replies:

“In 1941, I saw the Germans shooting a Jewish woman from the convoy, and she did not have any fault.”

“True,” he replied, “they shot people with no fault, but we strive to find them a fault and we shot them afterwards… Now go home and be careful so that you do not fall back into my hands!”

After a few more months, he is arrested and deported to Siberia.

 

You can see a video with testimonies of those deported to Siberia in the following video:


The video is in Romanian, but it has English subtitles.

A love story

Do Not Avenge Us, the volume about the suffering of Romanians in Bessarabia, is not only a testimony of the horrors brought upon Bessarabia by the Bolshevik occupation. It is also a story about life, about the beauty of moments lived in simplicity. This is a love story between two children who are separated by deportations.

The text in the book may have suffered some transformations in the process of editing.
The narrator of this story is Ion Moraru.

The girl with a fragrance like basil

I had met Lealea a few years back, on a Sunday, when I went to play on the village’s pasture. I saw a group of girls playing and reciting riddles. Among them, there was a girl around seven-eight years old, with brown, wavy hair, and with blue eyes of such brilliant radiance. I thought that I was looking into them as into a mirror. She had just finished chanting a rhyme, and the girls were asking her

“Come, Lealea, say it again…”

They were calling her Lealea out of love. Her true name was Lidia.

She did not give up:

“I am tired; I want to go home…”

I went to talk to them, and I told her to tell me the rhyme with Father Abraham. She held my neck with her small hands and began to pronounce the words as in an incantation; I held her by her fingers, following the rules of the game. Then she asked me to help her cross the bridge because her mother had forgotten to come after her. The bridge was narrow, made out of two boards put together. I told her to hold tight on my neck, and I held her tight to my chest. She had a frail body and she smelled beautifully, like basil. Something passed through me that day, I don’t know what, like a thrill, something inexplicable that I cannot explain even today. I did not even realize when we arrived on the other shore. I put her down, she thanked me, and then she left and was gone for four years. All this time I have not seen her, even once. Her family moved to Mândâc, and I lost track of her. Slowly, she faded from me, and only her eyes remained in my soul, those beautiful and deep eyes in which I had seen myself and for which I wrote some lines:

I had never seen
The sea with its billows,
But I beheld the blue

In a girl’s eyes: my mirrors…

 

In 1945, when the Soviet people came and organized the school in Târnova with students from all the surrounding villages, I met Lealea again in room 5A, where she studied together with a boy from my village, Coliusha. I went to Coliusha’s room often because we would talk about homework and about things at home, this and that. Lealea was in the first row, always silent, with her head bowed. She had grown by now; she was 13 years old. Coliusha asked me:

“Do you know her?”

When I looked closer, she had the same eyes. She was no longer that little child I had helped cross over the bridge; she was differently built, and only those eyes had remained from that butterfly of a girl. But the thrill came back to me immediately. I looked at her, she bowed her head, and I do not know how, but I asked her whether she still wanted me to help her cross over the bridge.

“Now I can cross the bridge by myself!”

From that moment on, I never left her alone, always keeping my eyes on her!

One day, it had snowed a lot, and two boys her age threw her in the snow, piling all the snow on her. I rushed at them like an eagle, and I suddenly began throwing them around. She ran to class, but her little hat knitted from Angora and sheep wool remained at my feet. I picked it up, shook it, and gave it to her saying:

“Here is the trophy from the battle!”

She said, “Thank you, bade!”

“I have a name; if you call me ‘bade’ (a name used for older brothers) again, I won’t come to your class any longer!”

I don’t remember what she answered, but then she told me:

“I pray you, do not beat those two…”

“Why not?”

“Because I do not know you to be a bad one…”

That’s what she told me. On that day, I did not understand. She said it because she said it! I only know realize the kind of soul she had within her…

[…]

And that was it… On July 6th, the deportations began, and someone whispered to me that they took Lealea as well. Her father had died in the spring, and she had moved with her mother to Târnova. I ran all the way to the train station in Târnova; I ran from one end of the train to the other, but I did not see her anywhere. I found out later that her mom had held her tight, not allowing her to come out because she knew what I was capable of. If I had seen her, I would have jumped on the train for sure, to go with her to Siberia. Not only then, but even now, if I were to relive my life, I would do the same!

A Poem From Siberia

 

One of the stories in Do Not Avenge Us is written by Galina Baranovski Sapovalova. She gives us a poem that her mother wrote while she was in Siberia, deported with her children after her husband was murdered by the Bolsheviks. She and her children were “enemies of the people.”

The names you will see in the poem are the names of her children. “Galea” is the nickname for Galina, the narrator of the story.

Here is the English translation. You also have the Romanian text below:

By the flowers, leaves, and deer,
Bad you’ve cursed me, oh, dad dear,
You cursed me on a Monday,
So the world I covered all day.
You cursed me on Tuesday, too,
That I remained alone, and you
Could help me not in wilderness
To feed my children, powerless.
And when we see that night has come,
By cold like death we’re overcome,
For our blanket small it is,
And everyone says, “I’m cold, please!”
Galea wants it so she’s covered,
I desire it with ardor,
To Vitali it never gets,
And Silvica cries with regrets.
And Costica, having no fold,
Cries and shouts: Mamica, I’m cold!
Seeing all these things like this,
I wake up, all is amiss!
I begin to cover them,
And to think, why me, why them?
Why am I so much in torment?
What did I do to men so bad
That God sent me this bitterness
And sent me out in wilderness
With many children, fatherless.
Lord, if you ever want to do
A miracle, genuine and true,
So my time here does get shorter
So I can say my luck was better,
So I can go back to my home,
To see my family, my very own,
To die back home, where I am from,
Regrets, I would have none at all,
For I would die in my own village.
There is no more cherished thing on earth
Than the village where I was born.
But if the Good God wishes not
That I would have what I may not ought,
Then please forgive me all of you,
My word in writing I leave for you,
And I pray you to forget it not,
To know that luck I did not have
And that I carried my life in senseless sands
In the darkness of foreign lands.

Romanian now:
Foaie verde, foaie lata
Rau m-ai blestemat, of, tata,
Si m-ai blestemat si lunea, 
De-am ajuns sa-nconjur lumea. 
Si m-ai blestemat si martea, 
De-am ajuns sa-mi manânc viata
Singurica prin pustii
Cu o casa de copii.
Când vedem ca vine noaptea,
Ne ia asemenea cu moartea,
Caci oghelu-i mititel
Si nu ne ajungem cu el:
Galea-l trage sa se înveleasca,
Eu as vrea sa ma-nvelesc,
Pe Vitali nu-l ajunge,
Iar Silvica începe-a plânge!
Iar Costica, la picioare,
Plânge si striga: Mi-e frig!
Valeu, spinarea ma doare!
Dar si eu, când vad asa, 
Nu-mi mai vine-a ma culca!
Eu ma scol si-i învelesc
Si încep sa ma gândesc… 
Si îmi zic în gândul meu: 
De ce ma chinuiesc eu? 
Oare ce-am facut mai rau 
De m-a batut Dumnezeu, 
De-am ajuns eu prin pustii 
Cu o casa de copii? 
Doamne, vei face vreodata 
O minune minunata
Sa mi se scurteze strocul3,
Sa spun ca asa mi-a fost norocul, 
Sa ma-ntorc la vatra mea,
Sa-mi vad cumnati, parinti, surori 
Si pe urma pot sa mor!
Ca nu mi-ar parea rau defel
Ca as sti ca mor în satul meu.
Caci nimic pe lume nu-i mai scump 
Ca satul în care m-am nascut!
Dar de n-a vrea Bunul Dumnezeu 
Sa-mi împlinesc dorinta si eu,
Ca sa mor în satul meu,
Îmi cer iertare de la toti
Si îmi las ultimul cuvânt în scris

Si va rog sa nu mi-l uitati nici în vis
Si veti sti ca eu am fost aiciea fara de noroc
Si am trait în parte
În neagra strainatate. 

 

Do Not Avenge Us


I am currently translating the book: Do Not Avenge Us: Testimonials about the Suffering of Romanians in Bessarabia (Sa nu ne razbunati: Marturii despre suferintele romanilor din Basarabia). Reflection Publishing has agreed to publish the book. It is the publishing house that also published Aspazia Otel Petrescu’s With Christ in Prison

Do Not Avenge Us is written by survivors of deportations. The writers were children when the Bolsheviks took entire families, loaded them in trains as if they were cattle, and shipped them to Siberia. The trip took weeks. Whoever survived it had to go through famine and terribly cold weather, having no support.
From time to time, I will write here passages from the book. It is a painful book, but also a testimony to beauty. The translation is not final.