|Eugenia and Gheorghe Hasu. Photo from Ioana Hasu’s collection, used with permission.|
Let me tell you a story. After fighting as a soldier for his own country, a young man returns home. There is nothing special about him; he did what was required of him, like many others who lived through or died in WWII. He was wounded and decorated–again, like many others. When he comes back home, he wants to establish a family, so he goes from village to village thinking that he may fall in love. And he does. One of his friends recounts, “he chose as wife a 16 years old girl, small, who just entered the traditional winter meetings. She was happy, so happy that she forgot to cry when the wedding chariot took her to his place.”
It is a love story: the two young people build together a life, they have a first child, and the young wife expects a second one. But this is when history strikes. The story takes place in Romania, after WWII. Romanians, just like the majority of East-Europeans, were beginning to experience another calamity: the communist persecution.
But this story is not about persecution; it is about this man who, with an expecting young wife and with a toddler, runs away from home and hides in the mountains when the Securitate, the communist secret police in Romania, is looking for him. He was one of the wealthier people of his village, which back then meant that you had some land or some craft that allowed you to have your own workshop, and he had been labeled an “enemy of the people.” But the point is that he runs from home, leaving his wife behind while knowing what that meant for her and her young child: beatings, arrests, and loss of any chance to have a secure life (the Securitate could throw you into a dungeon without any warrant and without any trial; in the late 1940s and early 1950s, many were even shot with a bullet in the back of the neck because they did not give up their land).
A young man runs away to hide for his life, leaving behind his pregnant wife and his child.
“A coward,” some of my students said when they heard this story. How can you leave your wife behind? Stay home, go to prison, even die if this is required of you, but do not give up your responsibility for your family.
One could defend this man in many ways. For example, one may say that there was no other solution. Even if he stayed at home, his family was still the family of a “bandit,” as these people were labeled by the communists. It was still a family of “an enemy of the people,” and this meant that his wife would still not be accepted for work, his children would still not be accepted in universities. At least he could fight if he went into the mountains, do something to get rid of the persecutors–and he was, indeed, part of the anticommunist resistance movement.
But this is not an explanation, I think. Indeed, he had no choice, but not because other choices were not better. There was no other choice because there is no choice. Choice had nothing to do with the results of his actions. He had no choice because the man who loved the young woman who was “so happy, so happy that she forgot to cry” when she got married, that man would have died in the absence of freedom. And he would no longer have been a person, but an individual, an object like any other, a “brick,” as Fr. Calciu says, in the mighty construction that communism wanted to realize in Romania. That man, Gheorghe Hasu, did not leave his wife for a value that was higher than his love for her. It is in this love for her that he acted the way he did. For love has no purpose. Love has no end. Love is not for something that comes after it, a life with children and grandchildren. Love is its own child. And to this love both of them were faithful. Which does not mean that they were faithful to something else other than them, but rather to “Eugenia and Gheorghe together.”
I wondered how I could explain to my students what happened with the people who fought against communism in the anti-communist resistance. One day, as I often do, I was listening to country music. And I fell upon this song, Carrie Underwood’s Just a Dream. Please do watch it here:
Before this particular performance, a young woman speaks of her deceased husband. He was a soldier, and he died in the war. He died for his own country. His wife could receive the honor that he deserved; she could cry about his loss openly; she would be respected by her peers; she would not have to hide everything that would remind of him; her children would not be persecuted and called their entire lives the “children of a bandit.” And nobody would say that her husband left her behind when she was young and she had a toddler.
Gheorghe Hasu did the same thing. He fought for his country, which means his family, his wife and his children. But his country had already been stolen.
Before his arrest, Gheorghe sent his wife a short verbal message through a currier: “Tell her to forgive me. And to raise the children as God will help her.”
This request for forgiveness does not need a response. It is only the expression of being with the other.
Gheorghe Hasu was caught by the Securitate after being betrayed; he was then tried and executed.
In a recent interview, Eugenia Hasu said, “he was a good husband, he loved me; I had no problems with him.”