The Death of a Grandma after Years in the Gulag

We are getting very close to the publishing of Do Not Avenge Us, the book with testimonies of Romanian from Bessarabia deported to Siberia. It will come out in a month or so. Since I am reading the final edits, I am again under its strong influence. I am posting here a new fragment: the death of  grandma (bunica, in Romanian), who was sent to die back home, after years in Siberia… The text is written by Margareta Cemârtan-Spânu, her granddaughter. 


One day, I received a letter from Niusia Scobioala who told me that bunica went home, to Bessarabia.

After I left for the orphanage, that village, Orlovka, was completely destroyed. If they took eight people to prison, no one remained to work, to take care of the farms. They moved all of them to Kuzminovka, where the horse brigade was. I do not know how bunica managed to survive there.

In the meantime, dad was writing complaints from prison to Moscow, saying that an old woman with no blame was dying because there was no one to take care of her. Just imagine, she was 78 years old, hungry and cold, and had no one to take care of her! The people from our village helped her from time to time, and this is how she survived for two more years. Then, they sent a committee of doctors to see if she indeed could not take care of herself, and they sent her home.

When she went back, the communists sent her to the district, in Răşcani, to see who she had in the village and who could take her in. Nasta, her eldest daughter, accepted to take her in, to take care of her. The communists left bunica there under Nasta’s care. Both her girls took care of her, but they could no longer do anything, because she already was completely dystrophic and regardless of how you would feed her or take care of her, she could no longer recover.

She stayed at Nasta’s around three months. Then, she called the priest at home, confessed, had communion, and when she felt that her last breath was close—she had a gift from the Lord, because she knew the moment—she went to her house. The daughters told her:

“Where are you going? You are weak. Where are you leaving?”

“I’m going to my house, so that I can die at home!”

She went to her house, which was then a policlinic, in the center of the village. She arrived at the well that she and bunelul Grigore dug. She tried to get water, but she instead spilled it on the ground, because she was very weak and had to use crutches. A young woman came to help her:

“What happened, are you sick? Are you going to the policlinic to get well?”

“I’m going to die in my house. Please, help me to get there!”

The woman helped her, and bunica went into the house. She opened a door, and a doctor was checking a woman. She opened another, and a nurse was giving an injection to a man. He yelled at her:

“Why do you open the door without knocking? What are you doing here?”

Poor bunica did not say anything. If at least he would have been a young man, who would have not known her and would have not known that it was her house, but no, he was instead someone of her age and knew all these things. When he was done with the injection, the man came out. Bunica, being helpless, was sitting on the threshold. He wanted to pass, but she was in his way. And he yelled at her again:

“What are you doing here? Your daughter took you in, go and stay there! Why did you come here? Are you coming to get well? Your health is finished!”

She barely whispered to him:

“I came to my house…”

“It’s no longer yours; it is the state’s! It’s not yours; nothing is yours here. Get up and leave, don’t stay in people’s way!”

Bunica went from the threshold to the porch and she suddenly stiffened up and gave up her soul there, next to her house. If not in her house, at least next to the house where she worked for so many years and gave birth to eleven children.

This is how her prayer, that she had said every day and night in Siberia, was fulfilled. God gave her not only three days, as she asked, but three months. She spent three months at home, in her village, and she died with a candle, confessed and communed. They buried her beautifully, with three priests, a memorial service, alms, and everything as is the custom…

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About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
This entry was posted in Bessarabia, Communist Persecution. Bookmark the permalink.

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