The Summer University of Ramnicu Sarat on the Communism Crimes
1. The Prisons
I was so anxious about this summer school. I was thinking many times if it is a good idea to participate or not. I was afraid that I will not be able to take more information about the crimes during communism because already I knew something from Roxana (my colleague from the Historical Film Festival Summer School) and it was so painful to find out what happened in those cruel times.
After her story, I couldn’t sleep a couple of nights. But this it was good. Actually, it was the best preparation for the following hard information. Her introduction in the Communism regime was so helpful for me.
In the first day, we went to visit the Ramnicu Sarat Prison. It was the first time in my life when I entered into a prison. This prison was no longer active.
Well, this prison was built in the period of King Charles the First ofRomania (1839–1914) as a small prison . In the Communism regime, it was known as the Silence Prison as each individual from there was kept in a small cell and no one was allowed to talk with him, even the guards. There was no light during the cold winters and the food had less than 500 calories per day. Many died because of cold and hunger.
During the day, the imprisoned person would stay standing and when the guard would watch him through the small window, he should show his hands as well (because some of them tried to commit suicide and the guard wanted to see that he doesn’t do anything with his hands). They were allowed to sit on a chair 17 hours as well, waking up at five in the morning. After breakfast they would have a punishment time when the guard would enter in the cell and start to beat up on the prisoner. Some died because of beatings as well. There was no soap, no detergent to wash anything and they could only have a shower (with a couple of cups of water actually) one time per month or less than that.
If someone would protest and scream, he would be kept in the punishment room called „neagra” ( the black room), with less food, more beatings, cold, no bed, no light. Some times the guards would put in the „neagra” some dead people, or smelly water, or rats. It was a terror for the prisoner, mentally and physically. It was a way of extermination.
But who were these imprisioned people? Well, they were innocent people, men and women, some from the previous political regime in Romania, or people who didn’t agree with the Communism regime, or people who were there simply because somebody else said they did something against the regime. Many didn’t have a conviction (because the Communists didn’t have enough proof) and they had something called „an administrative condemnation”. There were plenty of these types of prisons in Romania. Everybody against the regime was imprisoned, mostly intellectuals and high class society. And who were the guardins or the Prison Chiefs who tortured them? People with no education, with no more than three or four years of study. People easy to manipulate.
A lot of students and children were imprisoned too. Well, the most known for that is the Pitesti Prison. Here hundreds of students were tortured. They were the best students, the elite students if I can say. Some of them religious, some of them taking part to some meetings that the regime considered were forbidden, some of them simply because they listened to music on the Free Europa radio (a forbidden radio station), some of them being accused of some things they didn’t do at all. There is a case of a Law student who was a Communist party member, but because in his high school he fancied another political movement, he was imprisoned too. It was a crazy procedure in this prison, to „reeducate” the students. Well, there were some more steps, but I simply do not want to write them….. Well, at first, they were put in a cell with other students, they were becoming friends, they would tell their story and say why they were imprisoned. After this they were asked to write everything in a paper. If they would not write everything that they told to their fellows, they were tortured. After this, they were put back into the cell with the other students and they were beaten up by their fellows who came into prison earlier. I mean…..they were beaten by their friends….The students who believed in God were put to make the cross sign (they were Christians) at their prayer with a phallus made of bread. The students who believed in the family, were put to write in a paper that they had intercours with their mothers, sisters and so on, or to say that their mother had sex with Gypsies, or the father had intercourse with other women besides his mother. Some of them wrote it, some of them refused and they were severely beaten up. Well, there were other kind of torture, as to eat hot food, or to swallow big pieces of bread without chewing. The worst was when they would be forced to drink theirs or others' urine, or to eat excrements. This would be served either in soup or separately before soup. Some others were put to stay days standing up in a single leg. One of them tried suicide hurling himself into the hot soup pot, but he was quickly raised. And after this, no medical treatment. Even after harsh beatings, they would cure themselves, because the medical center in the prison had no medicines. Some of the students in prison were studying medicine and they helped their fellows as much as they were able to….
Another prison we have visited is the Jilava Prison. The main purpose of the building was a protection fort and it was built in the Charles the First of Romania period. In the Communist ages, the place was a transit prison where the people were kept untill they would be sentenced to go to other prisons in the country. But some of them died in here. They were shot or they died in the „neagra cell”, the punishment place. Here they were more than eighty in a single cell, sometimes more than one hundred. Many slept in a single bed, some of them sleeping on the floor because of lack of space. Well, in the cell there were two pots, one with water and one for the physiological needs. Imagine that the pot with water was never enough for 100 people and the pot for the physiological needs was always full. Sometimes the dejections were falling outside the pot and the people who were sleeping on the floor sat into that squalidity. Each political prisoner was welcomed by two lines of guards armed with bats who beat him up when they entered inside the prison. The same treatment was applied on the way to the shower place. It was said that once entered in Jilava Prison, you disappear.
People who had the luck to go out were sentenced to live in a totally different place they were living before (mostly in villages, or Baragan – a Romanian area where the agriculture is the main work) and go monthly to the Securitate and declare what they were doing, pushed to collaborate with the regime and so on. They were able to walk no more than some established kilometers and if exceeded, they were put again in jail. Some returned to their own house (they received one room in the house for example, because the rest of it was given to the Securitate employees). There is a real story about this, when a released political prisoner who could return in his own house asked the Securitate what they did with his huge library. Because of this question, he got other five years of prison.
other useful links to the topic: www.memorialulramnicusarat.ro - about Ramnicu Sarat prison
www.iiccmer.ro - The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile
www.fenomenulpitesti.ro - about the Pitesti Prison
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Yes Gabrielle, I have learned a lot indeed:)Delete