Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – Destruction in Romania

      Ciofliceni, Popesti-Leordeni, Otopeni, Domesti, Potlogi--these are some of the Romanian villages already razed under President Ceausescu's villainous policy of "systemization". If fully implemented, it will result in the destruction of over half the country's 13,000 plus villages by the year 2000. Three hundred others are slated for redevelopment as 'agro-industrial complexes', where peasants will be relocated into multi-storey apartment buildings with communal kitchens and a resident concierge/ informer. One Western diplomat, who visited the site of a village where bulldozers were already at work, heard desperate pleas from inhabitants to stop the destruction of their birthplace. Some were destroying their own houses to salvage building materials and winter fuel before the demolition squads arrived. 

      Ostensibly, the reason behind the 'systemization' is to increase the amount of arable land in order to overcome Romania's present inability to feed its population: bread, flour and sugar are rationed; vegetables and fruit expensive - when available at all; dairy products are unavailable even for children; in winter these shortages are made even more difficult to bear by government shut-downs of gas and electricity---even in freezing weather. Experts, however, agree that 'systemization' will only exacerbate this crisis. The real reason behind Ceausescu's madness is not economics. As one visitor to Romania last year wrote:

      "...the sufferings of the Romanians are now compounded by a new despair as they realize that they are about to lose communication with their past forever....Romania is being purged of its historical identity" (Jessica Douglas-Home in Frontier, Jan.Feb., 1988).

      To understand just how deliberate this purge is, one has only to compare Ceausescu's ideology with the ideology which lies at the root of Romania's historic identity.

      At the Third Congress of Political Education and Sodalist Culture, held in Bucharest in August, 1987, Ceausescu gave an opening speech in which he stated that "without political education and advanced culture, the people remain prisoners of prejudice, mysticism and obscurantism....Greed, egoism, mysticism and obscurantism must be firmly combatted..." In a word, Ceausescu is one of the most militantly atheistic leaders in the Communist Bloc. His atheist platform was even more clearly spelled out in a front-page article which appeared the week preceding the Congress in the Communist Party daily, Scinteia:

      'The reconstruction of human values, in the process of building a new life, necessarily presupposes the overcoming of the state of dependence on religious ideas about the world..." (quoted in KNS #284; 8/24/87).

      Historically, Romania's culture is deeply Christian. 'Systemization' means the obliteration of thousands of churches, thousands of cemeteries. And not only in villages are they being destroyed. Since 1977, at least 20 churches---many of them historic Orthodox churches dating as far back as the 17th century--have been demolished in Bucharest as part of a vast redevelopment scheme. (A list of these churches was compiled by the Romanian Section of Radio Free Europe and reproduced by Keston News, 11/5/87.) Seven other churches have been either partially destroyed, moved or screened off by highrises so as not to be seen from the new Victory of  Socialism Boulevard which now dominates the city center, a city once famed as an architectural gem.


      More recently, Keston reports, "a decision has been taken to proceed with a large-scale water project which will involve the flooding of the cemetery of the famous Cernica monastery [revived by a disciple of St. Paisius Velichkovsky in the 18th century and the resting place of St. Callinicus of Romania]. The monastery complex, which is a few miles east of Bucharest, is situated on the edge of a lake, which is to be enlarged. In addition to the cemetery, where many famous Romanians are buried, one of the monastery's churches which is situated on low lying land is also threatened... 

Looking across the lake at Cernica Monastery "Meanwhile, a new hotel has been built on the site of an 18th century monastery at Pantelimon, near Bucharest. Most of the monastery's buildings--including the church--were razed in 1985, with the remaining buildings altered beyond recognition. The hotel was opened towards the end of last year. The project has received extensive coverage in the press, although the fact that the hotel has been built on the site of an old monastery is never mentioned..." (KNS 1/19/89). 

    The situation is tragic indeed and we must pray to God to bring it to an end. As Fr. Gheorghe Calciu wrote to us earlier this year, "It is not only the Christians who are suffering but the whole nation is under terror and pressure." What can be done? Express your concern to your Congresssman; pressure from the West may force Ceausescu to back down. Further, Fr. Gheorghe appeals for financial support of the Romanlan Faith and Freedom Coalition which regularly sends food parcels into Romania, especially for the monks and nuns. It uses private persons as carriers and is a reliable way of alleviating the constant struggle to obtain food, a struggle which has come to dominate the lives of se many Romanians.