Petre Tutea on stalinist re-education in Romania


“The decisive battles at the end of this millenium were not those fought on the battlefield. The human heart is the Armageddon of this aeon, and there too the final battle will take place. What is at stake in this confrontation is the divine spark within the human heart. This is where, until the end of time, the powers bent on fragmenting and enslaving the soul confront the heavenly powers which protect it in its struggle for perfection and freedom. This battle was fought in us throughout the years of imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag and thereafter in Romania. It was a battle for our souls, which our captors wanted to destroy and replace with a subhuman product: “the new man”, an automaton that would function in a world from which moral values had been eliminated.

The desperate effort to preserve our ontological identity, the image and likeness in which God made us, gave shape and substance to our resistance to these infernal forces bent on annexing our inner freedom… It was there that human dignity and even human holiness were revealed to us in all their transfiguring power… This is what we “confess”, this desperate and tragic battle to remain human beings to the very end”

The Church, a hospital for our souls

I had a very rare occasion to listen to Fr Iakovos of Simonopetra monastery and I thank God for that.  The video recording of both sessions is available in the Media section of this website, but for those who don’t have time I just wanted to share a story told by Fr Iakovos.

“We had a father at our monastery whose name was Kallistos and he ended up falling into the sin of greed. He always wanted more and always wanted also to be a wealthy individual so that if in fact something was going to happen to him he was going to be able to leave from the monastery and go out and do that which he had to do with the funds that he would collect, because he was working at the flour mill that we had and he would be getting paid for grinding of the wheat. He would take the money and he would turn it into gold coins. And he would take these gold coins and the people that were here they took the walk with me they saw the house that he lived in, the mill that he worked in. He would take these gold coins and he would store them in the ceiling of his house, so that it would be hidden far away from anybody. Only he knew about this. And one night in the winter when it was cold and he was grinding the flour, he had a fire going on in the fireplace and the chimney had a damage to it and the fire was leaking out from the chimney up in the attic. The attic caught on fire and he didn’t know that during the Turkish occupation on the Holy Mountain up in the attic there were crated of TNT. The whole roof blew itself off. The fathers came running up to see what happened. And here they see father Kallistos coming out all tattered but with nothing wrong with him even though the house have been destroyed. The roof collapsed. He came out and the abbott when he looked at him he said: tell me the sin that you have not confessed that our Lord has allowed you to live in order to say it. And he got on his knees and he confessed his sinfulness of greed and his desire to want more and how he collected gold pieces and was ready to go out in the world to live his licentious life. The abbott gave him his forgiveness and he pledged something which we have here: may your yes be yes and your no be no. He said: I will enter into the monastery and I will never leave from the door of that monastery until it comes time that I am going to brought out on my deathbed. He put away the thought of going out into the world and living a licentious life. And father Kallistos exactly did what he said he would do. And they brought him out on his deathbed and they buried him 23 years after this event. He never left the doors of the monastery. That’s a committed individual. And he had no need of a doctor, no need of a physician, nothing came wrong with him, why? – because he was living a life of perfection, living a life of commitment and our Lord was his comfort.”

Lest we forget

This is a quote from the book “The suicide of Europe” written by prince Michel Sturdza, former foreign minister of Romania who served in the diplomatic corps of his country for twenty-five years without any interruption other than for his tour of duty during WorldWar I, in which he fought first in a squadron of mounted artillery and then as chief of an armored car section, and for a period of service as prefect in Transylvania. During his career, he held posts in Durazzo (Albania), Athens, Bern, Budapest, Vienna, Washington (as Councillor and then Charge d’Affaires of the Rumanian Legation) ; he acted as Envoy Extraordinary and as Minister Plenipotentiary in Riga, Reval, Helsinki, and Copenhagen . His time abroad was interrupted several times by periods of service in the Foreign Office in Bucharest .

“Roosevelt and Churchill knowingly handed over, at Teheran and
Yalta, to the same Stalin and Molotov, and to the Kremlin gang of
murderers and tormentors, one hundred and twenty million Europeans .
They did this at the very time when, to their knowledge and with their
tacit approbation, the Kremlin was inaugurating a new cycle of slaughters
and massive deportations corresponding more than anything else in
modern times to the definition of “genocide .” At Teheran, when Stalin
asked Roosevelt’s consent to seize those doomed peoples, Roosevelt gave
it without any hesitation, asking him only to keep this agreement secret
until after the next presidential election in the United States .

When General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-Exile, with indisputable proof in his hands, told Churchill that fifteen thousand Polish officers, the flower of Poland’s heroic youth, had been butchered in Katyn and in the Arctic, the British Prime Minister shrugged his shoulders and answered coldly : “If they are dead nothing you can do will bring them back .”‘ And on the same page of his
memoirs that he relates Stalin’s confession of the liquidation of ten
million peasants Churchill informs us that future generations will bless
the name of Stalin because they will have more to eat thanks to the
collective farm system? This not only indicates the imperturbable cynicism
of the man who has been called by some “the conscience of the
world,” but also his supreme ignorance of agricultural, economic, social,
and psychological matters . Furthermore, with the same astonishing amorality,
Churchill boasts of the way he proposed to share the countries of
Eastern Europe with Stalin, the mass-murderer :

The moment was apt for business, so I said, “Let us settle about our affairs
in the Balkans. Your armies are in Rumania and Bulgaria . We have
interests, missions, and agents there . Don’t let us get at cross-purposes in
small ways . So far as Britain and Russia are concerned, how would it do
for you to have ninety percent predominance in Rumania, for us to have
ninety percent of the say in Greece, and go fifty-fifty about Yugoslavia?”
While this was being translated I wrote out on a half-sheet of paper :
The others
Great Britain
(in accord with U.S.A.)
The others
I pushed this across to Stalin, who had by then heard the translation .
There was a slight pause . Then he took his blue pencil and made a large
tick upon it, and passed it back to us . It was all settled in no more time
than it takes to set down . . . .
After this there was a long silence . The pencilled paper lay in the centre
of the table . At length I said, “Might it not be thought rather cynical if it
seemed we had disposed of these issues, so fateful to millions of people, in
such an offhand manner? Let us burn the paper .” “No, you keep it,” said
Stalin .

President Truman, despite the fact that Japan had manifested the
desire two months earlier to lay down its weapons, wantonly ordered
that two atomic bombs be dropped on that country, killing or maiming
more than two hundred thousand innocent beings .4 For a long while
the story of the bombardment of Dresden, contrary to that of other
German cities, was tabu for chroniclers, historians, and newspaper people.
Credible accounts place the total number of dead at 250,000 . The
number of casualties might have been still greater-according to certain
reports-in a city crowded with refugees (there were up to one million
permanent and temporary inhabitants), without any air raid shelters,
which received in a few hours the full impact of 3250 heavy bombers . We
read in the London Times of February 16, 1945, only three days after the
Dresden air raid:
Dresden which had been pounded on Tuesday night by 800 of the 1,400
heavies sent out by the R .A.F. and was the main object of 1,350 Fortresses
and Liberators on the following day, yesterday received its third heavy attack
in thirty-six hours . It was the principal target for more than 1,100
United States 8th Army Air Force bombers .5
We will let F. J. P. Veale further describe for us this brilliant aerial
operation in his book Advance to Barbarism which everybody ought to
have read and which few dare to open :

The modern city of Dresden has grown up round the medieval town, now
known as the Altstadt, which lies at the southern end of the bridge crossing
the Elbe . In the eighteenth century Dresden became one of the great show
cities of the world through the construction of a number of magnificent
public buildings, all of which were erected in the Altstadt district of the
city. Within a radius of half a mile from the southern end of the Augustus
Bridge was built a unique group of palaces, art galleries, museums and
churches-the Schloss, containing the famous Griines Gewolbe with its
priceless art treasures ; the beautiful Briihl Terasse extending along the left
bank of the Elbe; the beautiful Catholic Cathedral, the domed Frauen
Kirche; the Opera House, the Johanneum Museum and, above all, the famous
Zwinger Museum containing one of the finest collections of pictures
in the world, including among its many treasures Raphael’s Sistine Madonna,
purchased by the Elector Augustus II, in 1745, for 20,000 ducats .
Within this small area, so well known to British and American travellers
on the continent, there were, and could be, no munition factories or, in fact,industries of any kind . The resident population of this district was small .
The main railway station of Dresden is situated a mile away to the South
and the railway bridge which carries the main line to Berlin is half a mile
down the river .This, then, was the target, and here are the details of this raid which
might well count as one of the most illustrious instances of what have
been called war crimes, and even of what has been called genocide .

On the morning of the fateful February 13, 1945, fast enemy reconnaissance
planes were observed flying over the city. The inhabitants of Dresden
had no experience with modern air warfare and the appearance of these
planes aroused curiosity rather than apprehension . Having been for so long
outside any theatre of war, the city lacked anti-aircraft defenses, and these
planes were able to observe in complete safety all that they desired . No
doubt, they observed and reported that all the roads through and around
Dresden were filled with dense throngs moving westward . . . . It was common
knowledge that a frantic orgy of murder, rape and arson was taking
place in those districts of Silesia which had been overrun by the Soviet
hordes. It should not have been difficult to deduce in these circumstances
that many people in districts threatened by the Russian advance would decide
to try to escape westwards .
Some hours after night had fallen, about 9 :30 p.m., the first wave of attacking
planes passed over Dresden. The focus of the attack was the Altstadt
. Terrific fires soon broke out which were still blazing when the second
wave of attackers arrived shortly after midnight . The resulting slaughter was
appalling, since the normal population of the city of some 600,000 had been
recently swollen by a multitude of refugees, mostly women and children,
their menfolk having remained behind to defend their homes . Every house
in Dresden was filled with these unfortunates, every public building was
crowded with them, many were camping in the streets . Estimates of their
number vary from 300,000 to 500,000. There were no air raid shelters of
any kind, unless we so regard the enormous cloud of stifling black smoke
which, after the first attack, covered the city and into which the second and
third waves of attackers dropped their bombs . Adding a unique touch to
the general horror, the wild animals in the zoological garden, rendered
frantic by the noise and glare, broke loose : it is said that these animals and
terrified groups of refugees were machine-gunned as they tried to escape
across the Grosser Garden by low-flying planes and that many bodies riddled
by bullets were found later in this part . . . .
The circumstances made it impossible for the authorities to undertake the
task of trying to identify the victims . So enormous were the number of bodies
that nothing could be done but to pile them on timber collected from
the ruins and there to burn them . In the Altmarkt one funeral pyre after
another disposed of 500 bodies, or parts of bodies, at a time . This gruesome
work went on for weeks .”

Give me a simple heart, O Lord.

The Tale of the Prayer and the Little Fox

In Egypt, in whose ancient Christian past there had once been many grand monasteries, there once lived a monk who befriended an uneducated and simple peasant farmer. One day this peasant said to the monk, “I too respect God who created this world! Every evening I pour out a bowl of goat’s milk and leave it out under a palm tree. In the evening God comes and drinks up my milk! He is very fond of it! There’s never once been a time when even a drop of milk is left in the bowl.”

Hearing these words, the monk could not help smiling. He kindly and logically explained to his friend that God doesn’t need a bowl of goat’s milk. But the peasant so stubbornly insisted that he was right that the monk then suggested that the next night they secretly watch to see what happened after the bowl of milk was left under the palm tree.

No sooner said than done. When night fell, the monk and the peasant hid themselves some distance from the tree, and soon in the moonlight they saw how a little fox crept up to the bowl and lapped up all the milk till the bowl was empty.

“Indeed!” the peasant sighed disappointedly. “Now I can see that it wasn’t God!”

The monk tried to comfort the peasant and explained that God is a spirit, that God is something completely beyond our poor ability to comprehend in our world, and that people comprehend His presence each in their own unique way. But the peasant merely stood hanging his head sadly. Then he wept and went back home to his hovel.

The monk also went back to his cell, but when he got there he was amazed to see an angel blocking his path. Utterly terrified, the monk fell to his knees, but the angel said to him:

“That simple fellow had neither education nor wisdom nor book-learning enough to be able to comprehend God otherwise. Then you with your wisdom and book learning took away what little he had! You will say that doubtless you reasoned correctly. But there’s one thing that you don’t know, oh learned man: God, seeing the sincerity and true heart of this good peasant, every night sent the little fox to that palm tree to comfort him and accept his sacrifice.”

From: “Everyday saints” and other stories by Archimandrite Tikhon