Mihail Decean Exhumation of martyr-heroes with an excavator
Mihail Decean and His Family

Among the many books written by the authors of Timisoara who have evoked the crimes of communism, I chose to read, some years ago, a volume by Mihail Decean. While that work could have been characterised as atypical, his most recent one, The Exhumation, is highly controversial.

Mihail Decean is part of a family whose members endured repression in the communist years. His uncle “and his folks” spent time in prison and lost their children. Their nephew, the cousin of those who disappeared, wants to know, needs to know “what happened to those who are no longer with us”. And he writes a diary of his search. A dairy of personal research, investigations and painful surprises. What is happening today with the history of yesterday? With “our” heroic history? Experienced researchers into recent history invite Mihail Decean to describe his itineraries. Professor Viorel Marineasa, a researcher who has written several books on the crimes of communism, gives his full support to Mihail Decean, who hopes that others will do the same. But not all of them will. Maybe some managers of the institutions investigating the crimes of communism have a certain impatience that ignores the great respect owed to the martyr heroes. To their families. To the families who want to know the truth about the martyr heroes: their children or nephews or cousins.

What does “exhumation” mean but an encounter with the afterlife? An encounter that also says something about us. What else can it be – when speaking about heroes – but a solemn process, a ritual that does not exclude but implies a religious approach? Especially when speaking about martyr heroes. The research of the sacrifices of those who participated in the anticommunist resistance – the martyr heroes – has involved institutions, experts, famous history personalities and people trying to discover their close friends, acquaintances or well-known individuals. And the institutions have reacted, naturally, right away. How to find a hidden place quickly? How to save its traces while they are still visible?

Mihail Decean’s book raises serious issues about our history. When dealing with such issues, one should also listen to the voice of the other one who took part with his arguments (and an excavator) in a process that offended a family. The family of the martyr heroes.  

A book of disturbing questions about our history of today and yesterday, Exhumation is an essay-diary that deserves to be re-read carefully. It may be a necessary warning...

Cornel Ungureanu