Mihail Decean Exhumation of martyr-heroes with an excavator
On this day

On this day, August 31 2015, there was not enough time to continue excavating with the classic archaeological methods. After lunch, the coordinator of the works had time only to mark the mass grave and remove the vegetation, so that we could cover the 16-17 km of forest road to Bistra before dark. On our way from Bistra to Muntele Mare and back, our three or four cars came one after the other; We were very organized and also very disciplined when having the three meals every day. But we were not so disciplined when it came to “tzuica” (the Romanian plum brandy), beer and wine...

I did not expect to be congratulated or praised for my performance that particular day when I became a successful amateur archaeologist, but I could never understand (and I do not think I ever will) why Gheorghe Petrov never thanked me or said any kind words to me for having saved him from working with that noisy, polluting excavator that could have destroyed the bones, leading to very serious consequences. Or maybe I messed up his plans. Or the plans of IICCMRE and its managers, Budeancă Cosmin, General Manager, and Marius Oprea, Head of the Special Investigations Bureau, who did not express their appreciation for my help. They behaved as if I had interfered with their own activities, which made me feel more than uncomfortable.

However, a few yards away from me, while the IICCMRE representatives were talking among one another, I heard Horaţiu Groza, the director of the History Museum in Turda, tell Gheorghe Petrov in a loud, slightly tense voice: “Keep your mouth shut, Ghiţă, it’s not you who found the mass grave!” Then he turned to me and said: “Well done, Mr. Decean!”, raising his thumb up. I thanked him for his gesture. It was the only appreciation I received from an official person and I felt honored. Gheorghe Petrov promised me in his email of October 18, 2015: (...) by the end of this year (...), I will be finishing a report-study that I have already begun, on everything that happened at Groşi. The study will be published. I will tell exactly how things happened, mentioning your role and huge contribution to this common expedition. I do not know when and how this report-study will be finished or when it will be published. If the report is published in due time, it will be an annex to my book. This book, though not official, may be seen as both a study and a report of the event.

With Marius Oprea I talked only once, in 1996, when, at his initiative as a Romanian president’s councilor, we had a private conversation on a legal theme, during a break of an International Symposium about the Revolution in December 1989. The symposium was organized in Timişoara under the title An enigma which is seven years old, by the Civic Academy Foundation. I presented a paper there. Back then, I was a judge at the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal in Timişoara. Marius Oprea was not present on the mountain on August 31, 2015, when the mass grave was found. He came the following day and he avoided me, as he had done before in Timişoara, but I approached him while he was on the edge of the grave and asked him if he knew that I had discovered it. He replied calmly and piously: “Yes, I do. Divine Providence wanted them to be discovered by their relatives!” I do not know why he left this out from the article he published in the periodical Observator cultural (Cultural Observer), for which he writes. He must have thought I was satisfied with the picture attached to the article, in which I appear in shorts and a hat. Or maybe he cannot forget the conversation we had 20 years ago which probably made him think I was not on his side, so...

I understand now why Marius Oprea, when he arrived at Muntele Mare on September 1, 2015, around noon, passed by me, pretending not to know me. I stopped him and asked whether he did not know who I was and he replied: “I do know who you are, but I have not changed”, suggesting that I had somehow disappointed him, although I had never made him any promises, even though he once suggested me to make one. I have nothing against Marius Oprea, I am just trying to understand his reactions to the truth he omitted to tell. That is why I am saying these things about him. I have no choice but to go back to the article in which he omitted things, better said he lied by omission and spread inaccurate information that cannot be left unamended exactly how he had given it. As a historian, he is bound to tell the truth in all details in his articles. I was so indignant after reading that article that I had to retort in an online comment on September 23, 2015 (www.observatorcultural.ro/Morții-din-magazia-istoriei), to specify what he obviously omitted on purpose in his article. These omissions are not related only to the fact that he did not mention my name when he wrote about the identification of the mass grave, which I could have ignored, but also to other much more serious aspects. Consequently in the following lines, I will tell exactly what happened. We shall disclose military magistrate Viorel Siserman’s embarrassing behavior during the exhumation works and how Marius Oprea tried to wash away the shame.

My reaction on the internet determined Marius Oprea to call Alin Stânea, who contributed in a laudable manner to the exhumation at Groşi, and to ask him, as he is my nephew, to persuade me to deny everything I had said about his article. If someone denies what he said, it means that he lied or his words were inaccurate, so he regrets and withdraws his allegations. I have nothing to deny regarding my comments to his article, but I sincerely regret that it was me who had to say those true things about Marius Oprea, once a competent person whose undeniable merits cannot hide the unpardonable and deliberate mistakes that he made in his articles on history.

I challenged Cosmin Budeancă to a debate on the possibility of accessing non-returnable European funds to build a Memorial dedicated to the anti-communist armed resistance and the partisans who fought in the Apuseni Mountains in the years after World War II. The Memorial should be raised at Bistra or on Muntele Mare, at Groşi. The project could also cover paving the road to Groşi and rebuilding the “casemate”, the ruins of which can still be seen, the smaller cottage and the place of the mass grave where the partisans led by Major Nicolae Dabija used to store their food. These are the only ruins of an anti-communist army resistance camp that can still be seen in our country; they can be easily rebuilt. The mountain would provide the wood and stone required for their reconstruction. It is our patriotic duty to keep an important chapter of our recent history alive in our memory.

That place could become a tourist site with an informative and educational role, a place where people could hold informal meetings to discuss about the anti-communist armed resistance in the Romanian mountains, where historians could reveal its real dimensions and historical importance. The general manager of IICCMRE stated very clearly, without further explanations, that this institution which reports directly to the Prime Minister, cannot initiate such projects, that only a non-governmental organization could make take this initiative, as was the case of the Sighetul Marmației Memorial. When I mentioned an organization, Societatea Timişoara, Cosmin Budeancă nodded and said that this association was one of the best of the kind and, based on a well-thought out project, it could easily obtain non-refundable European funding. I tried to find support for this project from this well-known association, so I approached Viorel Marineasa, but it was suggested to me that this project should be initiated by the local associations and authorities in Alba County. I completely agree with that. 

The project proposal for the Memorial of the Romanian Anti-communist Armed Resistance (MRAAR) has already been sent to Traian Gligor, the mayor of Bistra, and to Vasile Voicu Bora who manages Paem Alba Foundation in Alba-Iulia, both of them being interested in this project. A year has passed but Mayor Gligor, despite his promise, has not yet contacted Voicu Vasile Bora, my very kind high-school colleague who offered to conceive (and document) this project for obtaining European funding at no cost. Vasile Bora has been successfully working in this field for many years. Maybe Mayor Gligor keeps only the promise he made to Gheorghe Petrov, to raise a slab and a concrete cross on the place of the mass grave, with an inscription in memory of the exhumed partisans. This is much easier to do, why should he complicate matters and initiate the cooperation with a professional who is ready to work free of charge, urged, no doubt, by patriotic feelings?! Why would the largest village in Europe - Bistra, Alba County, not host a Memorial (MRAAR), Mr. Gligor? You would become „immortal” if you struggled to accomplish this project!

Vasile Ioan Pop, president of AFDPR Alba, Alba-Iulia, also offered his support for this project when we talked about it.

Viorel Marineasa emailed the Civic Academic Foundation in Bucharest on this subject but he did not receive any reply.

I hoped that Lucia Hossu Longin, to whom I sent a copy of the project, would also promote it in one of her TV documentaries of the series Memorialul Durerii (The Memorial of Suffering), a long series which has become popular and appreciated, though it is sometimes overvalued. The promotion of this project could have increased its popularity, as well as the honor it still enjoys. I have no pleasure at all in saying that during a very short phone conversation, she told me indignantly that she could not promote “papers”. The respectable lady is right, a two-page paper is worthless, regardless of its subject, unless it is promoted.

I also expect no promotion of my project from Marius Oprea, head of the Special Investigations Bureau of IICCMRE; Gheorghe Petrov, to whom I also sent a copy of the project, described it as beautiful and splendid, but unachievable.

I would rather believe that the Romanian Television is as interested in researching and promoting the anti-communist armed resistance as IICCMRE. By this I mean they are not doing their best in this field. And their attitude cannot change, as long as they are led by the same master whose old habits die hard. A leopard cannot change its spots. This saying fits what Lucia Hossu Longin does with her documentaries. She mixes older scenes and eyewitness statements with more recent scenes and statements, as if she were trying to hide the initial indifference, the endemic disinterest, the intention not to bring “the history not taught in school”, ugly as it is,  to public attention.

The above-mentioned IICCMRE representatives might change their opinion that it is not their duty to institutionalize a memorial of the Romanian anti-communist armed resistance, if I reminded them of a major goal of this Institute which reports directly to the Prime Minister. This goal can be read online and is also included in the press release on the exhumation, from which I quote: ... IICCMRE supports the development and implementation of educational tools with memorial finality... [our emphasis].

I also remind these gentlemen, with all due respect, of the legal basis of their service obligations which includes projects similar to mine, i.e. Government Decision no. 1372/2009 on the establishment, organization and operation of IICCMRE, with subsequent amendments and completions. Article 4 b^1 of this regulatory act of imperative nature states the responsibilities of the employees of the institute: to carry out studies, analyses, research, projects [emphasis added] and programs in the exercise of institutional attributions, in partnership with public institutions, NGOs, professional associations and individuals both in the country and abroad.

Two more aspects should be revealed. The first is that IICCMRE has the legal obligation to initiate and monitor the accomplishment of MRAAR. The second is a well-known one – which can be seen as a real motivation for building the memorial - the partisans fought with guns against the communist regime, sacrificing their lives for the country, waiting in vain for the American army to come and help them overthrow the communist regime.

We should reveal the sacrifices of the Romanian people during the anti-communist armed resistance all the more so because now we are US strategic allies. The entire civilized world should know about them. Building a MRAAR would make this possible. The dreadful sufferings of the people with legitimate historical expectations should never be forgotten.