Mihail Decean Exhumation of martyr-heroes with an excavator
A reenactment of the exhumation

It is very hard to write about Mihail Decean’s book! Better said, it is a most delicate endeavour. For a lot of reasons. How to “ruin your relationship” with Marius Oprea and Lucia Hossu-Longin – people with whom you have fought together for many causes and for so many years? Why should you endorse assumptions that criticize Gheorghe Petrov, a man about whose hard work you have read so much and who made a strong impression on you when you finally met him? Only God knows whether the author is too harsh or unjust. And yet...

Having reached the stage of total commitment to justice, after a series of fruitless undertakings, Mihail Decean no longer accepts any kind of compromise. Almost 67 years have passed since an abominable deed was committed. For Mihail Decean, his close friends and relatives have habits that are at least weird or hostile and the authorities from whom he expected so much are slow and ineffective. Consequently, the fear he experienced in the 1960’s has turned into devouring suspicions and recurring traumas. As far as the Petru Decean case is concerned, his duty is to reveal the truth both for the sake of their family connection and the humanitarian side of his attempt, for the sake of justice and honour; to find the remains of his cousin who died in his prime for a noble cause and to lay them to rest as tradition dictates. This is not an easy task. Mihail Decean has to overcome obstacles like indifference, bureaucracy, dishonesty, mischief, weakness, incompetence, callousness and even silly good intentions. It is precisely such obstacles that prevent him from taking urgent action with utmost scrupulousness. Maria Decean, Petru’s younger sister, who is 86 years old and has been under the surveillance of the Securitate agents all her life, deserves the satisfaction (if such a thing really exists) of having her brother buried with a Christian ceremony. She too, like Mihail Decean, wants to put things in their natural order; when the “officials” want to send her away from the mass grave where her brother’s remains lie, she gives a memorable reply: she is tired of doing what the authorities tell her, as she has been forced to do all her life. She has never thought them to be honest. A standard reply. I remember that on the evening of December 16 1989, while we were demonstrating against the political regime in Maria Square in Timisoara, some fancy and very polite young men turned up from nowhere and begged us to disperse and not to look for trouble. One of the demonstrators replied in a similar manner: we would no longer obey them and their superiors; we had done it for too long and to the detriment of us all, so they’d better leave us alone.

Mihail Decean is not an impulsive and uncontrollable person. He softens his subjectivity and acknowledges that people like Lucia Hossu-Longin, Marius Oprea, Gheorghe Petrov etc. and the Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile (IICCMRE) have revealed dramatic moments of our recent history, but he is ruthless when he feels that one of these people uses the aura of the martyrs just to be in the public eye.

Certainly not least, the author of this book has the particular sense to detect the points of contact between tragedy and the grotesque, that area where communism flourished and where it still poses a threat to us. He turns us into witnesses of The Exhumation, a remake of Lucian Pintilie’s film The Reenactment. An exhumation obstructed by prohibitions and restraints whose origin is never clear. In 2012, I climbed the Muntele Mare together with Decean and another Mihai (Crîznic), but we couldn’t reach its top. Instead, we met all kinds of people who did not confirm the stereotype of the inhabitants of the Apuseni Mountains being all upright and brave individuals. Superficial impressions, probably. Communism must have left its mark on those people. One thing was quite obvious: very few people were interested in Major Dabija’s group and those who knew something about it did not have a very good opinion of it. At Bistra, a descendant of those killed at Groşi raised a monument in front of his house. The monument was rather small and rudimentary (the official approval did not allow for more, as if not to offend the neo-communists) and was placed about two feet below the level of the national road, close to the vegetable market aligned on both sides of the road and near a tavern with a small backyard which the market people and the tourists, the tavern’s regular customers, used as latrine.

Viorel Marineasa

Author’s Postface

I didn’t write this book to criticize some of the characters in it. I wrote it to reveal and condemn mentalities haunted by sufficiency, indifference, envy and hate; to warn against repeating future exhumations of national martyr-heroes from mass graves with inappropriate instruments, no matter how many they will be. I assure those whom I have criticized that I do not hate them; it would have been much more convenient for me if indignation (so subjective) hadn’t pushed me to write this booklet. I felt the need to break free of a burden, but I am overwhelmed with the regret of offending others. Given that my book is about national martyr-heroes, I am taking the risk. No one can lift my immunity to threats, not even me.

Mihail Decean