Mihail Decean Exhumation of martyr-heroes with an excavator
September 2, 2015

We found the mass grave intact, exactly as we had left it the night before, as if it had been guarded overnight. However, I did not see any sign that it had been guarded.

We cannot ignore the idea that there is someone or something that protects certain things or human beings, their memory or everything around us, a protection that eludes human senses, but not Divinity.

When Mărioara saw the mass grave, she was petrified, and she needed a camping chair to sit down until they finished the exhumation.

Nothing could be done until Viorel Siserman, the military prosecutor’s arrival whom Gheorghe Petrov expected at 10 or 11 a.m. But Siserman was about one hour late, making his entrance into the scenery like a furious „corporal-dragon", accompanied by his „team” of police officers and Marius Oprea.

Before the military prosecutor’s arrival, several cars with mass media journalists and reporters with video cameras and 20 or 30 villagers from Bistra, old and young, came near the mountain meadow dotted with raspberries stems and surrounded by fir trees, close to the mass grave containing the remaining bones of the martyr heroes.

It looked as if a festivity was about to happen, but that sunny and warm day remained in the memory of the people there as a very sad memorable day, because we could see the totalitarian behavior in all its ugliness once again, a quarter of a century after Ceauşescu’s fall.

Several priests were expected to come for a religious service at the mass grave. Petrov got in touch with the priests from Bistra,  the Greek Catholic priest and the Orthodox one, since the remaining bones were of four Greek Catholic believers and an Orthodox one; the meticulous Securitate agents had not forgotten to mention the religion to which the “bandits’" belonged to. According to historian Liviu Pleşa, in most cases, their adherence to the organizations of the armed struggle against the regime was because the Greek-Catholic Church had been made illegal and over 90% of these people (peasants) belonged to this cult (Op. cit., P. 22-23).

The military prosecutor Viorel Siserman is a religious man too. Gheorghe Petrov told me that “Mr. Prosecutor attends the mass every Sunday” at the Cathedral of The Romanian Church United with Rome Greek-Catholic from Cluj-Napoca.

The young Greek-Catholic priest, Cristian Ionette, very conscious and solicitous, together with his cantor, Demeter Alexandru, replied promptly to Gheorghe Petrov’s request, who asked them to come and hold a religious service for those who had been buried into the mass grave.

The orthodox priest in Bistra, Dorel Floca, told Gheorghe Petrov that he could not come and hold a religious service together with the Greek-Catholic priest, as his superiors forbade him to do it. He could have come and hold the religious service unless a Catholic priest had been invited as well.

This is another proof of the official absurd attitude of the Romanian Orthodox Church towards the Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic, national sister-churches each with a well-established place in the history of the Romanian nation. At the beginning of the 21st century, in a world of modern ecumenical movement, the Romanian Orthodox Church, through its senior prelates, remains trapped in an outdated mindset.

Priest Ionette Cristian was helped to improvise the things he needed for the ceremony near the mass grave, on two fir tree stumps. However, Gheorghe Petrov told him that the ceremony could not take place unless the military prosecutor, Viorel Siserman, agreed, but the latter had not shown up yet.

After having to wait a while, which was humiliating not only for the priest, but also for everybody else, the military prosecutor appeared as a storm, accompanied by numerous policemen, and ordered them to make a cordon around the mass grave, sending everybody away, except the IICCMRE representatives.

When the Christian military prosecutor saw the improvised place for the religious ceremony, the priest and his cantor, he said in a stern voice: “Priests serve in churches, not here!”

Cousin Mărioara was sitting in her chair by the edge of the mass grave, while I accidentally remained outside the police cordon.

Viorel Siserman kept revolting with an intimidating voice (he sounded like a communist official) against the presence of so many journalists and curious people there. He was not embarrassed, and knew nothing about the IICCMRE press release which had been published and broadcast a few days before. A young journalist next to me seemed appalled by the military prosecutor’s behavior and left after having told me: “I cannot stand this man, not listen or and see him anymore, so I’m leaving!”

I cried out, so the prosecutor could hear me: “Mr Prosecutor, you arrive after we have already finished the job and now you’re treating us as if we were your soldiers!” He looked at me without a word, but Mărioara’s presence at the edge of the mass grave bothered him a lot and he asked her to leave. Mărioara refused and started a caustic discussion with the prosecutor, telling him that she had got tired of people telling her what to do for so many years, asking him to leave her alone and he complied, but not without offending her: “We are digging up some partisans’ bones at the request of a crazy old woman!”

I think Alin Stânea (or maybe someone else, I do not remember exactly) warned me that the priest had gone to his car and was about to leave without holding the religious service. I ran to the car and I stopped it. I asked the priest not to leave and wait a few minutes, because I would try to convince the prosecutor to allow the religious service. The priest accepted and exclaimed: “Do not you realize it is impossible to communicate with such a difficult person?!”

I could not get through the cordon of gendarmes and policemen whose presence was not necessary in that public place. They politely asked me to understand they had to obey the prosecutor's order. I called Marius Oprea who was inside the cordon and asked him to come to me. I was very surprised that he came and I asked him to try to convince the military prosecutor to allow the priest to hold the religious ceremony before the remaining bones were removed from the mass grave, so as not to embarrass himself and everybody there.

After a short discussion with the prosecutor, Marius Oprea came back and said that the problem had been solved. “You are lucky, I am a skilled negotiator”. Maybe he was joking, maybe he was not, because he told other people that the argument he used to convince the military prosecutor was: “If you do not let the priest do his job, I hope you burn in hell!”

The Greek-Catholic priest, Cristian Ionette and his cantor, Demeter Alexandru, came back with the things they needed for the religious service which they held while the military prosecutor was having loud, ordinary conversations with the people around him. Some of the people, including me, were bothered and took photos or filmed the “counter demonstration” that the military prosecutor organized, consciously or not.

The priest was not allowed to sprinkle holy water over the bones, in order not to damage them. This was very strange, because, as I have already said, nothing had been done to protect the bones of a possible rain the previous night. But it seems some people think that holy water, unlike rainwater, can damage the bones...

Much attention has been given to the exhumation in the national and local media, but nobody, not even Lucia Hossu Longin, dared write or say anything about the arrogance of the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Court attached to the Military Tribunal of Cluj-Napoca, Viorel Siserman, about the aberrant interdiction of the Romanian Orthodox Church imposed upon priest Floca Dorel, or about why Marius Oprea (“the hunter of the Securitate agents”) did not say anything in the print media, which makes him a possible accomplice. It would not be fair to forget Gheorghe Petrov, who spoke to lots of journalists about the exhumation he had organized, holding the record (or monopoly given by IICCMRE?) of interviews on this subject; how could he have said something so unpleasant about other people, when only a day before he had admonished me for being an ignorant and not knowing the difference between human and animal bones?

After the military prosecutor had put an end to his unusual and improper behavior, the manual separation of the bone remains on the ground could start.

The forensic pathologists arrived, Dr. Raluca Legian and Dr. Ana-Maria Pura, as well as the forensic officers Cristian Pietricele and Florin Artene, each of them playing  a different role in the exhumation process.

With diligence, professionalism and, without any exaggeration, great dedication, the forensic pathologists cooperated both with archaeologists Paul Scrobotă, Gabriel Rustoiu, Groza Horațiu and Gheorghe Petrov (no less devoted to their profession), as well as the forensic officers, in order to carry out the work started two days before. After four hours of uninterrupted work, they were able to identify the bones of the five skeletons. The five skulls and all the other bones were passed from hand to hand, studied piece by piece, their anatomical names were identified. Each bone was fitted to its skeleton. Then, each skeleton was put in a separate package, while Cristian Pietricele wrote down each anatomical detail in a special register. The mass grave became gradually empty of bones and the disturbing image of the traces of a heinous crime disappeared from sight.

The military prosecutor was probably seized with remorse, though not enough to apologize to the people he had offended. He allowed the journalists to come closer to the mass grave in order to take photos and film everything. The cordon of gendarmes and policemen quickly broke up; the military men were also curious to see how the exhumation process ended.

The exhumation works were finished in a calm atmosphere, towards the evening, when the sun beams lit the empty mass grave of the martyr heroes from the west. The bones were put in plastic bags and taken to the institute where the forensic pathologists in Alba-Iulia would examine them. They would be buried by ancestral tradition, in a heroes’ cemetery.

Dear Mihai, he (the military prosecutor) has calmed down, but people like him never apologize to people like us, Mărioara told me while she watched the military prosecutor as he was leaving. She looked at me with an infinite sadness, with her face darkened by the pain she felt, and insisted that five candles, a small Romanian flag with the royal coat-of-arms, which she had prepared some time before, and the bunch of blue mountain flowers that Liviu and I had picked be put in the mass grave; then she wanted to go down there, on the not so deep area, to have a picture of her taken in that place. She really wanted a picture of her in the place where her brother and his four comrades had been murdered and their bones hidden shamefully for 66 years. I helped her half-heartedly to keep a sad recollection alive.

That day had shown no sign of bad weather coming, but when the night fell, Mother Nature unleashed her fury.


Timișoara, October 2015 – January 2016

M. D.