A martyr from Făgărăștia: Father Ioan Ghindea

Ion Ghindea was born on 4 June 1908 in Ucea de Sus, jud. Făgăraș (now Brașov), in the family of Gheorghe and Paraschiva Ghindea. After finishing elementary school, he attended the Normal School in Sibiu for 7 years, with a teacher’s exam, and then the Theological Academy in Sibiu. He married and was ordained deacon on 5 March 1935 and priest on 7 March 1935 by the archpriest-vicar Vasile Stan in the parish of Zdrapț, Hunedoara County. Later he was transferred to the parish of Drăguș, Făgăraș County parish, where in 1941 he was listed as “parish administrator”. He worked there until his arrest. He had no children[1].

It seems that Father Ion Ghindea was to join the Legionary political movement for the spiritual revival of the country, which was increasingly gaining ground among Orthodox priests. At the present stage of research, we do not know what his activities in this movement were, probably before 1938, the year in which political parties were abolished. After that time, it seems that he was no longer active, unless he was convicted, according to the Security Service files reported to us by the current keepers of the archives.

It seems that he was active during the National-Legionary Government, but only locally, because when the events of January 1941 took place, Father Ghindea was in the parish of Drăguș. Known as a Legionnaire, he was to be investigated after January 1941, along with other “Legionnaire” priests, by special order of the General Gendarmerie.

Thus, on 14 March 1941, Father Ion Ghindea, together with other teachers from the locality, was investigated by the head of the gendarmerie station at Viștea de Sus, Făgăraș County, in connection with his participation in the events of January of the same year. During the investigation, the priest revealed how, on the evening of 21 January, he had received a circular asking all the local legionaries to gather at the legionary headquarters in Făgăraș, where he went that evening. There he found that there was a disagreement between the Legionary Movement and General Ion Antonescu, from which both the Legionaries and the head of the Gendarmerie had forced him to leave, together with those with whom he had come. On 22 and 23 January, Father Ghindea remained in Viștea, where he served in the church and taught religion at the school[2].

During a search, he found several Legionary pamphlets published before the Legionary Government, which he had dug up from the ground where they had been buried after 6 September 1940. The priest could not be held responsible for these publications, as they had been ordered to be removed by the local gendarmerie chief in 19413.

Furthermore, on 22 March 1941, on the instructions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Court of Făgăraș, he declared that he had not taken part in any demonstration and had not carried a weapon[4].

In view of this, the case of Father Ion Ghindea was closed on 8 May 1941 by the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the Brasov Garrison[5].

Arrested under both Antonescu and the Communists

Despite his acquittal, the gendarmerie authorities continued to pursue Father Ghindea as a possible assassin of state security. We do not know if he was still active in the underground Legionary movement, but we have certain data that he was interned, together with other priests suspected of the same manifestations, in the camp of the Tismana monastery, assigned to priests, at Christmas 1942. Like the other priests, he was released in April 1943, probably to return to his parish[6].

On 15 October 1944, Father Ghindea was again arrested by the gendarmes and sent to the camp, because of his political past and because of the armistice that the Romanian state had signed with the USSR. In view of this, the inhabitants of the village protested vigorously, sending a memorandum to the Prefect of Făgăraș County, which read as follows “We, the faithful of the Orthodox Church in the commune of Drăguș, were very saddened by this fact, because in our opinion it was not appropriate to apply such a punishment to our priest Ioan Ghindea, whom we have had in our midst for a long time, as a good shepherd of souls, and who has never led us in bad ways, but only in good ones, for our common good. The departure of His Holiness from our midst causes us great sorrow, as we are left without a guide and counsellor in all the circumstances of our daily life….In view of these circumstances, we respectfully and obediently ask You to kindly intervene in the right place for the release of our Father Ioan Ghindea, so that he may remain in our midst forever”[7].

Following this request, it seems that our father was released from the prison to which he had been sent. However, the persecution against him would not end here, because after the establishment of communism, it would culminate in his martyrdom.

Thus, according to a memo sent to the Security Service, during the week of 14-21 May 1950, “on the initiative” of Father Ioan Ghindea, a cross was erected at the exit of the village and consecrated by five priests in a “great procession”, followed by a Holy Liturgy. The Security Service informer said that “it was impressive for the 400-500 faithful that a group of PMR members from the Drăguș organisation stood next to the prayers with great piety”, naming them and the president of the local cooperative, also a PMR member. The same source also notes that, for the Agapa organised afterwards, the priest Ghindea collected various products from the inhabitants of the village, including “8 kilos of veal, probably cut clandestinely”[8].

Later, the Security Service placed him under strict surveillance. At the same time, in May 1950, by an abusive order of the local Provisional Committee, his home, the parish house, was confiscated and the new “birth house” of the locality was installed there. Father Ghindea protested against this, for which he was threatened both by the local administration and by the Security Service through the Militia[9].

At the same time, it seems that Father Ioan Ghindea was involved in the anti-communist armed resistance movement in Romania, confessing and helping the fighters of the Olimpiu Borzea group in the Făgăraș mountains.

For this reason, in 1950, he was arrested and investigated by the Securitate in Făgăraș and Sibiu by Colonel Gheorghe Crăciun. However, due to the tortures to which he was subjected, the priest had to go to his eternal home in Ucea de Arriba on 6 March 1952[10].

He was buried in the parish cemetery of Ucea de Sus[11].

(Adrian Nicolae Petcu – Rost magazine, year IV, no. 40-41, June-July 2006, pp. 62-64)

1. Address of the Archdiocese of Sibiu to the Romanian Patriarchate, dated 17 March 2005, concerning the martyrs of the diocese, with data from the confessional archive and testimonies of the priest Ioan Glăjar from Ucea de Jos.

2. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 317, vol. 1, pp. 120-122. According to article 61 of the law of 26 July 1924 on elementary education, as amended and published in the Official Gazette of 22 April 1932, the parish priest had to teach religion as a compulsory subject for two hours a week, free of charge, on the school premises, to each class or section. This obligation was an essential part of their pastoral mission. Religious control was carried out by the specific bodies of the Ministry of Instruction and the respective church authority. Where the priest was not or was infirm, he was taught by the teacher or the person indicated by the higher ecclesiastical authority (“Apostol”, year X, no. 9-10, 1-15 May 1933, p. 129).

3. AMJDIM, Criminal fonds, file 104355, f. 5-5v.

4. ACNSAS, Criminal fonds, file 317, vol. 1, f. 129-129v.

5. Ibid, f. 137v.

6. Idem, fond Documentar, dossier 74, vol. 6, f. 35.

7. Idem, Informative fonds, file 6445, f. 49.

8. Ibid., f. 30-30v.

9. Ibid, f. 56. After the abusive occupation of the parish house, the same local authorities ordered priest Ghindea to stop using the vegetable garden and to remove his beehives from the former parish premises (Ibidem).

10. Cicerone Ionițoiu, The Golden Book of Romanian Resistance against Communism, vol. I, Hrisovul, 1995, p. 63-64, 328; Vasile Manea, Orthodox Priests in Communist Prisons, 2nd ed., Patmos, 2001, p. 121; Paul Caravia coord., The Imprisoned Church. Romania, 1944-1989, INST, Bucharest, 1999, p. 190. In the latter work it is stated that he could be Greek Catholic, which is erroneous.

11. Address of the Archdiocese of Sibiu to the Romanian Patriarchate, 17 March 2005, concerning the martyrs in the diocese, with data gathered from the Confessional Archive and testimonies from the priest Ioan Glăjar from Ucea de Jos.

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