Father Ilie Stan, a pillar of Romanian Orthodoxy martyred in Aiud prison

Late summer of 1962… The roosters crow a second time, announcing the approach of dawn over the sleeping Aiud. In the darkness of the night, a frightened owl, with eyes like Athena’s, leaves the prison watchtower in a hurry and circles the sad settlement with shrill cries that prophesy death… In a black cell, damp and cold, on filthy slats, lay five naked and pale bodies, crushed by torture and hunger during more than ten years of imprisonment…

While four of the prisoners slept soundly, perhaps dreaming of their loved ones, of the cool fields and the freedom they longed for, one alone stood vigil, remembering and praying fervently… An eagle-eyed man, once a phallic fir tree, now a physically helpless skeleton, but full of hope and love, murmured a prayer to the Gentle Shepherd, for his oppressed nation and its oppressors…

It was Father Ilie Stan, a pillar of Romanian Orthodoxy, a lover of God and of his country, who was condemned by the forces of darkness to 16 years of hard labour, six years of humiliation as a citizen and the total confiscation of the goods he had earned with much toil, honour and humanity, for the crime of “conspiracy against the communist social order”. As one of his suffering brothers, a survivor of the Aiud genocide, testifies, Father Ilie, like the others, had exceptional qualities of behaviour. Every Sunday, together with another priest of the same moral standing, he celebrated Mass – which they knew by heart – without taking into account the fact that, in the Aiud prison regime, this was a serious offence with catastrophic consequences…

Suddenly the murmuring stopped… A very heavy breathing, with a feeling of suffocation, woke the other prisoners from their dreams… Cold beads of sweat, shining pearls, covered the face and body of the old tree… In vain were the attempts of his suffering friends, who tried to help him by putting cold compresses on his forehead… A great alarm, the mournful rattling of metal doors and locks, followed by the arrival of the doctor from upstairs…

Taken on a stretcher to the prison “hospital”, Father Elias departed from life, called by the Great Crucified of Calvary, Whom he served with devotion. His tormented body was thrown into a pit, near the barbed wire or perhaps elsewhere, where it awaits the Resurrection, leaving bitterness and sadness in the souls of those who loved him. But, Lord, who was it that was thrown away like a dog, without a candle, without Communion, without prayer?

Coming from a large family of poor peasants from Gușoeni-Vâlcea – 11 children and 2.5 acres of land – Father Ilie Stan was born in the first decade of our century, when the soil tilled for millennia by the hungry and naked was soaked with innocent blood. He spent his childhood with his parents and ten sisters in his native village, where he experienced material hardship at an early age, but also love for God and His creations, and where school awakened in him an unusual thirst for knowledge. His moral and intellectual qualities led his parents, despite their poverty, to send him to the theological seminary and he decided to become a priest.

After his ordination, he was entrusted with “shepherding the sheep of the Lord” in a village in the Olteț valley. A tall, strong man with the eyes of Spartacus, the strength of Hercules and the heart of a child, with a thundering voice that made the sanctuary cathedral and the hearts of the faithful vibrate during Liturgy, he became the true shepherd and protector of the village. His windy hands willingly held the horns of the plough or the scythe, built and restored holy churches, blessed and comforted the suffering, lovingly distributed gifts to the poor, and with great devotion administered Holy Communion. His gentle, robust stature, of the wild Oltenian Parâng, combined with a firm, honest character full of Christian humanity, commanded the respect and full consideration of those around him.

(Eugen Bălașa – Permanențe Magazine, September 2001)

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