Filofteia Bășoiu, heroine in the anti-communist armed resistance in the Nucșoara area

As in most parts of the country, Romanians in Argeș and Muscel counties resisted the establishment of the communist dictatorship in various ways. The fiefdoms of liberals and peasants alike, the two counties shed their blood in the unequal struggle against the Soviet-imposed regime. On 9 August 1946, the teacher Constantin Popescu and the lawyer Gheorghe Mihai were shot dead in the courthouse in Pitești, and the leading liberal Gheorghe Șuța was murdered by the local security chief on the outskirts of Domnești. 

The terror unleashed by the authorities and the murders they committed were followed by the organisation of armed resistance groups. In Argeș County, Dumitru Apostol, a teacher at the I.C. Brătianu High School, organised anti-communist actions in the Topolog Valley. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the spring of 1950, he was released from prison and shot by Captain Cârnu on the outskirts of the village of Șuici. The most important anti-communist armed groups were formed and operated in Muscel County. We can mention the Dragoslavele group, led by Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu, the one from Cape Piscului, led by Ion Șerban and Ion Voican. The group that survived the longest was the one led by Colonel Gheorghe Arsenescu and Lieutenant Toma Arnăuțoiu, called “Haiducii Muscelului”, which operated in the Nucșoara area, in the north of Muscel County, on the Doamnei River, between 1949 and 1958.

The long survival of the group would not have been possible without the help of the local population. The range of those who helped the partisans is vast: from Slatina, a village belonging to the commune of Nucșoara, to the commune of Pietroșani, from Brăduleț, a neighbouring commune of Nucșoara, to Câmpulung. The main support came from the inhabitants of Nucșoara, Corbi, Poenărei, Stănești and other villages in the area. Many of them will pay with years in prison, others with their lives. With the verdict No. 107 of 19 May 1959 of the Military Tribunal of the Second Region, 16 people were sentenced to death and executed in Jilava prison on the night of 18-19 June 1959. Only five of them were active members of the group, the others were local people who supported the armed anti-communist group. Through the many sentences handed down, the blind communist judiciary handed down punishments without mercy or discernment, which deserve the term ‘injustice’. Prior to the court’s decision, the ‘bandits’ were tortured during the investigation, using methods and means from the Inquisition, in order to incriminate as many people as possible who were in any way connected to the resistance movement. 

Thanks to the kindness of Professor Maria Bășoiu, we found out how she helped the Nucșoara partisans and what her mother-in-law, Filofteia Bășoiu, went through. We felt that this case deserved to be known, as it could be extended to all the people who were involved and who were in solidarity with the Nucșoara group. Surely many of those who are still alive will recognise their sad experience. We would also like to point out that we have only intervened at certain moments, leaving room for the facts as told by Mrs. Maria Bășoiu, who is also a good storyteller.

 

Filofteia Bășoiu was born on 13 November 1913 in the village Pârâiești, Stănești commune, Muscel county. She was married to Nicolae Bășoiu, born on 16 April 1900, and they had three children: Ion, Gheorghe and Maria Bășoiu. She was a housewife and took care of her children, but she also worked in the fields and, when she had time, at the sewing machine. She was considered by the villagers to be one of the most industrious women in Stănești. She worked at the loom, weaving different garments and clothing accessories i.e. macaturi, plocate (poclade), fote, ii. The designs for the national costumes were created by her and are said to be particularly beautiful. Younger than her husband, she listened to him blindly. She worked every day from dawn to dusk with the whole family, including the children. Her husband had bought many sheep, two horses, several cows, etc. Nicolae Bășoiu also rented a mountain pasture every year, where he took his sheep and those of many villagers during the summer. Nicolae Bășoiu’s father, the shepherd, was famous for the quality and quantity of his cheese. Filofteia Bășoiu used to prepare the bread for the shepherds and shepherdesses in the mountains. They were sent by her husband with their horses or by her child, Ion Bășoiu.

In 1950, together with her husband and her son Gheorghe, she was contacted by Elisabeta Rizea (Nicolae Bășoiu’s cousin) to help the fighters in the mountains, led by Lieutenant Toma Arnăuțoiu. She accepted because it was her husband’s decision. The Arnăuțoiu brothers and other fighters came to her house from time to time, during the night, and stayed in a saia (a sheepfold with a room where the shepherd stayed and slept). This saia was located about 500 metres from the house, on a hill, and was deserted during the spring and summer. Filofteia Bășoiu used to prepare her food and leave it in a basket near a well. When the Arnățoiu brothers and other fighters left the Saia, they took with them food (cheese, beans, etc.) and clothes (boots, mintene, black fur trousers, etc.).

Most of these things were made by Filofteia Bășoiu at the loom, and then sewn at a sewing machine. The other members of the family did not know about the connection with the partisans, but Filofteia’s mother-in-law kept asking: “Where are the leftovers of the mămăliga and the boiled vegetables from the evening meal? She didn’t find out about their “journey” until 1958, when the Bășoiu family was picked up by the Security Service.

Filofteia Bășoiu was also involved in other actions to help fighters in the mountains. A very risky action was the one in Câmpulung. Her husband, Nicolae Bășoiu, sent her to the priest Ilie Dragomirescu in Câmpulung to get money for the partisans. He prepared her cart and put plenty of hay for her two horses. She arrived in Câmpulung around midday and the priest asked her to stay a little longer to rest the horses. In the meantime, the priestess brought her 300 lei, made her take off her fota and untied her girdle. Then they both put the money into the girdle (it was made of wool and was worn folded) and she put the fota over it. While the priestess prepared her for the journey, the priest put some weapons, which he had obtained from the military unit in Câmpulung through a sergeant, in the cart under the hay. He left Câmpulung in the evening as the sun was setting. On the way from Câmpulung to Domnești she was very scared. However, no one asked her anything, although she met several people on foot or with carts. At one point she fell asleep while passing through the village of Slănic, but the horses knew the way and she reached her home in Stănești after midnight. Her husband took the money and asked her if the priest had given her weapons, and she said no. He went to the cart, looked in the hay and took out some weapons. Filofteia Bășoiu was frightened because she knew nothing about the weapons. She also brought medicine from the priest in Câmpulung after Maria Plop gave birth to a baby girl in 1956, whose father was Toma Arnăuțoiu. A few weeks after Maria Plop gave birth to her daughter Ioana, Filofteia Bășoiu went to Domnești, to Lepărău’s shop (he also had links with the partisans), where she bought clothes for the baby and a few metres of cloth for nappies. The trips to Domnești frightened her, so much so that she avoided meeting people to avoid being asked where she was going and why. Under these conditions, she even avoided her sister, Eugenia Bărboi, who was married in Domnești.

Together with her husband, she risked a lot to help the Arnățoiu brothers and the other fighters. The Bășoiu family had a property on a hill near Nucșoara. They used to go there in summer to mow the grass and make hay, and in winter they kept the sheep in a sheepfold. Next to the sheepfold there was a hut where Nicolae Bășoiu’s father and his son Ghiță slept. The food and other things were left in the sheepfold, in the attic, from where Ghiță gave them to the partisans without the old man’s knowledge. There were times when the fighters were about to be surprised by some neighbours in the Bășoiu family house, but in the end Filofteia managed to divert their attention elsewhere, finding various excuses. When a woman told her that she had seen a light in Saia, on the hill, she told her that it was her husband, Nicolae, who had come back to get a hammer that had been left in the garden. Every time the partisans came down from the mountains, there was great excitement. The security checks increased and the network of informers became more effective. Filofteia Bășoiu recalled that, before her house was closed, she used to see a neighbour’s sister come to her house in the evening and stay the night. She turned out to be the informer of the head of the Security Service in Domnești, Tatu. She took part in the trial as a witness, testifying that she had seen Arnățoiu crossing the Doamnei River at Corbșorilor and heading towards the road leading to the Bășoiu family.

In early June 1958, after her husband and son Gheorghe had been arrested, it was Filofteia’s turn. Around midday, her 11-year-old daughter had come home with her cow from the pasture. They were preparing to set the table with grandmother Elisabeta. But just then a security car with five secret police officers pulled up to the gate. They told her to change her clothes because she was going with them to make a statement. She was terrified, because she knew what was going to happen to her. The little girl, Marioara, didn’t quite understand what was happening to her mother. When she saw her walking towards the car, flanked by two policemen, she started to cry, ran to her mother, grabbed her by the arm and did not let go, despite the threats of the policemen. The little girl screamed so loudly that all the inhabitants of the Wolf Valley came to the gates and watched in horror.

The guards, put in an awkward position, told the little girl that her mother would be back in a few hours, but she didn’t believe them and stayed with Filofteia. Then they told her that they would take her too, but that she should stop screaming. They took her and her mother, got into the car and drove to Domnești. As they left the village of Stănești, the car slowed down and a guard took the girl from her mother and threw her down like a sack of potatoes, to the desperate cries of the girl and her mother. The child was eventually found by an acquaintance who, after much insistence, took her home to her grandmother.

Filofteia Bășoiu was taken to the Security Police in Pitești, where her ordeal began. She was interrogated daily, beaten, deprived of food and kept awake. They took her in for questioning at 12 o’clock at night and, under torture, forced her to tell them that everyone she knew had helped the Arnățoiu brothers. They beat and tortured her until she told them almost everything she had done for them. In particular, the secret police insisted on the involvement of her son Ion Bășoiu, a teacher at the Corbeni High School. One day they took her out of her cell at 5 a.m. They asked her again who else had helped the fighters and what her family had given them. She replied that she had told them everything she had done for them and what she had helped them with. The angry guards began beating her with their batons, fists and feet until she fell to the ground. At least three hours had passed since they had tortured her. The guards left and two more came in. They told her to get up because they weren’t going to hurt her. Filofteia only got up on her knees, not having the strength to stand. The two of them drew their guns on the table and started the interrogation again. She told them everything she knew, but she displeased them as much as the others. They began to beat her with anything they could find: their feet, their hands, their batons. One of them also threatened her with a gun, held it to her head and told her that she wouldn’t get out of the torture room alive if she didn’t tell them everything. But she said nothing more, crying and whimpering as loudly as she could, in physical and moral pain.

It was almost evening when the two torturers left and others arrived with fresh strenghts. Filofteia could no longer stand the pain, and they promised not to hurt her again. Her nose and mouth were bleeding and her eyes were swollen, as were her hands and feet. They started asking her questions again, quietly at first, then more and more angrily. They wanted her to explain that her son Ion Bășoiu also knew about her activities and told her to stop lying to them. As before, she did not admit this. The torturers told her to take off her shawl and let down her hair. Then all hell broke loose. They hit her with everything they could, they pulled her hair in all directions, there was blood all over her face, everywhere, and the pain drove her mad. She was grabbing from wall to wall, they were banging her head against the walls, against the table. They hit her with a chair, with a board that was specially used for beating her, they swore at her in all sorts of ways, they growled at her, and they took the guns and pointed them at her body so that they drove her mad. She broke down physically and mentally, she started screaming too, pulling her hair from her head and screaming at them as long as her mouth would hold it: Kill me, shoot me, I can’t take it anymore! The guards, furious that they had got nothing more out of her, beat her until she fell unconscious.

It was long after dark, and she woke up the next day in a cell with several other women from Nucșoara. She didn’t know when she had been taken there, or who had taken her. The women told her that it was two big, strong men who beat her like a sack. When the prisoners saw her, they were stunned by her appearance. They recognised her only by the clothes the two guards had brought and thrown over her (shawl, waistcoat, handkerchief). Her face was swollen beyond recognition. Her whole head had become a waddle. She lay there for a week. A nurse came to see her from time to time, but didn’t offer any help to her.

The women who stayed with her wiped her with a cloth of cold water and left it on her forehead in the evenings so that the militiamen wouldn’t see it when they checked her. After four or five days she asked for water, but she couldn’t swallow and the women in the room left the wet cloth to cool her mouth. After a week he started to drink water and liquid food, and slowly he recovered. But she didn’t talk to anyone and didn’t say what had happened to her there. The torture chambers were in the basement so that the screams of the guards and the tortured could not be heard. Then came the trial, in which Filofteia Bășoiu was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour under sentence No. 174 of 12 September 1959. In the same judgment, her son Gheorghe Bășoiu was sentenced to 20 years’ hard labour. Previously, her husband, Nicolae Bășoiu, had been sentenced to death by decision No. 107 of 19 May 1959. He was executed in Jilava on the night of 18-19 June 1959, along with fifteen other fighters and supporters.

After the trial, together with other women from Nucșoara, Poenărei, Corbi, Slatina, they went from prison to prison. They were beaten and tortured in vain. The food was very bad and the misery very great. Because of this, Filofteia got an infection in her lymph nodes. Her glands became inflamed and very painful, but she was patient and did not complain. At one point they began to ooze pus. She had nothing to wipe it off with and the area became so infected that the flesh around it started to rot. It started to smell so bad that the other women in the cell couldn’t stand it. One morning Elisabeta Rizea, being braver, came out to tell Filofteia Bășoiu what was happening. A nurse arrived late, looked at the wounds, put her hand to her nose and left. Towards evening, the guard on duty told her that he would take her to the polyclinic the next day, but not to tell anyone, otherwise he would put her in prison, where she would rot.

Meanwhile, the prison director contacted the doctor on duty and told him that a nurse and two guards were coming with a sick “criminal”. He also told her to be careful and to evacuate people from the waiting room because the prisoner was very dangerous. At that hour, a suffering old woman entered the office, with such a gentle face and eyes filled with pain. The doctor threw out the people who had brought her and, after cleaning her wounds, which were nothing but raw flesh, asked her in a whisper: “Who did you kill?” and she replied, also in a whisper, that she had not killed anyone, but had helped some fighters in the mountains with food. The doctor told her companions to bring her back the next day because the wound was very serious. So Filofteia went to the infirmary every day to be dressed. In this way she escaped and healed.

Two years before her release, prisoners were given the right to work. In 1962 she was in Oradea prison. Together with the other prisoners, she woven wicker baskets for export. They worked in a shed with rainwater or melted snow running through the roof. In autumn and winter, the wind blew through every corner of the room and the water that fell from above froze on the wicker and the inmates’ hands. Filofteia Bășoiu, who was released in 1964 in a general amnesty, came home with a very painful right leg, and she could not bring her fingers together to make the sign of the cross, so she made it with her whole fist. She was cared for by her son Ion, who took her to rheumatic baths, and in this way her illness alleviated a little.

Throughout her imprisonment, she cried daily for her daughter, who remained such a troubled child. But her son Ion took care of the girl, who even attended the prestigious Nicolae Bălcescu (I.C. Brătianu) College in Pitești, with the help of her brother.

This is the moving testimony of Filofteia Bășoiu, passed on to us by her daughter-in-law, Maria Bășoiu. The fate of the Bășoiu family, like that of other families in the area, is symbolic of the tragic consequences that befell those who showed solidarity with the armed anti-communist group in Nucșoara. In fact, Mrs. Maria Bășoiu is the sister of the teacher Ion Mica, who was condemned to death and executed in Jilava, together with other fighters and supporters, for supporting the partisans.

We end this presentation with the writings of the late teacher Iuliana Preduț Constantinescu, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for helping the Nucsoara fighters, and whose father, the priest Ion Constantinescu, was sentenced to death and executed:

“…And this record of our nation’s suffering could be completed with the names of relatives, near or far, who sacrificed themselves or who had the dignity and courage to raise their voices against the totalitarian communist regime in a time so troubled and so painful for Romanians.”[1]

(Ion Ștefan – Pitești Cultural Centre, extracts from the forthcoming volume Anti-Communist Armed Resistance in Argeș and Muscel Counties (1948-1958))

  1. Iuliana Preduț-Constantinescu, Speranțe încătușate, Tiparg Publishing House, Pitești, 2000, p. 58.
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