Marina Chirca, the most devoted heroine of the Nucșoara partisans

Marina Chirca was born on the 18th of July 1915. Before Romania joined the First World War! She was 98 years old, but when you heard the strength in her voice, you couldn’t help but feel your mortal heart clench. It was as if the entire tragic history of this nation was contained in her voice, such was its strength.

Marina Chirca remained one of Romania’s silent heroines. Toma Arnăuțoiu, the last anti-communist fighter in the Sansgaș Mountains, said of her that she was “the most devoted” of the group, and this is perhaps the finest tribute to her courage. And it must be said that among the women from Nucșoara who supported the partisans was Elisabeta Rizea, known as a symbol of the anti-communist struggle.

Marina Chirca was there, close to the heart of the partisans, from the beginning to the end. It is almost impossible to imagine this self-sacrifice, when the slightest connection with the anti-communist fighters was enough to sign her condemnation. But Marina Chirca resisted. And the investigations by the Security Service, and the hostility of some villagers, and the loneliness, and the poverty. Not a word! She resisted five years of hiding in the attic of a stranger’s house, sleeping on a stable door, she resisted communist imprisonment and had the intelligence not to fall into any of the Security Service’s traps. Like a daredevil from another world, she resisted.

And then she stood up to all the disappointments that post-December Romania brought her. She didn’t fight against oblivion, she let it come and tolerated it in a conciliatory way. But when you fight history, you don’t wait for recognition. That is all Marina Chirca wanted: for the wars and passions of her heroes to be known, the heroes of that absent Romania, too absent from our recent, too recent past. She never said that her passions and her wars were exactly the same. All she wanted was peace.

Marina Chirca lived in the most modest 10 square metres in the heart of Făgăraș, in the village of Slatina (Nucșoara commune). On the freshly painted walls she had laid a beautiful carpet and patterned towels, and covered the stove with clean white paper. Above the bed, the Mother of God watched over her. An oasis where it seemed no time had passed. I found her dressed in peasant clothes, reading from the Old Testament. We dug up painful memories, talked about betrayal, poverty and work. Marina Chirca simply opened her heart to strangers. When we parted, she gave us a bag of farmer’s eggs. “How can you leave empty-handed? That’s what we have here, and we have enough for ourselves”. And after all that, it was she who thanked us. That’s the way of the clean-hearted.

“That bandit brought them weapons! Why haven’t you killed her yet?”

Marina Chirca: Ask me, dear mother, that’s why you came! Bogdaproste, God keep you healthy! Ask me, don’t be shy!

Weekend Truth: Were you on good terms with the Arnățoiu family before Toma and Petre went to the mountains?

M.C.: We got on well with them. I learned school from Mr. Iancu. They went to the forest without my knowledge.

W.T.: After they left, you helped them with food and everything?

M.C.: We had two oxen. We cut them up and made pastrami out of them. I had a wooden hoop and I put them there. They’d come out of the woods when they needed it and take it. They’d knock on the door, “You know we are here”. That’s all. That’s how they carried the meat. Sometimes I’d talk to them, sometimes they’d just take the food and go into the woods. We brought weapons: two automatic rifles. We put the rifle butts in the cases and wrapped the barrels in newspapers. “What have you got there?” people would ask me. “Some wedding candles, I’m having a wedding!” I also brought them a radio and a medical kit from Arsenescu’s home.

W.T.: How did you arrange the meetings?

M.C.: Someone would come and tell me: “This week you’re going there”. And I would remember. I would go to the forest. I would go with the hoe on my back. If someone saw me, I would say that I was going to put mulch on the field. Or I’d get hayflowers and put them in the field and let the grass grow. Once they went to the Wide Valley. It was snowing, but only a little. I came and gave them four cups of maize. Tică (n. r. – Tică Jubleanu) and Petrică (n. r. – Petre Arnăuțoiu) came. When they saw that there was snow on the ground, they peeled some more beeches, crushed them and mixed them with corn flour. They made polenta. What were they going to eat when it snowed? They ate like that until spring came. They couldn’t go out anymore, they would get the tracks. They wouldn’t go out in the snow. The Security Service was everywhere. Toma Arnăuțoiu asked me how he could help Maria Plop to give birth. I told him how, I gave him a piece of thread, a pair of scissors. He did it well. He was alone there. Then I went with food, with clothes.

W.A.: You also met with the Security Service.

M.C.: They came to ask me about Aurel. “Where is your husband? Did he come last night? Did you talk to him?” “Well, why didn’t you come and tell us? I haven’t seen him for so long.” When they took Aurel, they took me too. They took me to the militia, to Nucșoara, and from there they took me at midnight and put me in a wagon. It was raining heavily. At Domnești, in the wagon, they started: “Bandit, you are going to spill the beans even on the tit you sucked from your mother when they are going to be put in a straitjacket.” They took me down and put me in the wagon. I didn’t even have time to lace up my boots before they took me to Câmpulung, by car. There I was in a cell with another man who told me: “Don’t be afraid! At 12 o’clock at night they’ll take you to the hearing”. That’s how it was. They took me. I said: “Go ahead”. “Well, madam, please tell me about the partisans.” He had a lot of money on a table, picked me up and showed me an apartment in Câmpulung. “Look, I’ll give you the flat, I’ll give you the money. You tell me when they come.” “I don’t know, sir. If I knew, I’d tell you. But I don’t know. When I hear, I’ll come and tell you.” They let me go.

W.A.: And so on for 10 years, and after they caught you, you ran away.

M.C.: They put three men under a walnut tree to watch me at night. I put water and basil in a bottle and went to my father: “Father, I’m running away. What if he catches me?” I couldn’t run at night because there were militiamen. I ran during the day. I took a bag with two layers of clothes. I left everything at home. I left the boys too. At the bridge in the valley we ran through the woods. We stayed in Corbi, under a big gutter, for two nights and two days. We went out and ate some beech leaves because we didn’t have any food. We left in a big downpour. We made a fire and lived there in the field. A woman asked us: “Where are you girls from?” “From the monastery.” “Put out the fire when you leave!” “We are putting it out!” We had just arrived at the gutter and saw the cars like swallows at Fr. Andreescu. As soon as they saw that we was gone, they took the father. The cars flew by like swallows! They broke Fr. Andreescu’s leg but he didn’t say anything. They pulled out a tooth, “Tell us!”, and another one, “I don’t know!”, and another one, “Tell us!”, until they pulled all his teeth out of his mouth and he still didn’t say anything.

W.A.: Where did you go?

M.C.: I saw some sheep in the village of Corbi: “These sheep are going to the village. Let’s follow them”. We came from the trough to the village and we didn’t know where to go. We went to a godson: “Well, will you let us go to bed, it’s night time?” “Well, where did you come from? Come on, I’ll leave you.” In the morning he saw we weren’t leaving.

W.A.: You spent five years hiding in the attic of a house.

M.C.: Well, do the maths. We been gone since ’58. And in ’63 he let my boys go. I stayed in a pigsty for another month. I came to the village in the middle of the night. Nobody took us in. If he caught them, he’d put them in jail. He let the boys go early so I could see them. Was I stupid to go? I was glad they let them go, but what could I do? I brought Ioana some rice in a pot. She rarely comes and I miss her. She’s a good person. Her mother was good too. I know a man by his heart, who’s bad and who’s good.

W.A.: Have you come out of hiding? What do you eat?

M.C.: In the evening, after dark, and in the morning, before light… When the apples came out, we ate apples. We peeled potatoes and ate them in the attic. We sat on a wooden rack and a barn door. I asked for a shirt with wool sleeves, which I put on over the wood. I’d put on another flannel. And I took a skirt to cover it. But it was full of lice! Oh dear, what should I do? And the lice were all over my head! I went to the river, changed and put on my coat as usual. But then I had nothing to wear. One night I went to my father’s brother’s house in Brădet. We walked all night until it was light. I cried and cried. It was an hour before dawn. When he didn’t answer, I left. Later, a woman from Corbi gave me a suit of clothes from top to bottom, but she didn’t give me any shoes. I got some of her boots from there and went to Corbi, to the shop. I put a brooch on my head, the militiaman was behind me, but he didn’t recognise me. I took some socks and stockings and I left.

W.A.: How did they catch you?

M.C.: They came to us. I, from the attic, got under the bed. My sister stayed upstairs. But what did you see? First they came under the bed, then they went up to the attic. When they caught us, there was a crowd of people. When they tried me, they gave me 20 years and confiscated my property. “You spent five years in the attic, you’ll spend another 15 with us. I didn’t eat for nine days. I didn’t even drink water. I got so sick, like any woman, out of grief. I went on hunger strike. Why did they give me 20 years? I fell into the hands of Aurică Enache, who shot Jubleanu in the arm and leg. Oh, they beat me up, I’m surprised I’m still here! “Who is it?” “Chirca Marina.” “That bandit brought them weapons to kill us! Why didn’t you kill her first?” They took me to Bucharest and put me in a room alone. Alone for a year. I’m sorry they caught them. It’s not their fault. If that thief hadn’t given them away, they would have stayed a year. They’d get out after the decree. They would come out, they wouldn’t stay in the woods.

W.A.: You were released by decree in ’64.

M.C.: In Bucharest, at the Security Service headquarters, they opened a visa: “You were lucky, madam, the decree came. There can be no more political prisoners in the prison”. He took me to two nuns. We spent the night there. In the morning, the nuns said they would let me go home, but they took me to Jilava. There was a militiaman and a militiaman’s wife. “Damn you, bandit! Are you the bandit Chirca Marina, why did you bring weapons?” “You can’t touch me, the decree is here!” He took me to a chicken coop. There was no door, just a window without glass. He gave me a bowl of corn and in the evening he said: “What did you do? Did you like it?” “I was beaten and killed and you want me to like it?” “Come on, we’ll let you go, we won’t keep you, but don’t tell anyone.” “You’re releasing us now, after beating us to death.” “Come on, you’re the toughest guys in the world, because you stood your ground.”

W.A.: How did you find your way home?

M.C.: I had no food, no spoon to eat with. When my boys came, they couldn’t find anything. We had two milk cows, one had just farrowed, seven pigs and a sow – one pig was old – 17 sheep and clothes like at home. They confiscated everything – the boys’ clothes, mine. They roasted the lame pig on the barbecue here. When they came, they had nothing to wear, nothing to wrap themselves in. Nothing at all. A neighbour gave the boys a blanket. My husband arrived two or three weeks before me.

W.A.: And how did you get through this hard time?

M.C.: I went to the mountains for 10 years. I made food for people. I was also in the camp selling tools… It was hard, but it passed. But we did it as if God had given it to us! It passed, madam, God helped us. He’s the One we had big and strong. We’ve been through fire and water, but we’ve come through.

The whole Chirca family went to prison.

“On 15 May 1951, Marina Chirca told us that the militia authorities had reported that her son (n.r. – Gheorghe, aged 11) had bought a lot of cigarettes – 400 packs – from the cooperative, and that they had been searched at the militia station in the commune of Nucșoara […]. …] Marina Chirca taught her son to declare that he had stolen 500 lei from home and bought cigarettes”, reads the interrogation of Petre Arnăuțoiu on 6 February 1959. But he did not escape after the arrest of the group on 29 June 1958. Like his mother, Gheorghe Chirca has come to terms with his past. He tells the story as if it happened yesterday, but without regret or hatred.

“He took us to Jilava, then to the big island of Brăila. There we diked the Danube. If you didn’t keep to the rules, you were beaten! You stood at the gate until it was your turn. He’d put the wet sheet on your bottom, stick your head under the bed and beat you with the rope. Five to 25 times. One foot on one hand, another on the other, one on your neck and two on your feet. You couldn’t move. We worked for 12 hours. When I got there I weighed about 80 kilos. In ’63 I was down to 35. I didn’t recognise anything. At the trial, even the prosecutor said I wasn’t guilty. In the end they gave me 8 years. Both me and my brother.

The whole Chirca family went to prison, but perhaps the most cynical tactic of the Security Service was applied to Ana Simion, Marina Chirca’s sister. The agent with the conspiratorial name of Mihail Mohor, known in the village as Vasile Linie, was given the task of getting as close as possible to Ana Simion in order to seduce her. The Security Service files say: “Ana’s state of mind must be exploited”, and the poor woman falls into the agent’s sinister trap: she accepts the marriage. Mohor invents the bureaucratic necessity of a marriage trip, with the sole purpose of keeping Ana away from her sister and extracting information from his future wife. The plan, which has been in the works for several years, has little success, however, as Ana does not know where the “bandits” are hiding.

Out of unbearable guilt for betraying her family, out of fear or loneliness, Anne has a breakdown and falls ill. But her fears culminate in a rational act: she leaves Mohor a note announcing her departure, without giving any hint of her destination: she returns to her sister, with whom she flees from Slatina and hides in the attic of a house for five years.

(Interview by Laurențiu Ungureanu – Adevă, electronic edition of 15 September 2013)

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