Sofia Cristescu – “she was a totally generous being, as if born to live the life of others, not her own”

Mrs. Aspazia, during your imprisonment did you meet holy people who strengthened your faith?

– Yes, of course I did. For example, I could tell you about Sofia Cristescu – or Nana, as we called her. She was a person who was destined to sacrifice her youth and her life in dramatic trials. She was imprisoned under Carol and Antonescu – not to mention the Communists, under whom she served for 16 years.

Nana was an utterly generous being, born to live the lives of others, not her own. I can’t tell you how ready she was to jump at any trouble, any pain, how she was able to give of herself to bring joy or help someone else. Her existence among us was providential. (…)

She helped us a lot in this respect, especially with her knowledge. When she was free, in her early youth (her own youth was spent only in prisons), she sang in church, she was in a choir that sang the responses at Holy Mass, and she knew by heart almost all the Gospels that were read at the Holy Mass on Sundays, not to mention the text of the Holy Mass and many of the prayers.

We learnt a lot about the faith from her. She had a very special voice, a beautiful voice, a clear little voice like a silver bell. And when she sang a prayer for us, it was really an uplifting moment for us; there was something so beautiful in her voice, the warmth of her soul, the strength of her devotion, the strength of her love for others, the constant interest she had in the person next to her and her total selflessness. Our Nana was extraordinary!

– How did she behave during the investigations, because she must have been beaten?

– Sure, she had some very tough interrogations, but she never told me about them. From her we learned what it means to truly forgive, to understand human limitations and above all to understand those who cannot love, who cannot be kind, who cannot be gentle. How unhappy these people are! How unfulfilled they are, how doomed they are to live mean, hateful, envious lives. ….

Nana was so beautifully devoted in spirit that it was no difficulty for her to forgive the most grotesque insults, to overcome the most humiliating blows. I remember that once the headmistress of Mislea, who had the defect of hitting others with her palms so easily, and once she applied a blow of her palms so that her fingers could be seen on Nana’s face for several hours, so hard did she hit her! And she smiled at her and said, “Madam, one day you will get to know us, and then you will regret this gesture, which does you no honour! But she spoke so softly, so clearly, so sweetly, that the person didn’t feel like repeating the gesture.

– And did what Nana said happen, did she get to know you and regret that gesture?

– Yes, that’s what happened. In time, this headmistress was forced to see that there were real characters among us, and towards the end she trusted us so much that she was accused of favouring the legionary group in prison – although she was a very valuable activist, with the rank of captain.

(Aspazia Oțel Petrescu – Orthodox Family Magazine, No.8 (43)/2012, interview excerpt)

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