When, finally, there was a trial. How many years of prison did you get after the trial?
I was convicted by the Military Court from Oradea, to a final irrevocable sentence of 20 years of hard work.
With loss of rights?
Eight years of loss of civil rights, three years of corrective prison, then came two years of interdictions. The sentence was the maximum one. The trial took place on August, 27 1953.
Please tell me, did you have voluntary lawyers of defence?
Do you know their names?
You did do know any of the names of those who were judging you?
I only know that among them was Justice General Alexandru Petrescu.
Yes, he is famous for the sentences he pronounced, millions of years of prison for the people who were convicted by him. The defense lawyer did he plead for the case he was meant to defend or not?
Dear madam, this person said only a few words: „The children were taken away by their father, so that they would not give up the names of those fugitives, who were hiding in the mountains.” At the end of the trial, the president of the Court of Justice asked each us of us, who were prosecuted, if we had any wishes. A member of our group, Ioan Rus, had recognized the prosecutor, he had been his colleague at the Law Faculty in Cluj, and he told this man: „We are judged here today, tomorrow you’ll stay here for trial”. When they announced my sentence of 20 years, knowing that the other companions have been given 25 years and my brother 22, I asked them to give me the same number of years like my brothers from the mountains.
I cannot tell you how they were searching us at Miercurea Ciuc. Suddenly, soldiers came and took us out of the rooms, on the hallway, so that they can search inside. I remember one time that is worth the story. They took us all out from every cell, on the row. In our cell we could hear a noise similar to a ORL check up. It was like they were looking inside their mouths with a teaspoon... We thought this might mean that there was a disease among them. The women prisoners wee coughing. They came to us. Indeed, they were forcing a teaspoon inside our mouths and began looking inside the mouth... I had a needle, hidden in my mouth, because we needed to sew our clothes, buttons. They took out the needle and put it on the window pane, where there were many others. They searched us all and they took that bloody needle, which we kept for our needs. After this search, tough measures were applied: those who were hiding needles were taken to the isolation room, where they endured hard times, it was very cold. You can imagine how cold it was in winter at Miercurea Ciuc. Those of us who were very sick – me, Lucreţia Jurj and some others – they did not punish, we were not taken to the isolation room. We escaped miraculously, because we had to stay in the infirmary, we were very sick.
Some other time, they took all beds out of the infirmary room and we had to sleep on the floor, because they caught us slipping bread through the horn, to others in the cells close to us. They caught us doing this and they took our beds out. For three days, we had to sleep on the floor, with no heating, sick as we were, and the girls who were sentenced to prison for life, some of them very young – there were many young women inside – they received the same punishment. After that, the inspections were more frequent than before.
We even had a Bible that we were hiding in a mattress, but they found it and took it from us. I don’t know how they managed to find out about it... Probably there were some among us who would say everything, for a real or illusionary reward, who knows, or maybe there was somebody infiltrated by them. We were very sad when they took the Bible. With us we had Sister Hildegard, a social nun who was very concerned about our spiritual life. I spent five years with her in the cell. She was also suffering from lungs TBC. I spent also five years with Sister Judith, who came with the same group as Sister Hildegard. The latest was teaching us religion and also German. We used to pray every day, the liturgics service, read the Rosary, other prayers for the Holy Virgin... I knew all these prayers by heart. We chose lectures from the Holy Book and Sister Hildegard was telling us: „You learn this chapter, this Gospel, and you learn this or that letter”, and so, in turns, we were performing the Service of the Holy Mass. We learned so many lectures from the Holy Book, but finally they found out about this and searched us, they found the Bible and took it away. You can imagine what happened next: because they could not take us all together in the isolation room, they took away the beds.
Meanwhile, around June or July 1951, we faced the Securitate. We went to take the food. I wanted to go as well, to see my mother, I missed her very much. My father felt pity for me and he agreed to take me. So, we all left the hiding place, me, my father, Ioan Rus, Ioan Mâţ. There was a very good spot in the woods that had a very good visibility to our house. It is like I see my mother now, she was in the courtyard… It was quiet, the dogs were not barking, a sign that we could get closer. My father was like a wild cat, he was walking on his tiptoes, not making noise and he could feel any danger. The calm around the house looked suspicious to him. My auntie, when she knew it was dangerous, she would hang a black scarf on a rope, so that we stay away. When that scarf was not out, we knew that it was safe to come. My father would then go to the little stream behind our house, throw a piece of wood towards the house. This was his signal. My mother knew beforehand when my father would visit her. But that day, I do not remember exactly the date, it was in June or July, very hot – that day we just discovered we were in the middle of those who were watching our house. We were surrounded. The house was surrounded by the Securitate. One of them grabbed Ioan Mâţ and then tried to reach for me. I shouted loudly: “Father!!!” They did not know I was disguised, dressed as a peasant from that region, with woolen socks, a blouse, a hat – I was dressed like a boy – with traditional leather shoes, we could not wear boots or our traces would have been too similar to those of the men from Securitate. My father was very cautious and he made us all wear leather soft shoes. Of course, those who caught us did not see I was a girl. When I shouted after my father, and one of them tried to seize me, I shook myself and escaped, running to the woods after my father. They started to throw grenades after us. The man holding Ioan Mâţ had thrown him to the ground, trying to throw a grenade after us his head turned the other way and at that moment Mâţ could escape from him. He ran after us in the woods, reached the little hut before us. The Securitate continued to shoot towards the forest, but we managed to hide without opening fire back towards them. They were shooting at random, the woods were deep and they got lost, the trees were full of green leaves… But they continued to fire the guns… We were far away but we still heard the shooting. Of course we were very scared because one of our group, Vasile Hotea, was trapped in the river, among the trees. We thought that maybe they had taken him but that night he returned to our secret hiding hut. The Securitate has shot a horse of a man who was coming to take wood from the forest. They also took my mother and all the others around my house, they took them all to the village, to beat them up. They arrested my mother, sent her to Cluj and wanted to give her to the Court.
The soldiers from Securitate have managed to come close to us. One of them hit me with his boot so hard that I jumped in the air and then landed on the ground, face down. He shouted „Hands up!” I did not want to put my hands up and told them to shoot me, like they had shot my brother. And, as my brother was lying there, next to me, he grabbed my hands and put them up in the air. At that moment, they came close and looked at us... Seeing that Achim was turning pale, I told them: „What do you plan to do with him, can’t you see he is dying?” They somehow woke up from their dreaming and said: „Where is Hotea? We’ll lose Hotea!” So, they seemed to know very well the entire story. I shouted to Hotea:” I cannot run any longer”. „Stick to me!”, he said, but I stayed with my brother. Then the soldiers started to run after him, some of them stayed with us, four or five. They managed to shoot Hotea. I found out later that, from the other side there were other soldiers coming towards us, on the road of Lăpuşului, between Rogoz and Lăpuşul Românesc. Over there a lot of cars with soldiers from Securitate had gathered, they trapped him in a circle and caught him.
Meanwhile, my brother was getting worse. „Please make a stretcher and take my brother, he is dying!”, I told them. At this point, they went to the big house, brought some wooden boards and built a stretcher. They tied me with ropes and we marched to the village of Dobric. They would kick me, I can’t describe how they treated me, hit me with the rifles on the back... only I know what I endured. It was the 8th of March 1953, a Sunday. They put us all in van and took us to Securitate, in Târgu Lăpuş.
... God helped me. I had a very strong mind. I used to tell myself: „This is what God has given me, I have to fight and trust Him from now on, so be it”. I comforted myself with this thought...
She was born on the 13th of May 1931 in Lăpuşul Românesc (Maramureş county). She is the daughter of the forester Nicolae Pop – leader of one of the anti-communist resistance groups in Romania - and of Maria Pop.In 1949, at eighteen, she fled into the mountains together with her brother, Achim, and her father – who became the leader of one of the anti-communist resistance groups from the Romanian mountains. In 1953 she was arrested and sentenced to 20 years hard labour. The motive: she was a member of a counter-revolutionary organisation. Seriously ill, she went through the following prisons: Văcăreşti (hospital), Jilava, Miercurea Ciuc. She was released in 1964, at the general amnesty, after eleven years of imprisonment.Her father, who was seriously ill, was caught by the Securitate in March 1953 and he died a short time afterwards. Her brother, Achim, was also arrested in 1953. After a traumatic imprisonment, he died shortly after his release, in 1956.The rest of her family was deported in 1952, in the Bărăgan steppe.
She was declared “righteous among the nations”, together with her parents, because, in 1944, they hid Jewish children from persecution and deportation.
Aristina Pop, married name Saileanu, now lives in Bucharest.