Părintele Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa, 13. 1. 1988, Washington, D.C., USA

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Location Washington, D.C., USA
Date 13. 1. 1988
Length 21:04

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Why were you arrested in 1948?

Romania was then invaded by the Red Army, and they wanted to install communism in the country. To do this, they had to arrest politicians, the classical political parties, and at the same time the generation of intellectuals and students. That’s because we had the Christian education and we became the opposition. Not violently, but only spiritually, the ideological opposition. Then they decided to arrest the intellectuals and the younger students and the schoolboys. I think around 20,000 of us were arrested, younger students and schoolboys.

What were the ages of some of these people? You say they were schoolboys.

Between 16 and 20–22 years.

When you were taken to prison, how were you treated, what was done to you?

At that time, the treatment in the prison was very hard. They killed many people. Generally it was around one million people, and from that one million people more than 200,000 were killed, exterminated by hunger, torture, forced labour, and despair.

What did they do to you? Could you give some examples?

Yes. For instance, we, the students, were in Piteşti prison and they tried and started a special re-education, brainwashing on us. This brainwashing consisted of torture, denunciations of our parents, friends and all the people we met when we were free. After four years many of us were killed, went mad, many of us were very sick. And a few of us were normal people.

Why were you and other people arrested in 1948, and what sort of numbers were involved?

In general, it was more than one million people; intellectuals, scholars, professors, students and schoolboys. And from this one million, more than 200,000 people were exterminated by hunger, forced labour, torture and despair.

Why were they arrested?

Because the Red Army wanted to install communism in our country, and we had the Christian education and became the spiritual opposition, the philosophical opposition. They treated us with violence and torture.

But you hadn’t taken out direct opposition, you hadn’t gone onto the streets to fight them?

No, we’d formed opposition only inside the university because they wanted to introduce communism in university as an obligatory discipline. And we asked them not to introduce politics in university, and to let us study and worship Jesus Christ and God.

What did they do to you and other people inside the prisons in that period?

They tortured us during the interrogations. Many of us died, and after all that, they tried, especially on us, young people, to exert special pressure to brainwash us, to transform us from Christians into anti-Christians, to make us denounce our friends, our parents, and so on. And many of us died in prison, many became mentally sick, and many are still sick. Very few are normal people now after this period.

Was it psychological pressure, or was it also physical beatings?

Physical and psychological, too. We were submitted to this psychological torture for hours and days and years. Many of us died because of this.

Were Soviets involved in this?

No, but the Soviets were always the counsellors and the chiefs of the Minister of Internal Affairs and of Economy. The Chief of the Council and of the Minister of Internal Affairs was a Russian General named Patyusha.

And in the prisons, too, were there Soviets?

No, they were only counsellors, they weren’t directly involved in our torture.

But they gave the pattern of mental and physical attack?

Yes, yes, naturally.

Could you give us a specific example of psychological pressure that was brought against you inside prison in Romania?

I was in Piteşti in 1950. One day three guards entered into my cell and other two people who I didn’t know, and they started to beat me at the beginning. Afterwards they asked me about people I met during my freedom. I refused to make a declaration, they started to beat me longer, and I was submitted to this interrogation for two weeks, day and night. I had no permission to lie or to sleep or to eat for two weeks. I was allowed to eat only once a day, and all the time they asked me questions. After two weeks I was already crazy.

Did you break down?

Yes, I broke down. And all people broke down.

Did you confess to things you didn’t do?

(laughs) Yes, I confessed to everything. And all people confessed. In this prison there were 2,000 of us and many of us died and became crazy. It was not only the truth. They didn’t want the truth. They wanted us to lie against the people, they wanted to destroy our trust in ourselves. They wanted to destroy our faith. It was like a black liturgy. The whole liturgy was inverted. I don’t know exactly how to say it in English, but we started the liturgy from the end and went to the beginning. It was a black liturgy. They wanted to destroy us, our faith, our hope, our soul. And they succeeded for a long time.

Was this pattern of brutality learned from the Russians or taught by the Russians?

Yes. All this experience was made in Russia. And if you read, for instance, The Pedagogical Poem by Makarenko, you’ll see that the methods were already used by him, only he gave them a humanitarian aspect. But they applied this in our prisons in Romania with all the brutality that Makarenko applied in Russia..

How long did you spend in prison in your whole lifetime in Romania?

21 years and 6 months.

What periods of time were you in prison in Romania?

I was in prison between 1948 and 1964 for the first time. I was arrested for the second time in March 1979 and was set free in August 1984. Afterwards I had a year of house arrest with all my family.

Could you describe some of the things that were done to you in prison, in your 1980 prison sentence?

I want to mention that between my first period of imprisonment and the second period there was no difference. The torture and the brutality was the same. For instance, in 1980 I was very sick in the hospital prison in Jilava. One day I was praying in my cell. I’m a priest and I wanted to accomplish my duty to God. I was praying, I was very sick, and a guard rushed into my cell and started to beat me with his stick. My hands were like that, and I refused to take my hands off. And he beat me very cruelly on the head, on the back and on the hands. And the next day my hands were completely black. A doctor came into my cell, and I asked him if torture is allowed in the prison. And the doctor answered that he’s there to cure my sickness, and not to intervene in my connections with the guards.

Who ordered your arrest in 1979?

In 1979 I was arrested on the direct order of Ceauşescu, and he asked the Secret Police to exterminate me in the first two years of imprisonment. But God protected me because God is better and stronger than are the men.

What was the policy of the communist party towards organised religion in Romania in the Stalinist period?

The communists tried to destroy religion by two means: by brutal means and by compromises. So the first hierarchs were killed, poisoned or killed in prison. The second generation started to make compromises, and the third generation, the current generation of hierarchs, completely submitted to the communist regime. If a priest tried to protest or do his duty, as Jesus Christ asked us, the first to hit him are the hierarchs, and afterwards the communist authorities would intervene and arrest them. For instance I was defrocked, I was chased from the monastery, from the church and from the school. So I was given without any ecclesiastic protection into the hands of the secret police, who arrested me.

So the church authorities are essentially completely submissive to the will of the communist party?

Yes. The church authority is completely collaborating with the communist regime. Not only the Orthodox Church which is stronger, but even the Catholic Church and the Baptists, and so on. Their official leaders are collaborating with the communists.

Do you know roughly how many priests were killed during the Stalinist period?

I think around 500 people were killed in prison.

And they were priests?

Priests. Orthodox, Catholic and Greek Catholic. They were killed. And many pastors.

What happened to the church buildings?

The buildings have been destroyed. In the last two years, in Bucharest alone, Ceauşescu destroyed more than twenty churches. He declared officially that he wanted Bucharest to be the first capital in the world without God and without churches. He made this declaration and he tried to accomplish it.

Were some of the churches that he destroyed in Bucharest valuable?

All the churches were very valuable because Bucharest is our first capital and all the churches were very old. They were historical monuments. They were all destroyed by Ceauşescu. He wanted to destroy all the civilisation and the culture and to install a new civilisation, a communist one, the epoch of Ceauşescu.

What was the attitude of the communist parties throughout Eastern Europe to religion in the Stalinist period?

It was the same because the attitude of the communist regime to the church is ordered from the Kremlin. The attitude that the Kremlin took was afterwards taken by the other communist regimes in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, and so on. The methods were absolutely the same. They started by killing, by compromising, by forbidding the churches. For instance the Greek Catholic church is a Catholic church but with an Oriental rite. It was forbidden in 1946 in Russia, in 1948 in Romania, in 1948 in Poland, and so on. In Romania we had six bishops. They were all arrested and all killed in prison. But they had the time to order another generation. The second generation was arrested, and half of them killed in prison. Now there is another, third generation, and they are working underground. Since 1948 until now, this church has been working underground.

What happens to people in Romania today who try to organise human rights groups, or free trade unions?

If somebody tries to organise something regarding human rights, the organisation is beheaded immediately. For instance, in 1979 doctor Cană, Braşoveanu and other people organised a free trade union. They called it SLOMR – Sindicatul Liber al Oamenilor Muncii din România. I was involved with them because I was a guarantee that this free trade union was not a communist one. It was a Christian one. And all the organisers were arrested and sentenced. I was arrested with them, too, and sentenced to ten years. Dr. Cană was sentenced to 7 years, Braşoveanu to 5 years, and so on.

What is life like now in winter for ordinary people in Romania?

CALCIU: Now? I see from time to time clandestine letters, and every time everyone is sadder than before. The people are desperate. They have no heating, no milk, no food, they have no bread, they have nothing. To give you an example, a kilo of potatoes costs 32 Lei. That means a salary for a day. And they cannot nourish six members of a family with a kilo of potatoes. The desperation is terrible. They ask us to protest, to tell the truth about the situation in Romania. No heat, no electricity, no bread, no milk, the children die at home or in the hospitals, they have no medical care.

Can you tell us about the children who were killed in Bucharest hospital?

During the winter between 1984 and 1985 I met a doctor who was in the children’s hospital, Grigore Alexandrescu from Bucharest. He asked me to tell the world that 93 children died in incubators because the electricity was cut, and they died of cold. That happened in a single hospital, but in all the hospitals, nobody knows how many children were killed because of the orders of Ceauşescu.

If Ceauşescu were to fall tomorrow and Romania were to go back to a more normal communism, how free and how happy would the people of Romania be?

I think there’d be a certain joy in Romania, but their followers would immediately restore the same situation. We don’t believe in the human face of communism. Our experience with 70 years in Russia or with 40 years in Romania demonstrated that communists cannot have a human face.

But can communism be reformed, do you think?

I don’t think so.


Because the principle of communism is that communism has no faith. They destroyed religion, they denied all the moral principles of Christianity and they put nothing in its place. They replaced it with nothing but terror, with this new class of leaders who try to enrich their life and have a very very good life, without caring for the people who died. And not only Romania and in Russia, you know, Afghanistan, the Berlin Wall, nothing changed with Gorbachev. And now, glasnost and the perestroika are only for export, in Russia they don’t use the words now.

Thank you very much.


Ceauşescu exports electricity, food and all things, at the expense of other people because he incurred big debts to Western people, to those countries and banks. He decided to pay those debts all at the expense of the people. For this, children die in hospitals when he cuts the electricity. This electricity was exported to Bulgaria and other countries. And recently in the countryside, for instance, they have electricity only from Friday until Sunday night, and for the rest of the week they have no power. No way of preparing food, no way of heating their houses, and so on. The situation’s very difficult, very hard, and the people are desperate. For this they went out and still go out in the streets and protest like in Braşov and other towns in Romania.

What was one of the consequences of the energy exports and the energy cuts in the country in the hospital in Bucharest?

The children died in the incubators, they had no medicines, they had no food for the people. Mothers died in the hospitals without having medical care. And the doctors cannot make operations, they have no electricity and no light. Many doctors are operating with lamps, with gas and candles, and so on.

Părintele Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa (1925–2006)

Părintele Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa

Romanian priest and dissident, he served 21 years in prison during communism, according to his own testimony. He was incarcerated between 1948-1964 and again between 1979-1984. He also spent a year under house arrest together with his family.

In 1948, he was arrested for disseminating anti-comunist manifests and for his ties with the fascist youth. Between 1949-1951 he underwent “re-education” through torture at the Pitești prison. A few years after he regained freedom he became a priest.

The second arrest was motivated by his involvement in the establishment of The Free Labor People Union in Romania. He was released at external pressure of Western leaders, among whom president Reagan. Throughout the ‘80s he spoke against communism and Ceaușescu regime at Radio Free Europe.

Following his second release from prison he went into exile in USA where he settled. In 1989, he took charge of the Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

He visited Romania several times after the fall of communism and he remained critical of certain Romanian Orthodox bishops to his last day, claiming they were former secret police infiltrators.

Father Calciu-Dumitreasa died on November 21, 2006 in USA and his body was interred in Romania at the Petru Vodă monastery.