How Romanians React to Foreigners

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Suzana Monastery Retreat  II, or An Anthropological ‘Field Trip’ Insights,  and Communism Jokes 😃

Doamne Ajuta! I am obviously not the only pilgrim at Suzana Monastery, but I am the only pilgrim who is NOT Romanian. I am immediately spotted and ‘targeted’ , especially by a group of Romanian students who belong to an Orthodox youth organization and do volunteer work at the monastery in the summer. They are here to help with the housekeeping, farming and agriculture. And with chanting.

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (1)

Mistake Bucharest for Budapest.

Never ask a Romanian if he lives in Budapest. That’s the capital sin, the perfect way to end a potentially interesting conversation. Yes, Budapest is a capital city, and there’s a big chance you’ll nail it with this guess — but only if you’re speaking to a Hungarian! We’re so tired of hearing, “Good evening, Budapest!” every time an international act has a concert in Bucharest. Metallica did it, Lenny Kravitz did it. And many others. But they had bodyguards. You, on the other hand, will be alone in front of an outburst of anger.

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The Romanian hospitality, warmth, enthusiasm and curiosity about anything Greek, or foreign for that matter, AND Orthodox CANNOT be exaggerated! This group of students at Suzana Monastery instantly become my ready interpreters and eager translators, my willing tutors for Romanian chanting and they are so full of questions about my job, my studies, my travels, my pilgrimages, my adopted country UK, my home country Greece and its Saints, especially St. Paisios, about everything, to the point of collapse!

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I may be on a pilgrimage in Romanian monasteries, but St Paisios’ the Athonite, my patron Saint‘s, presence is strongly felt all over Romania. Plenty of icons of his and books with his services and spiritual counsels in all monasteries and churches I have been so far! Esp. on the 12th of July the faithful all over in Romania were holding Vigils and praying Akathists and Supplication canons, asking for his prayers. Wherever I go, the moment Romanians realise that I am Greek and my home town is near Souroti, they start asking for my telephone number and email, so that I can make arrangements and help them go and venerate his tomb. 

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (2)

Ask us about vampires.

In 1897, the Irish writer Bram Stoker published a Gothic novel entitled Dracula. His story made Transylvania more famous than any tourism promotion campaign ever could. By using some historical facts, he linked Vlad Tepes, the Voivode of Wallachia, to his main character, Count Dracula, the vampire. Unfortunately, that means foolish tourists now come to Transylvania expecting to see garlic hanging by doors or people walking around with wooden stakes in their pockets. Transylvania is a peaceful, hilly area with many traditional houses and fortified churches. The real threat back then wasn’t exsanguination, but impalement — the Voivode Vlad’s favorite method of execution. And that isn’t fiction.

Their energy is indomitable, even when our conversation lasts for hours while standing after very long services outside the church at dusk until midnight and …! Their effusion is so contagious and there is no end to the exchange of telephone numbers, emails and addresses for the planning of future pilgrimages in Romania and Greece and exchange of Saints! These ‘buzzing bees’ with bright eyes and brighter smiles are to follow me everywhere from now on (when they are not busy with their obediences) yet their ‘buzzying’ mysteriously does not interfere with the silence that invades me. It surely has to do with their kindness, love and purity in Christ.

 

 

If you have never experienced the intensity of Romanians’ love and hospitality, you may think I exaggerate. To give you just another example, while waiting for the bus to Bucharest from Thessaloniki, I sat at a nearby café and took out my Byzantine chanting textbook to practice! Yes, one has to be very careful with these diatonic genus and Greek:  A    Β     Γ   Δ     Ε Ζ     Η, Greek:       Πα Βου Γα Δι Κε Ζω Νη, English:     Pa Vou Ga Di Ke Zo Ni, [Re Mi   Fa Sol La Si   Do], [D   E     F   G   A   B   C ]

Can you imagine a Romanian in love with you, if that is their normal ??!!

Suddenly a Romanian interrupts me and ‘blurts’ out how excited she is for meeting me, and that she is returning back to Bucharest together with 4 Romanian musicologists, who were on a Byzantine chanting conference in Thasos, and pretty soon I am surrounded by 4 (even) more effusive, enthusiastic Romanians, reciting to me Homer in ancient Greek, hugging me and chanting Ti Ipermaho / Τῆ Ὺπερμάχῳ/ To Thee the Champion Leader, in Greek again with stunning voices right in the middle of the street (!) with tears in their eyes. What a people! Can you imagine a Romanian in love with you, if that is their normal ??!!

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (3)

Leave food on your plate.

Mark my words: If invited to a Romanian’s home for lunch or dinner, fast for a day or two before the visit. We are known for being a welcoming nation, and one of our favorite ways of showing it is through food. Here are a few appetizers so you don’t starve before the first course is ready. Some eggplant salad, salted roe, homemade smoked bacon with onions, and stuffed boiled eggs with mayo. Come on, try them all! Do you like the smell of our meatball soup? Here comes the clay pot full of sarmale, next to a steaming polenta and a jar of cream. You have to taste this! It’s our traditional course. You’ve finished everything? Don’t worry, there’s plenty more! The pork roast seasoned with garlic is almost ready.

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Doamne Ajuta! Nothing best encapsulates the warmth of the Romanian heart, the warmth of their love, politeness, gentleness and hospitality, other than this greeting of theirs, ready to be offered at any time of the day, and on any occasion. So, rather than wishing someone ‘Good Morning’, or a ‘Safe Journey’, lay people and priests bless each other continuously, “Doamne Ajuta”, for surely where He is present, the journey or the job is bound to be blessed too. Such fresh and pure, innocent, child-like faith, feels refreshingly ‘simple’ compared to the Russian anguish, sinfulness and repentance.

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Such warmth and hospitality, even when very poor, even when they want to share with you, their ‘raw’ cottage cheese, natural sour cream and bizarre non-homogenized boiled water-milk concoction straight from the monastery’s cows (!), their mamaliga, their beans puree and their boiled cabbage. (Can you imagine, again the Romanians’ soaring child-like enthusiasm when steaks or ice-cream show up in a surprise at our monastic (!) dinner?) Here, at a monastery, we have to boil water at the wood stove so that we can have hot water to wash the dishes. No hot bath to be sure. We have to sleep under kilimia, rough peasants’ rugs, becoming prey to very hungry fleas. And still, the poorer you are, the eager to share, and especially the more hospitable especially when it comes to basic human needs, such as sleep, company, food.

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (4)

Confuse Romanians with Gypsies.

The official name of the Gypsy ethnic group is Romani, and even though Wikipedia states they are “not to be confused with Romanians, an unrelated ethnic group and nation,” misplaced associations are still often made. There are Gypsies all over the world — one million in the United States, 800,000 in Brazil, and many others in Europe, including Romania. They originated in India and left sometime between the sixth and eleventh centuries. Confusing Romanians with Romanis only makes you sound ignorant.

 

All Romanians I have encountered so far, be it at the UK, be it in Romania or in Greece, anywhere, are true cosmopolitans, intelligentsia and artists, men and women of culture and refinement, often very poor but with a wealth of education, so eager to contribute to the whole world community of Arts and Sciences, so enthusiastic to learn and to connect, curious yet so courteous, well-mannered and pious (in the good sense of the world).

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Sometimes this poverty of theirs may surface in a certain ‘ugliness’, dirtiness, slovenliness, chaos, and carelessness in their kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and common areas. We have to surround ourselves with beauty—that is a Christian virtue., but not one that I have encountered in Romania, with the exception of their churches and monasteries. Yet one feels so privileged, honoured and blessed to just be with them! Romanian homes are often less than orderly and clean according to a western European standard, their appearance follows a pretty weird and slovenly fashion (if one may call such an ‘invention’ fashion), completely lacking any finesse and style, but just a look at their bright smiles and sparkling eyes and a companionship with their fascinating personalities ‘compensates’ immensely. Who cares about clothes and looks, when in company of such kind and refined people, refined in all tastes that truly matter, refined in spirit and soul and heart, in the company ultimately of true aristocrats? Besides, none of us would have been any the better, after such an aggressive Communist regime and persecution, followed by a ruthless dictatorship, just in recent times.

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (5)

Tell us a breeze can’t make you sick.

We Romanians are so convinced that a cool breeze or draft of air can make you sick that we even have an expression for it: Te trage curentul. (“You’ll be pulled by the draft.”) Take the bus on a hot summer day, and you’ll probably see the windows open on only one side of the vehicle, or not at all. Craving a breath of fresh air, you move your hand in the direction of the window. But even before you touch the handle, you’ll hear a panicked voice say, “Are you trying to get us all sick?” To anyone else, this doesn’t make sense, but the logic behind this Romanian belief goes like this: The current of cool air will make your ears hurt and your nose run. Don’t even try to argue about this. You’ll only make yourself hotter.

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Romanians laugh a lot , especially at the face of danger, and can always appreciate a good joke. Like when I peppered sugar on my steak! Yet, I am not the only one in trouble with a foreign language. The residing priest told us that while at the States, he was invited at Arizona monasteries, and he made a homily there how Jesus was carried by a monkey (!), not donkey 😃

“Humor was a way of rebellion and survival at the same time; an escape of the mind and soul, a way of coping with all those absurd and restrictions imposed by a communist regime who did not care about its own people. Humor was a way of standing up or fighting back, a form of active resistance against a criminal regime; at that time the political jokes served as a catalyst of the constant state of discontent Romanians felt towards the things they did not agree or even hated… towards what was happening with our country. ”

Like:

Have you noticed that at every petrol station there is now a doctor and a policeman on duty? The doctor gives the first aid to those who faint when they see the price, and the policeman interrogates the ones who fill up about where they got the money from. 

A patient is hospitalized at the Insane Asylum. ‘Why are you here?’, another patient asks. ‘I wanted to cross the Romanian boarder’, says the first. ‘But for something like this they do not send you to an asylum!’, replies the other. ‘Yes, but I wanted to escape to Soviet Union!’

A citizen said the chief of the Communist Party is an idiot. For saying this, the citizen was sentenced to spend 25 years and 3 months in prison. Everybody was wondering why 25 years and 3 months. In the end, they old find out the answer: 3 months for insulting a citizen of the Socialist Republic of Romania; 25 years for revealing a state secret.  

 

For those who lived in Romanian during communism time, this system is very different from anything you could read in the some idealistic books. Some of the quotes show extremely well how people really felt about such an oppressing system:

Is communism a science? No, if it were a science, they would have   tested it on animals first.

An old gypsy man on his dying bad. Instead of sending after the priest, he asks for the local chief of communist party. ‘I would like to join the Party’, says the dying man. ‘Why would you do this?’, asks the communist. ‘You lived your whole life free as the wind and now you want to join the Party?’. ‘Well, you see, if somebody has to die, I would be much happier if that guy were a communist’, answers back the dying man. 

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Last but not least, Romanians are not just ‘special’, but unique! (in their own opinion of course) Stereotypes, ethnophyleticism, ethnic superiority/ inferiority complexes and xenophobia deeply vex my spirit.Sadly, even here, in a monastery, I have to ‘defend’ English people and ‘their’ Orthodoxy from some Romanians. I do not know how good an ‘ambassador’ I am, but I am trying my best. And all of Romanians I have encountered think that St Philothei, the Righteous Martyr of Athens (sic!) is Romanian! Not that Greeks are any better. We consider St Efraim the Syrian (sic!) to be Greek! Of course!

How to ‘annoy’ a Romanian (6)

Refuse homemade beverages.

Romania has one of the oldest winemaking traditions in the world. The country once had so many vineyards it’s believed Dionysus, the god of wine, was born in southeast Romania in a region then called Thracia. As proud successors of the Thracians, Romanians practice winemaking as a popular hobby, so you’ll probably be offered some garage-made wine. Or tuica, a strong fruity beverage. Even if you have reason for concern, do not ask about hygienic conditions or quality control. We take great pride in everything made with our own hands, so turning it down would be a serious insult. Take a sip, two, three, and worry not. We all drink homemade alcohol, and no one has died of it. So far.

Go here for Part I

Go here for Part III

To Be Continued …

Sources for the jokes: How to piss off a Romanian   and Romanian Communist jokes

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Draganescu Sistine Chapel

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The Romanian Orthodox Church is considering a Romanian monk persecuted by the communists and known as the “saint of Transylvania” for sainthood. … Boca, who became a monk in 1940, was harassed by the Securitate secret police, detained and did forced labor on the Black Sea Canal, a notorious labor camp where tens of thousands of political prisoners worked in the 1950s. In 1959, he was banned from leading worship and the Prislop monastery, where he is now buried, was converted into a retirement home. He was forced to retire from the church in 1968 and spent 15 years painting religious images and icons in the small church of Draganescu in southern Romania. The church’s interiors are now considered among the most beautiful in the country. Elder Arsenie Boca reposed in the Lord in early 1989, a month before Romania’s anti-communist revolt, aged 79. Though he is not yet canonized, Elder Arsenie’s grave, located in Prislop Monastery, is visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims every year, where many miracles occur. One miracle which everyone can see is that the flowers over his grave never die or wither , neither in the hot summer or the frigid winter.

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For his amazing life, the  documentary “Fr. Arsenie Boca – Man of God” is a MUST.  “His colleagues at the Theological Academy of Sibiu named him ‘The Saint’, he is considered a founding father of the Romanian Philokalia by father Dumitru Staniloaie, who thought of him as an unparalleled phenomenon of Romanian monasticism.

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Sought after and followed by thousands of believers eager to quench their spiritual thirst from his inexhaustible spring of serenity; legendary for his prophesying and healing gifts, painter of souls and painter of churches, man of culture, philosopher of sciences and religion, father Arsenie Boca was, just like Saint Basil as depicted by him in his essential work The Path of the Kingdom.

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A disciple calmly walking across the stormy seas, an unmoving pillar against the troubled waves, a man among people, providing guidance and strength with otherworldly serenity, unflinching in the belief that God alone is ruler of our world. An unequaled personality, a magnet for thousands of people in all walks of life, and also a target for suspicion for the authorities of his day, who failed to understand the source of his exceptional power to gather people around him.” 

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As one person interviewed in this documentary says: “Fr. Arsenie made Christ transparent to us.” He still does. His presence in the midst of us after his passing is a reminder of the proximity of Heaven. This film is an opportunity to (re)discover it for ourselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptbTap5NHqw

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The Sistine Chapel of the Romanians: the Draganescu Church

Father Arsenie Boca lived in Draganescu for 20 years and in 1968 he began painting the parish church, a work that took him more than 15 years. As he wasn’t allowed to celebrate service, some of the priests who visited the church over the years claim that Arsenie Boca has actually painted the sermons he delivered at Sambata de Sus.

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Rainbow colors reverberating in frescoes, light flowing from Christ’s Resurrection, Heaven trickling down through the painting brush, that’s the way the murals painted by Orthodoxy beacon Arsenie Boca at the “St. Nicholas” Church of the Draganescu town – Giurgiu County can be translated and rendered into metaphor. …

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Prophetic Artist in Shackles

His frescoes are diaphanous, and the images are accompanied by metaphors referring to people’s weaknesses and sins, by aphorisms, quotations from the Holy Scripture, sometimes by teachings of the Father and biblical scenes: the Resurrection, a picture of hell, the Group of the Righteous. The paintings are said to have a visionary, prophetic content, as it is known that Father Arsenie Boca had the gift of spiritual far-sight: one of the scenes, two tall buildings engulfed in flames, is said to allude to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, not to mention those where items like a cell phone, a space shuttle, satellite dishes, all unusual things in that period, appear.

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For his paintings, the art documentary “Picturi ale pr. Arsenie Boca pe biserica din Drăgănescu” at https://vimeo.com/82791105 is a MUST. Also, go to http://www.themidlandhostel.com/the-sistine-chapel-of-the-romanians-the-draganescu-church/ and http://www.agerpres.ro/engleza-destinatie-romania/2014/11/22/destination-romania-the-draganescu-church-swathed-in-father-arsenie-boca-s-prophetic-paintings-18-04-37 and watch a short art film “Father Arsenie Boca, one of Romania greatest Saint”  at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6ZX8M8vwY

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Morning prayer by Arsenie Boca
Lord Jesus Christ, help me let go of myself today, as I can create great problems from small and insignificant issues, and this way, caring for myself, I will lose You.

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Lord Jesus Christ, help me so that the prayer of Your Holy name will wander (work) through my mind more than lightning on the sky, so that I stay clear of even the shadow of bad thoughts as, look, I am sinning every minute.
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Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, because we stumble as we are walking in the dark. Our temptations are closing the eyes of our mind, forgetfulness has become like a wall amongst us, turning our hearts to stone and all together have made the prison cell in which we keep You crippled, starving and naked, wasting our days.
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Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us and set fire to this prison cell, light up the love in our hearts, burn the thorns of our temptations and make our souls bright.

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Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, come and live within us, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit prays through us with unspoken sighs, when word and mind don’t have the power.

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Lord, coming secretly amongst people, have mercy upon us, because we don’t realise how imperfect we are and how close You are to our souls; and how distant we become through our sins. Shine Your light over us, so that we see light through Your eyes and live eternally through Your life. Our light and joy, praise be to You!

Amen!

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Romanian Matrix

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Toma Chituc and Mihai Coman, two iconographers in the Romanian icon renewal.

I. Iconography, a recovered artistic language 

It would have been impossible to imagine a public conversation on icons and their veneration a quarter of a century ago in communist Romania. (…) However, in the last 25 years that have elapsed since the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, changes have been impressive. (…) In the aftermath of the atheist regime, religious life has revived in all its dimensions: art, liturgy, parish life and monastic communities. There are new parish churches, new monasteries, new canonized saints as well as new Christian martyrs of the communist persecution receiving a large popular veneration and waiting to be canonized. In this context, the icon has become a common presence in homes and offices.

Ioan Popa working on his icon of the

The most remarkable aspect of this revival is that the abundant iconographic demand and the high number of skilled iconographers gave rise to a competitive ambiance that led to an obvious advance in the quality of iconography and, subsequently, to a new iconographic movement.

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Our interest focuses on these latter artists who have reached an advanced aptitude of mastering the painting of icons and frescos. Socially, they are also the most visible category, knowing how to promote their creation, how to set up events and integrate their art in the larger cultural and artistic phenomenon. Their personalities are complex: in addition to working in the studio or on the scaffold, they organize symposia, open exhibitions and workshops, invite colleagues from the country and abroad, some of them teach religious art and, generally, they bring iconography to the public attention. One may observe that, over the past five to ten years, the phenomenon has become more alive and has configured a group of iconographers and church painters who are not only talented artists but also curators, theorists and project managers. Furthermore, one of the most significant aspects is that a few artistic values have been gradually assumed by the most valuable iconographers:

1. A thorough education in classical art. ( …)

2. A personal spiritual life. All of them assume, with the Orthodox tradition, that a spiritual dimension is a necessary ingredient to painting an icon. Painting an icon is not a mere artistic activity but a facet of the larger spiritual growth, both personal and part of the community in which the iconographer lives. Painting an icon, therefore, becomes a way of expressing their creativity, a spiritual search in a direct continuity with their ancestral Orthodox legacy and a way of life to which they dedicate themselves entirely. Thus, they strive to understand the icon in a theological manner, as a sacred image, and to address it from a spiritual angle. There are a few cases in which the artists even chose the monastic life; and icon painting became their main obedience in the monastery.

3. They do not imitate but innovate within the canons of tradition. (…)

II. Some iconographers and their work

Gregore Popescu. He is the oldest among the Romanian church painters and has the largest artistic oeuvre.

1_Grigore Popescu_ansamblu altar

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Elena Murariu represents the middle generation. She worked as a fresco specialist who restored different mural assemblies of the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries and subsequently commenced painting her own icons.

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Elena Murariu, Holy Brancovan (Brâncoveanu) Martyrs

Gabriel Toma Chituc. Also primarily educated as a classical painter, Chituc is an original and gifted iconographer with a special artistic expressivity. In the last decade, he has become a prolific iconographer striving to find the mystery of the authentic icon inspired by the Holy Spirit.

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Ioan Popa. Although he is only 38, Popa has already painted in the fresco technique two churches in Bucharest and Alba Iulia, the church of a monastery in the Apuseni Mountains as well as baptisteries and small chapels in Southern Italy, Cyprus and Mount Athos.

10_Ioan Popa, capela Spital G. Alexandrescu

11_SS Redentore Church, Manfredonia, Italiy,

12_Ioan Popa, ST. GEORGE

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14_Perete sudic, Alba Iulia

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Mihai Coman. He teaches church painting techniques at the Faculty of Theology in Bucharest and studied restoration in Romania. However, in what regards his skills of painting icons and frescos, Coman affirms that he “learned the technique on Mount Athos and understood the icon with the professor and painter Georgios Kordis,” whose doctoral student he is in Greece.

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Deacon Nicolae Bălan. After his studies in iconography at the Faculty of Theology in the Department of monumental art, he attended the Faculty of Fine Arts in order to improve his drawing and composition techniques. Bălan is a gifted draftsman and he painted the metropolitan chapel from Limours (France) and St. Trinity Church in Alba Iulia.

19_Balan Nicolae, biserica memorial¦ Alba Iulia

21_Balan Nicolae, cruce altar

20_Balan Nicolae, detaliu bolt¦ Alba Iulia

To these iconographers should be added many others, all of special talent and abundant production. We will mention here a few of them for a few particular reasons. First, some have composed new iconographic themes, like Răzvan Gâscă with his St. Maximus the Confessor with scenes from his life, painted to mark the presence of the relics of St. Maximus the Confessor to Iaşi in 2010.

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Likewise, Marius Ghinescu for his St. Pachomius at St. Dimitry of Rostov, which represents a moment in the life of Venerable Pachomius of Gledin (1674-1724), a Romanian hermit and bishop who spent his last years at the Pecerska Lavra in Kiev.

23_Marius Ghinescu_Sf Pahomie +Öi Sf Dimitrie al Rostovului

Others should be mentioned for the original manner in which they reconceived certain classical themes, for example Daniela Toma Musat, St. M. George.

24_DANIELA Musat Toma_Sf. Gheorghe

Finally, we should mention some who are talented artist monks able to innovate within the canon, such as Mother Olga, St. Joachim and Anna, Monk Haralambie, The Venerable Founders of Monastery Vatopedi, and Monk Iacob, Mandylion.

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26_Pr Haralambie_Sf Vatopedini

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28_BOGDAN VERDES

29_Gabriel Chituc_MD Slava Mc Brancoveni

30_Ioan Popa_Iisus Vita de vie

31_Daniel Codrescu_Deisis cu Sf. Brancoveni

32_Elena Murariu_Sfintii Brancoveni

The last example belongs to Sorin Dumitrescu, a talented metaphysical painter of the old generation converted into an inspired and charismatic theoretician of the icon as well as an original iconographer in spite of the smaller number of icons he has realised. While in his early career as an iconographer he filtered Palaeologan tradition in a personal manner, he searches his present sources of inspiration in the times which preceded iconoclastic controversy.

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With this we close our short excursion into contemporary Romanian iconography. The diversity of artists, styles, techniques, media and sources of inspiration unveils a fascinating artistic and spiritual phenomenon. It will be worth seeing in which direction Romanian iconography will evolve in the future.

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Source: http://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/the-new-romanian-masters-innovative-iconography-in-the-matrix-of-tradition/

Jaws of Eternity

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Heartbreaking Paintings and Poems from Communist Prisons in Romania — II

DAYS

by

Radu Gyr

Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Monday

Neutral days without form,

Like a great fog

Over the landscape

Good morning, prison cell!

Good night, prison bars!

I’d smash you as a mastiff in his fangs

I’d rend you with my teeth, O Cell!

I stand in Time terribly naked

With my soul planted in liquid eternity,

Like an atoll in an ocean

Beaten by torrid winds…

Dungeon, dungeon, mad fortress,

How my hate would set fire to you!

Life, life outside,

How dare you dance in my dreams like a puppet!

Tuesday,Wednesday,Friday – what day is it?

the week is a dead amassment;

My months pass through no calendar,

My island is on no map.

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday – The devil take you!

Stinking days – Stagnant days,

Here in the jaws of eternity

Who shall count your dark hundreds?

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HUNGRY

by

Nichifor Crainic

 

If ever I was a cluster of grapes,

today I am residue left by the press.

Into the fathomless hunger in me

pour some drop of juice.

I feel how my body is melting away,

a soup of amaranth would warm it.

If touched by a blade of grass

in a flash I’d be green.

At least let my phantom arm

pick an apple from a tree.

It will fill my mouth with aroma

and I would truly live.

In the country of sheep folds and bread

I dream of mushroom soup.

Let me shelter with the dogs

near the heaven of a bowl of terci.*

On the depth of my hunger

blind deserts open up.

When the last spoonful is eaten

I drop over my bowl and spoon.

O God, You Who

out of two fishes and five loaves

made mountains of food

and satisfied thousands of poor

Repeat the miracle, O Good One,

and satisfy thousands of mouths.

Listen also to my prayer,

Give me the basket of crumbs.

* terci – a thin gruel often given to dogs


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JESUS IN THE NIGHT

by

Radu Gyr

This night Jesus entered my cell.

O how sad, how tall was Christ!

The moon followed Him into my cell

And made Him taller, sadder still.

He sat by me upon my mat;

“Put your hand upon my wounds.”

On His ankle there were scars from sores and rust

As if He too had worn chains once…

His hands were like lilies upon a grave,

His eyes as deep as forests;

His garments whitened by the moon,

Silvering in His hands old wounds.

Sighing, He stretched His weary bones

Upon my lousy mat;

In His sleep He shone forth, but the heavy bars

Lengthened upon Him like rods.

I rose from beneath my gray blanket.

“Lord, from whence come you? Out of which eternity?”

Jesus put His finger to His lips

And signed me to be still.

My cell seemed like a mountain peak;

Rats and roaches swarmed around;

I felt my head fall heavy upon my hand

And I slept, a thousand years…

When I awoke from my heavy trance

The straw smelled of roses;

I was in my cell and there was moonlight

But Jesus was nowhere.

“Where are you, Lord?” I cried between the bars.

Across the moon came drifts of mist…

I touched myself, and found upon my palms

The sign of His nails.


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VISIT 

by

Radu Gyr

The exhausted wind froze

like a bow on a cracked violin.

Last night an angel knocked in my door,

his voice weak, his tread tired.

I don’t know if he came from heaven

or some earthly cross

but he looked at me with wounded eyes,

trembling with cold when I welcomed him.

In his eyes of strange god

it was as if some grave illness battled

and he gazed at me with blood-filled eyes

and all that night he wept upon my breast.

In the morning I found him no more.

vestiges of red footprints faded from my door.

Far away in the sky on a cracked violin

the wind fell like a broken bow.

*

Pitesti Prison — Gulag

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Poems from Communist Prisons by Mother Alexandra

Foreword

Within this booklet are a few poems originally written in Romanian, chosen from a large collection, POEZII DIN INCHISORI, edited by Zahu Pana, published by CUVANTUL ROMANESC, 1982

They were written or rather composed by political prisoners who had no paper on which to write. They were memorized by those who survived, and finally spirited out to the free West. Remarkable in that they are true poetry of the soul, they express various emotions of those unjustly imprisoned by the Communist Party, for the crime of independent thought. None of these poets were criminals. They were philosophers, theologians (lay or clergy), generals, intellectuals of all sorts, factory workmen and tillers of the soil. Women and even children shared the same fate.

Source: https://orthodoxyinottawa.wordpress.com/poems-from-communist-prisons/

And http://www.romanianstudies.org/content/2012/11/poetry-in-translation-cxlvi-sergiu-mandinescu-1926-1964-romania-prison-warder-suflet-de-calau

Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage

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Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage

By Thomas Sears & Radu Cristea

Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage is a fragment of communist Romania’s history seen through the unique and shocking experiences of nine individuals. Leontina, a nineteen-year-old student who hides a letter addressed to Radio Free Europe that was thrust into her hands by an acquaintance who was being pursued by the Securitate. This naiveté leads to interrogation, beatings, torture and imprisonment in one of many of Romania’s extermination camps. Razvan, a German professor who, at a great danger to himself, took pictures of the army firing on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators in Cluj Napoca on December 21, 1989. Grigore, a law student after WWII, who was imprisoned by the Securitate in an effort to eliminate “resistance groups,” and beaten and tortured for a year before his official trial, which sentenced him to many years of hard labor. This book provides interviews of those above as well as 6 other individuals whose lives were drastically changed while living under communism and later under the vicious regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.

http://www.amazon.com/Faces-Freedom-Lives-Courage-Thomas/dp/1625103859

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For more information please watch:

(a) the trailer of the book at :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqX9lSy7Kpg

(b) excerpts of the nine individuals’/prisoners’ interviews—unique and shocking experience at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tTJ88hpG48&index=2&list=PL1H1BhlE_PRnyYShr0KUILeITD474uQHd

(c) Jon R. Kennedy, author, speaker, missionary at large, interview of the authors in Romania at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLRP_dYDb74

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Traced Through Mud

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Heartbreaking Paintings and Poems from Communist Prisons in Romania — I

*

Prison Warder

by

Sergiu MANDINESCU

A muffled night

a bottomless abyss

a peacock’s cry

that never goes amiss.

Great panthers watching in the night

and tigers ready for the pounce,

the pythons flawlessly advance

a path so trite.

The shadow’s silence so profound

fills to the brim the darkest mind –

a jungle full of beasts of any kind,

but human soul is nowhere to be found!

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Glory

by

Radu Budisteanu

Blessed be suffering

which brings man out of a flat groove –

swift sling hurled at a Goliath,

tree in which knowledge is born.

Blessed be suffering.

Without it, good earth would be clay,

the heart would not catch the murmur of a tear

and sin would not know what contrition is.

Blessed be suffering.

If there were not death, would there be love?

Value is given to all by separation,

fruit in the hidden furrow of the passing rays.

Blessed be suffering,

its breast a resting place, a caress upon the brow,

the strong altar screen of the sense let it be,

archway through which alone desire passes.

Blessed be suffering

fruit of the hidden furrow of a passing ray

soul with large embracing arms

like an all enveloping mantle.


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Unwritten Letters

by

Radu Gyr

Our life often lies hidden

in a humble corner of paradise,

in letters which were never sent us

by a hand that never wrote them.

We know not what we’d have the pages say,

what unwritten love song

but the hand which does not write us,

at all times we hold in a dream.

And the phrases that do not come,

in memory’s eye become ever dearer

and that hand which gave me light

as blossom upon my heart I hold.

And thus through the door crack,

we watch with unquenchable longing

for letters that were never sent

by a hand that did not write them.


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Birthday wishes

by

Radu Gyr

For your birthday

I don’t know what

To bring you as a gift.

Bruised upon my bones

My skin only do I have.

Since I have pulled in harness,

Since I have sighed in yoke,

All that was plenteous

Has melted away as snow.

The owls hoot,

the darkness deepens;

The nails on my hands

Grow long for retribution…

grow you,too,

My timid voice,

Grow as a djinn,

Grow as a great bird;

Gather in your flight

And bring to the assailant

The crying of orphans,

The suffocating voice of mothers

Drowned in tears, the mourning of the homeless.

Hate of the whole country

Rise up, now!

Master your curses,

Doom this day!

Curse it with fire and brimstone

For the savage beast

That is bore,

Over the horizon to rise

And with his horns

The world to overthrow.

O my mild voice,

Grow strong, little by little,

As a spring grows

In volume, increasing,

As down the mountains it falls.

Become a sickle;upon his brown

Bludgeon the beast!

O my voice, grow! From the forest swell

Out of the felled woods,

Out of the deserted villages,

Out of the dried-up oil-wells,

Grow out of golden grain

That is taken over the foreign roads,

Grow out of the ruins,

Sound from the depths of prison dungeons,

There where rots in chains

All that stands firm in the land

And is about to die…

Out of gaunt and livid beings

Arise, open eagle’s wings;

Soar over the foe –

Dirty bloodsuckers!

Fly over frontiers

Which have not yet been stolen,

Pass cities and villages

Where in the dead of night

Whispered Christian prayers

Can still be heard

Cross as best you can

The endless steppes

And the sad waters;

Over forests and towns

Look for and follow paths

Traced through mud.

Go far!

Fly as the genii in the legends

Until you come to

Imperial courts

Without royal faces,

Barbaric monasteries

Without altars,

Without God.

Rise, O myvoice,

Lift yourself

Upon wings of fire

In heavenly heat,

And fall back as a tunderbolt!

Blast the citadel

of the beast’s den!

Seed of his seed destroy!

In the land and in eternity,

A word of execration

Let his name be!

Let perish in the mold

All which he stole!

His dust and ashes

Let the earth swallow!

May my unbounded hate

Burn up Satan,

Ana’s* brother!

Thunder blast him!

In scum putrify him!

O heaven,

On his birthday,

Satan’s birthday –

Ana’s* brother –

What offering have you

Sent him, John Doe?

*Ana – Ana Pauker , born in Romania, lived in Russia , an intimate friend of Stalin, an all-powerful one in Romania until the postumous fall of Stalin.

 


Genocide of the Souls

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The Genocide of the Souls  — The Pitesti Phenomenon (1949-1951)

“However, what has not yet become universal knowledge is the fact that in the Romanian Gulag Archipelago there was an island of absolute horror, such as existed nowhere else in the entire geography of the communist penitentiary system: Pitesti Prison.” – Virgil Ierunca, Pitesti Phenomenon.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel Prize laureate for literature, refers to the Pitesti experiment as the “most terrible act of barbarism in the contemporary world”.

Historian François Furet, member of the French Academy, regards the Pitesti phenomenon as “one of the most terrible experiments in dehumanisation that our epoch has known”.

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Between 1949 and 1951, the destruction of society”s elite was almost complete: intellectuals, diplomats, priests, officers, magistrates, policemen, and politicians of the “bourgeois-landowner regime” were in prison; the most industrious peasants had been deported to forced labour camps. Collectively and individually, they were all labelled “enemies of the people”. It now remained to annihilate the unpredictable social force of youth. For the latter, the Pitesti experiment was invented (termed “re-education” by the Securitate). The most barbarous methods of psychological torture were applied to “recalcitrant” young prisoners, with the object of making them reciprocally humiliate each other, physically abuse each other and mentally torture each other. Victims were transformed into executioners; prisoners were tortured by their own friends, by their fellows in suffering. The purpose: “re-education” through physical and psychical destruction, the transformation of young people into atheists, into informers on their friends.

For more information, watch an excellent documentary: BEYOND TORTURE — The gulag of Pitesti ROMANIA at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QGUTBXgz3g

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“When you said, ‘I still believe in God,’ in five minutes you were full of blood”. – Roman Braga

“Many of us died, many of us became mad, but in some of us the good triumphed”. – George Calciu

These chilling words from two survivors of a brainwashing prison in Pitesti, Romania are sad reminders of the legacy of Stalinist communism. Beyond Torture: The Gulag of Pitesti, Romania documents the persecution of Romanians under the communist regime. Electrical shock, hallucinogenic drugs, near starvation and fatal beatings were daily rituals in the prison of Pitesti, Romania. But this sadistic story goes beyond torture: this was an attempt to totally destroy a people’s culture and faith.

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In 1949, Stalinist Soviets began a systematic sweep of Romanian college campuses. Their purpose was to imprison and transform young Romanians into a communistic way of thinking. One prisoner describes this re-education as the most vile tortures imaginable. Orthodox priest Father George Calcui says, “They tried to destroy our souls.”  But he and others survived this gulag, lived to tell their stories and even forgave their captors.

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In this documentary, you’ll meet three survivors from the prison of Pitesti and see shocking paintings that capture the essence of the extreme torture. This documentary also includes an in-depth one-hour interview with Father Roman Braga: prison survivor and spiritual leader. Don’t expect a typical tale of woe. What comes through from the priests being interviewed — most especially Fr. Roman Braga, now in America — is a surprising theme: forgiveness…and even joy.

Outside of Romania, this DVD is the first major historical documentation of the Pitesti experience.

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Also, go to http://www.thegenocideofthesouls.org/public/english/the-pitesti-experiment/

To http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~cama20z/classweb/worldpolitics/thepitestiphenomenon/experience.html

And to http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2012/06/documentary-on-romanian-gulag-of.html

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