I remember that Sunday from October 1948, when we felt a tension within the church. I, together with father Pavel were preparing the religious service from that day, when we noticed the presence in the church of some unrecognized faces, thing which worried us. Later we understood they were from the Securitate and had come to arrest father Iosif Pal. The father told us before taking him away that: “You should not abandon your faith. I notice that some people are writing every word of mine. I will not give up to my religion, no matter of the consequences.” The ceremony finished at 9 o’clock, but the father did not come out the church, because the agents were waiting for him. The parishioners understood the danger the father was in and stood there for defending him.
The father started his second ceremony surrounded by the crying of the parishioners. The father could not go out of the church and stood there for prying alongside the other people present there. Still, in the evening the officers wanted to fulfill their duty. The people protected once again father Pal, but during the following morning, more exactly on 1st of November 1948, the Securitate came after him and arrested him. They him for investigation, then trialed him and sentenced to two years of prison which he executed at the prison Aiud. I, with Grigore Resta have been arrested on 3 of March 1950 being sentenced to one year of prison. Although we managed to get out from the prison, the majority of us were obligated by the circumstances to hide. After detention, I have tried to finish my studies in theology in underground being helped by father Natanail and others.
Do you remember a guardian who treated you badly there?
I remember the commander of the prison. He was always threatening us by saying: “this is not Jilava or Aiud, but Gherla”. I was surrounded by feat and horror. They were bringing 4 slices of bread for not making us fight for food. We invented a scale for weighting the bread. We all wanted the crust because it had consistency.
Did you pray in the prison? Were you allowed?
We were all praying. We invented all kinds of objects from the cotton of our socks, but were immediately confiscated by the guardians. They laughed at us. When we were walking in the backyard we were observing the nature, everything was changing rapidly. Every gesture was immediately punished.
Was there a pressure coming from the communist regime towards your religion?
Well, it was a very difficult situation for us, until today we did not receive all our properties back. We want justice to be served. When I was in prison I had a small cross above the door of the cell. The guardian entered the cell and noticed it. He started beating me and he took me out of the cell. So, he beat me for my cross.
What did you notice once the communists came to power?
They arrested all of us because we went see bishop Hossu at Cluj. I remember that many of the church’s members joined the group. The majority of them were later arrested. The regime was watching us attentively by its eye, the Securitate.
Was bishop Hossu at Cluj in those times?
Where were you?
I was at the Bob monastery starting 10 of December 1947, where I remained until the Securitate came after me and my brothers.
How did the Securitate get to you?
I am not sure; it’s possible someone had spoken about us. I guess they had us on a list and they knew who the priests from our church were and where did they stay.
How did the Securitate get to you? Have you ever discussed in public or with someone religious opinions?
No, I was extremely careful with this, considering what had happened with the other priests. I knew I was in danger. We were discussing these issues only between us, members of the same community. I am not sure what drove them to us. They had the complete statistics of the community and knew every aspect of our lives.
Why didn’t they arrest you back then in 1948 when father Pal was arrested?
In that year they arrested only the superior members of the church. After this year all us us have been put under surveillance and arrested for different reasons.
Were you arrested in the same day your brother was?
Yes, we have been arrested in the same day. But, we were a group of four-five persons arrested that day. They took us from school. I was staying at Iris with a family, to father’s Chindez brother, a famous person in our church. My brother was arrested because he was part of an organization, called White Army, which acted against Soviet Union by writing manifestos. I was arrested with them because they thought I was involved in this organization. They sentenced us to a year of prison and obligated us to pay a fine of 2000 lei.
Where did they print the manifestos?
I am not sure, because the printing machines were watched by the Securitate. Brother Ioan was the one who suffered because of the manifestos. The Securitate beat him violently, but he was innocent.
Do you remember any of the officers?
It was one of them called Baranescu and an officer Brainer. He was torturing the members from the White Army for finding information about Leon Manu. They were extremely cruel with us, I remember they called us names and used diversified tortures on us. I prayed for them because they were doing those things due to false expectations the “Socialist Republic” was given to them. Look what happened with Ceausecu, he was killed on Christmas day.
What kind of food did you have in the prison?
We had a kind of mash and beans soup. I remember one of the prisoners was yelling at the guardian to bring him some sugar, he was in pain. All the prisoners were reacting against the horrors they were living. We weren’t allowed to go to the toilette. They allowed us to use the toilette twice a day, in the morning and evening. The officers were capable of everything during interrogation. Dej was an evil man. How did these people die with a heavy conscience? The first of the martyrs, Aftenie, was big as lion and in one year they managed to destroy him. Also, this was the case of bishop Hossu at Caldarusani. I saw how they dying one by one, father Pal, father Prundus. I went at Gheorgheni with them and after this moment father Pal has died. I wasn’t yet a priest. He had by his side cardinal Todea and Bishop Dragomir Ioan of Maramures. They buried the father quietly so that the Securitate wouldn’t find out. They buried him very simple without mentioning on his tomb his quality he has had in the church. I went to visit the prison Gherla last year. It was destroyed. The building was dirty and abandoned.
What happened during that episode with the cross from Securitate?
I made a cross from paste and put it above the door. Baranescu saw it and beat me.
Were you transferred somewhere in the prosecutor’s office from Cluj?
Yes, I was. They took us from the Securitate and we stood at the court approximately 6 -7 months until we were trialed. Then, we were trialed and sent to Gherla.
How many of you were at the courthouse?
About 30-40 people in one room. And they left us a light for making us feel tired. We were also put to work in the garden. But, the majority of us were extremely weak because of the food regime. We were obligated to work in the same way like the Canal.
Was there a more flexible program?
We had an orchard there, and in the spring we had the chance of finding a carrot. We were extremely happy when this happened. Small things were doing us good.
“You should not abandon your faith. I notice that some people are writing every word of mine. I will not give up to my religion, no matter of the consequences.”
Arieşanu Gabriel is Greco-Catholic priest. He was arrested on 3 of March 1950 because of his membership to this church. He was investigated, trialed and imprisoned for a year together with other priests at Gherla. During the arrest, he was pressured to renounce to his faith. Still, he continued to represent the community he was part of by refusing any of the proposals made by the Securitate. More than this, he took part to the process of Greco-Catholic Church’s reactivation in the underground. During communist regime, the Greco Catholic-Church was forbidden by the decree from 3 of September 1948. During the days of 27 -29 of October 1948 all bishops were arrested, among which the most known case is of the bishop Iuliu Hossu. On 1 st of December 1948, the Great National Assembly decided through the decree 358 that all activities of the Greco-Catholic cult are illegal and all properties were expropriated.