Lieutenant Toma Arnautoiu was one of the heroes of the
anti-communist resistance in Romania. He was born on February 14, 1921.
Arnautoiu was one of the leaders of the longest-lasting groups of partisans in
Muscel area, in central Romania, actually on the southern slope of Fagaras Mountains.
We recall that Muscel is arguably the core area where
the literary variety of standard Romanian was formed. Throughout the centuries,
Muscel was inhabited by free, acceptably well-to-do peasants, while its seat,
the town of Campulung, has a remarkable multicultural history. People from
Muscel have always benefitted from administrative autonomy. They also had close
connections with the principality of Transylvania, lying over the Carpathians.
Lieutenant Toma Arnautoiu was a member of the cultural
elite of the commune of Nucsoara. Toma was the third child of a primary school
teacher. His elder brother, Ion, a cavalry officer, was killed in action in
Crimea, in 1943. In 2000, Toma Arnautoiu's sister, Elena Florea Ioan, gave an
interview to Radio Romania's Oral History Center. That's how we found out
primary school teacher Arnautoiu's family was one of the most respected
families in the commune of Nucsoara. The family had strong values and
Elena Florea Ioan:
"My heartfelt, very special gratitude goes to my mother, who brought us up
harmoniously, guiding me and teaching me everything, so that I , when I would
be completely on my own later in life, could be able to cope with all the hardships
that occurred. As for father, with his tender-heartedness and kindness, I could
never annoy him. I couldn't possibly upset them and proof of that stands the
fact that everything they advised me I had no problem complying with that. They
sort of denied me furthering my own education so that the lads could push
themselves forward, go to university, and suchlike. And when it was about time
for me to marry, that's true, there were also my parents who chose my would-be
husband for me and I could never say they made a mistake. They always guided me
to take the right path, teaching me to be honest, hardworking, respectful and
behave in society so that I could not embarrass myself in front of anybody."
Toma Arnautoiu was wounded on the frontline. He got
admitted to the Royal Guard Battalion, an elite military unit. After August 23,
1944, yet another fateful page would be written in Romanian history, the
military occupation and the instatement of a pro-communist government on march
6, 1946. Arnautoiu got fired from the army in 1947. In 1948 he left for
Bucharest to pursue a study program with the Business Academy. It was there
that young Toma and 30, 40 other colleagues got to know colonel Arsenescu.
Together they drew up a plan to mount a group of partisans capable of fighting
in the mountains against the government. The group implemented the plan in
1949. Also joining the group was Toma's younger brother, Petre. Elena
Florea Ioan gave her own account of how the partisans, lead by her
brother, got help from the locals in Nucsoara. But soon the skirmishes began,
with the troops of the Interior Ministry.
"They were being sent food, there, in
the mountains, they got whatever else they needed, but the Securitate began to
guard the commune and there was no leeway for them to go feed them any longer.
And despair seized them, there, in the mountains, they had no food, they had
nothing of what they needed. One night they climbed down into the village, came
to our home, and someone who was around, an informer, Ileana and I don't know
what her other name was, announced the Securitate. The informer was a
scrubwoman working on a dairy farm. And then an entire regiment came after
them. They had a clash with the Securitate, a Securitate non-commissioned
officer even died there."
As soon as the Arnautoiu brothers went up in the
mountains, the Securitate arrested the whole family, the parents, their sister,
her husband, Petre's wife. She was investigated many times, and from what she
could recall, Elena Florea Ioan reminisced about an episode that occurred in
the Pitesti prison.
"For the second time around I got
sentenced to five years in prison, an administrative sentence on the grounds of
omission to inform the authorities in right. The reason was that I had got wind
of my brothers being in the mountains, that I did not help the Securitate
apprehend them. Time and again they arrested me, they summoned me telling me to
go search them, to go there as their sister. I kept telling them I had not
helped them and they were astounded, during the interrogation, because I had
not helped them. When I was in prison in Pitesti, one night a colonel came from
Bucharest and interrogated me, it was 1 or 2 in the dead of night. He pulled my
shirt so hard my buttons snapped, asking me why as their sister did not offer
them my help, whereas other 100 or more "wretches" helped them?
In 1958, in the wake of 9 years of harassing, the
Muscel resistance group was apprehended. The Securitate framed them, promising
them passports so they could leave Romania. The passports were offered through
a friend of Toma's and the heads of the group were seized in a shepherd's
house. Back then Arnautoiu was caught and with him, his two-year old daughter
and her mother, Maria Plop.
Elena Florea Ioan:
"That friend of theirs, he went there
with some plum brandy and with narcotics poured in the drink, he was also
carrying their passports. And while they were chatting, he poured them a cup of
the plum brandy. Toma refused the drink, Petrica drank a cup of that plum
brandy. And while they were having their chat and planning their way out of the
country the Securitate people were right outside, they came and seized Toma. He
fought back, they knew he had a little poison envelope sewn into the lapel so
he couldn't be caught alive if they ever got seized. They darted at him
straight away and took the poison envelope as Toma was still fighting. Petrica
had the time to escape while Toma was still fighting them. He crossed over a
watercourse and as he was climbing up a hill somebody saw him and denounced
him. They chased him with a sniffer dog and they found him too, with the
belt strapped around his neck, trying to commit suicide."
The investigation for the members of the group lasted
over a year. They were caught on May 20, 1958. On the night of July 18 to July
19, 1959, Toma Arnăuțoiu, his brother Petre and 14 other people who for nine
years helped them were shot.