The cost of Liberty! An appreciation for the life of Romanian patriot Gabriel Tepelea, dead at 95. April 12, 2012. What Romania must always remember… and what we must never forget.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. All of a sudden it is very cold. I sense there are intruders in the house, intruders running rapidly through the rooms, looking for something, for someone. I hear a piece of crockery fall to the floor and shatter. I hear a scream… it is my sister… in a thick muffled voice I hardly recognize as hers she is saying over and over again, “Don’t touch me! Don’t hurt me!”
Then I see men, leering men, who bayonet the portrait in the hall, my grandfather, its slashed elegance crashing to the floor.
Then the men, Red Army men, see me. I am afraid… and colder than I have ever been….
I wake up, sharply, sweating despite the rush of frigid air from an overnight storm, the window left open. I am shaking but home. In Cambridge. Pulling down the sash solves the problem. My dream is just that…
… but for Gabriel Tepelea, cultivated man, magnificent linguist, my nightmare was his ever present reality; my reality what he never ceased to dream of — and strive for.
This is why we must remember him, his oppressions, his advocacies, his penuries, debasements, indignations, losses, struggles, humiliations and above all his services to the nation he loved so well and in so many ways — Romania! The land of unparalleled beauty… and tragedy.
To set the mood, I give you the famous “Sanie cu zurgalai” folk song. It is Romanian to its core, brilliant, soaring, sophisticated, ardent, sensual. It is about a young man in love with a beautiful girl and the sleigh which he stylishly decks out to fetch her. Every Romanian loves this song, because it reminds them of the impetuosity of youth, their youth, and its fast-passing joy. Go to any search engine to find it. I recommend the bravura performance of Angela Gheorghiu and hope someday someone will sing this to me… with only a bottle of fine Tokay between us… and nothing more, except the history we are about to make — and remember.
Why you know nothing about Romania. A clue from Neville Chamberlain.
On 3 July 1938 British prime minister Neville Chamberlain gave a speech at Kettering which showed in an instant why a nation like Romania was an irritant, unworthy of even a moment’s notice by Western nations. “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
The uncomprehending Chamberlain specifically meant Czechoslovakia; he would have been even more contemptuous and disbelieving about even more far away and even less important Romania. Thus was Romania, for all that it was the fourth largest nation in Europe, for all that its language was Romance and the habits and inclinations of its haute bourgeoisie Parisian, forced to make its way as best it could between the great menaces of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Here was a Gordian knot unsolvable by mere mortals. Certainly no statesman then living, Romanian or other. This was a business better left to the gypsy fortune-tellers of the land and their opaque predictions.
And so in 1947 the last king of Romania, courageous Prince Michael (born 1921) was forced to abdicate, whilst total Soviet domination ensured the destruction of everything and everyone who opposed them now or might ever oppose them. This was the bleak, unimaginable, little understood and less reported world of Gabriel Tepelea. And while hundreds of thousands of his countrymen died horrible deaths, Tepelea was forced to find the uncertain, perilous path to life and freedom. That he did so without sacrificing his honor, his soul or the essence of his humanity is his genius and the reason for celebrating the man. For he survived as a thinking man… and that under the circumstances of his difficult life was a triumph indeed.
His early life.
Born in the western Romanian city of Oradea, Tepelea joined the center-right Peasant Party in 1933 and was a strenuous advocate of democracy and particularly of the farmers who constituted ninety per-cent of the population. The work was arduous, strenuous, and necessary. He learned that the only way for Romania, or any other nation to advance, individual people must advance. And so he worked for the structural changes to ensure they would, his particular project being the amelioration of the harsh lives and conditions of the farmers of Transylvania. Thus, he adamantly opposed the transfer of Romanian Transylvania to Hungary during World War II. It was important work, but not yet his finest. That was to begin in 1945… the year my nightmare in Cambridge became Romania’s bitter destiny and Tepelea’s daily life.
The Soviets seize control.
Using its unrivaled regional military power, deceit, trickery, chicanery and bold faced lies, the USSR invaded Romania in 1945 and simply refused to leave. Instead they did everything to sublimate, eviscerate, destroy and humiliate a nation that was at that moment in its turbulent history actually allied to Russia. By now a nationally known politician, Tepelea was amongst the first to feel the bite of the lash. It cut deep.
All power to the soviet.
Soviet domination came swift, fast, catastrophically. Tepelea was arrested, imprisoned, his assets confiscated. And so for ten wearing years he endured the black place which took many and gave up few. What helped him endure was words. For Tepelea was a gifted author, linguist and communicator. Words strengthened him, sustained him, enlightened and comforted him… and so language and its uses kept him alive until he was released in 1955, consigned to do unskilled labor and the petty miseries of enforced drudgery and poverty. But he had survived…… and he intended that Romania would survive, too.
Thus, he set about doing the two necessary tasks essential for achieving the objective: continuing his long deferred work with the Peasant Party… and making sure today’s privileged youth understand the necessary cost of freedom and liberty — never-ending vigilance being a prime ingredient.
So did Gabriel Tepelea spend the gift of his lengthy years in service to the nation and to its youth. He was a lawmaker for the Peasant Party for 10 years until 2000, serving as deputy leader of the party. And he pursued his career in education, both teaching and becoming dean of the Philology Faculty in the western city of Timisoara in the early 1970s. He specialized in Romanian and French — and in truth. He was an expert in each.
Tepelea’s eternal relevance.
His message was clear, unmistakable, more relevant and necessary to impart as the severe realities distinguishing his life grew murky and indistinct. Liberty, he intoned, must never be taken for granted; freedom comes only to those who value it above all and are willing to do its work, no matter how arduous, how difficult, how inconvenient.
Now the man is dust… but his message, found in his over 20 books and many articles, goes on… and must go on until the world understands not merely the benefits of liberty and freedom… but its unceasing, inexorable, insistent cost…. a cost Tepelea paid in full and gladly… but which you may not yet have paid at all. Will you do so when your time comes?
As for you, Gabriel Tepelea, go to your rest enveloped in this quintessential sound of the Romania you have served, none better:
“More beautiful is my lover/ Tonight I will go to her/ Sledge with little bells.” Godspeed you to this blissful rendezvous well earned and forever .
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About the Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today at http://www.Worldprofit.com
Author: Jeffrey LantThis author has published 572 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.