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Poetry in Translation (LXV): Valeriu GAFENCU (1921-1952) – Poet of Romanian Prisons

October 14th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Poetry, Translations

Trăiesc flămând

(Valeriu Gafencu – Sfantul Inchisorilor)Valeriu_Gafencu

Trăiesc flămând, trăiesc o bucurie
Frumoasă ca un crin din Paradis.
Potirul florii e mereu deschis
Şi-i plin cu lacrimi şi cu apă vie;
Potirul florii e o-mpărăţie.

Când răii mă defaimă şi mă-njură
Şi-n clocot de mânie ura-şi varsă,
Potirul lacrimilor se revarsă
şi-mi primeneşte sufletul de zgură:
Atunci Iisus de mine mult se-ndură,

Refren: Nu plângeţi că mă duc de lângă voi,
Sau c-o să fiu zvârlit ca un gunoi,
Cu hoţii în acelaşi cimitir,
Căci crezul pentru care m-am jertfit
Cerea o viaţă grea şi-o moarte de martir.
Sub crucea grea ce mă apasă sânger,
Cu trupu-ncovoiat din cer coboară-un înger
Şi sufletul mi-l umple cu credinţă;
M-apropii tot mai mult de biruinţă.
Mă plouă-n taină razele de soare
M-adapă Iisus cu apa vie,
Grăuntele svârlit în groapa-nvie
Cu viaţa îmbrăcat-n sărbătoare,
Trăiesc flămând, trăiesc o bucurie.



(Valeriu GAFENCU, 1921- 1952)

(rendered in English by Constantin ROMAN)

My battered soul lives an eternal bliss
A lily’s flower in the Eden’s Garden
Its open chalice with a petal rim
Is holding tears and drops of holy water
For the redemption of Thy godly kiss.

When evil men will slander and abuse me
Their boiling anger, hatred will be pouring
The flower’s chalice will be overflowing
To cool the embers of my burning body
As Jesus Christ will cast on me His mercy.


Pray, do not cry that I will be departing
Or that a rubbish heap will be my grave
With criminals a common pit I’ll brave
My life-long dreams the highest cost excising
Of a Golgotha on a martyr’s trail.
Under a heavy cross I stoop in silence
As from above archangels sent from Heaven
Will steel my humble spirit with Thy Faith.
From the defeat I’ll wrench the prize of Glory
To glisten gently in your sunshine rays.
As Christ the King will keep my creed unshaken

The shoots of wheat will come to life again

From the remains of my decaying body,

To celebrate with you eternal Grace.

(English version: Constantin Roman © 2009. All Rights Reserved)


Short Biographical Note:

Valeriu Gafencu (1921 – 1952) was a Romanian student at the University of Iasi where he read Law and Philosophy. He died in the Communist prisons, aged 31, after eleven years of detention.

Nicolae Steinhardt (1912-1989), Orthodox cleric, philosopher and political prisoner called Valeriu Gafencu (The Saint of our Prisons" (Sfantul Inchisorilor)

Nicolae Steinhardt (1912-1989), Orthodox cleric, philosopher and political prisoner called Valeriu Gafencu "The Saint of our Prisons" (Sfantul Inchisorilor)

He was a son of Bessarabia, born in County Balti (formerly in Romania and now in the republic of Moldova). Valeriu Gafencu was known for his strong Christian convictions and was dubbed by Rev. Nicolae Steinhardt (1912-1989) “The Saint of our Prisons” (Sfantul inchisorilor). After Gafencu was arrested at the age of twenty, his University professor, the Senator and former ambassador to Washington Constantin Angelescu (1869 – 1948), pleaded in Court for his reprieve, bringing as mitigating circumstances the fact that he was one of his “most brilliant and exceptional students”. Such values had little currency in Romania at the time, very much as it is true today.

For the next eleven years Gafencu experienced the gamut of the vilest political prisons that Communist Romania ever knew: Aiud, Pitesti, Targu Ocna. Between 1944 and 1949, young Gafencu outlived, only just, the political experiment of the so-called “Pitesti Phenomenon” which was “exported” to other political prisons. This was contrived by communist torturers as a perversion to dehumanize the political inmates and reduce them to a soul-less pulp: during the Easter Holly Week the prisoners were made to re-enact the Stations of the Cross by being whipped by prison warders while walking semi-naked, barely covered in rags, smeared in excrements and bearing a heavy wooden cross.

The above poem, rendered in English as a free translation reflects the memory of the Calvary as lived in real life by the poet.

After eleven years of such persistent “Genocide of the Soul”, Valeriu Gafencu’s sufferings  ended in the prison of Targu Ocna. Feeling that the time had come to meet his Maker, Valeriu asked his cell mates to cover him in a white sheet, give him a small cross to clasp in his hands and light a candle for the redemption of his soul.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Maximos Ware

    I am so overwhelmed to read about this martyr and the others who suffered like consequences.

    I can’t imagine that so few know of this wonderful man and others who suffered so much under the hands of the communists. What can we do ? We must remember them in our daily prayers, though we may know only a few of their names. And those of us who Orthodox should have a memorial service each year in their memory.
    I can’t control the tears while I write this.
    May their memory be eternal!

  • Dave Paszkowski

    In comparison ,our suffering in a free world for Christ , let us not forget the sacrifices of others under much more extreme conditions , the same Christ of then Strengthens today ,,let us Glorify Him ! with our years remaining ,,,,,Amen