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Cernauti, April 2 /Agerpres/ - AGERPRES special correspondent, Gina Stefan reports: In the massacre of Fantana Alba, a few kilometers from the northeastern border with Romania, have died, so say some local witnesses, over 3,000 Bucovina-born (Bucovina, in German, the Land of Beeches) Romanians, one of the most dreadful dramas of our history.

On 1 April 1941, a silent column of people made of women, children, men bearing a white flag, alongside icons, crosses and a church caul was heading to the border with Romania. The people learned from the Soviet special services' agitators who had traveled the villages of the Siret Valley for weeks, that "the border were to open on 1 April," the same border recently marked following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and that in this way they could find refuge in the Mother Land they were so brutally split from.

They wanted to reunite their families and avoid a living in a country they didn't know the language of and which was threatened by the Soviet terror. But they never made it. When reaching a few kilometers from the frontier, at a place called Varnita, they were halted by the Soviet border troops and since they refused to do so, they were put down with automatic gun machines.After which they were thrown in mass graves, some buried alive, while the survivors were chased for, tortured and deported.

Currently in the Varnita woods several crosses, a small church and a monument erected at the initiative of the Romanians nearby pays a vigil watch over the sleep of the ones fallen in the massacre also known as "Romania's Katyn Forest." As a first, the path to the place of the massacre was marked the day before its annual commemoration through several indicators placed with the Romanian community's financial aid.

On Saturday, hundreds of people in black or in Romanian traditional clothes, have commemorated the fallen in this barely accessible place some 50 kilometers from Cernauti, Ukraine. They were bearing many tricolour flags alongside a few Ukrainian flags. It's so sad around as if all of the air has gone with the souls of the killed. It's been 76 years now and the wounds are still as painful.

A group of 40 pupils who have kicked off the village of Carapciu, accompanied by their teacher, Ion Tovarnitzchi, come close to the memorial place, and the "pilgrims" are welcomed enthusiastically. They have started with the dawn, marched 12 kilometers on the trails of the column of the over 3,000 Romanians who 76 years ago only wished to be free and received instead terror and death.

Nicolae Tovarnitzchi's grandfather, Gheorghe Tovarnitzchi, was shot dead then and found his end in the bloody waters of Siret. His body, the same with the bodies of other martyrs, was buried in a Hebrew cemetery, but his relatives made it one night to dig it up and put it in a Christian earth at Adancata (currently Hliboca).

"Here, in the woods are many, very many dead. Nobody knows the place of their tombs, because they were hunted like animals. These people ended up like heroes, who loved their country, their people, their land, their belief. They heard that the Bolshevik were coming and that they were destroying churches, that there will be terror, that they were to be deported and the people only wanted to live a free life and for this freedom they sacrificed their lives," said the teacher of Carapciu. He is sad because they were being lied at for so many years and today they are not treated as they deserve, that the Ukrainian authorities want to close their schools, that they don't like their traditions, not even they are loyal citizens of the state.

"It looks like we are second-hand citizens, not the way we should be. My heart aches when seeing so much injustice, as if we have no future, no hope for tomorrow," says Nicolae Tovarnitzchi.

Among the ones attending the commemoration I met Ilie Popescu, Philology PhD whose father was arrested at Fantana Alba and subsequently sentenced to death. Everybody knows professor Popescu. He was deported to Kazakhstan, together with his mother and his seven brothers. And yet, as a miracle, he escaped that ordeal. For years and years he erects crosses in Northern Bucovina, in the memory of those who suffered in the Soviet Gulag, he writes books and urges the young to never forget what has happened.

The commemoration is also attended by Dorin Misichevici whose mother wanted so much to cross the border then, at Fantana Alba, and his father made her give up and so he saved her life. Professor Misichevici says this tragedy is very well characterising "the disaster and the spiritual and physical catastrophe the Romanian population in the region has passed through, which all regimes tried to erase their memory to."

"Should we are not careful, history repeats itself, due to the lack of memory," professor Misichevici warns.

The commemoration ceremony begins and the Putna Monastery prior, father Melchisedec is delivering a memorial service alongside a\several priests. When starting to sing "Eternal remembrance" the trees around slightly shiver. "It is their souls," say the people.

Grigore Timis, a Romanian deputy with the Parliament of Ukraine addresses a speech in Ukrainian and then urges the audience, in Romanian, to come to Fantana Alba with their children and grandchildren so they could see "the real history of the nation."

Romania's General Consul in Cernauti, Eleonora Moldovan says that about this martyrdom "was spoken ever since 1991, when Ukraine became independent," the moment since when at the Romanian-Ukrainian border are delivered joint Romanian and Ukrainian memorial services.

The Romanian MP Eugen Tomac, who comes every year at the massacre siege talks about the importance of keeping these events in memory and warns that "we could become accomplices through go-by and oblivion when we refer to the sufferance of the innocent who were simply torn down by the ones who thought that a new society could be built without God, through terror."

Present in the event, Ovidiana Bulumac, an expert with the Romanian Cultural Institute offered the pupils awards in money, books and multimedia stuff. She said that it is important and necessary that these children not only know the history, but also bring further the message of their forefathers.

A rumor ensues about the Romanian deputy Constantin Codreanu, who appeared at the end of the ceremony, saying he was restrained for five hours at the Mamaliga (polenta - ed. n.) check point between Ukraine and Republic of Moldova, with no explanations. Then, he was allowed to pass the border and was told that he had access denial on Ukrainian territory since he is a Moldovan citizen, but he could enter the country as a Romanian citizen.

76 years since the massacre of Fantana Alba and the exact number of the dead or their names, still unknown. On the site of the slaughter a wood of spruce was planted, 20 years after the tragedy, as if they tried to wipe the memory of the sinister. The high, straight trunks look like hands pointing to the skies in a prayer.

I leave the place with heavy soul and with the belief that in Bucharest is so less talk about this drama, an episode not at all singular in the history of the Romanian communities around Romania. And I leave the place of the memorial, having in mind some lyrics I've heard today: "In padurea deasa nu se vad morminte/ Caci padurea toata s-a facut mormant/ Brazii stau de veghe ca icoane sfinte/ Pentru rugaciune nu gasesc cuvant.".AGERPRES(RO - author: Gina Stefan, editor: Nona Jalba; EN - author, editor: Maria Voican)

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