Dr. Porumb’s article is the second in our Academic Papers series. It first appeared in 2017 in Forerunner, the journal of The Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist.
In the year 1960, 48 year-old Jewish erudite intellectual Nicu Steinhardt is imprisoned and joins the vast contingent of political prisoners in communist Romania (where approximately 17,600 people were detained at the time by the oppressive government). A refined scholar – among many other scholars, scientists, priests, writers – is thrown in a cruel grimy cell in the prison of Jilava. Political prisoners throughout Romania at the time – as well as in other parts of the communist world – were subjected to a life of continuous pain and humiliation, they were kept in unsanitary conditions (with no medical care) in dirt and cold and constant hunger, they were subjected to regular torture and beatings, and suffered indignities and insults on a daily basis. It was, in a sense, a slow process of extermination and thousands of political prisoners died in excruciating anguish. Steinhardt the intellectual finds himself first in cell 34 in the Jilava prison, which is, in his own words, ‘a sort of long dark tunnel, with plentiful and potent elements of nightmare. It is a strip, a canal, a subterranean intestine, cold and profoundly hostile, a barren mine, a crater of an extinct volcano, a rather accomplished image of some discoloured hell.’ And yet, he continues, ‘in this almost surreally sinister place I was to know the happiest days of my entire life. How utterly happy I was in room 34! Neither in Brasov with my mother as a child, nor on the endless streets of mysterious London, nor on the beauteous hills of Muscel, nor in the blue postcard scenery of Lucerne – nor indeed anywhere else in the world.’ Read More