The Haiducii: Romania’s Anti-communist Resistance

By Nelu Pielaru

In March 1944, the Soviet Red Army moved into Bukovina, in Northern Romania, and began The “liberation” of Romania, which at the time was an Ally of Germany. As soon as the advance into Romania started, People Fled into the forests and surrounding mountains and began forming Anti-Bolshevik Partisan Units of 15-20 people, The Wehrmacht Also trained and aided some of the groups to fight the NKVD, with local Volunteer battalions numbering in the thousands, but this was not enough to hold back the soviet onslaught, And by late summer 1944, nearly all of these units were captured or wiped out by the red army, with those captured being sent to gulags in Siberia or exiled from Romania. By the end of 1945, almost all armed resistance against the soviets was crushed, and on the 8th of November, thousands of Romanians in Bucharest protested at the undemocratic placement of a soviet puppet government in the parliament, with many showing their support for the restoration of the monarchy and king Michael to be placed back on the throne, but the protest was hurriedly dispersed when Soviet-Romanian soldiers fired warning shots at the crowd and in the ensuing chaos 11 people were killed.

In 1948 however, the remaining columns and units of partisans took to the Carpathian Mountains and began planning an all-out campaign against the communist government, with volunteer units being raised in all most every province and large town in Romania, Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu, a former iron guard youth member led a small group of partisans in the Făgăraș Mountains from 1948 until its demise in 1956, he had structured what the typical Romanian resistance unit would look like and consisted of, and claimed that the unit had thousands of supporters who would supply food, shelter and clothing, and his unit was never numbered any more than 200 fighters at a time.

The public support the fighters received was enormous, although they were not called partisans by the population, they gave them the name “haiducii” which means “ a kind highwayman” in Romanian, over 50,000  people publically showed their support for the insurrection in big cities like Brasov or Bucharest. They had also reached out to the American and British governments for support, The SOE (Special Operations Executive) in Britain parachuted weapons like the STEN sub machine carbine and some uniforms into Romania, and the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in the United States had recruited displaced Romanians in Austria and Germany to be trained as agents, and were then parachuted into Romania to conduct supply route disruptions, Bombing campaigns and to assassinating high ranking officers of the newly formed “Securitate” the Romanian NKVD.

A partisan in the winter mountains, with a Sten MkV in the bottom right hand corner

Of the agents that were dropped into Romanian several were killed in action and 3 were captured but not executed, as the government intended to use them as double agents. The repression form the communist Romanian government was harsh and cruel, family members of those involved in the campaign against the state were rounded up and executed or sent to one of the various “Gulagul” or concentration camps in rural Romania. In 1959 80 suspected fighters led by Vasile Blănaru in Câmpulung Muscel were rounded up by the Securitate and and put to death. The Resistance movement, although it had massive support, was near Eradicated in the early 60s, as Communist Romanian Forces tightened their stronghold grip around the remaining bands of fighters, as in the late 1950s the guerrilla campaign was in a shambles, due to double agents, betrayal in exchange for amnesty and local informers, who were paid by the Securitate.

The success in the quelling of this insurgency was down to the co-operation between the Romanian government forces and local militia groups, Although nearly all the units had been liquidated or arrested , individual fighters remained at larges with the last fighter being arrested in the 1970s. The Romanian People never gave up hope that the king would be restored and relied on the foreign powers to come and liberate the country from the communists, the slogan “Vin Americanii!” (the Americans are coming, a phrase coined by partisan fighters) was seen painted on street walls, on posters and in songs of the resistance, but they never came, until after the Romanian revolution of 1989, when American aid reached Romania on the 30th of December 1989.

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