The meeting with flowers of the Russian tanks was intensely promoted in Soviet historiography as a moment of joy for the local population, but field research discovered also other facets of this event, doctor of history Ludmila Cojocaru, university lecturer, head of the Museum of Victims of Deportations and Political Repression, which is a branch of the National Museum of History, stated in a public debate held by IPN.
Ludmila Cojocaru noted that to realize how the local population reacted to the coming of the so-called liberators, which was imposed by historiography and propaganda of the former regime as “the meeting with flowers of the Russian tanks”, all the accounts and documents should be analyzed so as to obtain an integral picture.
“For example, Emilia Vataman Racoviță from Cuconeștii Noi, Soroca, being then a child, later told that she herself hurried to pick up some flowers in the garden as it was a rout and there was also euphoria that the Russians were coming, the new power was coming and these were going to the Prut”.
The doctor of history said the accounts gathered by the historians show that those who hurried to bring flowers didn’t even realize what would follow and what ordeal the families would experience. Emilia Vataman Racoviță saw herself how the liberators closed the borders when they got to the Prut. Her father, being a soldier, remained on the other side of the Prut and during a month met with her mother in a narrower part of the Prut to persuade her to cross the river. But her mother refused as she could not abandon the land, the graves and argued that the Russians were also people as they were. As a result, her father returned to the other side of the Prut and started to be maltreated and the family was ultimately deported.
Ludmila Cojocaru said that this is one of the many examples showing how the meeting with flowers of the so-called liberators should be analyzed broader, from a number of angles. There were also cases when the population reacted with ”we lived with dignity and didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t steal and they do not have what to punish us for”. This is also the case of Vasile Gafencu, a member of the People’s Council who refused to withdraw. He was later persecuted, sequestrated and arrested, being accused of betrayal. He denied any wrongdoing and said that he did only good things for Bessarabia.
Ludmila Cojocaru noted that society waited for the return of the Romanian administration as blessing as they witnessed multiple cases of ill-treatment and repression.
“From the very first days, during June 28 – July 4, 1940, 1,122 persons were arrested in the area from Cernauti up to Cetatea Albă. This figure shows that the real goal of the administration was to liquidate the class enemies as the whole local population was regarded as a potential enemy. The events developed intensely until June 1941. By the end of the summer of 1940, almost 4,000 persons from Bessarabia had been jailed. There are many accounts. For example, Alexandru Pripa, who was a lyceum student in Bălți then, told that the jail inside the church in Pământeni was ‘burning’ as the winter was so harsh and there were so many people held there that the vapors gave the impression of a fire. There were also the deportations to which the population was condemned,” said Cojocaru.
The doctor of history noted that the maltreatment of the population during the first year of Sovietization had and will yet have echoes, after many generations. Efforts were yet made to remodel the civilizational path of the locals. It goes to the so-called slogan about “the civilizational mission of the Soviet power”, which was to be implemented by Russification, replacement of the alphabet, indoctrination of children.
“We are close to reaching an impasse of victimization because we were deported, destroyed and our elites were taken away from us. This is true but we have a series of reports about resistance in the Soviet period. But those accounts weren’t documented as those people are no longer alive. I consider we should also borrow other commemorative examples. We can borrow the example of the Baltic States that now speak about the Mourning and Hope Day, which can seem strange to us. However, if we overcome the moment when we complain and make a victim of ourselves, we can see things in a broader way. The war is a scourge but is also a call to ponder over the choices we make,” concluded Ludmila Cojocaru.
The debate titled “The Bessarabians’ civilizational drama of 1940-1941” was the fifth installment of the series “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes”. The project is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.