Post/Photo by Linda-Saskia Menczel
Aspazia Otel Petrescu
– 14 years in the communist prison, a lifetime of faith and grace
„I was in shackles, incapable of defending myself against the rats. I could have remained so or chosen to turn informer for the secret service (Securitate). I chose the path of prayer.” Aspazia Otel Petrescu remembers.
Aspazia Otel Petrescu is known as the Communist Prison Saint. She was taken as a young student alongside other young girls and incarcerated for organizing memorials for their young colleagues killed by the communist regime, for sending food and spring trinkets (martisoare) into Aiud prison.
She spent the next 14 years in prison labelled „an enemy of the state”.
“I close my eyes and refuse to see who’s walking over me. Are they rats? Are they mice? Better not to know. I make a huge effort to convince myself that everything is just an impression. The concentration is so strong that I feel a cold sweat on my spine. I decide not to get up because my legs are swollen, my prickly skin stretched thin over my two frozen logs. Sleep refuses to get me out of the stalemate/impasse. I’m trying to create a wondrous space, an escape into the sublime through the gates of imagination, but the worn out thought refuses to comply. Finally, I run towards the feet of Jesus. I imagine I’m looking for him and finding Him and talking with Him … And suddenly the light in solitary cell became tender, comforting. It seemed to me that the cell smelled of basil, and a pleasant warmth enveloped me, someone spoke to me without words, I could not explain how, but I could hear them both in my thought and in my heart. ”
In the same rat-infested solitary cell, she experiences a miracle: “I found myself crying out, with a foreign, strange voice, strangled by fear “Lord! Do not leave me!”. And, in the next moment, something amazing, unhoped, unlived, happened to me. The rat-hole, the skylights, the stairs, the creepy creatures, all disappeared. I was surrounded by white light. An unlimited white, sparkling, a white as fresh snow under a brilliant sun. I was myself, and yet I did not perceive my own existence. I had gone out of time and space, I did not really know what I was and where I was. There was an intense vibration, almost unbearable. I felt an unbreakable trust in something incredibly benevolent, something blessed and yet consuming like an altar fire that does not burn. It’s hard to define what was happening to me, I was burning intensely. I waited an eternity, standing, by the door. ”