Becicherecu Mare (Zrenjanin)
Zrenjanin, Serbia
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In Zrenjanin camp’s hospital

Dostupné v: English | Română

For Ingrid Popa’s family the instauration of the communism in Romania meant the beginning of a harsh persecution with many of her close relatives kept under surveillance, interrogated and imprisoned by the regime. As a result, after her father’s arrest and imprisonment in 1947, the parents decided to cross the border from Romania into Yugoslavia. They made a perilous crossing of the Danube in a group consisting of twelve persons: besides the Popa family, there was another family of two parents and three sons, and three men who helped with the launch and also who took advantage of the opportunity to flee the country. Once arrived in Yugoslavia, they had the “chance” to experience the life in several Yugoslavian camps. Zrenjanian was just one of them… “And let me tell you… The hospital was when we were at Zrenjanin, in the camp. In the camp things were more relaxed. In the men’s quarters there were tables with chessboards, where they played chess. And there were people who tried to go to the hospital. For example, one would pretend to have poisoned himself by swallowing a copper coin that was green. They didn’t really believe any of it. When we were at Kovačica we would have to queue, a young woman fainted, said she was pregnant, but the druzhi didn’t believe that either. But I really did get sick: I had a fever, the symptoms of appendicitis. They took me, put me in a cart and took me to the hospital in Zrenjanin. A small, white, clean hospital: enchanting! They took me there, put me in a very, very clean bed. Very nice doctors came to examine me. They let Mother stay with me. Father waited outside. I’ll never forget when they brought me food: there was a plate, on the plate there was some meat among other things. I hadn’t eaten meat for such a long time! And mother asked me: “Do you think I could give a little bit of your meat to Daddy?” Daddy was waiting outside. I could see him through the window. He looked like a beaten hound. And there was a terrible struggle inside me. I told Mother: ‘Yes,’ but it hurt and I felt so guilty about being hurt because of that little bit of meat, (weeps). And so you have just a little idea of it," stated Fotino.

Ingrid Alina Fotino (née Popa)

Ingrid Alina Fotino (née Popa)

Born 31 May 1940, Bucharest. The interviewee comes from a family persecuted from the very beginning of the communist regime in Romania. Many of her close relatives were kept under surveillance, interrogated and imprisoned by the regime. Her father, a lawyer and the joint-owner, with his father, of a number of well-known firms in the textiles sector, was arrested in 1947 and imprisoned for many months at Jilava. The likely motive for the arrest was the fact that in 1946, as a consultant in the economic mission sent to Moscow to negotiate the strategies that were to be applied in the textiles industry, Ervin Popa was the only member of the delegation who refused to sign the final treaty, which he believed was to Romania’s disadvantage. Her mother’s sister, Lidia Gavrilescu, was imprisoned for more than four years in a series of women’s prison camps, and her uncle, Constantin Niculescu, an officer in the navy, was imprisoned for five years at Aiud. As a result, in 1948, in an attempt to flee communism and the atmosphere of terror during the years immediately after the war, and following Ervin Popa’s arrest and imprisonment for a number of months in 1947, the Popa family, (parents Ervin Popa and Ariana Popa, née Gavrilescu, and daughters Ingrid Alina and Alda) crossed the border from Romania into Yugoslavia. They made a perilous crossing of the Danube in a group consisting of twelve persons: besides the Popa family, there was another family of two parents and three sons, and three men who helped with the launch and also who took advantage of the opportunity to flee the country. On reaching the other bank of the Danube, after a brief moment of jubilation, the Popa family was arrested by the Serbs and imprisoned in the camps at Kovačica and Zrenjanin. Conditions in the two camps proved to be very harsh, in terms of both food and hygiene and for both adults and children. After two years, they were taken to a camp in Bitola, (Macedonia), before being released in Greece. Regarding this camp, the interviewee mentions that the guards used to fake escapes as a means of disposing of prisoners. For example, on 30-31 January 1950, the Economu family, comprising husband and wife Narcis and Elena and two children, Liliana and Sandu, were part of a group of around twenty persons who were granted apparent leave to head to Greece. The release proved to be a ruse and all the members of the group were killed by the camp guards. It seems that the purpose of such tricks was to send a harsh message to Romanians thinking of fleeing from communism. The Popa family was released as part of a group of thirteen persons on 9 February 1950 and traveled to Greece, and thence to Italy and finally Switzerland, where they had acquaintances. They subsequently spent two years in France, where they began to rebuild their lives. They were familiar with French culture as Ervin Popa had taken his doctorate at the Sorbonne, and Ariana Popa, whose mother died when she was very young, had been raised by nuns at Notre Dame des Cieux and had learned French at an early age. The Popa family later moved to the United States of America, where Ariana Popa found a job at the French Lycée in New York and Ervin Popa in a textile company. Today, Ingrid Fotino (née Popa) lives in the United States of America. She is married and has two daughters.

Becicherecu Mare (Zrenjanin)

Dostupné v: English | Română

(Serbian: Zrenjanin,Зрењанин, Hungarian: Nagybecskerek, German: Großbetschkerek). It is the capital city of the Central Banat district in Vojvodina, (Serbia), one of the largest cities in the Serbian Banat and the sixth largest city in Serbia. It is thought that its initial name, Bečkerek/Becskerek, was derived from the Hungarian word kerek, meaning forest, and the name of a Hungarian nobleman of the 14th century, Imre Becsei. The compound "mare,” (big), was then added to the name to make the difference between it and the village situated in the Romanian Banat, (Becicherecu Mic). After 1945, a camp was set up in the city for people from Eastern and Central Europe, who attempted to flee to the West.

Becicherecu Mare (Zrenjanin)

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In Zrenjanin camp’s hospital

In Zrenjanin camp’s hospital

Ingrid Alina Fotino (née Popa)
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