Picture Academia Catavencu
A peasant farmer with a minute plot of land and a modest wooden cottage, Elisabeta Rizea and her husband joined a resistance movement called Haiducii Muscelului - (the Muscelului Outlaws), after the communists came to power in 1945. Operating from the forests and mountains of Fagaras, for four years she provided the group with money and food until in 1949 she was captured and arrested by the Securitatea, and branded 'an enemy of the people' - the worst possible indictment in communist Romania. Sentenced to seven years in jail in the notorious Pitesti prison, she was tortured for her beliefs. ''They hung me by my hair,'' she told reporters during King Mihai's visit. ''After they took the table from my feet, they started to beat me with a stick until I bled. They broke some ribs, and I fainted.''
Between 1949 and 1958 the Haiducii led Romania's anticommunist Resistance, despite many of their numbers being arrested, imprisoned and murdered. When one of its leaders, Gheorghe Arsenescu was captured in 1961, Rizea too was rearrested and this time was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She was held in chains and on death row until, under terms of a general amnesty, she was released from prison in 1964. During the May 2001 interview she told reporters, ''When these wretched communists came to power they took everything from us - our land, the wooden carts, the hair from our heads. Still, what they could not take was our soul.''
Villagers in the region still refer to her as 'Tanti Tuta', almost a year after her death. Yet many people believe she hasn't received anything like the recognition she deserves. That will change, if Liviu Mihai, editor of the satirical magazine Academia Catavencu has his way. Mr Mihai's plan is to have the statue erected in front of Bucharest's Piata Presa Libera, which is home to some of the country's most widely read newspapers. It is also where a statue of Lenin once stood.
Academia Catavencu launched an appeal earlier this year to raise funding for the project, under a headline entitled ''For the monument of a monumental woman''. ''We've adopted as our motto Elisabeta Rizea's final words, 'If I live three more days, I want to see that the world has cleared'''. These words, says Mr Mihai, reflect a desire to make sense of the world. It should also be the proper intention of the press: namely, to clarify and explain the world, and speak the truth. Hence his intention that the statue be raised in front of the home of the press.
Romanian thinkers and broadcasters have lent their support, and Bucharest's mayor, Traian Basescu, has given it his seal of approval. The appeal has raised over $30,000 so far. ''If there is anything we can be proud of in the last 50 years, it is the fifteen years of resistance in the mountains. We cannot brag about Casa Poporului. The resistance in the mountains was our genuine 1956 revolution,'' the editor continues.
Liviu Mihaiu says he feels a personal need to rediscover models from the past that have been largely forgotten, and to avoid many of the celebrities that are lionised by the media and elevated to hero status. ''We present in the newscasts all the sensationalism of the world - criminals, explosions, Adrian Mutu's conjugal adventures. The idea is to promote something of more substance than what is available now, someone more deserving. Elisabeta Rizea deserves national prominence.''
''I swear on the Holy Cross and under arms that I shall never betray anything about the outlaws' life and secrets. I understand that betrayal will be punished by death for me and my family, and my house will be burnt to the ground, so help me God.''
Oath of the Haiduciii Muscelului, as revealed in a Securitate document.
In the village of Nucsoara, traces of the freedom fighters are beginning to fade. A small rocky mountain-shaped monument in front of the lake reminds passersby of the 'dignity and heroism' of the resistance. In the white light of the sun, the letters carved in marble are barely visible. A commemorative tablet that hangs above the church door brings 'eternal recognition to the Resistance heroes'.
Elisabeta Rizea passed away last year, on 6 October, after telling the stories of the heroes many times. But the story still needs a human voice to be told. For now, that responsibility has passed to Matilda Jubleanu, the daughter of Titu Jubleanu, one of the freedom fighters who was killed in the late 1950s.
Her father had a gun and hid himself in the mountains surrounding the village. ''My brother and my mother also went to the forest and we remained at home, so the Securitatea did their job with us. Look, since then, how my legs buckle now,'' she says, pointing to her legs.
She tells her story on a warm sunny July morning, while many of the villagers of Nucsoara are returning from church. ''I was 16 at the time,'' she remembers, speaking in a trembling voice and dabbing her blue eyes with a handkerchief. ''They tied my arms to some metal rings so my feet were off the ground, and beat me until I was covered in bruises. I developed a lung disease because they made me suffer so much.''
The Securitatea officers arrested her father and put him in jail, first in Pitesti and then as a labourer in the salt mines. She managed to avoid imprisonment. ''Whoever gave food to the partisans was registered in a file. They eventually saw that I was innocent, but after they had done their job with me,'' she continues.
After this was over, she did not receive any kind of retirement fund, because she says the politicians that followed were also communists. ''We have suffered in vain,'' Jubleanu says.
Her right hand rises again to the eyes and a shy smile creeps across her face.
A few kilometres from Nucsoara, in the village of Slatina, another monument stands as testimony to the haiduci's story. The monument rises in the churchyard and the names of the partisans are etched on it. The list begins with Toma Arnautoiu. But this monument can only reveal the names. Their story is told by a villager, 89-year-old Marina Chirca, a friend of the haiduci. She tells reporters of the five years that she spent hidden in Ion Florea's loft, in his house in Corbi, a nearby village.
When Chirca was arrested and sent to trial, she was sentenced to 15 years in Jilava prison and her assets were seized. She got away with one and a half years. Her family, though, was less fortunate. Her husband, Aurel, served his full 15-year sentence, and her sons, Ion and Gheorghe, each received six. She returred home in 1964. ''We didn't even have a spoon in the house when we returned. They took everything, absolutely everything,'' she continues.
Marina Chirca's powerful voice cuts off the silence of the chilly room. She remembers how she and her husband once brought the fighters guns and ammunition from Campulung. ''If someone asked us what was in our sacks, we would tell him that we were carrying wedding candles,'' Chirca says.
She knew the Arnoautoiu brothers, Toma and Petre, whose father Iancu Arnautoiu was her primary school teacher. She was midwife for Toma Arnautoiu's girl, who was born in the forest. She knew Elisabeta Rizea. ''We were friends. We helped each other,'' she says. They would meet at Painarie, where the partisans had built some barracks. It was there where the Securitate captured and killed them all.
Marina Chirca says she doesn't feel any resentment now when she speaks about those times. She is happy to be alive and could remember it all again.
Soon Bucharest will have a monument of its own to symbolise the Resistance in the Fagaras mountains. A national contest is planned for the building of the statue. Liviu Mihaiu says that everything now depends on donations and from local government support. ''I don't think the authorities have much of an interest in this project, but I am still confident of its success,'' he says.
On the choice of the monument's location, he explains, ''In the beginning there was Elisabeta Rizea and Nucsoara and only then, much later, due to them, came the freedom of the press.''