01 decembrie 2012

1 Decembrie 1918 nu a venit pe tavă (III)

Partea I   Partea a II-a   Partea a III-a

O serie de articole de epocă, de la siteul The Great War in a Different Light, despre realităţile de pe frontul românesc, în timpul primului război mondial.
from 'The War Illustrated', 28th July, 1917
'The Rumanian Soldier
as I Know Him'
by Basil Clarke
Special Correspondent in Rumania and Elsewhere

Pen Portraits of Our Fighting Friends

from a French serial history magazine - the King of Rumania - Rumanian soldiers

For a contrast in soldiering "form" there could be no better illustration than the doings of the different armies in Rumania.

While the middle army went to pieces before the onslaughts of the Huns, the northern army put up such a fight as to paralyse a German army in their attempt to force the mountain passes and make them seek out another way for themselves. The resistance put up by the Rumanian northern army may rank, in fact, in military excellence with anything that has been done by any of the allied ' armies during the war. It was splendid work.

In the excellent fighting form displayed by the men of that northern army of Rumania is to be found, in my opinion, the "true fighting form" of the Rumanian soldier. The collapse of the middle army may seem, at the moment, to cast some doubt on this estimate ; but I feel sure that when the full facts of the Rumanian campaign are revealed, the responsibility for the middle army defeat will not lie at the door of the Rumanian soldier.

Of Roman Fighting Stock

He comes of a curious fighting stock, and is really a relic of the old Roman soldier at his best. For while the soldiers of later Rome were sapping their manhood by easy living and little fighting, the Romans in this remote colony in Rumania were having a hard time in defending their lives against all the many savage peoples who surrounded them. It is probable, therefore, that the Roman soldier, at his best, existed to a later day in Rumania than in any other place. Certain it is that the Roman character of Rumania and its people has never been extinguished, and they have thriven for centuries, a Latin people still, though, surrounded by people of different stock and often overrun by these peoples. It is only your extra hardy race that can remain intact in such circumstances. Hardy fighters and hardy breeders — the Rumanians are both.

The Rumanian soldiers I knew best, during my stay of several months in that country last year, were officers; but while I was living with one of them I was lent a Rumanian soldier as "batman," or servant. Nicolai, the Typical.

He was so typical of the Rumanian peasant soldier at his best that I will describe him. I woke on the first morning of my visit to find him standing by my bed. He seemed to have been waiting for me to wake. He bowed his head - very solemnly, and then when I nodded encouragingly he gave a good, honest grin, revealing a row of perfect teeth, just slightly yellow. His deep brown eyes twinkled, and he bowed again and held out his palms in token .that he was waiting to do anything I wanted. He was over middle height and strongly built. He wore a grey-blue uniform of a rough serge cloth. On his head was a queer tall hat, the shape of a dunce's cap, made of white fleecy skin — probably the skin of a young sheep. This hat he always wore in the house, but when he went out of doors he substituted for it a peaked uniform cap of blue-grey cloth, the crown of which was tilted fore and aft into little mounds — something after the fashion of the caps the Belgian soldiers wear. He had no boots in the sense that we know them. Instead, his feet and his legs from the calf downwards, were swathed in long wrappings of white woollen cloth. These home-made "puttees" he would wear for all normal occasions, but on the march he would add a pair of home-made leather foot coverings like moccasins. I believe that many Rumanian regiments have been fitted with western boots, but the home-made moccasin of cowhide is still more popular. The men will march miles in this footwear without foot trouble of any kind.

Once when Nicolai — for that was the servant's name — unfastened his tunic I noticed that his shirt was of white cotton cloth covered with red and black needle-work flowers. The .peasants are very fond of this kind of needlework, and in civil life nearly all their garments are profusely embroidered. They make their own cloth at home and their women embroider it.

Nicolai and I did our talking in a mixture of English, French, German, and Latin; for which last- named tongue I had to dig deep into the remoter recesses of memory and hark back to school days. Thus, if I wanted water I would begin "water." If that had no effect I would try "eau." If that left him still shrugging his shoulders we went on to "wasser." Still a shrug, and I would try "aqua," and at that his face would light up and off he would dash for water.

Rumanian infantry and mountain troops

Frugal Fare

So often it was quicker to try Latin first, but not always. Many of the Rumanian words are borrowed from the Slav languages, and bear no resemblance to the Roman tongue. But for the fact that Nicolai, like most Rumanians, had picked up a few words of French and German, we should often have been at a loss.

The Rumanian captain with whom I was staying had seen all the Armies of Europe, and had been with both the German and the French Armies for training. He was in a fair position, therefore, to make comparisons, and he assured me that for hardiness and willingness there was no soldier of the big Continental armies who was better than the Rumanian. He went so far as to say that if it came to marching on "short commons," he would "back" the Rumanian soldier against any other. "I have known them go two days and a night with nothing but water," he said, "and never a man fall out." I myself have seen them arriving at a destination after a march of twenty miles with full packs through hilly and difficult country, and yet be smiling and cheery.. The regiment I have in mind was my host's own regiment, and the men were singing together in excellent harmony. It was some patriotic fighting song they were singing.

Later, my friend explained to me that he himself taught his men to sing. He had a "song parade" every now and again and taught his men tunes and the harmonies to them — allocating certain men for each part — tenor and bass. These songs they sang when on the march, and the result, said the captain, was that his men marched not only in better order but with less fatigue. He had a song parade once for my especial benefit, and his men sang a number of songs as well as a Welsh regiment would have sung them. They seemed to like it too.

The Rumanian soldiers' food and quarters would probably bring about a mutiny in a British . regiment. Plain bread is the main article of food. There are meat dishes occasionally ; but such luxuries as jam, butter, bacon, tea, and the like are unknown. "Marmalega," a pudding made of boiled maize, is a dish on which a Rumanian soldier may have to march for miles. In war-time a soldier may carry his rations with him — a loaf of bread.

There is a great contrast between the Rumanian soldier and his officer. For while the soldier is a plain fellow, his officers, as often as not, are very decorative people. There are probably no more dashing uniforms in Europe than those of the Red and the Black Hussars of Rumania.

Officers of Greek Origin

The picturesque young "blades" who "officer" these regiments certainly gave one the impression, as one saw them parading past the famous Cafe Capsa in Bukarest, that their function in life was to be ornamental rather than warlike ; but I am assured that even the "prettiest" and most powdered of them have fought with amazing courage. Remembering the case of our own Piccadilly "bloods" who, giving up the study of socks and ties, went to the war and acquitted themselves like men, I can believe that this is true. Still, the Rumanian officer, as a rule, is not quite of the same hardy stock as the Rumanian peasant, for he is drawn more from the landed classes, and these classes have much more Greek blood in their veins than the peasant classes. Enterprising Greeks in the old days obtained from the all-conquering Turks the right to work estates in Rumania for their own gain. Thus, the peasants got Greek masters, and to this day the Greek blood lingers in the ruling classes.

Men and their Master

You do not realise how recently the Rumanian peasantry have emerged from serfdom until you see their bearing before their rulers and overlords. They show a wonderful humility. Strong men and brave as they are they will stand with head bowed and bare before a child of the upper classes. There is something of the same humility about the Rumanian soldier before his officers. I remember the shock that poor Nicolai gave me when, on parting, I gave him a few shillings by way of. a tip. He fell on one knee, seized my hand, and before I knew what he was about, he kissed it. That it seems, is customary. When giving my parting gift to the housemaid of the establishment, a shy creature dressed in beautiful native costume, but with neither shoes nor stockings, and with her hair braided in plaits down her back, I placed my little offering on the table and, pointing to it, beckoned her to take it. She bowed her thanks, and repeated in Rumanian the formula for such an occasion, which is, "Oh, master, I kiss your hand !"

And, incidentally, I believe that that little bare-legged serving-maid is now wife to soldier Nicolai. I trust he has fared well in the ware.

*   *   * 
from ‘The War Illustrated’, 23rd March, 1918
'My Memories of Bukarest and a Brave Queen'
A Wanderer in War Lands

Rumania a Victim of Unreadiness

German troops in Bucharest

WHEN I went down to Rumania from the Russian front in August, 1910, I went in good spirits, believing that the Rumanian Army would be able to help towards the ending of the war.

I left the country four months later, having seen that Army broken to pieces, the richest part of the kingdom over-run by the enemy. Now, left in the lurch by Russia's refusal to go on fighting, Rumania sees herself compelled to give in. Looking back to-day, one is almost tempted to. ask if it was not a disaster for her, for us, for the world which longs so wearily for the war to be over, that Rumania ever took up arms ? And yet no other course seemed open to her at the hour of decision.

I remember walking up and down the platform of the frontier station on a sunny afternoon in harvest-time, thanking goodness that I was getting out of Russia again.

In another few hours I should be in a Latin country, instead of one which based its system of Government and, in large measure, its civilisation upon Latin remains. I was sick of that. It had taken a week to get my passport arranged, and I was under orders to go "at once." Even on that railway-station there were still formalities to be gone through, and one could never feel quite sure until they had been completed that some difficulty might not be raised.

Yet four months later, when I left Rumania, I was glad to be getting into Russia again.

Coming of Gloom

The Rumanian people are all right. The peoples everywhere arc all right. Troubles arise from their being governed badly. M. Bratiano governed Rumania a long time, and he made a terrible mess of it. This could not be said while he was still Prime Minister, but now that he has been succeeded by that excellent soldier and honest man, General Avarescu, I need not hesitate to say that it is M. Bratiano who will have to bear, according to the verdict of history, the blame of leading Rumania astray.

Somehow I felt as soon as I reached Bukarest that a shadow of coming evil lay across what once gay and dissipated little capital. The railways were in a state of confusion which made me uneasy about the management of the war. Instead of leaving the frontier in the afternoon, and reaching Bukarest at night, I had to spend the night at Jassy, little thinking how well I was to know this dirty town later on, when it became the seat of Government.

Next morning the train left about eight. I hoped to get to Bukarest towards evening, but we dragged on all through the hot day, and half through the night as well. We did not pull into the dark station of the capital until half-past two o'clock.

Station dark, streets dark, not a cab to be found.. Terror of the air raids had already gripped the population. Nothing for it but to walk to a hotel, hiring a rapacious fellow to carry one's baggage. Fifteen francs (12s. 6d.) was his charge. Take it or leave it. Plenty of passengers ready to take it if I did not. I paid gladly enough. Sometimes there were no men to carry luggage even. A friend of mine, who arrived some weeks afterwards, had to leave his and walk to the hotel, pyjamas in one pocket of his overcoat, toothbrush and slippers in the other.

Tea and Gossip Shop

From being the "racketiest" of pleasure places Bukarest had transformed itself in the first days of war into the most gloomy. Everything closed at nine o'clock, all taxis and almost all horse-cabs "gone to the war." No one allowed to be out after nine without a special permit. Windows had to be darkened on this wise :
At half-past seven an hotel servant would march into my room, shut the outer windows, pull a Venetian blind over them, shut the inner windows, which had blue paper pasted on them into the bargain, then lower a thick green blind. Imagine what rooms so sealed up were like on a hot September evening !

There was a famous tea-shop in the main street of Bukarest. They made really good tea there; which could not be said of any other tea-shop. The secretary of the British Legation had once gone down into the kitchen and shown them how to make it. This was both a fashionable resort and a great place for gossip among politicians. Suddenly it was closed.

The Government were afraid of gossip, even over the teacups, after the reverse which the Rumanian troops suffered in the south at the hands of the Bulgarians. After this nothing went right for them.
Very soon it became evident that, instead of being prepared for war, as the British and French nations had been encouraged to believe, the Rumanian Army was not in any state to undertake even an easy campaign. M. Bratiano had either deceived himself or misled the Allies. He had no heavy artillery for his troops, no aeroplanes to speak of. He sent old generals to command at the front, men who were unfit for any position of responsibility. The soldiers even lacked such necessaries for campaigning under today's conditions as nippers to cut barbed-wire ; there were in some units not enough spades for digging positions.

Terrible Mismanagement

I saw a good deal of the hospitals in the early days. They showed plainly that the war had- not been prepared for in a medical sense. The Army Medical Service had studied what ought to be done. It was the only branch of the Service which had done this. It had sent officers to the front in France to make reports, and as a result the Rumanian field hospitals were good. But here again misfortune befell. The idea of M. Bratiano was that the invasion of Transylvania must be easy, the Austrians being, as he thought, exhausted and the Germans having no assistance to spare. The medical service was, therefore, all up at the front. There many hospitals had nothing to do, while in the rear, at Bukarest and in other cities, the wounded men were pouring into the improvised hospitals, and the difficulties of taking care of them caused a terrible number of deaths and a tragic amount of suffering which better management might have avoided.

I remember visiting in Craiova a hospital where four hundred sick and wounded were under the charge of one heroic woman surgeon with a few junior students to help her. She was a young woman, and very strong, she declared, but she admitted the strain was telling on her.

How could it be otherwise ? A French doctor, one of a very fine party of able and self- sacrificing men, told me the number of wounded Rumanians sent back to the Army after treatment was only ten per cent. It sounded unbelievable. But I am afraid it was not far from being literally true.

Queen Marie had in the Palace one of the best hospitals of Bukarest. As she said to me one day : "Of course mine is all right. I can get anything that is to be had." But it was well managed, too, which was more than could be said for most ; and there was no stealing. A lady who had a hospital, the mother of a Rumanian friend of mine, told me her doctors were aggrieved because she would not let them take away meat and vegetables to their homes. They said “all other hospitals allowed it."

Rumania's Brave Queen

The Queen is not only the most beautiful of her class, but I should think the most capable, too. She has none of the shyness and gaucherie which so often make Royal personages, and those who are presented to them, uncomfortable. She made me feel after I had been talking to her for ten minutes as if we had known each other for years. She was perfectly frank and natural. "It has been difficult for the King and me," she said. "He is a German. I am English. But We have never let difficulties stand in our We are both Rumanian. That was our safeguard."

She has been through hard times, sue h times as neither she nor her cousin, the Empress of Russia, ever dreamed of going through until misfortune fell upon them. But Queen Marie has never flinched or faltered. She has sometimes said, "It is hard on the children." But not a complaint will she make about what she herself suffers. I hate to think of what she must be feeling in her brave English heart in this dark hour of Rumania's humiliation, brought, upon that unhappy country by political incapacity and intrigue.

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Citate din gândirea profundă a europeiştilor RO

Adrian Cioroianu, 2009 ("Şi totuşi, Europa unită există – deşi nu toţi europenii votează"): Într-o Uniune Europeană ce întârzie să-şi legifereze unitatea (din moment ce Tratatul de la Lisabona nu este ratificat de toate statele membre), într-o Uniune care nu are încă o politică externă comună şi nici o politică de securitate energetică (vezi diferenţele mari dintre state comunitare precum Italia, Germania, România sau Lituania în privinţa relaţiilor lor cu Rusia, de exemplu), într-o Uniune al cărui „euro-parlament” de la Bruxelles & Strasbourg nu prea se ştie cu ce se ocupă, lipsa unui entuziasm comunitar nu poate surprinde. În anul 2007, cu ocazia unei vizite a lui H.G. Pöttering (preşedintele Parlamentului European) în România, în numele MAE român am organizat un prânz în onoarea oaspetelui – la care au fost invitaţi mulţi dintre politicienii exponenţiali ai tuturor partidelor noastre parlamentare. Cu toţii i-am povestit dlui Pöttering cât de unanimă a fost dorinţa românilor de a adera la Uniune şi cât de mult ne-am bucurat, de la mic la mare. Zâmbind, acesta ne-a spus că nu e convins că această unanimitate ar trebui să ne entuziasmeze – cu atât mai mult cu cât nimeni nu poate garanta cât de reală era ea. Date fiind problemele ce or să apară în procesul de integrare, poate ar fi fost mai bine să ştiţi mai precis cine crede într-adevăr în Uniune şi cine nu – a spus, în rezumat, invitatul nostru. Şi cred că acest raţionament era corect. Poate o să-l înţelegem mai bine în următorii ani, în care e foarte posibil să apară şi la noi curente (politice sau intelectuale) care să pună problema în termeni mai tranşanţi: ce aduce Uniunea Europeană unui stat ca România? Beneficiile sunt mai mari decât constrângerile? Avantajele sunt superioare concesiilor? Personal, cred că răspunsul la astfel de întrebări este cert pozitiv. Dar nu exclud eventualitatea ca unii români să nu vadă lucrurile astfel – şi, mă tem, numărul lor va fi, în următorul deceniu, în creştere".

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