From the blog

Jilava penitentiary

“When the room opened, second on the right, I had the feeling I was stepping into a hecatomb. Hence the name ‘catacombs’, as the regular detainees called the rooms in the redoubt!. The room was, in fact, a vaulted corridor 15 meters long and 5 meters wide, 75 square meters, holding 350 detainees, around 5 square meters per person. A veritable anthill! Over the day, people crowded on the two wooden bunks that ran the entire length of the room. One third of them stretched overnight under the first bunk, to sleep on the cement, in the so called ‘snake pit’. It was very hard to get in there, because the first bunk was only 60 or 70 cm off the ground. As the two rows of bunks and the two ‘snake pits’ couldn’t hold more than 300 to 320 people, the rest had to sleep on the corridor between the bunks, around a meter and a half wide. Also on the corridor was the line of 15 to 20 people who were waiting to urinate. They had to step over those on the ground. The food was almost entirely water, and it was very cold in the ‘snake pit’. Which is why everyone had to urinate at least 3 to 5 times during the night. Near the door there were two metal buckets for biological needs on one side, and two with water on the other. The water was used mostly for washing in the morning and for the biological needs, because the water in the food was enough. In these 30 cm space per person, people could only sleep on one side. When the position got uncomfortable, one of the detainees gave the order to flip sides. A true inferno, which Dante’s fantasy could not have imagined!”

Excerpt from the book : Witnessing Romania’s Century of Turmoil, Memoirs of a Political Prisoner, Univerity of Rochester Press, 2017

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