Fântâna Albă massacre

Coordinates: 47°58′37″N 25°53′00″E / 47.97694°N 25.88333°E / 47.97694; 25.88333
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Fântâna Albă massacre
Fântâna Albă massacre is located in Ukraine
Fântâna Albă massacre
Fântâna Albă massacre (Ukraine)
LocationFântâna Albă, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
Coordinates47°58′37″N 25°53′00″E / 47.97694°N 25.88333°E / 47.97694; 25.88333
Date1 April 1941 (CET)
Targetethnic Romanians attempting to cross the border from the Soviet Union into Romania
Victimsbetween 44 and 3,000
PerpetratorsNKVD, Soviet Border Troops

The Fântâna Albă massacre took place on 1 April 1941 in Northern Bukovina when up to 3,000 civilians were killed when their attempt to forcefully cross the border from the Soviet Union to Romania, near the village of Fântâna Albă, now in Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine, was met with open fire by the Soviet Border Troops. Although according to Soviet official reports no more than 44 civilians were killed, local witnesses assert a much higher toll, stating that survivors were tortured, killed, or buried in mass graves. Other survivors were taken away to be tortured and killed at the hands of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police.[1][2][3] Some sources refer to this massacre as "the Romanian Katyn".[4][5][6]

In 2011, the Chamber of Deputies of Romania adopted a law establishing 1 April as the National Day honoring the memory of Romanian victims of massacres at Fântâna Albă, Lunca, and other areas, of deportations, of hunger, and other forms of repression organized by the Soviet regime in Hertsa (now Ukraine), northern Bukovina, and Bessarabia.[7]


The division of Bukovina after 28 June 1940

In late June 1940, Romania was forced to withdraw from a territory inhabited by 3.76 million people, submitting to an ultimatum by the Soviet Union; see Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina. The Romanian administration and military were evacuated, while the Red Army and the NKVD quickly occupied the land. Many families were caught by surprise by the rapid sequence of events, and had members on both sides of the new border. Therefore, many tried to cross the border, with or without official permission. According to official Soviet data, in the area patrolled by the 97th Unit of the Soviet Border Troops, 471 people had crossed the border illegally from the districts of Hlyboka, Hertsa, Putila, and Storozhynets. The zone assigned to this unit extended from the border to about 7.5 km (4.7 mi) south of Chernivtsi.[8]

From the more remote areas of Chernivtsi Oblast (the northern portion of the acquired territories that were included in the USSR), such as the districts of Vashkivtsi, Zastavna, Novoselytsia, Sadhora, and Chernivtsi-rural, 628 people crossed the border to find refuge in Romania. This phenomenon cut across all ethnic and social groups in the occupied territories. A Ukrainian scholar estimated the number of refugees to Romania during the first year of Soviet administration at 7,000.[9]

The Soviet authorities' reaction to this phenomenon was twofold. First, border patrol efforts were strengthened. Second, lists were made of families that had one or more members which had fled to Romania, and thus were considered "traitors of the Motherland", therefore subject to labor camp deportation. On 1 January 1941, the lists made by the 97th Unit of the Soviet Border Guards mentioned 1,085 persons. Tables for other localities included names for 1,294 people (on 7 December 1940). At this point, even people who were merely suspected of intending to flee to Romania began to be included.[9]

On 19 November 1940, 40 families (a total of 105 people) from the village of Suceveni, also carrying 20 guns, tried to cross the frontier at Fântâna Albă. At night, a battle ensued with the Soviet border guards, during which 3 people were killed, 2 were wounded and captured by the Soviets, while the rest of the group (including 5 wounded) managed to arrive in Rădăuți, on the other side of the border. However, in short order, the relatives of those 105 people were all arrested and deported to Siberia.[10]

In January 1941, over 100 villagers from Mahala, Ostrița, Horecea and other villages successfully crossed the border and arrived in Romania.[10] This gave confidence to other villagers. Consequently, a group of over 500 people from the villages of Mahala, Cotul Ostriței, Buda, Șirăuți, Horecea-Urbana, and Ostrița tried to cross to Romania during the night of 6 February 1941. However, they had been denounced to the authorities and were discovered by the border guards at 06:00. Volleys of machine gun fire from multiple directions resulted in numerous dead, including the organizers N. Merticar, N. Nica, and N. Isac. About 57 people managed to reach Romania, but 44 others were arrested and tried as "members of a counter-revolutionary organization".[10] On 14 April 1941, the Kiev Military District Tribunal sentenced 12 of them to death, while the other 32 were sentenced to 10 years forced labor and 5 years of loss of civic rights each. As had been the case before, all the family members of these "traitors to the Motherland" were also arrested and deported to Siberia.[10]

The massacre[edit]

On 1 April 1941, approximately 2,000[1][2][11] to 2,500[12] or 3,000[3][6][13] unarmed people from several villages (Pătrăuții de Sus, Pătrăuții de Jos, Cupca, Corcești, and Suceveni), carrying a white flag and religious symbols, walked together towards the new Soviet-Romanian border. There were rumors circulating that the Soviets would now permit crossing to Romania;[14] research by Ukrainian historians indicate such rumours had been spread by the Romanian intelligence services, which had sent agents across the Soviet border.[11] The Soviet border guards attempted to turn back the group several times, issuing a final verbal warning and firing shots in the air when the people arrived at Varnystia, near the border.[12][11] After the convoy pressed on, the border guards began to shoot,[12] reportedly after some members of the group fired.[11] At around 7pm, a group of about 100–120 people from Carapciu, Iordănești, and Prisăcăreni were attacked on the outskirts of Suceveni; 24 of them were killed and another 43 wounded.[15]: 58  A partial listing of the victims which were later identified:[16][17][18]

  • From Carapciu: Nicolae Corduban, Teodor Dabâca, Cosma Opaiț, Gheorghe Opaiț, Vasile Opaiț, Cosma Tovarnițchi, Ilie Tovarnițchi, Gheorghe Tovarnițchi, Traian Tovarnițchi, Vasile Tovarnițchi.
  • From Cupca: Ioan Belmega, Gheorghe Bicer, Ioan Dușceac, Ioan Gaza, Arcadie Plevan, Mihai Țugui.
  • From Dimca (Trestiana): Petre Cimbru, Vasile Cimbru, Nicolae Drevariuc, Petre Jianu.
  • From Iordănești: Gheorghe A. Carp, Mihai Corduban, Dumitru Halac, Ion Halac, Nicolae Halac, Dumitru Opaiț, Constantin Molnar.
  • From Pătrăuții de Jos: Zaharia Boiciu, Ana Feodoran, Gheorghe Feodoran, Nicolae Feodoran, Teodor Feodoran, Maftei Gavriliuc, Simion Liciman, Ion Pătrăuceanu, Ștefan Pavel, Rahila Pojoga, Petru Popescu, Pavel Savu.
  • From Pătrăuții de Sus: Constantin Cuciureanu, Gheorghe Moțoc, Arcadie Ursulean, Varvara Ursulean.
  • From Petriceni: Cozma Botariu, Gheorghe Lazurca.
  • From Suceveni: Dragoș Bostan, Titiana Lupăștean, Ilie Mihailovici, Gheorghe Sidoreac, Vasile Sidoreac, Constantin Sucevean.
  • Other people shot and killed that day: Ion Cobliuc, Petru Costaș, Ion Hudima, Petru Palahniuc.

The exact death toll remains a matter of controversy. According to the Soviet official report, casualty figures amounted to 44 people (17 from Pătrăuții de Jos, 12 from Trestiana, 5 each from Cupca and Suceveni, 3 from Pătrăuții de Sus, 2 from Oprișeni), although the numbers were higher according to survivor testimonies.[19][20] Moldovan political scientist Aurelian Lavric estimates that, from the initial group of 2,000 people who came to Fântâna Albă that day, some 200 were killed directly by gunfire, and many more wounded, with an additional 24 killed and 43 wounded from a separate group of 100 persons from Carapciu, Iordănești, and Prisăcăreni.[21] Ukrainian historian Serhiy Hakman on the other hand estimates around 50 killed and many wounded.[11] According to eyewitness accounts, some of the wounded were caught afterwards, tied to horses and dragged to previously excavated common graves, where they were killed with shovels or buried alive. Other wounded were brought to the Hlyboka NKVD headquarters, where they were tortured and many died. Some of the latter were taken after being tortured to the city's Jewish cemetery, and thrown alive into a common grave, over which quicklime was poured.[2][9]

An account of the events is given by one of the few surviving eyewitnesses, Gheorghe Mihailiuc (born in 1925, now a retired high-school teacher), in his book, Dincolo de cuvintele rostite ("Beyond spoken words"), published in 2004 by Vivacitas, in Hlyboka. Mihailiuc describes what happened at Fântâna Albă on 1 April 1941, as a "massacre", a "genocide", and a "slaughter".[22][20] Professor Ion Varta from Chișinău is of the opinion that "the Romanians from Bucovina were lured into a trap, in order to give an exemplary lesson to all those who wanted to cross the border into Romania. Horror and fear had to enter their bones, so that in the future they would no longer nurture such a desire."[17][20]

After the massacre, many participants and family members were arrested and either executed, incarcerated, or deported to Siberia or Kazakhstan. The Soviet authorities accused 22 people of instigating the march to the border on April 1, 1941. Vasile Grijincu was sentenced to death, and his wife and 8 children were deported to Kazakhstan; others were sentenced by a military court to either 10 years of hard labor (Ioan Boiciuc, Constantin Coroamă, Ilie Dâca, Teodor Dâca, Teodor Comarița, Ilie Cuciureanu, Nicolae Motrescu, Vasile Onifriciuc, Gheorghe Pojoga, Nicolae Pojoga, Petru Pojoga, Simion Pojoga, Gheorghe Popescu, Ioan Popescu, and Ilie Vasca) or 8 years of hard labor (Teodor Clingher, Cosma Crâsneanu, Orest Dugan, Petru Schipor, and Vasile Zmoșu). Out of the 22 convicted persons, 19 died in the camps and only three (Teodor Dâca, Orest Dugan, and Ilie Vasca) returned home in 1961.[15]: 58 

Aftermath and larger context[edit]

Minister delegate Dan Stoenescu commemorating the Fântâna Albă massacre in 2016

During 1940–1941, between 11,000 and 13,000 Bukovinians (mostly, but not only ethnic Romanians) were deported to Siberia and the Gulag, 1,421 of them dying in the camps.[11] As a result of immigration, deportations and killings, the Romanian population of the Chernivtsi region dropped by more than 75,000 between the Romanian 1930 census and the first Soviet census of 1959. It has been claimed that these persecutions were part of a program of deliberate extermination, planned and executed by the Soviet regime.[13]

According to Ukrainian political scientist Marin Gherman, Soviet narratives about the Fântâna Albă massacre had two main objectives — to obscure the details of the slaughter and to present it as an action of the Romanian and German intelligence services — so as to absolve the Soviet authorities of responsibility.[23] Gherman points out that these narratives continue to this day: in March 2021, the Facebook page of the Chernivtsi Regional State Administration published a video about the massacre, stating that only 50 people were killed, omitting the fact that these were ethnic Romanians, and labelling the action "a planned and deliberate act of defiance by the Romanian secret service against the inhabitants of Bukovina."[23][24] In rebuttal, MEP Eugen Tomac stated that those who produced the video claiming that only 50 citizens were killed at Fântâna Albă were inspired by Stalin's theses, and denounced this fact as unacceptable.[25]

On 1 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of the massacre, a ceremony was held in Fântâna Albă, with the participation of the Governor of Chernivtsi Oblast, the abbot of Putna Monastery, and several Romanian officials, including Dan Stoenescu and Viorel Badea.[4][26] In an interview, Stoenescu stated that "this tragedy of the Romanian people was followed by other retaliations as the one in 1941 when other thousands of Romanians of Bukovina, many of them being the relatives of the victims of Fântâna Albă massacre, were taken away from their houses and deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan."[4][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă, îngropat de KGB: peste 2000 de români uciși de trupele sovietice" [The Fântâna Albă massacre, buried by the KGB: over 2,000 Romanians killed by Soviet troops]. Adevărul (in Romanian). 18 April 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Gherasim, Gabriel (2005). "Românii bucovineni sub cizma străină". ziua.net. Ziua. Archived from the original on 18 February 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b Bouleanu, Elisabeth (1 April 2016). "Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă. Cum au fost omorâți 3.000 de români, la granița cu România, pe 1 aprilie 1941, de Paște" [The Fântâna Albă Massacre. How 3,000 Romanians were killed, on the border with Romania, on April 1, 1941, Easter]. Adevărul (in Romanian). Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Lupu, Victor (1 April 2016). "75 Years Since 'The Romanian Katyn' Massacre At Fântâna Albă – 3,000 Romanians Killed". Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Commemoration of Fântâna Albă massacre: tears, grief, gratitude". agerpres.ro. 2 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă. În aprilie 1941, trupele NKVD au ucis 3.000 de români" [The Fântâna Albă Massacre. In April 1941, NKVD troops killed 3,000 Romanians] (in Romanian). digi24.ro. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Ziua națională de cinstire a memoriei românilor – victime ale masacrelor de la Fântâna Albă și alte zone" (in Romanian). Agerpres. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Astăzi se împlinesc 79 de ani de la Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă" [Today marks the 79th anniversary of the Fântâna Albă Massacre]. tvrmoldova.md (in Romanian). TVR Moldova. 1 April 2020. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Roșu, Iulia. "Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă, îngropat de KGB: peste 2000 de români uciși de trupele sovietice" [The Fântâna Albă massacre, buried by the KGB: over 2,000 Romanians killed by Soviet troops]. historia.ro (in Romanian). Revista Historia. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Popescu
  11. ^ a b c d e f Hakman, Serhiy (5 March 2021). "Заручники: перехід через кордон ініціювала румунська розвідка (до 80-річчя розстрілу людей 1 квітня 1941 року в урочищі "Варниця" біля села Біла Криниця)". Українська газета Час (in Ukrainian).
  12. ^ a b c Betea, Lavinia (29 August 2005). "Masacrul din Fântâna Albă". Jurnalul Național (in Romanian). Archived from the original on 21 May 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  13. ^ a b Oprea, Mircea (2016). "Expoziție cutremurătoare la Bruxelles: 75 de ani de la Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă" [Terrible exhibition in Brussels: 75 years since the Fântâna Albă Massacre]. rfi.ro (in Romanian). Radio France Internationale. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  14. ^ Pădurean, Bianca (2019). "Pagina de istorie: Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă, un Katyn românesc" [History page: The Fântâna Albă Massacre, a Romanian Katyn]. rfi.ro (in Romanian). Radio France Internationale. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Represiunile din regiunea Cernăuți în perioada iunie 1940–iunie 1941" [The repressions in the Chernivtsi region in the period June 1940–June 1941] (PDF), Revista de Istorie a Moldovei (in Romanian) (1–2): 50–67, 2021, retrieved 10 September 2023
  16. ^ Ionițoiu, Cicerone. "Genocidul din România: Repere în Procesul Comunismului". www.procesulcomunismului.com (in Romanian). Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  17. ^ a b "1 aprilie – zi națională de cinstire a memoriei românilor – victime ale masacrelor de la Fântâna Albă și alte zone". www.memorialsighet.ro (in Romanian). Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance. April 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  18. ^ Grior, Petru (21 April 2023). "Masacrul din Poiana Varniței (Fântâna Albă), din ziua de 1 aprilie 1941" [The massacre in Poiana Varniței (Fântâna Albă), from April 1, 1941]. Libertatea Cuvântului (in Romanian). Retrieved 10 September 2023.
  19. ^ "Un supraviețuitor al Masacrului de la Fântâna Albă vorbește după 71 de ani". 3 April 2012.
  20. ^ a b c Iancu, Mariana (1 April 2021). "Mărturii cutremurătoare de la masacrul de la Fântâna Albă: "Oamenii cădeau ca frunzele de brumă. Un flăcău voinic, cu tricolorul în mână, s-a prăbușit"". Adevărul (in Romanian). Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  21. ^ Lavric, Aurelian (2012). "Politica de represiune a regimului sovietic în sudul Basarabiei și nordul Bucovinei: 1940–1941, 1944–1945" (PDF). Studia Universitatis (in Romanian). 4: 5–11. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  22. ^ Crețu, Ion (1 April 2005). "1 aprilie—64 de ani de la masacrul românilor la Fântâna Albă: Varnița, o tristă amintire" [April 1—64 years since the massacre of Romanians at Fântâna Albă: Varnița, a sad memory]. Crai Nou (in Romanian). Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  23. ^ a b Gherman, Marin (7 April 2021). "Narratives about Romania and Romanians in Ukraine: between echoes of the Soviet era and "the wounds" of Donbass". www.veridica.ro. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  24. ^ ""Masacrul de la Fântâna Albă – acțiune organizată de serviciile secrete românești" – filmuleț al Administrației Regionale de Stat Cernăuți". bucpress.eu (in Romanian). 31 March 2021. Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  25. ^ Colgiu-David, Magda (1 April 2021). "80 de ani de la masacrul de la Fântâna Albă" [80 years since the Fântâna Albă massacre]. Cotidianul (in Romanian). Retrieved 3 March 2022.
  26. ^ Anghel, Gheorghe (1 April 2016). "The commemoration of the Fântâna Albă massacre". Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  27. ^ "Minister-delegate Stoenescu: Massacre of Fântâna Albă, a prohibited topic for half a century". actmedia.edu. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 5 April 2020.

References and sources[edit]

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