December 1: Romania National Day

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On some forerunners: so called Forty-Eighters

The history teacher from Honterus, mister P., knew Andrei Şaguna’s real story.

“The truth is,” he used to tell his students, “that Şaguna helped the Habsburgic authorities to catch the Hungarian who fought for the rights of Romanians living in Transylvania, Katalin Varga, or as we call her, Ecaterina Varga. You can be proud because she was originary from around here, from Brașov County. It is believed that Şaguna did it to avoid the drastic repercussions against Romanians, because they refused to turn over the fearless defender of their rights. Rights that in fact they did not have, and which she persistently continued to ask for from the authorities. Until they got to consider her their enemy, and considered her dangerous, especially since she started inciting people to demand their rights including through riots.

“Now, whatever Şaguna’s reasons were, I found out that the students, otherwise said your colleagues from the homonymous high school considered it to be treason. Especially since Andrei Şaguna became a bishop only one year later. But he washed his sin becoming himself a defender of Romanians’ freedom. He was the one to send to Ferdinand the First of Austria, the one who preceded great emperor Franz Joseph, a petition signed at the Great Assembly of Blaj, in 1848, together with other important political men of the time, by which they requested the abolition of serfdom, printing press freedom and the establishment of educational institutions in Romanian. After Franz Joseph became the emperor of Austria and the king of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia, great price of Transylvania and great prince of Serbia, and, trust me, the titles did not end here, but we would get to the end of our class until I would get to mention them all, Andrei Şaguna sent him a petition as well, with the same requests.

“But Şaguna did not stop at only sending petitions, he will do much more. So he got to lay the foundation stone for the Orthodox Gymnasium in Brașov, established in 1850 and which from 1992 bears his name, or to establish from his own money, again in 1850, the printing house in Sibiu. Starting then his work to help Romanians never stopped, and after he became Metropolitan he had even more power to complete his work. Şaguna established a few hundred primary schools and tens of denominational secondary schools, he founded in 1853 a publication in Romanian, Telegraful român, which still issues at Sibiu’s Archiepiscopate, and he supported the founding of The Transylvanian Association for Romanian People’s Literature and Culture (ASTRA), whose first president he was. In between 1898 and 1904, ASTRA published the first encyclopedia in Romanian, in three volumes, simply called The Romanian Encyclopedia. And since we are talking about firsts, don’t forget to visit every now and again, the first Romanian School. Take advantage of the fact that it is right here in Brașov!"

            (FIRST STEPS. Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope., pp. 128-9)

 

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