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War Signed Paintings

In one of our previous issues Welcome magazine introduced the name of the popular Moldovan artist Afanasie Oprea. In commemoration of all those who died in the Second World War we would like to continue our tour of his works in particular of those dedicated to the sad events.

Afanasie Oprea did not take part in the war himself. He was only seven years old when the Nazi invaded the territory of Moldova. His elder brother and father left home to defend their country. Oprea’s mother and eight other children stayed in Delacau village on the bank of the Dniester River, near Grigoriopol, Serpeni. Serpeni was the base for the Iasi-Chisinau Operation. As a boy Afanasie survived the events of 1941 when our forces retreated under the pressure of the Nazi troops. The most formidable years of military occupation were years of Oprea’s childhood. The Germans, Romanians, and Italians - they have all passed through Delacau village leaving raided households and people with nothing to feed on.

Later on with the vivid memories of that difficult time Oprea made his painting “I Am from a Military Childhood”. He created his own image of a thin, hungry and ragged boy with the serious eyes of a wise man in the middle of a burnt out field.

“I was lucky to survive the hell of war,” recollects the artist. “Many of my peers died from famine or were tortured to death by the Nazi. What I have had to experience in my childhood made me a pacifist for the rest of my life. And I swore to depict the war for everyone else so that it would never return.”

With joyful glee the Moldovan people met its liberators that broke the resistance of the enemy and moved forth to the West. Afanasii with other boys from the village explored every single trench left after the battle.

The picture was a horrible one to observe: thousands of human corpses and remains of broken military arms. Tens of years to come these images haunted him in his dreams. But they also gave a strong impulse for work and were reproduced in his paintings “Wounded Earth” and “They Fought to Death”.

“Mother” is impossible to look at without a heart stringent with pain. The tall figure of a woman in mourning, with wringed wrists, stands frozen in the deserted battlefield. She is the mother that gave birth through suffering and who lost her dear sons to the war. Behind her are visible the familiar banks of the Dniester, which ebbs and flows on free soil. A freedom obtained for the price of thousands of young lives and bloodshed. “War Be Damned!” – screams the woman with her lips compressed.

In “Serpeni Military Base” two soldiers and an old bareheaded man are drinking to victory, to the Nazi banished from their country, and to all those who died defending their land. At the bottom lies the village of Delacau, the blue serpent of the Dniester and burnt-out land.

Afanasii Oprea has a magnificent ability of disclosing a profound spiritual background and traces of the past in his characters. The portrait of I. Remeniuc that took part in the Iasi-Chisinau Operation which is invoked in “Partisan”, “Nurse”, “Vienna 1944” and other paintings hauls the attention of the viewer to the years of courage and firmness of the people of many nationalities.

Oprea’s paintings tell their story of the glorious history of the Moldovan people and call out to the young generations not to let another war break out. His works force observers to kneel in thought before the memory of those who died in the name of liberty: “I beseech you to remember those that are never to return!”

Ludmila Mamaliga

Edited and translated by Natalia Corobco

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