‘Communism Is a Cancer on Humanity—It’s a Cancer That’s Moving Quickly,’ Gulag Survivor Says

BY Peta Evans TIMESeptember 16, 2022 PRINT

Romanian gulag survivor Dan Novacovici has some invaluable insight regarding the current state of the world: He recognizes all the glaring signs of a communist agenda and began to realize several years ago that “communism was being implanted openly in the United States.”

The 85-year-old Washington, D.C., resident was a political prisoner in Romania during its post-World War II communist era; being the son of a general in the king’s army didn’t help matters. In fact, Dan’s father was a special forces commander and right-hand man for the last king of Romania, Michael I, who was forced to abdicate the throne in 1947 after being unsuccessful in pushing back against Soviet invasion.

Aside from this family connection to someone the communists deemed an “enemy of the people,” Dan was found to be a member of an anti-communist poetry group.

He was sent to two gulags and reached the point of near death under extreme torture and starvation. Fortuitously, he survived and eventually escaped to France, later immigrating to the United States with his wife, Emilia, and daughter, Anca, thinking that “the United States would be the last country in which communism would come.”

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Dan Novacovici with his wife, Emilia, in 2022. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)
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Dan Novacovici’s father, Ticu, who was a colonel in the Romanian military. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

“I never thought it would come here in my generation,” Dan told The Epoch Times. “It started, I believe, in 1948—every university has a communism club.”

Dan pointed to “the way things are repeated in the same messaging across multiple media outlets,” and “the fear that is created with this pandemic,” as all-too-familiar, telltale signs of a communist-infiltrated media and government. “The sentence structure and the way things are presented right now in the media is the same as in communism,” he said.

“I can’t point to a specific document that lists the phrases, but I recognize them from communism. … Phrases about how they care about people, about the future, but specifically the way it is phrased—that they do it for the good of the people. So—sanctions are for your health, ‘we are thinking about you and your loved ones.’”

He added that encouraging separation between family members and friends “is also a classic communist approach,” highlighting its occurrence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All in all, despite the overthrow of communism throughout the Eastern Bloc in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the gulag survivor holds that the threat of world communism prevails. “I see it approaching in the West,” he said, “and slowly gaining ground worldwide.”

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Dan details his extraordinary journey, from witnessing the beginnings of communism in his home country, opposing it, and surviving under tyranny; to escaping and becoming an advocate for safeguards against the spread of communism in the United States.

‘When the Communists Came’

Dan Novacovici, now a husband, father, and grandfather, was 8 years old when the Russian communists took over Romania in 1944.

“When the communists came, my father took us to a place near Pitesti, about 100 kilometers outside of Bucharest, to keep us safe,” he said, referring to a 100-hectare farm estate owned by his great-aunt.

“I remember the Russians came in on horseback and, discovering one of my great-aunt’s horses, Dolina, which was a racehorse, they took [it] for themselves. They killed the dogs; went into the house, looked for alcohol, found 10 to 15 bottles … they drank them all. They found my dad’s uniform and decorations and said, ‘this man killed a lot of Russians.’”

The Russian officers took two horses, but killed one when she wouldn’t let them ride her.

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Dan Novacovici (L) and his mother, Lucia (riding racehorse Dolina), on his great-aunt’s 100-hectare farm estate outside of Bucharest in 1944. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)
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Dan Novacovici (R) with his parents and siblings on his great-aunt’s estate in Beneasa, outside of Bucharest, circa 1945. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

By 1948, the communists had taken his great-aunt’s estate and placed her under house arrest in a little house in Pitesti, where “she had to sign a sheet every day that that is where she was,” Dan said.

Meanwhile, Dan returned to Bucharest with his sister, Doina, and brother, Doru. His mother, Lucia, a high school teacher of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, died when Dan was only 13 years old.

“At the high school, they changed the principal to the cleaning lady,” Dan said. “The first thing, the cleaning lady met with all the teachers and told them to sweep all the classrooms and that she will be checking on them. My mother was so upset, she got breast cancer and she died at 39 years old.”

Life Under Communism

When Dan’s father, Ticu, left the army at the end of the war in 1945, he started a construction company with work in Bucharest rebuilding the National Assembly—the equivalent of the Senate. Working under supervision of traditionalist figure Mihail Sadoveanu, who was then president of the National Assembly, Ticu was given only two months to remodel the building’s great hall, which Sadoveanu feared was too short a time.

“Sadoveanu showed him a gun and said, ‘If it’s not done in two months and the Russians walk through here, you can kill me first, then kill yourself, because they will kill us if it’s not done,’” Dan said.

In school, everyone had to take classes about Marxism and Leninism. “The teachers weren’t allowed to say anything except what was written on their script—adapted locally,” Dan said. The script, he added, explained “how society worked” and that the bourgeoisie was the “the class that exploited others … the enemy of the people.”

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Ticu and Lucia Novacovici, Dan’s parents. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)
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Dan Novacovici (R) as a child, with his mother and siblings. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

“Colleagues in high school were kicked out because their parents were ‘exploiters’ … one of my professors knew Russian and helped a lot of kids to not get kicked out; he taught students to say that their parents weren’t in the exploiter class,” he said. Still, one of Dan’s classmates got expelled for having a parent who worked in management at an American company.

Students were forced to sing communist songs, and there were also gangs who beat up on kids who were deemed as belonging to the wrong class. “I had a teacher who taught us to sing a Marxist song. It was about hatred for the ‘ruling’ class—to beat up and kill the ruling class,” he said. “There was a guy in my class whose nickname was Tarzan—he was a bully and bullied anyone in the ‘exploiting class.’”

To get into construction college in Bucharest, Dan had to compete against 20 or so others by completing a written and oral exam whose results were separated between those of the working class and those of the bourgeoisie—the middle class—so they could be assessed differently. About 8 to 10 percent of those 20 students were considered bourgeoisie, while the other 90 percent were in the working class. “In that 10 percent, you had to get a 9.5 to 10 grade; the others were admitted when they had a grade 4 or higher,” he said.

Sometimes, even if a student did well in an exam, grades were given based on orders, such as in the case of Dan’s sister. “Doina took a written math exam, she got a 9; at the oral exam, they kicked her out because she was the daughter of a former colonel; ‘bandit’—she’s not allowed to go to college,” he said.

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Dan Novacovici (R) with his brother, Doru, and sister, Doina. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

Family members turning against each other was not uncommon. Dan’s adoptive brother, Gigi, whom Ticu adopted toward the end of the war, eventually became a socialist and turned against his adoptive father, despite everything he’d done for him. “He was about 12 years older than me, around 21 years old in 1944,” Dan said of Gigi. “He accused my father of being an exploiting capitalist.”

In recalling how Ticu had come to initially adopt the boy, Dan said his father was on his way home one day when he came upon a homeless kid on a wooden box; he had no parents. Ticu provided him with a home, food, and lodging. He later made him the boss of his construction company and he also sent him to school. “He even went to college, since he was considered a peasant worker,” Dan said.

The Fight for Freedom

Near the end of high school, around 1952, Dan and Doru, along with a group of friends, started an anti-communist poetry group. They would meet every week at his place, turn off the lights, have someone guard the door, and go into one of the rooms to discuss poems and novellas.

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Dan Novacovici at age 16, in 1952. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

During this time, his father was working on the border—in charge of protecting Bucharest, since he’d been reactivated in the military and reappointed as colonel—and was gone for two to three years. He returned in 1956 when the Hungarian revolution came and echoed in Romania. He said to his sons: “Make sure you don’t do anything and don’t speak with anyone, because there are a lot of people who are trying to get you because you’re my kids.”

However, Dan, his brother, and the others began putting notes in people’s mailboxes to encourage unity against the communists and to help keep up the morale. “I assured them that the Americans will come and free us,” Dan said. “I didn’t use the typewriter, because [the communists] followed exactly the model of the typewriters.” They couldn’t write by hand either, lest they be tracked by their handwriting, so they used rubber stamps from kids’ games.

“There was a 14-year-old kid who was sent to jail by his father, who came to be the one to sentence his child,” he said, indicating how imperative it was to not be found out, even by potentially disloyal family members. “The Russians left, but everyone was still in charge.”

An anti-communist resistance movement had formed in Romania in the late 1940s and held out for the most part until the mid 1950s; armed men took to the mountains, taking refuge in caves, to fight against the communist regime. Dan and his friends would go hiking to drop supplies and guns off to them. But “the mountain men were killed,” Dan said, when a Romanian prisoner of the Russian communists became part of the Securitate—the secret police—and was tasked with hunting the men down.

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Dan Novacovici and his friends take a trip to the Fagaras Mountains to bring supplies to men of the anti-communist resistance movement who were hiding in caves in the mountainous region, circa 1948–1950. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

“He dressed as a priest and he went to the villages saying he wanted to help the mountain folks,” Dan said. “Those people trusted him and would tell him where people were hiding. He would send groups to kill them directly. He was counter information, so he was also spying on the spies. In Romania, he could arrest anyone and get him killed—up to the level of ministers.”

Dan’s small poetry society was similarly tricked when a communist informant nuzzled his way into the group after they’d put feelers out for more members in hopes of extending their group.

“One of the ones in the group, who was a great writer, Paul, was a former legionary,” Dan said. “In principle, legionaries were nationalists and loved their country, so we assumed that he would be on our side. He was the traitor.”

Members of the group had recruited Paul believing that as an ultra-nationalist and religious man who’d been jailed for standing up to the communists, he’d be the last person to “rat people out.” He had all the names of the group’s members and their planned actions, which he gave to the Securitate. In 1959, Dan and the others were arrested.

“[We] found out after that, Paul, when he originally went to jail, was freed on the condition that he would give away 8 to 10 people by the end of the year—or else he would be sent back to jail,” Dan said.

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Dan Novacovici and his friends during a trip to the Fagaras Mountains, circa 1948–1950. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)
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Dan Novacovici and his friends during a trip to the Fagaras Mountains, circa 1948–1950. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

The Gulags

Dan was 23 when he was arrested in October 1959, and in February 1960, he was sentenced to 5 years of forced labor followed by 5 more years of no civil rights. “I was condemned for planned crimes against the ‘social order,’” he said. But before his sentencing, the torture had already begun.

“I was put in a room and sat in a corner … in the other corner was an interrogator. Then they start with the interrogation—‘Bandit, did you do this?’—if you said no, he would beat you up, then he would ring the bell and two others would come and take you to the next room and beat you up. If, when that was done, you could walk, they would put you back in the cell; if not, they would throw you on a blanket and drag you back to the cell.”

That first day after his arrest, the interrogator beat him so much that he lost most of his top and bottom teeth, with only two or three still left and the rest dangling from their nerves. “The pain was so much that I didn’t feel the rest of the beatings that day,” Dan said.

Periodically, they were taken out of their cells to be interrogated and beaten, and they weren’t allowed to speak to each other. When his sentencing was finalized, he was to be sent to Jilava prison to be processed.

“Before leaving, they called me in and they asked me to share if I heard anyone speaking negatively about them in jail, and if I agreed, I would be back in college in two to three weeks,” he said. “I said, ‘I wouldn’t remember if I heard anything,’ and the guy said, ‘no problem, you can just tell [on] your colleague.’ I said I couldn’t do that.”

Following four months at Jilava—a fort established by King Carol I of Romania to protect Bucharest that had now been transformed into a prison by the Russian communists—Dan was sent to Luciu Giurgeni on the Danube river, and put on a boat called Girond, a floating gulag.

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Dan Novacovici (L) at age 27, with his father and sister, a few months after being freed from the gulags in 1963. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

“We would have forced labor, in the rice fields from morning until night, with leaches that clung on to us while we worked,” he said.

One time, Dan made a mistake when a guard asked him to lift a hatch in the barracks; he was supposed to slide it across, not lift it. “The guard took me and beat me up, then put me in isolation—a metal box with no window,” he said. “I couldn’t eat or drink. I stayed [there] three days.”

After about two to three months, everyone on the boat was sent to Gradina, in Balta Brailei. It was another gulag. Each person had to dig out 10 cubic meters of dirt each day and, with a wheelbarrow, transport it all up to the pier. “By the end of the day, everyone was so tired that we linked arms to be able to walk back,” Dan said.

The guards monitored each prisoner to make sure they achieved the quota of dirt each day. “The persons who didn’t [achieve the quota] would stay at the door when they came back at the end of the day; they would take off their clothes, sit down, and get beaten with braided wire,” he said.

Eventually, Dan dropped to a weight of 64 pounds (29 kilograms) and was transferred to a working group of older people and people who were expected to die soon. A fellow in the group, Titu, once attempted to bring food to Dan, but Titu was caught and got beaten up by the guards.

Freedom in America

Dan was freed from the gulag after an international convention held in the spring of 1963 obliged Romania to send political prisoners home. “They said, ‘You’re free, you can’t talk about anything you did, you’re free to do whatever you want,’” Dan recalled the gulag’s guards saying. “‘No obligation, you just can’t talk about what happened,’” At the time he was released, he had a shaved head and a mustache so long that it wrapped around his ears.

Ten years later, in 1973, Dan married Emilia, and their daughter was born soon after.

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Dan Novacovici and his wife, Emilia, on their wedding day in 1973. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

In 1980, determined to expose communism’s true face to the world but unable to do so from within Romania, which was still under Soviet rule, he decided to leave the country. The family immigrated to France as political refugees. There, Dan joined a prisoners-of-war organization in Paris and successfully lobbied the European Union (EU) to prevent a deal that would allow Romania to export its food.

“There were stocks of meat, pork, and cheese from Romania that was getting ready for massive export,” he said. “A country who has cartels for food—meaning that the food was rationed—should not be able to sell to the EU when they are not giving that food to their own people.” As a result of Dan’s efforts, the food stocks were placed in the Romanian markets.

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Dan Novacovici on his terrace in Bucharest, Romania, not long before leaving for France, in 1980. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)
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Dan Novacovici with his wife, Emilia, and daughter, Anca, in France, circa 1982. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

In 1983, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where Dan started a residential construction and inspection business. He immediately began working on helping to free Romanians from communism, and since then has done everything in his power to expose the evils of communist ideology.

From 1984 to about 1995, he wrote almost daily for various Romanian newspapers. “I had my own column in a Romanian New York newspaper in which I provided information about people who were in prison so that people could find their families,” he said. “Communism took everyone at night and they disappeared and no one knew where they were after.”

Dan helped create and was the U.S. representative for the Worldwide Union of Free Romanians. He was also instrumental in getting Romania into NATO, and has been a huge support to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), helping the organization educate the world about what communism really is and telling his story in a moving video.

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Dan Novacovici (R) with his wife at the fourth congress of the Worldwide Union of Free Romanians, held in Romania  for the first time in 1994. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

Today, Dan calls on all Americans and the world’s people to “wake up” and see the evidence all around that communism is right here in the West. “There are too many people who are financially involved and don’t think far ahead to the repercussions of following the party line,” he said.

“The creation of the ‘Ministry of Truth’ and a disinformation section of Homeland Security is also clearly suppressing freedom of speech. In social media, [people are] being de-platformed for saying things that don’t agree with the main narrative. The declaration that Republicans are terrorists by the Democrats makes you scared to speak out or say that you’re Republican. … Attorneys change the laws in various states to fit the narrative … the definitions of basic words are being changed to fit the narrative.”

Whenever some truth is stated, Dan said, an opposing piece of media shows up providing a bit of truth, then falsifying the rest. And then, there’s technology to follow you and track your information and data. “It is much easier than under the old-school communism, where they sent people to your house to bug the phone,” he said. “Now, large companies do it and share it with the government.”

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Dan Novacovici. (Courtesy of Dan Novacovici)

What advice does the gulag survivor have for his fellow Americans and the rest of the world? “Don’t listen to mainstream media,” he says. “Most of it across the West says the same thing using the same words; that is not coincidence, it is brainwashing. … Ask questions and do your own research—check multiple sources. This closed mindset has been introduced and is working very well—there is no room for discussion or disagreement; everything is politicized.

“Communism is a cancer on humanity. It’s a cancer that is moving quickly. You can only stop it by thinking, logically, what is good for people—not what someone tells you is good, but what you think is good for you.”

Peta Evans
Peta Evans is a writer for The Epoch Times. She covers inspiring stories about people, tradition, and human rights.
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