Priests from Colacu village, Fundu Moldovei commune, Suceava county, officiated on June 4 a memorial service for the rest of the soul of lawyer Traian Popovici, a former mayor of Chernivtsi and the first Romanian to receive the title of Righteous Among the Nations.
The memorial service marking Traian Popovici’s 75th death anniversary was attended by Col. (r.) Dan Prisăcaru from the National Military Museum “King Ferdinand I”, Col. Romeo-Aurelian Popovici, the commander of the National Military College “Stephen the Great” from Câmpulung, Father Constantin Cătălin Cârloanţ, military priest at the college, Tudor Zdrob, mayor of Fundu Moldovei commune, professors and believers.
In 1969, Traian Popovici was the first Romanian to be recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel. He received post-mortem Israeli citizenship and a tree was planted in the garden of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in his honour. The Tel Aviv municipality dedicated a monument to Traian Popovici.
When the decision to deport all Jews from Chernivtsi was announced, mayor Popovici tried to convince the governor of Bukovina and other decision-makers that the war production of Chernivtsi would be severely affected by the absence of Jews from the city.
Without caring about the consequences and the ironies, Traian Popovici managed to obtain directly from General Antonescu the omission from deportation of 20,000 of the 50,000 Jews in the city.
For several hundred persons, the mayor created a new category of exceptions, exceeding his prerogatives, which would later bring him an investigation and the loss of office.
Traian Popovici died in Colacu village, Suceava county, on June 4, 1946.
“As for me, if I deserved this strength not to give in to the current, to oppose it, to be master of my will, to face the great, to be with a human word, it is not my merit,” Traian Popovici wrote in his memoirs, entitled Confession (Spovedania).
“It is the merit of all the generations of priests from whom I come and who taught me what it is to love people; it is the merit of all the teachers from the high school in Suceava, who raised me in the light of beautiful virtues.”
Since 2002, a street in Bucharest’s Sector 3 is named after Traian Popovici.
The Yad Vashem Memorial lists 53 Romanians who received the title of Righteous Among the Nations. The list includes Queen Mother Helen of Romania, who sent aid to deportees from Transnistria and obtained the repatriation of thousands of them in 1944, including thousands of Jewish orphans.
Photography courtesy of Facebook / Florentin Lehaci
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