In my last post, I explained how Sam Buliga graduated high school in Communist Romania despite the constant ridicule of teachers and students and the incessant harassment toward he and his family by the Securitate, the Romanian Secret Police. These thugs had assured Sam’s father that because he did not become an informant for them, his son would not finish high school and a University education was certainly not possible. They came to him after Sam graduated high school and said, “See, we could be very significant to you. We could get your son into the University. See what it has cost you not to work for us?”
Sam explained to me that during this time in Romania (1970-1989) one third of the population worked for the Secret Police. Even among church member friends, they did not know who was an informer for the Securitate. The informants were provided money, a better life for their children, plenty of food and a guarantee that their children would graduate from the University.
Sam had his sights set on graduating from the University and he tried to ignore these evil people. He says, “To be able to enter the University was like I was entering the realm of a kingdom. People would look at me differently, with a sense of respect. But to achieve this was like trying to climb Mount Everest, all on my own, and completely unprepared.”
Sam and his wife, Valetta, tell me that the education system was very corrupt at the University level. To be accepted, a very difficult examination was required. There were 70 seats available and 700 students seeking them. Sam’s choice of study was Economics/Accounting so his entrance exam would consist of Mathematics, Geography and Political Economics. There were two ways to enter this level of education: you had to be either brilliant or wealthy. If you were brilliant you would do well as a student. If you had a lot of money to pay the authorities, they would arrange for you to pass. Very simple.
“Since I didn’t have any money, my only solution was to study hard,” Sam remembers. “So, I started to pray and decided to enroll myself in this almost impossible endeavor, totally on my own. My father would not even believe this would come to pass. Being alone made me realize my total dependence on God and solidified my faith and trust in Him who could make the impossible possible.”
For the next few months Sam prepared and studied intensely for the very difficult entrance examination. The Mathematics and Geography were easy to master for him, but the Political Economics was dreadful because he hated the terminologies and concepts and methods of Socialism and Communism. Sam said, “That’s why it was so hard for me to retain this nonsense material.”
The big day of testing finally arrived. “I went and did my best. Now the waiting was worse than the exams! So, I prayed and prayed and prayed some more.” The test results were posted in two weeks and Sam went to look for his name on the lists of those that were accepted and those that were not.
Because of his situation, he first went the very bottom of the “Accepted” list. He worked his way up the list a bit and, not finding his name, went to the “Not Accepted” list. He was not on that list. Frustrated, he hesitatingly looked at the top of the first list and there it was – Sam Buliga, number three on the list! Sam gratefully acknowledges, “This was because of the Lord! I didn’t know what to do – whether to cry or scream for joy!”
When the Secret Police came back around to Sam’s pastor father, he boldly told them, “Sam was number three on the accepted list and I didn’t work for you.” They arrogantly proclaimed, “This was a mistake. But he will not finish the University. We will come after him.”
As Sam registered for classes, he was required to register as a Baptist. There was one other young man that was Pentecostal and everyone else in the school was atheist. It was this way for the five years that Sam was there.
Every professor in every subject found a way to constantly mock Christianity. Sam says, “The Secret Police turned all the professors against me. I worked really hard and they gave me bad grades.” His accounting professor addressed him as “priest.” “Priest,” he would say with a sneer, “can’t explain God or our existence. How could God bring the universe into existence in six days?” Day after day he would continue to pester and mock.
“One day I decided to answer him,” Sam said. As the class began, the mocking began, “Do you have any answers for us today?” Sam said, “I said ‘I will answer today’ and then I started reading Genesis 1, how God created the heavens and earth.” The professor surprisingly remarked, “I can’t believe it! You are reading the Bible in the University! I have never heard of anyone reading the Bible in an Atheist University until now. You are quite courageous, Buliga. ” Sam answered, “Well, you wanted an answer, so I give you an answer.”
This man had never read the Bible and he was fascinated. “You were not allowed to read the Bible. I did and he was fascinated. From that day on, he never said another word to me.” The professor commented to Sam, “Buliga, I respect you. I don’t believe it, but I respect you.”
Sam proclaims, “This was God! During this era, it was impossible for this to happen. Romania at that time was like North Korea and Iran are today. It was like living in a box. The only place you could go outside the country was to Russia. The Police would issue your passport, then take it from you upon return. There was persecution and there was no freedom.”
While at the University Sam encountered many adversities like this. He says that these times made him a stronger Christian and more dependent on the Lord. He continued in weekend and Wednesday evening Bible studies with the Christian students.
A couple of Americans with Christian books and literature came to Romania and they were told to find Sam. He met with one of them in the American’s house late one evening. “The next morning, the Secret Police came to my apartment,” Sam remembers. “They arrested me and took me to the police station.” This arrest involved relentless interrogation, but also physical abuse and frightening threats.
Upon entering the room, the Secret Police officer shouted, “What is your problem, donkey brain!? You shamed the Romanian Communist Party! How dare you!” Sam began to speak, but the officer said, “Shut up and sit down, stupid! Write on this paper exactly what I am telling you to write!” Sam asked, “What do you want me to write, sir?” The officer replied, “That you are a traitor of this magnificent country! That you met with Americans and sold Romanian secrets to them!” Sam responded, “I will write no such thing, sir.”
At this point, the officer became very angry and began beating Sam over the head, bloodying his nose. Sam cried, “Why are you beating me!?” The angry officer replied, “You don’t know who you are messing with! If you don’t shut up, I’ll take you to the basement where you will be tortured! So, sit down and write!” Sam held his ground, “I will write the truth, not what you tell me to.”
The physical attack continued and Sam stood up and avoided him by keeping the table between them. They danced around it for a while and finally after hours of this kind of interrogation Sam was released because they did not have enough evidence to place him in jail. But Sam expressed, “My life was never the same anymore. I realized that I must be very careful of who I was talking to and what kind of statements I was making, since those determined my future. I thank God for my friends who encouraged me all the way and helped me tremendously.”
After this incident, Sam had a Secret Police guard assigned to him twenty-four hours each day. He followed Sam wherever he went; restaurants, grocery shopping, church, everywhere. One day Sam decided to lose him. He exited out the rear of a shop, caught a trolley and waved to the Secret Police as he passed him by. (Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.)
After graduation, Sam obtained a very good job in the same city, Timisoara, where the University is located. It involved much travel and Sam enjoyed his job very much. “I made good money and became very well established. I was able to visit many churches throughout the country, which enabled me to come in contact with American missionaries.”
In 1986 Sam was introduced to four American Campus Crusade for Christ men. Sam and twelve of his friends began meeting with these men for Bible study and to learn how to study the Bible. They began meeting secretly at a mountain location in the woods. The second meeting was abruptly interrupted by the police. They had been turned in by a fellow Romanian, later to be found out to have said they were meeting in secret to create an insurrection and to improvise a plan of escape.
They were all arrested and the Americans were taken to the border and banned from returning to Romania. “All thirteen of us had to walk ten kilometers back to the police station, while the two police followed in a car.” They had two hours to walk and Sam says, “We had enough time to talk among ourselves, preparing what to say, knowing what was about to unfold before us.”
They were interrogated for twenty-four hours continually, first as a group and then they were split up and each man was questioned individually. “They tried to turn each of us against the others. But we knew the tactics and no one gave anyone up. At last they let us go after excruciatingly endless hours, because they could not find any substantial evidence to incriminate us.”
A friend of Sam’s passed a note to the U.S. Ambassador in Bucharest, explaining that Sam was under a lot of persecution. Sam received an invitation to meet with the Ambassador. Sam says, “My mistake was to write down everything that had happened to me the past ten years, not knowing that it would escalate my situation to total chaos.” But at the gate to the Embassy were Romanian guards. They searched him and found the note.
Sam remembers that he was arrested and suddenly, “a multitude of police cars began arriving and causing a lot of turmoil. It was like I was the biggest criminal in the world. I was handcuffed and escorted into police custody.” Later two men took Sam to the train station, where they would all travel to Timisoara, and meet the head of the Securitate for intense interrogations. Sam now was regarded to be a huge threat to the country of Romania.
As we close this post, I would just like to encourage all my readers to take to heart what Sam Buliga is telling us. He lived in the Communist/Socialist climate for the first twenty-nine years of his life. He experienced the atrocities and persecutions that we in the West only hear about. He knows firsthand how devastating the Communist system is to the respect of the individual and to the freedoms we hold dear, and I am afraid they are blessings that we take for granted.
My encouragement to all is to stand firm on truth and, as the Apostle Paul said in the book of Ephesians, “Stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”