Note: The text was compiled from the memories of Stefan Hadjiu of the stories his grandfather, Ion Necolai Agiu, medic on board the NMS Delfinul submarine used to tell. He passed away in 2000.
Ion Neculai Agiu (Hadjiu Ivan Nicolaevici, according to the Soviet passport) was born in Barta village, Izmail county. He was persecuted by the communists after the war and had to leave his natal village, settling in Vadul lui Isac village, Cahul county, in Bessarabia, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Ion Agiu started his service in the Navy on board of NMS Constanta, but he was recruited in the crew of NMS Delfinul submarine from the day it was launched at Fiume, Italy, on 5 May 1936. The crew of the Delfinul was made up of handpicked men. They had to pass many tests: high jumps in water, underwater swimming for long distances, quick mental mathematical calculations etc. At Navy Days, the crew was present to demonstrate their extraordinary skills (photo).
In the Black Sea, the Delfinul was one of the ships that created a lot of problems for the Soviet fleet (the Chernomorsky Flot). The captain was courageous and determined man, who could take quick decisions, like when they opened fire with the gun on a surfaced Soviet submarine (in July 1941). His saying was : "Determined as the lion, deceiving as the fox and cautious as the cat". This is why the Delfinul managed to survive over one year of war.
Ion Agiu was the crew's medic, but he took part at all the military maneuvers, like the rest of the sailors. He had an important place on the ship, as he tended the crew's health. The captain had to call off the mission, whether he declared quarantine. He was in very good relations with the captain, who also liked him very much. The captain had serious heart problems, and Ion Agiu saved his life no less than five times.
Life aboard the submarine was tough. The sailors' feet were always swollen and bruised from the metal stairs they had to climb constantly. When they had to make emergency dives, the entire crew ran through the ship's compartments in the diving direction. The crew lived under pressure, the noise of keel touching a bank of sand causing inability to sleep. The meal aboard the submarine was good, consisting of meat, exotic fruits, German and Italian jam. One did not ask questions aboard the ship, only executed the orders. They had an iron discipline. If the captain slapped a sailor, he had to turn the other cheek right away. But on land, they were allowed to have more fun than the other services, to relieve the stress. Many of times they caused scandals in the bars and restaurants they entered.
After Delfinul's last mission (in July 1942), the ship entered general repairs because of the damages suffered from the explosion of many depth charges around it. Ion Agiu said it was a real nightmare. During the "cat and mouse" game with the Soviet destroyers, the sailors sweat abundantly. Because of the underwater explosions, inside the ship bulbs and pipes broke, instruments malfunctioned and they had to repair all of these at open sea. In those moments all they could think about was to return home safely.
Ion Agiu was then transferred to another ship: the Alba Iulia. During April 1944, Alba Iulia took part in the evacuation of German and Romanian military in Crimea. On 18 April 1944, 1220 hours, four Soviet bombers attacked the ship, followed at 1237 hours by other five bombers. One of the bombs fell in the side of the ship, causing a hole below the waterline, while another bomb hit the magazine in front of the command deck. In the same time, the aircraft machinegunned the decks full of soldiers. The sailors started to fight with the water, plucking the hole with bags of wool. The ship leaned on one side and, in the panic that occurred, the captain ordered the men to abandon the ship. At the rescue of the sailors and soldiers in water came Ghiculescu gunboad and two German R-Boot. In the area the destroyer Marasti was maneuvering, but it could not approach due to danger of air and submarine attacks. The water was very cold and the rescue boat was a long distance away. Ion Agiu jumped into the water with his sailor woolen coat on him. It was quickly filled with water and started to pull him down. He had to make his way through the bodies which had risen to the surface of the water face down and in the same time to defend himself from the living who were desperately grabbing on him and cried out for their mothers, wives or children. He was in a very good physical shape and being a sea dog from the Delfinul, he was among the few that made it to safety. He climbed up the rope, but when he got up he did not have enough strength to rise over the board. He thought that it was the end. He looked down and beneath him on the rope there was a German sailor that told him to put his foot on his shoulder. With this help he was able to get on board. But when he turned to help his comrade, he wasn't anymore on the rope. He had fallen in the water and did not surface again. When he was swimming in the ice-cold water he prayed to God and promised that if he got away he would serve Him. Thus, after the war ended he became a preacher. The Alba Iulia did not sink. Abandoned to the waves for one day, it was towed by the destroyer Regele Ferdinand to Constanta.
He returned to Bessarabia after it had been annexed by the Soviet Union. Ion Agiu remained until the end of his life an enemy of the Communists, whom he never feared. He preserved his language and could not be Russified, like many Romanians there, except in his Soviet IDs, remaining faithful to the flag and King he had served.