In the year 1828, Oltenia was the war theater of a new confrontation between the Russians and the Turks. Finding out about the outbreak of the armed conflict, for fear of the Turkish invasion, ruler Grigorie Dimitrie Ghica-vodă left Bucharest, retiring for more than a month in the mountains, in Brasov. Starting from these events, the collective memory retained a legend that speaks of the bravery of three pandours leaders, who remained to defend the region and defeated the Turks in Băilești.
Legend says that there were several brave troops of pandours in Oltenia, who had repeatedly fought against the Turks. Among them, the bravest were Solomon, Magheru and Ciupagea. When they learned the news that a new war broke out between the Russians and the Turks, but especially that the country’s ruler fled into the mountains, they understood they should be the sword that defended Oltenia from the pagans. Gorceacov, general major of the Russian army, was placed under the command, being the first Moskal to arrive in Craiova, along with his soldiers, to fight against the Turks.
At the end of June 1828, Major General Gorceacov was replaced by General Gheismar. Under his command, the Russian troops and the brave pandours of Solomon, Magheru and Ciupagea arrived near the Danube. Wanting to advance to Calafat, they were stopped near the village of Băilești, where the Turks had made a well-fortified camp. It is said that 15,000 Turks from Vidin, led by Ceapanoglu, equipped with powerful artillery, had been stationed in Băilești.
After the Russians and our pandours installed their camp, General Gheismar gathered in his tent Ciupagea with his troop of pandours to set up how to expel the Turks from Băilești in order to continue on their way to Calafat. Throughout the night they made plans and combat strategies, following which at dawn the preparations began.
Said and done. From the first light of day, the Russian soldiers began to make the preparations necessary and to drink a shot of vodka, to take courage in the battle. Only the pandours do not put alcohol on their tongue, because they know that it gives you courage, but it also makes you dizzy in the head and is hard on your hands and feet. Among them, Captain Ciupagea spoke to them once before the battle began:
– Oltenian pandours, let’s show to the Turks and Russians what we are made of! Pay attention to me and, where you will see me heading, throw yourself there. Also pay attention to the command of the Moskals generals, although we understand it with difficulty. But you have to know that, whatever the command, to win we need more courage. And if you go ahead with God and fight for our land, your courage will not leave you!
Immediately the trumpets which announced the beginning of the battle began to ring and it was not long until the gun salute of the Russian batteries. Groups of Russian grenadiers began to advance towards Băilești, and Ciupagea’s pandours started to attack from the right flank of the Russian army. Only a few moments did the Turks need to start the counter-offensive. The 30 cannons placed on a hill, near the village, caused great damage among the Moskals. The most part of the Turkish army went out to meet the Russians and the pandours, in deafening noise, fire and smoke and death.
The fight had not even started, when, suddenly, from some forest clusters surrounding the Turkish camp, the Turkish cavalry emerged on both sides. General Gheismar seeing that the horses of the Turks approached rapidly, he began to shout to the officers near them:
– We are lost! We are surrounded by the Turks!
Seeing the fate of the Turks return, the horse stopped and cried out the withdrawal of Russian troops: Nazat! Nazat! Hearing the order, from the officer to the last Moskal began to shout in the choir: Nazat! Nazat! Through the noise of the battle, the cries on the right flank reach the ears of Ciupagea captain. While weighing the fate of the battle, he turned to the pandours who looked at him attentively and gave them the order!
– The time has come, children! The general calls us: At the village! At the village, my pandours!
And without stopping to look at how the great Russian army makes its way back, raising clouds of dust behind it, so loudly that Moskals’ heels run, Ciupagea’s pandours advanced towards the middle of the battle towards Băilești. The Turkish cavalry did not reach them to seize them from the flanks, because the pandours had also encountered the first lines of janissaries, knocking them to the ground. It was the Turkish Pasha who, hearing the signal of the withdrawal of the Russians, had given the order of the jannisaries to stop the assault. Now, however, observing how his army was felling like flies in the face of the bravery of the pandours, he thought that instead of catching the Russians with the attack of the Turkish cavalry, they fell into a trap. Without spending too much time on his thoughts, he also called the withdrawal signal.
Meanwhile, General Gheismar, safely withdrawn near the Russian camp, looked on the battlefield and saw the pandours clinging to the battle. Believing they had not heard the order of withdrawal, he sent a soldier to announce them.
– Nazat! Nazat!, the Moskal cried to the pandours.
– Yes, in the village! Answered Ciupagea from the heat of battle.
And again, the brave pandour turned to bring down some of the Turks who surrounded him.
Observing, then, Gheismar, that their luck smiled on the battlefields and that the Turks made the announcement of withdrawal, he also ordered the return of the Russian army to the front. Thus, the Moskals dropped behind the Turkish cavalry, which they chased towards the waters of the Danube. With their victory, the pandour Ciupagea hoist again the Romanian flag in Băilești.
After the dust calmed down and the Russians and the pandours returned to their camp, General Gheismar summoned Ciupagea to him in his tent. With the help of an officer who knew Romanian, he asked the pandour:
– You fought valiantly today! Thanks to you, today the fate of the war has returned. But one thing I want to know: when I gave the withdrawal signal and shouted Nazat!, Did you not understand what I ordered?
– I understood, General! I also sent the message to my pandours in Romanian, what you ordered: In the village! In the village!
Hearing such words, the Russian general laughed a lot and marveled. And, taking the Order of Saint Vladimir from his chest, he put it in the chest of the pandour Ciupagea, saying to him:
– Receive this decoration from me! You deserve it for your bravery, but also for how you translated Nazat! into Romanian!
· Delia Damirescu, “From the Legends of the Romanians”. Ion Creangă Publishing House, Bucharest, 1990