I Live Again by Ileana, Princess of Romania
THE TWENTY-THIRD of August, 1944, dawned and passed as did the days immediately before it, with no more uneasiness than usual. I was getting ready for bed when the telephone in my room rang, and the excited voice of the operator said:
"Domnitza! They have made peace! There is no more war—it is over!"
I could not grasp what she said at first. No what? "Listen to the radio!" she insisted.
I ran to Anton and we turned the radio on, to hear an announcement that the King had informed the people an armistice had been agreed upon. Soon we heard his own quiet voice giving the news, in an official message which I have translated informally into English for you:
I listened with mixed feelings. It was something I could not actually believe in. Why was the injustice of taking Transylvania from us mentioned, while no word was said of Bessarabia and Bucovina, which had been torn away with equal ruthlessness? Receive the soldiers of the Russian army with confidence? I remembered what they had been like in World War I, when they had been our "comrades-in-arms" and had not had thirty years of Bolshevik training. I remembered the uninterrupted flow of fleeing refugees from Russia to Romania, and what they had had to say of the Communist regime. "With confidence?" In what? I wondered.
But the fighting at least was over—I thought. Thank God for that! And of course it would not only be the Russians who were to be received; the other Allies would soon be here too, to see that even in her humiliation Romania would receive a fair trial. How had Michael done it? Where was he? Was he safe? What of the Germans? Had they capitulated? Where did Romania stand? Everyone in the house was soon around us, each taking the news in his own way, with his own private doubts, fears, and hopes.
I decided to try to call Michael or Sitta. I was anxious about them, and I wanted to feel nearer them at this extraordinary moment. I asked for the Sinaia Palace, but the operator told me neither the King nor the Queen was there. I tried Bucarest, but I was unable to reach them there either. A cold fear entered my heart, but I pushed it away. Of course, at a moment like this they would not feel they could talk or communicate even with their own family. It had been stupid of me to try.
I could not know then that Michael, alone with his aide-de-camp, was driving across the country to the comparative safety of the western provinces, uncertain of what either the Russians or the Germans would do. Or that his mother drove also through that night with a friend, not knowing whether or not she would find her son at the appointed place; ignorant of how things had gone with him after the arrest of Antonescu and the declaration of the Armistice. What was in their hearts? I never asked. I feel a certain awe before the emotions of others, and I have never wanted to intrude. In fact, I have always avoided knowing more of such hours than I was forced to; this was not from any lack of sympathy or from cowardice, but from the respect for another's privacy.
I was not a witness to what happened in Bucarest. That is today a matter of official history, and can be found in books treating of this subject, one of which I have already mentioned. Since even now I cannot understand why certain decisions were taken, I can only state the facts themselves, as I have been able to discover them. From my own knowledge I can relate what happened to us—a handful of people in a mountain valley; but so that you may understand these experiences I will list only the barest outline of certain facts which are a matter of record.
On the afternoon of August 23, Marshal Antonescu was arrested at the Palace in Bucarest and turned over to guards who were members of the Communist Party, a party at that time numbering less than one thousand members in all of Romania, according to figures later announced by Ana Pauker. From that moment he disappeared from view until his trial, two years later. At the time of his arrest a new government was announced, which stood from August 23 to November 4, and which was headed by General Sanatescu. It was a military rule, but included as ministers of state without portfolio the heads of the four political parties: Iuliu Maniu, of the National Peasant Party; Dinu Bratianu, of the Liberals; C. Titel Petrescu, of the Social Democrats; and Lucretsiu Patrascanu, of the Communists. Patrascanu was also named minister of justice. When the second government, which lasted from November 4 to December 7, was formed, it was still headed by General Sanatescu, but it was a political government. Three-fifths of its members represented the National Peasant Party and the Liberals, and two-fifths represented the so-called National Democratic Front, which was a union of Communists, Socialists, and others. The "Front" retained the Department of Justice, while the former group of three-fifths of the members was given the Department of the Interior.
In the meantime, on the night of August 23, General Gerstenberg and General Hansen of the German army signed at the palace in Bucarest an "Accord" which provided for the peaceful evacuation of the German troops in Romania. On the next morning, August 24, acting on orders received directly from Hitler's headquarters in Berlin, the German army began to attack Romanian forces at various points, and bombarded Bucarest itself at frequent intervals, using the German-held airfields at the very gates of the city. At 4:00 P.M. that day, therefore, the Romanian government issued a proclamation stating that the Germans had violated the Accord signed barely twenty-four hours earlier, and had therefore put themselves into a state of war with Romania.
This created terrible individual situations, for here stood comrades who had fought side by side a terrible common enemy, and were now ordered to turn and kill one another. There were heartrending scenes and farewells before each turned away to do his duty by his country. In many places, wherever it was possible, a battle was avoided, and as usual the men themselves often did not understand for a long time what had gone on in the higher echelons to bring about this state of affairs.
In the same way we did not immediately hear what was happening as the Russian army crossed our borders, to be received "with confidence." As our army met them peacefully, ceasing "all fighting and any act of hostility against the Soviet army," according to instructions, the Russians imprisoned each regiment and sent it to Russia. Town after town the Russians announced triumphantly they had "captured"; and they continued to "capture" unresisting, bewildered towns, and to take as prisoners of war unresisting, bewildered regiments until the armistice was finally signed—in Moscow, with only Malinovsky signing for the Allies, and the Soviet High Command designated to "represent" the Allies—on September 12. Eventually a part of the Romanian army, hearing what was happening and yet unable to disobey our own government and turn and fight the Russians, itself forced to flee from our advancing Russian "friends," to avoid being made prisoners of war after hostilities had officially ceased. Meanwhile other Romanian soldiers had driven the Germans out of Bucarest, as they were in a brief time to drive all German troops from Romania, and then to join battle with the Allies against the Hungarians.
The first Americans to arrive in Bucarest were a small group of journalists, who came in on August 25 with a group of Americans prepared to evacuate American war prisoners—the air crews who had been shot down in the bombing of the oil fields. As I have heard at first hand several times since my arrival in the United States, these prisoners had been exceptionally well treated, and they were now promptly flown out by their comrades, assisted by Romanian pilots. Apparently the American airmen felt no particular "confidence" in the advancing Russian army. There were friends of mine in Bucarest who saw the planes fly off, and expected confidently that the same planes would return at once, bringing American officials empowered to assist in carrying out arrangements; but no officials except Russians arrived until after the armistice was signed, on September 12, and then they were given no power in the Soviet High Command.
In the meantime, between August 23 and September 12, the Russian "friends" of Romania, received "with confidence," had captured and sent to Russia as prisoners of war one hundred thirty thousand Romanian soldiers.
—This made, according to figures in the possession of the Romanian General Staff, a total of approximately 320,000 Romanian prisoners taken by the Russian army (the Russians claimed to have taken 500,000) besides 100,000 Romanian prisoners who had been serving in the Hungarian army. Of these 420,000 prisoners of war, the Soviet authorities have declared that 50,000 are dead. No names were listed for these. Approximately 190,000 were repatriated, at various times, leaving 180,000 still in captivity. In 1948 the so-called "Romanian People's Republic" issued a decree announcing that all inhabitants of Romania who had disappeared outside the national territory during the war "are presumed to be dead." This means that the puppet Romanian government can no longer ask the Soviet Union any embarrassing questions about its prisoners of war. Political prisoners, which include other hundreds of thousands of Romanian civilians deported to slave labor in Russia, are of course beyond the pale. No Communist-controlled government would ever dream of inquiring about them!
So much for a bare outline of events on the national level which occurred during the fall of 1944. My present knowledge of most of them came much later. Some facts I did not learn for several years, some I learned only after I had left Romania. In a small, partially isolated part of the country I had my family and my hospital work to take care of, which fully occupied my time. Furthermore, this work was for a time doubly hard and dangerous, and I was less free to ask questions, because I discovered to my sorrow and dismay what my "official" status was, so far as many of those highly placed were concerned.
The morning of August 24 dawned clear and peaceful, after a night when I imagine few people slept much. It seemed strange and incongruous that everything looked just the same. I suddenly thought of the Russian/ prisoners who were helping to construct the hospital, but I found them at work as usual, with no change of expression. I would have expected elation, but I was so grateful they were willing to go on that I did not think much about their reasons. Later, I was to understand.
I went up to the annex of Bran Poarta and found everyone at his post, although full of excitement and questioning. Noelle and I decided it might be good to cut down on rations, and to store up whatever food we could. There might be upheavals ahead, even at the best, and we were responsible for feeding men unable to care for themselves. I telephoned to Brasov, and since all was quiet there I decided not to leave Bran. I was anxious about my husband and children, as well as Frau Koller and Gretl, for, as I have said, they were all considered legally Germans. By this time we had heard that the Germans were being given time to leave peaceably, and therefore we knew they had not capitulated to the Allies, or joined in the armistice announced by the King.
The following days were a continual torture of uncertainty and wild rumors. We heard that the Germans had received orders to fight; that Bucarest was being bombed. We heard that Romanians were now to fight the Germans. We heard that our army was running for its life before the Russians, because Russian "friends" were imprisoning them.
In our own small valley these rumors were reflected in no end of pain and worry. The first of the Germans left Brasov without a fight, but in the Buzau Pass, not many miles from Brasov, a battle was raging. Since all available regular soldiers had been sent to Moldavia, men had to be gathered quickly from everywhere. Even the boys from the infantry school in Targoviste, about thirty-five difficult, mountain miles from Bran, were sent by forced marches to join the battle. One morning these untrained boys—some of them almost children—began struggling into Bran, footsore and completely exhausted. We mobilized every car and truck and driver; even Stefan, then barely twelve, was drafted into service. We picked up the boys from as far along the road as possible, and loaded in the knapsacks of those who seemed least footsore and could be left to walk. Meanwhile the Y.W.C.A., who had a lovely camp in Bran in a house given them by my mother, hastily prepared food for them, and water to wash their feet. We collected bandages from everywhere we could, and since by this time more drivers had volunteered, I could leave my car and help attend to the boys' feet.—I must here confess that if there is anything that turns my stomach it is feet. I understood that day what Christ's example meant, and I did my best in a Christian spirit to overcome my weakness. At least I overcame it so that I could go on with the job, but it is one of the things that still takes all my will to overcome. Why? It is foolish, but there it is. It is so!
Just when I felt my back would break, and that I must somehow take a little rest, I looked up to see Nadeje in the doorway, looking worn and harassed.
"The Germans have started fighting in Brasov," she said. "People are losing their heads; all the patients who can move themselves, and part of the staff, are on their way here by whatever means they can manage. I hurried ahead to give you a little warning, but I must get back as soon as possible to my daughter and her baby. Where on earth can you put them up?"
Where indeed! I thought. Again the Y.W.C.A. secretaries volunteered to help by taking some. I went to Bran Poarta and got Noelle, who rounded up the other women on her "staff." To say that the work they did was a marvel is to say little, for by that night they had found food and lodging for more than two hundred people who managed somehow to cover the twenty miles between Brasov and Bran. It is extraordinary what people can do under pressure of fear and desperation. Patients I had thought could hardly walk down a corridor had got to us.
While I had been working during that strenuous day I had also been concerned with no slight upheaval in my own house, since with the declaration that a state of war existed between Romania and Germany there had come an order that all Germans should be arrested. All my efforts to get in contact with the palace had been vain; I still did not know where the King was, which added greatly to my worries about him. I had telegraphed to the head of the gendarmerie for protection, since most of our own house guard had been sent to Brasov to help there. This all made the situation at home very difficult, and I was met, whenever I returned, by worn nerves and endless discussions and reproaches. So many different proposals were made that I felt torn in pieces. It took all my strength and courage to stick to what I knew was the only right course, as well as the only safe one: to stand by my wounded, and to trust the love and loyalty of the people. The end result was to prove me right, but at the moment I had only my own faith, and that to others was no proof.
Finally, feeling half dead with mental and physical weariness, I was about to crawl into bed when shots resounded at our very gate. My first thought was for Noelle's children because the house they slept in was near the gate. I quickly took our elevator, which descended through the rock and into the garden by way of the old well shaft, grabbed the poor frightened children, and took them into the castle, hoping Noelle was safe. The shooting did not last long, but hardly had I got the children settled when a terrified maid came to tell me that a dying officer lay in the hall.
Down the twisting stairs I rushed, to find Simone Cantacuzino's husband, not wounded but suffering from a heart attack. He had hurried from Bucarest in his anxiety to be with his wife and daughter. With Anton's help we put him on the only remaining unoccupied couch, and found that fortunately he had his own medicine with him. Anton volunteered to sit up with him, though he, too, was exhausted from transporting the cadets earlier in the day, as well as from his own anxieties.
The shooting we had heard, it then developed, had been because a group of German military cars had driven through and had not seen the sign to halt, and the Romanian guard had fired. It was one of those unavoidable, horrible things that happen. The German cars were unarmed and on their way to report as prisoners to the authorities in Brasov, but now two, who happened to be Austrians, were badly wounded. We took them to our already overcrowded hospital in Poarta, where room was quickly and willingly made for them. Once they were settled, I was able to see Noelle, who had been on her way back to see about her children, and to reassure her. She decided to remain at the hospital annex for the night, and I returned to the castle—this time beyond feeling, and convinced that whatever new disaster awaited me I did not care any more.. Any further effort or feeling was beyond me. Even now as I write this I have the same feeling of exhaustion beyond belief. I do not remember when I got to bed that night, nor do I remember sleeping, though I suppose I must have.
Next day Simone Cantacuzino arrived, and I was more than relieved to let her take over the care of her ailing husband, while I tried to face the difficulties of too many people, too little to eat, and tempers not always in good condition. A telegram from the head of the gendarmerie informed me that a solution would be found, and that I should be confident. It was not completely reassuring, but it was a help.
When I had seen to the immediate needs of those at home I went up to Bran Poarta, where I found one of the Austrians dead and the other in a serious condition. I refused to give him up to the guard that had come to fetch him, since I knew that the journey would kill him. I pointed out that the annex was a military hospital; that the man could not possibly run away; and that taking prisoners was one thing and murder another. This may not have been solid military logic, but it did work for the time being.
The dead Austrian did not interest the guard, and they were happy to leave him with us. We decided to give him a proper Christian burial, and when we found by his papers that he was a Lutheran we managed with great difficulty to get a minister from a village about ten miles away. The soldier's coffin was borne by those of the wounded who were in a condition to do it, wearing their hospital garments, which were all the clothes they had. Anton and I, the children, the nurses, and some others of the wounded followed in a procession to the lovely flower-filled cemetery near by, and the Lutheran minister intoned the prayers in the soldier's own language and according to his faith. None of us were members of his church, and he was of an alien army now actively our enemy, but in that hour he was not alone. When Anton finally managed to get back to Austria in 1948 he was able to take to the man's parents his watch and a photograph of his grave in the faraway Carpathians.
More days passed in continual doubt as to what would happen next. The radio gave conflicting news, depending on which station you happened to be listening to. When people met, their greeting was "What have you heard?" "What do you know?" We heard that the Russians had entered Bucarest. Our only hope of accurate news was Mrs. Tataranu, who was self-controlled but worried because she had not heard from her husband. Suddenly one day all the Russians left off working at the hospital and never came again. Orders had come for them, but the thing that made me anxious was that they were all unenthusiastic about leaving, and that some even tried to escape their liberating brothers.
At last one day, after what seemed endless waiting, Mrs. Tataranu came to me to say that the General had written her he was safe, and had sent a letter for me also. It was a sad letter, saying that he was well and would be returning for a brief time, but that perhaps those who were dead were better off.
A day later, which as nearly as I can remember must have been at the very end of August, a colonel of the gendarmerie appeared in full uniform, complete with sword. He presented himself formally and then conveyed the message that to safeguard the Archduke and the other German members of my household, they were to consider themselves prisoners under arrest in the castle, the grounds of which they were not to leave. I felt sorry for him because he had to convey such a message to me, and I thanked him and told him I was grateful.
I was sincere in saying this, for it could have been much worse, but I did not know until later how much worse it had almost actually been. At first Anton was to be taken to a concentration camp, and the children and I were to be imprisoned in a monastery in the mountains, but the Romanian government had refused to carry this out as the Russians at first demanded. However, the order as it came through to Brasov had been that I, too, was to be confined to Bran. My friends of the gendarmerie in Brasov had flatly refused to carry out this order, and had begun at once working to have it reversed, but since they did not tell me about it until the order for my release came a short time later, I never knew I had been arrested until after I was freed! Anton's order for release did not come until late in 1946 but, as it was, he was safer at first, and later the restrictions were not carried out too severely as long as he did not go far afield, but the idea was not a pleasant one.
During these last days of August, Romanian troops from Moldavia who had managed to escape their "friends" the Russians began passing through Bran on their way to fight the Hungarians in the cause of the Allies. They were received with a love and a joy that reminded me of my angry words to the village doctor who had denied us the use of his empty hospital. Russian soldiers had already taught many lessons, and were to teach more.
There were two incidents of those days which I remember vividly. An artillery regiment was passing, and a friend asked me to join her in waiting for her son. She chose a place where the road was so narrow that we were obliged to stand in the ditch, because it was just past a sharp bend where the trucks must slow down, and she was sure that she and her son could not miss each other there. She watched each car and truck with eager expectation. One after another they passed, until at last a car stopped and a young officer jumped out.
"A friend of my son's!" cried the excited woman, and rushed toward him, but the expression on the boy's face sent a tremor of fear through me.
"Alas, madame! Your son is not with us," he said. "At the moment the retreat sounded he jumped out of his trench toward the enemy and cried, 'Forward!' No one has heard of him since. Perhaps later the Russians will send him back, or perhaps he is in hiding . . . "
My poor friend clasped her hands together and fought visibly for control. "Thank you, dear boy! God bless you! I understand. Go now: the others are moving on!" The young man jumped back into the car and drove on. I stood speechless, for what words are there in such a moment? I could only hold her in my arms there in the ditch until she felt she could face again the light of day, from which all joy was gone for her.
"Will you get me one of the doctors, please?" she said at last. "You know the state of my husband's heart. This might kill him." So I saw her safely to her door, and then went in search of the doctor.
On another day when I was returning from Brasov I saw the baggage van of a regiment, and to my joy I saw painted on one of the carts my mother's monogram. It was her own regiment, the one of which she had been made honorary colonel: the 4th Rosiori. I stopped my car and ran across the road to an officer, whom I stopped by holding on to his horse's bridle. He was at first astonished, but when he recognized me a great grin spread over his face. Alas, they were not coming through Bran! But the next day the commander and a delegation of officers and men came to place a wreath where my mother's heart lay buried.
By this time all the wounded and the staff that had run away to Bran had returned to the Brasov hospital, where I visited them whenever 1 could. Thanks largely to Colonel Serbu, the construction of the new hospital went on, and was nearing completion. I spent as much time as possible there, attending to the details, and it seemed as if a special benediction lay upon it. On the eighth of September, by dint of an enormous effort in which everyone joined, Spitalul Inima Reginei opened its doors to the first forty wounded. We had a small but moving ceremony to bless this beginning of its service; the men were delighted to be the first patients, and Noelle and her "staff" and I were proud indeed. Our only regret was that Colonel Serbu could not be present; he had been called to Bucarest for work there. He was a great loss to all of us.
I was happy about my hospital, but still concerned with family problems. All the Saxon schools were now closed, forbidden, and confiscated. The question of where to send the children for the coming year arose, especially in regard to Stefan, who was beyond the work of the village schools. During the summer he had become great friends with a fine boy from Bucarest, whose mother had worked in the Poarta annex. She proposed to take Stefan to live with them and to send him to the school her son attended, and I was delighted.
Just as this arrangement was made I received a message from a friend, asking me to come to Bucarest. Mrs. X, as I must call her, lived near the house of General Aldea, Minister of the Interior in General Sanatescu's first government. He wished to see me as unobtrusively as possible, and she therefore invited me to spend a few days with her.
—She was most wonderful then and afterwards in going to everyone she could think of who might be of help to me, although this I did not know until later. For example, it was she who told Prince Stirbey, on his return from the vain and unhappy appeals made by Romania at Cairo and at Moscow, that I was at Bran. He had not known I was in Romania, and when he went to Maniu about my difficulties I was proud when I learned that Maniu had said:
"But how it is possible that anyone could think of doing harm to Domnitza Ileana?"
All this I was told several months later, and by that time I knew how to appreciate it. On this first trip to Bucarest I had no idea how people felt about me, and I did not realize what true and brave friendship Mrs. X was showing in her invitation, but I soon learned.
With more innocence than wisdom I set out by car with Stefan and Bittermann, my secretary. The four-hour drive was uneventful, and since as we entered Bucarest we passed my sister Elisabeta's house, I decided to go in and see if she was there, so in at the entrance we drove. There were rather a lot of police about, and I thought, Certainly she is being well guarded! I walked in, and I noticed that the servant at the door looked frightened, although he said "Yes" to my inquiry if my sister was at home. He went ahead and I followed him down the corridor, when suddenly I was met by one of the King's aides-de-camp. We were, I think, equally astonished to see each other.
"Is the King here?" I asked.
"Yes, we came yesterday. The Queen is upstairs."
"Where is Elisabeta?"
I continued to follow the servant, who ushered me upstairs and into Sitta's room. If she had seen a ghost, Sitta could not have looked more horrified. She told me I could not have done anything more dangerous than to come to them; that no one knew what would come next; that the Russians were howling for our blood. When I told her of Stefan and his school, she became even more upset and reproachful, and told me in no uncertain terms that such a thing would add a great deal to their danger. Of course, the horror of finding the country left in the hands of the Russians and not in those of the united Allies, the terrible uncertainty, the total disregard by the Russians of all the promises of freedom and noninterference they had given—all these were reasons enough for her fears and her distraught condition. She told me that she felt the less we saw of each other the better. She and Michael had no power to protect me, and I was technically an enemy.
I suppose I should have realized this before but, strangely enough, such a thought had never occurred to me. It was not easy to face the fact, but there it was. If Sitta felt so strongly that I was a danger to her and Michael, others would feel so still more deeply. I would have to make the best of it, and find out what I could do to save my own family without endangering others. So Sitta and I said good-bye sadly and fondly, and in fact it was well over a year before I saw her again, although at Christmas she sent us lovely presents.
Saddened and still a little dazed, I went to my friend's home. It was small, but the welcome I got was large, and I appreciated now the real courage Mrs. X was showing. Stefan went to his friend and Bittermann went to relatives of Mrs. X, and I waited patiently until General Aldea came. He was a big, round-faced man, full of cheer and confidence, and we made friends on the spot. It was a friendship that withstood political storms and prisons, and though once I was told that when caught in his underground activities he had betrayed my part in them, I know that if it was true only the worst torture could have made him do it. In the next world we shall be friends still, if I may enter the place where heroes have gone ahead of us.
Even at this first meeting he proved himself a rock. He encouraged me about my situation, and he promised to take up the question of Stefan and his school at once. Unfortunately he was not able to do much about this, for others did not have his courage or his convictions. Word came that Stefan was not permitted to go to any state school whatsoever. My children were "Germans" and had no right to any education at all. This was a terrible blow, and one that at first I could hardly believe. General Aldea was able, however, to have the arrests and confinement in Bran of Anton, Frau Koller, and Gretl confirmed by the ruling powers, which then were entirely mysterious ones to me. Otherwise the constant threat of the arrests having been "provisional," and of the orders being changed to confinement in a concentration camp, would have hung over us all the time.
I was grateful for this contact with the General, and for the feeling it gave me that there was at least someone to appeal to in what had become a nightmare. Of course General Aldea did not last long in power, for when Sanatescu's short-lived first government collapsed, the General with his uncompromising insistence on what he felt was right was the first to go.
—A friend of mine in Bucarest later told me about a "demonstration" against the General which occurred a short time before the breakup of the government on November 4. It was one of those staged by the Communists, with luckless Romanian workers forced to carry banners and shout slogans as they "marched" unwillingly along the street. The slogan in this case was supposed to be "Down with Aldea!" but since most of the workmen had no idea who Aldea was, and were only anxious to get through with it and get home to supper, they had misunderstood the word and assumed it was one more familiar to them. They were therefore shouting perfunctorily but distinctly "Down with Anglia!" (England) when a shocked Russian heard them; and since at the time Russia had no wish to express her real opinions of the other Allies quite so openly as she has since, the Romanians were stopped and sent hastily home—which probably only added to their complete and annoyed mystification over the whole exercise!
My short stay in Bucarest was long enough to show me who was my friend and who was not. Or at least it showed me those who were not strong enough to stand up for their friends, although perhaps these people were simply more realistic than I am ever able to be. I thought on my way home that I would like to see Elisabeta in Sinaia, but I had learned prudence. I telephoned her first, and she also thought it safer not to see me. Again I forced myself to try to realize that I was a public danger, an "enemy" in my own country. It was obvious that I could not hope to recover any of my property in Austria, for it was certain that the Germans would have no friendly feeling toward a Romanian, and I doubted if it would even occur to them to consider me a "German." I was responsible for my family and household, with no one to turn to. I thanked God in my heart that my mother had not lived to see this.
The return to Bran was in itself not easy, for the Russians had nearly reached Brasov and the roads were not supposed to be safe. With the help of the guard General Aldea had sent with me we got through; but I had not minded the thought of danger as much as I had minded breaking the news to Stefan and his friend that he could not remain in Bucarest at school, but that we must find another solution. I could not bear just then to tell him the whole humiliating truth.
It was not easy to return unsuccessful to my family at home. I put as good a face on it as I could, and I began to realize that in reality, considering the turmoil everything was in and the complete power of the Russians, as well as the helpless fear felt by so many, I had really not done so badly, after all, in assuring the safety of those in the castle. One great comfort was the usual loving reception of the children, to whom the only thing that mattered was that I was safely back. In a way the wounded were the same in their welcome, since they had a simple faith that I was, after all, Domnitza Ileana, capable of solving problems and difficulties by some magic power that no man, not even a Russian, could change. This was both touching and at the same time infuriating, because they attributed any failure I had to my not really having put my heart into it. They never blamed me, but there it was. Had I really wanted to? For if I had, of course, then I could have accomplished it.
More than ever now I had to fall back on my own inner strength. God had indeed given me a great gift when He gave me that simple and absolute faith that has never failed me. But there were many days when I had to go away alone and battle it out; days when I would walk along the flower-edged path and up the steps that led to the little chapel where lay my mother's heart. . . .