Saturday, July 24, 2010

Living under Monarchy

Mom recounts what life was like under the rule of Kings: Carol II and Michael. She was a child and has vivid memories of the Princess Moruzi who ruled the fiefdom which included the ancestral village of Tirgsor.

Carol II (15 October/16 October 1893 – 4 April 1953) reigned as King of Romania from 8 June 1930 until 6 September 1940. Eldest son of Ferdinand I, King of Romania, and his wife, Queen Marie, a daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second eldest son of Queen Victoria. He was the first of the Romanian royal family who was baptized in the Orthodox rite.

Michael (born 25 October 1921) reigned as King of the Romanians from 20 July 1927 to 8 June 1930, and again from 6 September 1940, until forced to abdicate by the communists backed up by orders of Stalin to the Soviet armies of occupation on 30 December 1947. Beside being the current pretender to the throne of Romania, he is also a Prince of Hohenzollern. A great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria by both of his parents and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, he is one of the last surviving heads of state from World War II.

Their home was castelul Peles in Sinaia. A historical monument, Peleş, inaugurated in 1883, is a Neo-Renaissance castle located in the Carpathian Mountains, in the county of Prahova, on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, built between 1873 and 1914.

King Carol I (1839-1914) visited the region and future site of the castle in 1866, and fell in love with the rugged but magnificent mountain scenery. So, in 1872, a total of one thousand "pogoane", approx. 1,300 acres, was purchased by the King and Piatra Arsa region became The Royal Domain of Sinaia, destined to be a royal hunting preserve and summer retreat for the monarch. On August 22, 1873, the foundation for Peleş Castle, the city of Sinaia, and indeed for the country of Romania itself was established.

This princess owned most of the land and hired the villagers to plant and harvest the crops. The peasants were paid quite well. Each family received annual gifts of grain, vegetables, and fresh meat; they could hunt on the property free of charge; there was a village doctor paid by the princess to tend to the villagers' medical needs. Nobody starved, construction needs were met, banking needs were addressed, and a school was funded and staffed by the princess through the eighth grade.

When people passed away, Princess Moruzi paid for the funeral through an established fund to help the grieving family, the widow, and the children. Most received life-long pensions.

I asked mom how she would describe the overall feelings of the thousand or so families living in Tirgsor and she chose proud and content. Everybody labored to earn their keep and took pride in their lives and the feeling of belonging to a close-knit community. Weddings, baptisms, funerals, and holidays were occasions to celebrate life in a simple, pastoral setting.

Mom was born in 1932 and, as a teen, she remembers vividly when the Russians invaded their tranquil life in the name of "liberating" them from the Germans in 1945. Under the guise of liberation, the Russians pillaged their village, including the princess' personal belongings, furniture, art, until there was nothing left but the bare walls of her masion ("conac" in Romanian). Then they set it on fire. Princess Moruzi was forced to move to Bucharest with her daughter and died there of old age.

The Russians did not just steal everybody's valuables, they stole their hope. By the time the "liberators" returned to Mother Russia, all that was left in Tirgsor was the land which Romanian communists gladly confiscated in the name of wealth distribution (collectivization), and the Soviet Marxist ideology of enslavement.

Many villagers would have gladly stayed under the German occupation since they were treated so much better. The average Romanian citizen did not have any choice in their alliance with Hitler, the Prime Minister Antonescu dragged them into the war, but benefited from the kind treatment of the German garrisons during the occupation. There were many refineries surrounding Tirgsor and my hometown of Ploiesti. The Germans needed gasoline for their war machine. They would have occupied Romania with or without Antonescu's permission. This way, Antonescu was generously rewarded and so was the monarch.

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