It is 31 years since Mother Alexandra, born Princess Ileana, the fifth of the six children of King Ferdinand and Queen Maria, left for the Lord. Apparently, it was a princess who became a monk. In depth, however, it can be said that she was in fact a nun who only went through the life of a princess, leaving her behind for a higher calling.
The press once called her “the most beautiful child in Europe.” But he was a child who felt early the call to live for others, writes basilica.ro.
Queen Mary, who called her “the child of my soul,” wrote: “I have tried from the beginning to make my children understand the substratum of the concepts of ‘giving’ and ‘receiving.’ But, the queen confessed, “Ileana was well-bred by nature. Ileana was born with the law in herself, and you should never have taught her the difference between good and evil; Ileana knew ”.
She lived for the others as a princess
At only eight years old, the princess accompanied her mother, Queen Maria, to the Iasi Refuge and to the visits made to the sick and wounded soldiers in the Reunification War.
Photo from Life magazine, during the time when Princess Ileana was caressed with the name of “the most beautiful child in Europe”. Photo source: Library of Congress
In her youth, inspired by her studies in England and the organizations in which she worked there, she founded the Association of Young Christian Women, a branch of the YWCA in Romania, and the Romanian Scouts Association – being elected president of both organizations.
In her memoirs, the princess wrote: “Debt was the most important thing in my childhood and adolescence. I was taught to do my duty to my country in all situations, to be respectful and loving to my parents, loyal to family and friends. “
“The memory of my mother, the energy she breathed into me, the awareness that she would never die – all these, in addition to my Christian faith, are the most important factors in my life,” the princess confessed.
Thus, the status of member of the Royal Family of Romania prepared her for monasticism, because she learned from an early age to live for others.
“You have been a public figure since the beginning of your life. You belong to the country. Your personal amusement plays no role. Your duty comes first, ”she said, quoted by His Eminence Father Irineu, Archbishop of Alba Iulia, who met her personally during her studies at Princeton University.
The vocation has always been hidden in the heart
The hierarch, in the Preview at the first edition of the book “The Holy Angels” by Mother Alexandra, also quoted a statement of the author: “In my heart, I always wanted to become a nun. But there was so much to do in Romania when I was young “.
She often said, “Then I did my duty as a princess, now I do my duty as a nun.”
The princess married Archduke Anton of Austria and gave birth to six children. During the Second World War, Princess Ileana worked as a nurse in Germany, then in Romania, following the model offered by her mother, called “Mother of the Wounded” in the First World War.
In 1944, Princess Ileana founded the “Heart of Queen Maria” Hospital in Bran, which operated under the auspices of the International Red Cross until 1948, when the communist regime abolished everything related to the Royal Family of Romania.
Memorable parting country
On January 4, 1948, she was forced to leave the country by the circumstances of King Michael’s forced abdication. In her memoirs (I live again – Ed. Humanitas), she told how she broke up with the country.
“I was saying, ‘You’ll never see these places again.’ This is the end. You touch these things for the last time, you talk to these people for the last time. You say goodbye, but you don’t have the relief of breaking up with your body at the same time. “
When she left, the princess wanted to leave all the money she had with her to those around her: peasants, doctors, patients of the “Heart of Queen Maria” Hospital. People didn’t get anything. Instead, they asked her to pray with them one last time.
“We knelt there, in the muddy field, with those people who worked in the factory and with those who worked the land, and as the sun slowly set over the Carpathian Mountains in one last shudder of splendor, we prayed: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.
In 1950, the princess settled with her family in the United States, where she began giving lectures on anti-Christian persecution and the suffering of Romanians under the communist regime.
In the late 1950’s, a serious illness and the loss of two of her six children were the external events that led her to reflect even more deeply on the vocation to deify man. He chose to enter the monastic life.
The first community for monks of various ethnicities
In 1961, Princess Ileana retired to the “Shroud of Our Lady” Monastery in Bussy-en-Othe, France, under the guidance of Bishop Anthony Bloom de Suroj.
In 1967, he founded the “Transfiguration” Orthodox Monastery in Elwood City, Pennsylvania – the first English-speaking Orthodox monastery in America where the community consisted of monks of diverse ethnic backgrounds. She was the abbess of the holy settlement.
In September 1990, when he was 81 years old, shortly before leaving this world, he managed to see Romania liberated from communism again, at the invitation of the Christiana Association.
“I’m so grateful for everything I’ve been given!” she then told journalist Nicolae Stroescu Stânişoara from “Free Europe”.
He also left him a spiritual testament for Romanians: “We must build on trust and love, otherwise it cannot be built. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. And I am sure that there is something deeply rooted in Orthodox Christianity in our people, which has always taken us out of trouble and will take us out today. ”
She is buried at Elwood Monastery, with a box of Romanian earth beside her.
According to an American hierarch quoted by His Eminence Father Irineu, Mother Alexandra was not a princess who became a nun, but a nun who went through the life of a princess.