Feminine symbols in Romanian history

feminine symbols in romanian history Ecaterina Tedoroiu and Smaranda Brăescu continued to serve as role-models long after their death

On December 1, 2021, the Central Bank of Romania issued a new bank bill worth 20 Lei, that is approximately 4 Euro, featuring Ecaterina Teodoroiu, a heroine of the First World War. Also in December last year, the government adopted a law whereby 2022 is devoted to Smaranda Brăescu, the first female parachute jumper. The two figures pay homage to the heritage and efforts of Romanian women throughout history and a tribute to those who gave their lives alongside men. Ecaterina Teodoroiu and Smaranda Brăescu were two women who experienced great hardships, yet had the strength to continue pursuing their passion and vocation.

Ecaterina Teodoroiu was the heroine-symbol of the First World War. The woman-soldier who didn't want to stay behind the frontline, but always sought to be in the heat of battle, Ecaterina Teodoroiu was born in 1894 in Gorj County into a peasant family. She was a hardworking pupil, and before getting admitted in a high-school in Bucharest, where she wanted to become a teacher, she graduated the German school in Târgu Jiu. She also enrolled in a medical school for nurses. Romania entered the war in August 1916, a decision met with enthusiasm by the population, many young people choosing to enlist. Ecaterina Teodoroiu was among them, signing up for the hard life of war.  For her participation in the battles, Ecaterina was decorated and promoted to lieutenant, second class. On August 22, 1917, her regiment got stormed by the German army, sending the Romanian army on the retreat. Ecaterina Teodoroiu got shot in the head by two bullets fired from a machine gun. She died on the spot. Historian Ioan Scurtu says Ecaterina Teodoroiu became a legend of the Great War.

"Ever since 1917-1918, Ecaterina Teodoroiu became a legend. Those who fought beside her, part of her own unit, told stories of her bravery, courage and heroics. The fact that a woman got to fight in actual battles become highly symbolic. When she got out of hospital, she got requests to stay work for the Red Cross together with other women, including Queen Mary, but she refused. She said she belonged on the frontline, was eager to stay and fight. In 1921, as Romania marked 100 years since Tudor Vladimirescu's uprising, her earthly remains were transported to the monument in Mărășești in Târgu Jiu. A special sarcophagus was built in her honor by sculptor Milița Pătrașcu. King Ferdinand and Queen Mary, historian Nicolae Iorga, Marshal Alexandru Averescu as well as everyone who contributed to leading Romania and building a symbol for the 800,000 Romanians who died in the war, sought to praise Ecaterina Teodoroiu."

Smaranda Brăescu was born in 1897 in Tecuci, eastern Romania. She was the first woman-pilot, the first woman-parachute jumper and the first woman to train military pilots in Romania. She displayed true grit and followed her passion with extraordinary tenacity. She became European champion in parachute jumping in 1931 at the age of 34, when she jumped 6,000 meters, setting a new European record, as well as world champion in 1932, when she jumped 7,400 meters at the Sacramento tournament in the United States, setting a world record that would last 20 years. She is the recipient of the Aeronautics Virtue Order, Golden Cross class. She was equally devoted to her intellectual training. Smaranda graduated the Fine Arts Academy in Bucharest, the decorative art and ceramics department.

Ana-Maria Sireteanu, Smaranda Brăescu's great granddaughter, recalls Smaranda Brăescuțs strength of character could not be broken even after a very serious accident:

"In Satu Mare, after a jump, her parachute swept her away and she injured both her legs. This could also be a sign for anyone looking for earthly remains, as her leg injuries would show. She spent 5 months in the hospital and a very talented doctor performed surgery and she managed to recover. 7 months later, after having sustained such extensive injuries, she managed to set the European and world records, in 1931 and 1932. That is evidence of her extraordinary motivation and willingness to bring glory to her country."

During the war, Smaranda was a member of the famous "white squadron", a squadron of medivac planes on the eastern front and later on the western front in Transylvania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. She signed a memorandum condemning the rigged elections of November 1946. Wanted by the communist authorities, Smaranda Brăescu disappeared. She is thought to have spent the last days of her life at a nunnery, dying on February 2, 1948, aged 51. (VP)

Publicat: 2022-01-10 14:00:00
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