When it comes to covering Communist Romania, Nicolae Ceaucescu’s name is often at the forefront. But an often overlooked character in the regime is the wife of the Romanian dictator: Elena Ceaucescu. In this article, we’re going to delve into five shocking facts about Communist Romania’s fierce first lady.
From Peasant to Wife of a Romanian Dictator
Born at the height of WW1 in 1916, Elena Ceausescu was born to a peasant family in the Romanian region of Wallachia. After leaving school with very basic education, she moved to Bucharest to work in a textile factory before eventually joining the Romanian Communist Party prior to the outbreak of WW2.
It was here that she met a young Nicolae Ceaucescu. The pair were soon infatuated and, after their relationship was put to the test with Nicolae’s frequent spells in jail as a result of his communist activities, the two married in 1947 as Romania began to turn into a communist state under the watchful eye of the Soviets.
When Nicolae became Communist Party General Secretary, Elena rose through the ranks to become a significant figure in the Romanian communist party. She was deeply involved in party administration alongside Nicolae and was one of the few spouses of a Communist Party leader to have a high political profile of her own.
She often joined Nicolae on official visits abroad. During a state visit to China in 1971, she took note of how Chairman Mao’s wife maintained her position of power. Inspired by this, she began to engineer her own political rise in Romania and was soon the object of a personality cult as intense as that of Nicolae who exalted her as the “Mother of Romania”.
During the Romanian Revolution in 1989, Elena was present throughout the entire affair at her husband’s side. As the situation deteriorated, she fled the capital with Nicolae before they were promptly captured, put on a show trial, and killed in a hail of Kalashnikov fire. Thus marking the end of Communist Romania.
Now, without further ado, let’s delve into five shocking facts about Elena: the wife of the Romanian dictator who ruled the country for over two decades.
State Press Adhered to Strict Guidelines Regarding Elena
Whilst Nicolae had a penchant for vanity and honour, it’s said that Elena was even more invested in her public appearance. As a result, the state Television of Romania was given direct orders from the regime to put the utmost care into their portrayal of her on TV. It was forbidden to show a side profile of Elena as a result of her large nose and her overall plain appearance which was often described as ”homely”.
Elena Was Originally The Lover of Nicolae’s Brother
One of the more awkward facts about the wife of the Romanian dictator took place before the pair actually met. According to Romania Experience, Elena was involved with the Ceausescu family through being in a casual relationship with Ceaucescu’s brother before eventually falling in love with Nicolae.
An Intense Interest in the Love Lives of Rivals
During Ceaucescu’s reign, sex was seen as a ”necessary evil” to make babies. Whilst baby-making was massively encouraged and even rewarded in an attempt to grow the Romanian population, abortions, pornography, etc. were outright banned. Whilst the regime attempted to enforce their ”morals”, Elena was fairly hypocritical about this behind closed doors.
As an intensely jealous person, it’s claimed that Elena had the rooms of fellow communist party couples bugged by the security services in order to listen to them having sex. She is said to have spent hours listening to the tapes, in particular the people she didn’t like within the party such as Violeta Andrei.
An Illiterate Scientist
One of the most bizarre facts about Elena Ceaucescu is her role as a ”world-renowned scientist”. As the leader of Romania’s chemistry research team, she published various extensive research papers and books. The only problem was that she pretty much illiterate due to her lack of education as a child.
Sometimes, Elena was invited to international scientific conferences. The organizers of which, after reading her work that she didn’t actually write, assumed she was an expert. To keep this charade up, she would bring a translator with her. The translator was actually an accomplished scientist who would ignore the factually incorrect statements made by Elena and give the correct answers to the audience instead.
She Was The Only Woman Executed in Modern Romania
In 1989, the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe began to collapse when an electoral victory by Solidarity in Poland sparked a wave of revolutions in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. But in Romania, demands for democracy saw Ceausescu order his troops to open fire on demonstrators. This sparked the violent Romanian Revolution in December of 1989.
Over 1,100 people were killed during the Romanian Revolution and as the situation reached boiling point, the Romanian dictator and his wife fled the Romanian capital of Bucharest by helicopter. They made it to a small town 50 miles north of the capital called Targoviste, where they were subsequently arrested by the military and placed on trial.
The pair were accused of ordering the deaths of 60,000 people during their reign and stashing up to a billion dollars in foreign bank accounts. After a short trial, the couple was sentenced to death. 73-year-old Elena Ceaucescu would be the first woman executed by post-communist Romania. The death penalty was abolished shortly after.
Her Last Words Were “You motherf****er!”
Following the guilty verdict and condemning them to death, both Nicolae and Elena had their arms tied behind their backs with rope before being led into a courtyard to be executed. As they were halfway there, the Romanian dictator and his wife prepared to say their final words.
Nicolae is said to have begun to mumble before singing the first verse of the Internationale. Then he shouted; “Long Live the Socialist Republic of Romania. Independent and Free!”. But according to one of the men who killed the couple, Elena’s final words, were far from diplomatic.
A commotion broke out and one of the Romanian soldiers escorting them is said to have screamed at Elena to get a move on. In response, she is said to have screamed ”You motherf***er!” at him. The troops then led them to a wall, took six steps back, and unloaded their Kalashnikov assault rifles. Killing them both instantly.
Following the execution, both the Romanian dictator and his wife were buried in Ghencea Cemetery in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. Today, the grave is open to the public and is often visited on our range of tours to Romania.