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Ileana & Mircea of Romania (Mircea died on 20 October /2 November 1916)

1/14 November 1916

Mama dear,

Can I write about it? Can I? Will I find the courage, and yet I want to tell you, just now, because in my unutterable despair it was you my heart called for, you, you, my old Mama from whom I am cruelly separated, from whom for two long terrible sorrow filled months I have had never a word.

Why was this to be? Who can tell? The popular belief is that God took him from me, to pray for his country that is in danger – so let it be!

He was so well lately, so jolly, so sweet. We are not living in town but in a house that has been „réquisitionnée” for us close by out in the country, Cotroceni being in a too exposed position in these days of aeroplanes and bombs.

One day he had a sore throat and sudden fever – but he did not seem ill with it, although the temperature was enormous. The doctor declared that it was „amigdalite” – the next day he has the same temperature, the it suddenly fell and and we thought all was over – but the next day up goes the temperature again and nothing can make it go down, it remains 40, 40… 40…. In despair I send for other doctors, there is a consultation, they take some of his blood and analyse it and find typhoid fever… that terrible illness that seems to follow our family and the male members of our family.

Three weeks of mortal anguish and nothing to be done. After one day’s hope when the temperature fell, it settled on the brain, and then all was in vain. Three doctors night and day fought for his life, but nothing was to be done. They tortured him with injections, with serums, with ballons d’oxygène, with bath, with wet towels, all in vain. Yet he resisted three weeks. I had always considered that he was  a delicate child, but the doctors said that he must have had a wonderful constitution to resist as he did. At the end the heart failed, it gave way, it could no more and my little Mircea was taken from me on the 2 November, Aller seelen at 9 o’clock in the evening. I was holding his hand, my other hand lying on his head. He went out like a light that could burn no more. For ten days he has been completely unconscious, his eyes turned back in his head. I could not bear those eyes, so we kept a bandage over them, he died with a bandage over his eyes. Four times already they had called me  to him because he was dying – four times I lived the mortal anguish, but the fifth time he died. Now he is dead, my baby is dead, I have no more little child – it is finish – part of me has been torn from me and lies beneath the stones of Cotroceni church. Why had it to be? Who can tell. Perhaps so that I should better understand the thousands and thousands of mother crying for their sons.

There was not a case of typhoid anywhere, not in the village, not amongst the soldiers, not amongst the wounded. The child was separated from everything came into contact with no one and yet the slinking, creeping illness, picked him out and cut down his little life, close him out, so that the earth should swallow him up at a time, wo das große Sterben über die Erde geht. I stand it somehow, like a ghost I move over the earth. I have once more taken up my duties, I go from hospital to hospital, I have moved about the country, gone to most wretched, to those nearest the front, I live, I talk, I eat, I sleep, I even think and work and organise – but the Missy that was, is a thing of a past – one my limbs have been cut off, moi aussi je suis une amputée. I have seen my child die – in vain I fought for his life, I felt his pulse disappear, its heart stop beating, its breath give out. I saw it stiff and still in its coffin – a little stranger with severe unknown face and a mouth spoke of a suffering that none of us had been able to share, that non of us knew – a little wax figure, very still, very cold, very dignified – and that was my Mircea, had been my Mircea, the child I had born, the child I had loved – my lost. Now you know, I have told you, and no one can help me. I am alone in my unutterable grief. I must learn to bear the unbearable, day by day I must learn to bear it if I can.

But my heart cried for you Mama, my dear old Mama who knows what grief means, who is lonely and sad and cut off from us all, by the cruelties of the war. I won’t talk of war. I will only tell you that from all sides we are trying to defend ourselves, that danger is around us, but our soldiers fight bravely and that everyone does his duty as best he can. I want also to say that whenever I could say a good word and do a kind act to a prisoner. I do so, for there is no hate in my heart, only a great many remembrances that are holy and always will be holy and dear, whatever the world may be doing. Es gibt vielleicht ein Wiedersehen, let us hope it, but we stand before such an incomprehensible immensity of trouble and suffering that one can but bow one’s head and say: “Thy Will Be Done”.

Good-bye my Mama, so God will’s this letter will reach you once. I only want you to know that it was you I needed and you that I need.

Your daughter Missy, who loves you

©Diana Mandache

more on my new book (in Romanian) ‘Viva Regina Maria!’