MY EXPERIENCES IN THE WAR HOSPITALS OF RUMANIA

The Horrors of the Little Balkan Kingdom

Told by Queen Marie of Rumania

Driven into exile with her many subjects, who had to retreat before the Hun just as the Belgians and Serbians were forced out of their peaceful homes in the debacle of war, Queen Marie of Rumania turned to the pen, and with it pictured the horrors that have engulfed the pretty little Balkan kingdom. Queen Marie was married to King Ferdinand in 1893, and was then the Princess Marie of Edinburgh, the daughter of Alfred I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince of Great Britain and Ireland. Noted for her beauty, idolized by her people, she has devoted herself to Red Cross work and the care of her stricken people ever since the entry of Rumania into the war. In devoting her pen to the cause of her adopted country, Queen Marie has followed the example of her husband's aunt, the late Queen Elizabeth (Carmen Sylva), whose charming books of poetry and prose deal almost entirely with the customs and folklore of Rumania. In this article in the Philadelphia Public Ledger Queen Marie gives a graphic picture of war-torn Rumania.

I"I WATCH MY RUMANIANS GO TO WAR"

     THE trains are passing ... passing ... and the cargo they are hurrying thither is the youth of our country and the hope of our homes. ...
     By thousands they are massed together; they sit on the roofs of the wagons, they hang on to their sides, they balance themselves in perilous positions, but all of them are gay, ... they shout, they sing; they laugh. ...
     And the trains pass, pass ... all day the trains pass. ... With hands full of flowers we hurry to the stations; our hearts are heavy; we long to say words they will remember, to tell them what we feel, but their voices raised in chorus drown all we would say.
     One cry is on every lip when they see me, "We are going! Going gladly, going to victory, so that you may become Empress—Empress of all the Rumanian!" There is hardly a voice that does not say it; it is the cry of every heart; they hope it, they believe it, they mean it to me, and I smile back at them offering them my flowers, which they clutch at with eager hands.
     And thus the trains pass ... pass. ...

II—"THE SOLDIERS SHOWERED ME WITH FLOWERS"

     One evening the sun was going down in glowing glory, turning all it shone over into glittering gold. I was late, other duties having kept me back; the train I had come to greet was already moving away.
     In joyous crowds the young soldiers thronged the carriages; others had been before me to deck their caps, their tunics, even their horses and cannons, with bright violet asters of every shade. The prodigious radiance of sunset fell over all those flowers, enhancing their beauty, as though even the heavens were doing their utmost to render more blessed the departure of those eager boys, who so gayly were going to death.
     Hurriedly I ran toward the moving carriages, distressed at being late. A great shout mounted from a thousand throats as they recognized me and a shower of flowers fell at my feet.
     From their caps, their tunics, their cannons they tore away the flowers that had been given them to shower them over their Queen, while the usual chorus mounted to the skies: "May you become Empress—Empress of all the Rumanians." ...
     And always more flowers fell over me; my arms were full; my hands could hardly hold them; the ground was purple where I stood. ...
     Long did I remain there after the train had disappeared. A trail of smoke against the orange sky alone marked its passage, and all those fading flowers at my feet.
     As one looks at the incomprehensible, I gazed at those two long rails running into the infinite, there seeming to join their separate ways, and wondered toward what fate those youths were hurrying; wondered if their dream would be realized; especially I wondered how many would come back. ...
     The sun had set, the smoke had dissolved into nothing; the voices of my soldiers were but a remembrance ... slowly I turned my foot toward home. ...

III—"I BEND OVER THE SUFFERING FACES"

     All day long I have been moving among the wounded, wandering from ward to ward—they all want me to come among them, each soldier desirous to see his Queen. ...
     Never do I leave a call unanswered; everywhere do I go; no sight is too sad, no fatigue is too great, no way too long, but sometimes it is to me as though I were wandering through some never-ending dream.
     Bed beside bed they lie there, and all eyes meet me, follow me, consume me; never before have I known what it means to be the prey of so many eyes. ...They seem to be drawing my heart from my bosom, to be a weight I can hardly bear!
     I bend over suffering faces, clasp outstretched hands, ray my fingers upon heated brows, gaze into dying eyes, listen to whispered words—and everywhere the same wish follows me: "May you become Empress—Empress of all the Rumanians!" Stiffening lips murmur it to me, hopeful voices cry it out to me; it goes with me wherever I move: "What matters our suffering as long as you be the beds of so many wounded, who see in me the realization, the incarnation of the dream for which they are giving their lives.
     It makes me feel so small, so humble before their stoic endurance; tears come to my eyes and yet, because of the beauty of it, I have a great wish to thank God.
     Why should I be chosen to represent an ideal? Why should just I be the symbol? What right have I to stand above them, to buy glory with the shedding of their blood? ...
     And always more tenderly do I pass from bed to bed. ...
     That was at a time when hope still sang in every soul, when in the first enthusiasm all hearts beat in unison, when belief in glorious victory gladdened the day. ...
     But much later, under widely different circumstances in quite another place, the same words were said to me by one who could not see my face, for that morning he bad been trepanned; his bandaged head was lying in a pool of blood. ...
     Some one told him that his Queen was beside him, that she had come to see him, to inquire about his sufferings; to help him if he needed help.
     A groping hand was stretched out toward me; I took it in mine, whispering words of comfort; bending low toward the parched lips that were murmuring something that at first I could not understand. The man had no face, no eyes; all was swathed in blood-stained cloths. Then, as though from very far, came the words, the same brave words: "May the great God protect you. May He let you live to become Empress—Empress of all the Rumanians!

IV—"I PRAYED TO GOD TO LISTEN"

     It was to me as though something very wonderful had quite suddenly descended upon the distress of my soul, something very holy, very beautiful; but that was almost more than I could bear. ... Touching had been that wish when hope shone before us like a star, but now it was more than touching, it was grand and sacred, for it was pronounced at an hour when darkest disaster had overthrown our land, when inch by inch our armies were retreating before the all-invading foe. There in that chamber of suffering those dying lips still spoke of the hope they clung to, of the dream that, in spite of sacrifice, death and misery, one day must surely come true. ...
     That dying man was but one of many, a voice out of the unknown, a martyr without a name; but his words had gone home to my heart.
     As I bent over him, laying my hand gently upon his crimson-stained rags, I prayed to God to listen to his wish; prayed that the blood of so many humble heroes should not be given in vain; prayed that when that great hour of liberation should sound at last an echo of the shout of victory that that day would sound over all our land should reach the heart of this nameless one beyond the shadow into which he was sinking, so that even beyond the grave he should still have a share in the glory his living eyes were not destined to see. ...