Great War memorial on village green with the figure of King Ferdinand of Romania

The Great War Memorial for the fallen soldiers in the village of Zatreni, Valcea county/ Photograph ©Valentin Mandache

This post has originally been published in Diana Mandache’s weblog on royal history, and is dedicated to the anniversary tomorrow, 24 August, of King Ferdinand of Romania’s birthday (1865 – 1927), the sovereign of the country during the Great War. The article reflects an important aspect of the local identity, at the village level, fostered by the dramatic impact of the Great War events on the Romanian countryside.

The citizens of Zatreni in south west Romania, paid a high price during the Great War, with 233 men killed in action, a huge loss for a village. The memorial on the village green dedicated to the local heroes features a somehow naively, in a provincial manner, rendered figure of King Ferdinand, the supreme commander of the Romanian army, seen in the above photograph. The monument, most amazingly, survived the communist period, probably because there was no inscription mentioning the sovereign’s name on the monument, which made the local communist authorities believe and propagate the idea that the bas-relief represented just a Great War era soldier personifying the army. Romania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente was decided by a special Crown Council on 27 August 1916. DM

King Ferdinand’s Proclamation – 28 August 1916

Romanians! The war which for the last two years has been encircling our frontiers more and more closely has shaken the ancient foundations of Europe to their depths. It has brought the day which has been awaited for centuries by the national conscience, by the founders of the Romanian State, by those who united the principalities in the war of independence, by those responsible for the national renaissance. It is the day of the union of all branches of our nation.  Today we are able to complete the task of our forefathers and to establish forever what Michael the Brave was only able to establish for a short moment, namely, a Romanian union on both slopes of the Carpathians. […] In our moral energy and our valour lie the means of giving him back his birthright of a great and free Rumania from the Tisza to the Black Sea, and to prosper in peace in accordance with our customs and our hopes and dreams.

Romanians! Animated by the holy duty imposed upon us, and determined to bear manfully all the sacrifices inseparable from an arduous war, we will march into battle with the irresistible élan of a people firmly confident in its destiny.  The glorious fruits of victory shall be our reward. Forward, with the help of God!  FERDINAND   [Source: Records of the Great War, vol.V, National Alumni, 1923]

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see also Forgotten Basreliefs representing Romanian royals