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HOUSES WITH MEMORIES Journey to Piatra-Neamt, retracing the steps of Lady of the Union Elena Cuza
Elena Cuza neamt

A sensitive nature, an example of perfect nobility and humanity, Lady Elena Cuza has remained in the collective mentality, through aspects of her personal life, an example of a strong and devoted woman, who internalized the sufferings caused by the hardships of the marriage with ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza and even after his death she took care to unconditionally preserve his memory.

Museum curator Renata Gabriela Buzau, with the eastern Neamt National Museum Complex, told AGERPRES that the little information that has been kept about the last years of the life of the "Lady of the Union", spent in the town at the foot of Pietricica Mountain, proves her totally unique discretion and modesty.

In fact, the inhabitants of Piatra-Neamt municipality have not forgotten her, and this was due to the steps that the Neamt National Museum Complex, through Dr. Mihaela Cristina Verzea, initiated over time in order to keep alive the memory of one of the towering female figures in the history of our country.

"Apart from the studies and volumes dedicated to the one that (historian, politician, ed. n.) Nicolae Iorga called 'the ideally good and modest woman', in 2019, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the Union of the Romanian Principalities and the 110th anniversary of the passing into eternity of the 'Wonderful Princess', the Museum of History and Archeology Piatra-Neamt hosted a special exhibition that evoked the personality of Elena Cuza and her connection with 'the very beautiful town at the mouth of the Bistrita valley'," said museum curator Gabriela Renata Buzau.

The Princess consort of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza lived twice in Piatra-Neamt: between 1895 and 1901 and from 1904 to 1909. Several testimonies exist for the last mentioned time interval, because it coincided with a significant historic moment, namely the celebration of half a century since the unification of the Romanian Principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia), which brought back Elena Cuza to the attention of the community.

"The princess of the House of the Rosetti first set foot in Piatra-Neamt in the summer of 1895, when she became the owner of a building located on Stefan cel Mare Street, for which she paid 5,600 lei. The house, bought from Captain Vasile Alexandrescu, however, was temporarily ceded to her younger brother, Theodor Rosetti, and later on, in six years, it became the property of Lady Elena Cuza's middle brother, Dimitrie Gh. Rosetti," the museum curator also said.

Two years later, in the immediate vicinity of the purchased house, Cuza Voda's widow, represented by the engineer Ioan Bacallu, bought on the same street, in exchange for 2,500 lei, a plot of land from Anastasia Barcan's dowry, on which a new house was built and whose construction was completed at the end of the 19th century.

According to Dr. Mihaela Cristina Verzea, "the building was designed in neo-classical style, symmetrical to the main hall, serving as both entrance and lounge for the reception of guests. Here they would socialize, sweets and herbal were served, and the receptions were scheduled with great care. The other rooms, serving as offices and bedrooms, were arranged around the hall. The outbuildings, for daily chores and servants, were arranged at the back of the building. The kitchen, the pantry, the rooms for the servants were necessary for the good organization of the daily life".

Princess Elena Cuza lived in the house on 25 Stefan cel Mare street, until the spring of 1901, according to bibliographical sources, when she gave the house to her middle brother, Dimitrie Gh. Rosetti, according to the donation deed that belongs to the collection of modern and contemporary history of the History Museum and Archeology Piatra-Neamt, explained museum curator Renata Gabriela Buzau.

The building was sold soon after, in 1902, to a merchant from Piatra-Neamt, Vasile S. Caludi, the house being then bequeathed by him to his daughter, Martha C. Vorel, the wife of pharmacist Constantin Vorel and the owner of Vorel Laboratories from the town at the foot of Mount Pietricica.

"Elena Cuza's decision to dispose of her property and leave the Kingdom of Romania, at a time when she seemed to have found peace, was made for personal reasons, on account of the memory of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza being besmirched by his former secretary, Dimitrie A. Sturdza. However, she returned to the country, again to Piatra-Neamt, and according to Lucia Bors, the author of the only biography dedicated to the 'Wonderful Princess', the house where the illustrious representative of the Rosetti family lived, starting with 1904, was that of engineer Bacalu, on the same street where the noble widow had lived a few years before: 'A modest, two-room cottage and a vestibule opening onto another room, for her maid, Germaine, brought over from Geneva. The house was cheerful, with a small garden in front of it, of which Lady Elena took care herself. (...) The furniture was as simple as the appearance of the house, because Lady Elena only wanted what she strictly needed. That consisted of a bed, a wardrobe, a chest and an armchair that she liked to sit in and listen to, what the maid was reading to her in the winter days or when she was in suffering," said museum curator Gabriela Renata Buzau.

Even if she had lived mostly in the shadow of the ruler of the United Principalities, at the beginning of the 20th century, Princess Elena Cuza remained the embodiment of the Union Age.

On January 24, 1909, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the laying of the foundation on which the Greater Romania would be built, the First Lady of Romania was visited by Nicolae Iorga, accompanied by a delegation of the Cultural League in Iasi, informs.

The great scholar said about the house where the distinguished widow lived with rent: "(...) she was hosted by a rich family in Piatra-Neamt, who had provided her with a clean and cheerful house, where one would have believed that the spring of a family of poor clerks dwells, rather than that it houses the former Lady of the country."

From an architectural point of view, the building in 45 Stefan cel Mare street, (today no. 55), was built in the same neo-classical style, with a main hall that opened to the other rooms and outbuildings. The bedrooms and the office, in the main body, were intended for the lady, with a balcony built on the side facade, facing the garden, and decorated with glass and wrought iron, as a reading place.

"Although the building where Lady Elena lived in the last years of her existence did not belong to her, it still remained in the collective memory as the house of Elena Cuza in Piatra-Neamt. The princess passed into eternity on April 2, 1909, forever etched in the memory of the community as a complex personality through the many qualities she possessed. The philanthropic works she carried out all her life tell the story of her humanity, altruism and care for her fellow people. Lady Elena's charitable work began with the establishment of the "Elena Doamna" Asylum, in Cotroceni, dedicated to orphan girls and abandoned babies, she continued her voluntary work as a nurse at the 'Caritatea' Hospital in Iasi and ended in Piatra-Neamt where, sacrificing herself for a noble cause, she had most of her financial resources distributed to poor, sick children or pupils with outstanding results. Last but not least, the name of the one who was the First Lady of Romania is also linked to the beginnings of surgery in the city located in the 'middle of the mountains with feet bathed in Bistrita's clear waters'," museum curator Renata Gabriela Buzau from the Neamt National Museum Complex also said.


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