Poetry In Context: The Legend of Elena Ceausescu

One of my favorite subjects when writing poetry is that of tragic love stories in history. I plan to share a series of these poems, with the title If That Ain’t Love.

I published one recently called If That Ain’t Love: Romania, 1989. The poem was about the last moments of Elena, the wife of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu. Despite how one feels about Romania’s communist past and the tenuous impact of democracy on its present, the love story of the communist dictator and his wife is fascinating.

23 year old Elena met 21 year old Nicolae in 1939 and they reportedly remained faithful to each other from then until the end. She stuck with him through various stints in prison for his political activities. As he rose to power in Romania, she was his partner, both in life and politically. By 1973, she was the second most important figure in the country behind her husband. A cult of personality followed both Nicolae and Elena; she was called the “mother of Romania.”

As communism fell around the world, so too went Romania in 1989. The Ceausescus were captured and tried together, sentenced to death by firing squad to be carried out immediately. Elena was defiant until the end, telling the soldiers “shame shame” and “I raised you like a mother,” before begging to die alongside her husband, instead of separately as intended.

Getting her wish to die with her husband, her final words were reportedly “you mother fucking assholes,” as a volley of rounds were fired at them both.

Here is the taped account of their being bound and led out of the hastily put together court, to their executions.

Pretty powerful stuff, no? If that ain’t love…

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