Hospital of the Queen's Heart by Ileana, Princess of Romania

One always wonders how a book came to be written. For a long while I have felt that I had a story to tell, one that I have lived through, about people in trying times in a village called Bran in my homeland. This is the story.

The years I tell about were full ones; every day was crowded with events, and it has not been easy to select which ones to write about. My mind and heart are brimful of pictures and memories which are so much a part of me, and I of them, that it is hard for me to clothe them in words clear enough for a stranger to read and share with me. I am too close, still, to all that happened.

But I have found amazing understanding and parallel of my own philosophies and ideals in my friend and secretary, Lucile Howard. Without her co-operation and her ability to visualize the stories I told her and make them live again on paper, this book would have remained indefinitely a framework, an outline of data and anecdote. She took the skeleton I gave her and hung flesh upon it. I am grateful for the friendship that has made this book possible.

My acknowledgments go also to three friends who have advised us, my countrymen, Dr. Stefan Issarescu and Dr. Mircea Anthony Giurgiu, and my American physician, Dr. Edward J. Sawyer. They have given us generously of their time and their counsel.

For their help in preparing the manuscript for the publishers, and for the stimulation of their interest, I wish to thank Mr. David S. Pollard, Mrs. Sylvia R. Rice, and Mrs. Betty Tobias. It has been a joy to work with them.

Now I am going to talk about myself, to reply to a question that many people have asked me lately—how did I become a nurse? Where did I receive my training? What experience had I to make a hospital of my own feasible?

Actually, I became a nurse by chance, due more to immediate necessity, a job before me to do, than to formal technical training. I had courses in home nursing and first aid as a Girl Guide in England and later in the Romanian Red Cross. I had a short intensive course in Austria when I turned part of my home there into a hospital for wounded Romanian officers. My qualifications were more of the spirit than of the book. I loved nursing and I had a real intuitive ability for it. I studied textbooks and had had a wide experience in general nursing long before I thought of a hospital of my own. For the first ten years of my married life I ran a children's dispensary at Sonnberg, in Austria, and I nursed the sick in their homes, there and in Bran, in Romania.

When I first came to Bran in 1944, I worked for four months in the Red Cross hospital in Brasov, and my experience there taught me in a short space of time a fair measure of hospital administration under the difficulties and great stress of war. What I did not know I soon learned—circumstances taught me vigorously. I know no better teachers of highly accelerated courses than urgency and necessity.

Nursing was the fulfilling of a deep need within me. My love of people and the desire to worship God in the service of human beings found expression for me in caring for the sick. My daughter Sandi said to me awhile ago when she gave up college to go into nursing, "It's not a question of bedpans, but saving life. One just has to do it —it's like a sort of religion."

That is exactly what it was to me, and it came to be even more than that, for I grew to know and to love our Romanian peasants better than I ever could otherwise, and in understanding them I think I learned to understand all humanity a little better.

This is the story of Spitalul Inima Reginei—the Hospital of the Queen's Heart—which is the real heroine of the book. It is a story of Bran, in a narrow mountain valley lost far behind the Iron Curtain, and its peasants to whom the hospital belonged. It is the story of the Bran way of life, a story of work and service, of love and equality. It is a story which will never be finished, for it will never cease in the telling.

Ileana November, 1953