Ecaterina Teodoroiu – The Romanian heroine who fought during World War I

Tijana Radeska
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Ecaterina Teodoroiu

Ecaterina Teodoroiu was born in 1894 and went on to become a heroine of World War I.

She was a woman-soldier during the war, and because of her courage she is still recognized today as a Romanian heroine and is often favorably compared to Queen Maria of Romania. Born to a family of farmers, Ecaterina (Catalina in Romanian) was first educated in her native village of Vădeni at the Romanian-German Primary School. Later, she graduated from the Girl’s School in Bucharest and in 1916, she was ready to become a teacher before the plan was interrupted by the events of WWI. As the Romanian Kingdom entered the war on the side of the Allies, Ecaterina changed her plans and ambitions.

Ecaterina Teodoroiu portrait

Catalina had experience as a Scout member and had worked as a nurse. With her experience, she decided to offer her services as a nurse on the front. She came to her decision after the death of her brother Nicolae, a sergeant in the Romanian Army. She was also motivated by the patriotism of the people, which deeply impressed her. It goes without saying that, at the time, it was an unusual decision for a woman to make. However, Ecaterina soon proved her qualities on the front not only as a nurse and, later, as a soldier but also as a symbol of bravery.

Ecaterina was invited to visit the Royal Family after she showed extraordinary courage when as a nurse she joined the civilians and reserve soldiers at the bridge over the Jiu River to fight against an attack of a Bavarian company of the 9th German Army. A few days after her visit to the Royal Family, Ecaterina went to the frontline to visit Nicolae, just a few days before he was killed during a battle.

Avenging her brother became one of the main reasons behind her request for permission to join the 18th Infantry Regiment as a volunteer. Very soon, Ecaterina proved her military skills.

Second Lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu

Ecaterina became known among the soldiers because she came up with a ruse for her company to use to avoid being taken prisoner in the case of being surrounded by the enemy.Nevertheless, she didn’t use it when she was captured during a fight but rather managed to escape by killing the German soldier who was guarding her, with a concealed revolver.

Monument in Slatina. Photo credit

Ecaterina was involved in the skirmishes close to Bărbătești and Țânțăreni. After that, she was wounded by a shell in both her legs during fighting near Filiași. She ended up being hospitalized at the “King Ferdinand” Military Hospital in Iași. When she was released from the hospital, Ecaterina requested to be allowed to join Second Lieutenant Gheorghe Mănoiu’s 43/59 Infantry Regiment as a voluntary nurse.

Teodoroiu was awarded the “Scout Virtue” Medal for her bravery, and the Military Virtue Medal, 2nd Class, on March 10, 1917. Just a week later, she was also awarded the Military Virtue Medal, 1st Class, made honorary Second Lieutenant by King Ferdinand and given the command of a 25-man platoon in the 7th Company (43/59 Infantry Regiment, 11th Division), commanded by Second Lieutenant Gheorghe Mănoiu.

 

Panciu memorial at the site of her death. Photo credit

Preparing to join the upcoming offensive, Ecaterina’s regiment was quartered in Codăești, Vaslui County from 25th April, 1917. On August 5, she was kindly asked by General Ernest Broșteanu to stay behind the front, at the mobile hospital but Second Lieutenant Teodoroiu strongly refused him, requesting to be allowed to join her platoon in the upcoming battle.

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On September 3 (August 22 Old Style), the Romanians were attacked by a German Regiment. Second Lieutenant Teodoroiu was leading her platoon in a counterattack when she was hit by machine gun fire in the chest. Her last words before dying were: “Forward, men, don’t give up, I’m still with you!” Initially, she was buried close to the front, in Fitioneşti. However, in June 1921, her remains were interred in a crypt in the city center of Târgu Jiu. In 1936, her grave was honored by a monument created by Milița Petrașcu.