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Mother Alexandra; Romanian Princess Founded Monastery

January 23, 1991|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mother Alexandra, who at her death had become well-known as founder of a Pennsylvania monastery but at her birth was Princess Ileana of Romania, has died in a Youngstown, Ohio, hospital two weeks after suffering a heart attack.

The eldest daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and of Czar Alexander II of Russia, she was the founder of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration.

Mother Christophora, abbess of the eastern Pennsylvania monastery, said Mother Alexandra was 82 and "her final days were quiet, peaceful and prayerful." She died Monday.

Ileana and her family fled Bucharest in 1948 after a Communist government takeover.

She was an aunt of King Michael, last of the Romanian monarchs, who lives in Geneva, and a cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. She moved first to Switzerland and then to Argentina before settling in 1950 in the United States.

The youngest of five children of Ferdinand and Marie, Mother Alexandra was married to Archduke Anton of Austria when she was 23 in a wedding arranged by her eldest brother, King Carol II. She lived in Austria until 1940, when she returned to her homeland.

Shortly after coming to the United States--carrying some of her jewelry wrapped in a nightgown and bearing a gold container filled with Romanian soil--she divorced the archduke. By then, she had six children and was living in Newton, Mass., where she supported herself by lecturing on her life and Romania.

She married a second time, to Dr. Stefan Issarescu, but that too ended in divorce, in 1960.

In 1967, with her eldest daughter having been killed in a plane crash (a tragedy said to have influenced her decision) and her other children grown, she moved to France and became a nun of the Orthodox Church in the convent of the Protection of the Holy Virgin in east-central France.

Two years later, she established her monastery for Orthodox Church women of all ethnic backgrounds in a trailer in Ellwood City, Pa.

Mother Alexandra returned to her homeland just once. Last September, she went to the graves of her parents.

One of her final requests was that the Romanian soil she brought to this country be buried with her.

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