Famous Romanians: Three knights of God – Nicolae Steinhard, Vladimir Ghika, Richard Wurmbrand

Nicolae Steinhardt was a Romanian writer, Orthodox hermit and father confessor.

He was born on July 12, 1912 in Pantelimon commune, near Bucharest, from a Jewish father and a Romanian mother and he died on March 29, 1989 in city of Baia Mare.

Between 1919 and 1929, he attended a very famous school called “Spiru Haret” (after the name of the Romanian – Armenian mathematician, astronomer, politician who built the modern Romanian education system.) Despite his background, he was taught religion by a Christian priest. In 1934, he took his diploma from the Law and Literature School of the University of Bucharest and under the pseudonym Antisthius, one of La Bruyères characters, he published his first book, the parody novel “In the Manner of Cioran, Noica, Eliade”.

In 1936, he took his PhD in Constitutional Law, and between 1937 and 1938, he travelled to Switzerland, Austria, France and England.

In 1939 Steinhardt worked as an editor for “Revista Fundaţiilor Regale” (a government-sponsored literary magazine), losing his job between 1940 and 1944, during the ethnic cleansing under the Iron Guard regime (the National Legionary State) and under Ion Antonescu.

Between 1944 and 1948 he worked again at the “Revista Fundațiilor Regale”

From 1948 until 1959, he witnessed a new period of deprivation, this time from the Romanian Communist regime.

In 1959, during the court trial of his former school colleague Constantin Noica (Romanian philosopher, essayist and poet), he refused to speak as witness against him. As a consequence, he was accused of “crimes of conspiracy against social order”, and was ironically included in the “batch of mystical-Iron Guards intellectuals”, and sentenced to thirteen years of forced labour, in gulag-like prisons. He would serve his penalty at Jilava, Gherla, Aiud and other communist jails.

While in prison, on March 15, 1960 he was baptised Orthodox Christian, by a well-known hermit from Baarabia.

After his release in 1964, he had a successful and notable activity as translator and publisher. His first celebrated literary works (“Between Life and Books”), and (“Literary Uncertainties”) were published in 1976 and 1980, respectively.

In 1980 he was accepted at the Rohia Monastery (a famous Orthodox Monastery situated in Maramures County , in the Northern part of Romania, ), as the monastery’s librarian, and, at the same time he dedicated himself to writing. During this time, his fame as a counsellor and father-confessor grew, attracting tens of visitors weekly to Rohia.

He died at Baia Mare city hospital, on March, 29, 1989

Among his more valuable books, genuine manuals of belief, humanity, kindness and compassion are counted : The Happiness Diary, (“Through Giving You Shall Receive, (“The Danger of Confessing”)(“The Danger of Confessing”), mostly published postmortem after the revolution.

Vladimir Ghika was a Romanian diplomat and essayist, beatified by the Roman Catholic Church. He was born on December 25, 1873 in Constantinople, (today Istanbul, Turkey) and he died on May 16, 1954 in the Jilava prison, Bucharest. He was a member of the princely Ghika family which ruled Moldavia and Wallachia from the 17th to the 19th century. His father John Ghika was minister plenipotentiary in Turkey and his mother was Alexandrina Ghika (born Alexandrina Moret de Blaremberg).

In 1878, the Ghika family moved to France, at Toulouse. There they joined the Protestant community in terms of religious practice, because the Orthodox Church wasn’t represented in the area. Vladimir Ghika received the degree in law in 1895, after which he attended the Paris Faculty of Political Science. At the same time he attended courses of medicine, botany, art, literature, philosophy, history.

Ghika returned to Romania due to an attack of angina pectoris, and he continued his studies in Romania. In 1898 he went to Rome to join the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology of the Dominican College of St. Thomas. He became a Catholic in 1902. In 1905 he completed a bachelor degree in philosophy and a doctorate in theology.

He wanted to become a priest or monk, but Pope Pius X advised him to give up on the idea, at least for a while, and dedicate himself to secular apostolate. He became one of the pioneers of the lay apostolate.

Back in Romania, he did charity work and opened the first free clinic in Bucharest, called Marie Bethlehem, as well as created the hospital and sanatorium Saint Vincent de Paul. He also founded the first free hospital in Romania and the first ambulance service, becoming the founder of the first Catholic charity work in Romania. He took part in the Balkan war (1913) in health services, dedicating himself to patient care without fear of cholera.

During World War I he was in charge of diplomatic missions among the Avezzano earthquake victims of tuberculosis in the Hospice of Rome. On October 1923 he was ordained a priest in Paris. He served as a priest in France until 1939. Shortly after Ghika was ordained, the Holy See authorized him to celebrate the Byzantine Rite. Prince Ghika thereby became the first bi-ritual Romanian priest.

In May 1931 the Pope appointed Ghika to be an Apostolic Promontory. He worked worldwide, in Bucharest, Rome, Paris, Congo, Tokyo, Sydney, Buenos Aires .The Pope Pius XI used to call him ” the apostolic vagabond”.

He returned to Romania in August 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War. He refused to leave Romania, and wanted to stay with the poor and sick, to be able to help and encourage. He only left Bucharest when the allied forces started bombing it.

After the Communists came to power, he also refused to leave on the royal train. He was arrested on November 18, 1952 because of his support for the Catholic Church in communion with Rome (Greco – Catholic Church).He was charged for “high treason” and imprisoned at Jilava (one of the most terrible prison in the Communism regime), where he died in 1954 due to the harsh treatment to which he was subjected.

In spite of his great culture and great capacity, he avoided producing personal writings; he wrote only forced by circumstances and needs. He made research work in the Vatican archives, publishing some of the results in the Revue Catolique. He wrote magazine articles in Literary Talk, La Revue Hebdomadaire, Les Études, Le Correspondant, La Revue des Jeunes, La Documentation Catholique.

Price Vladimir Ghika, named Monsignor Vladimir Ghika was beatified by Roman Catholic Church in 2013.


Richard Wurmbrand was a famous Romanian Christian minister. He was born on March 24, 1909 in Bucharest and he died on February 17, 2001in California.

Richard Wurmbrand was the youngest of four boys, from a Jewish family. He lived with his family in Istanbul for a short while. At 15 he returned to Romania. As an adolescent, he was sent to study Marxism in Moscow, but returned clandestinely the following year. Pursued by the Secret Police, he was arrested and held in the famous Doftana prison.

Wurmbrand was an important “Comintern” agent, leader and coordinator directly paid from Moscow. Like other Romanian communists, he was arrested several times, then sentenced and released again. Wurmbrand and his wife became believers in Jesus Christ in 1938 and they joined the Anglican Mission to the Jews.

Wurmbrand was ordained twice – first as an Anglican, then, after the World War II, as a Lutheran minister. In 1944, when the Soviet Union occupied Romania as the first step to establishing a communist regime, Wurmbrand began a ministry for his Romanian countrymen and Red Army soldiers. When the government attempted to control churches, he immediately began an “underground” ministry for his people. He was arrested on February 29, 1948, while on his way to church services

Wurmbrand, who passed through the jail houses in Craiova, Gherla, the Danube – Black Sea Canal, Văcăreşti, Malmaison, Cluj, and ultimately Jilava, spent three years in solitary confinement. He later recounted that he exercised his mind and soul by composing and then delivering a sermon each night. Due to his extraordinary memory, he was able to recall more than 350 of these, a selection of which he included in his book “With God in Solitary”

Wurmbrand was released from his first imprisonment in 1956. Although he was warned not to preach, he resumed his work in the underground church and, consequently he was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. But, in 1964 he was a recipient of an amnesty. Concerned with the possibility that Wurmbrand would be forced to undergo further imprisonment, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance negotiated with Communist authorities for his release from Romania for USD 10,000 .He was convinced by underground church leaders to leave and become a voice for the persecuted church. He devoted the rest of his life to this effort, despite warnings and death threats.

Wurmbrand travelled to Norway, England, and then the United States. In May, 1966, he testified in Washington, D.C. before the US Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee. That testimony, brought him to public attention and became known as “The Voice of the Underground Church,” doing much to publicize the persecution of Christians in Communist countries.

In April 1967, the Wurmbrands formed Jesus To The Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs), an organization working initially with and for persecuted Christians in Communist countries, but later expanding its activities to help persecuted believers in other places, especially in the Muslim world.

In 1990 Richard and his wife returned to Romania for the first time in 25 years. He died at the age of 92 on February 17, 2001 in a hospital in Torrance, California.

Wurmbrand wrote 18 books in English and others in Romanian. His best-known book, titled “Tortured for Christ”, was released in 1967.

By Mariana Ganea, guest writer


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