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I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria

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Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria—who in later life became Mother Alexandra, founder of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pennsylvania—wrote this memoir shortly after relocating to the US in the 1950s. It tells the story of a life full of suffering, tragedy, and exile, but all is suffused with the author's deep faith, hope, love, and eve Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria—who in later life became Mother Alexandra, founder of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pennsylvania—wrote this memoir shortly after relocating to the US in the 1950s. It tells the story of a life full of suffering, tragedy, and exile, but all is suffused with the author's deep faith, hope, love, and even joy. This reprint includes additional material collected by the nuns of her monastery that sets the memoir in the context of Mother Alexandra's later life.


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Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria—who in later life became Mother Alexandra, founder of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pennsylvania—wrote this memoir shortly after relocating to the US in the 1950s. It tells the story of a life full of suffering, tragedy, and exile, but all is suffused with the author's deep faith, hope, love, and eve Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria—who in later life became Mother Alexandra, founder of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pennsylvania—wrote this memoir shortly after relocating to the US in the 1950s. It tells the story of a life full of suffering, tragedy, and exile, but all is suffused with the author's deep faith, hope, love, and even joy. This reprint includes additional material collected by the nuns of her monastery that sets the memoir in the context of Mother Alexandra's later life.

30 review for I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Last spring, I visited the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration near Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. The beauty and serenity of the monastery, the prayerful services, and the sisters’ warm hospitality provided a needed respite after a busy Lenten season. It was there that I first learned of Princess Ileana, who in her later years took up a monastic vocation and, as Abbess Mother Alexandra, founded the first English-speaking Orthodox women’s monastery on American soil in the hills of western Pen Last spring, I visited the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration near Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. The beauty and serenity of the monastery, the prayerful services, and the sisters’ warm hospitality provided a needed respite after a busy Lenten season. It was there that I first learned of Princess Ileana, who in her later years took up a monastic vocation and, as Abbess Mother Alexandra, founded the first English-speaking Orthodox women’s monastery on American soil in the hills of western Pennsylvania. My visit coincided with the 50th year of the monastery’s founding, and with this anniversary I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana was to be reprinted by Ancient Faith Publishing. Within weeks of its publication, I purchased the book and entered, entranced, into Ileana’s story. This is not the story of a fairytale princess. Princess Ileana writes passionately, frankly, and compellingly of her country, Romania, and of a royal life intertwined with the stark and frequently brutal realities of World Wars I and II and of the Communist takeover of her country. “Duty was the keyword of my childhood and youth,” Princess Ileana explains. “I was trained to do my duty to my country in all things … to be loyal to family and friends.” It is this sense of duty and loyalty suffused with a deep faith and fervent love for her country, her people, and her family that weaves through tale after amazing tale. Summing up lessons learned, Princess Ileana confides: “I know now that love and pity, implemented with the will to serve, can transcend all things and work incredible miracles; that one can overcome shyness, fatigue, fear, and even what seems uncontrollable physical repulsion, by a simple overwhelming longing to serve and be of use … I have learned that where there is faith in the Lord, His work can be done.” Written just a few short years after she was exiled from Romania, this is a book of hope – hence the title, I Live Again. The additional material included in this anniversary edition sets the memoir in the context of Mother Alexandra’s later life, accentuating how fully she did indeed “live again.” I found this book hard to put down; it was like saying farewell to a dear friend when I came to the last pages. So, when the opportunity arose to provide an honest review in exchange for gratis access to the audiobook version of I Live Again I was eager to do so. A second go at the book only deepened my appreciation of Princess Ileana’s storytelling prowess. The narrator reads with feeling and a well-paced cadence, effortlessly pronouncing enigmatic Romanian names. I highly recommend this book: to men and women, to teens and adults, to fans of memoir, to fans of early to mid-twentieth century European history, to admirers of Mother Theresa (for Princess Ileana also gives her life to those in need), to those looking for inspiration from a modern-day saint who persevered through incredible adversity. I know I will be reading and listening to this book again - and sharing it with others!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Bogdan

    An interesting insight in the period of the Second World War and the life of some of the Monarch of that period. There were a lot of new information, facts and peoples so a highly interesting book. The only complaint is that it felt a little too short and the story hasn`t any big information after the emigration of the Princess in America, where from wiki had had a tumultuous life also, with a divorce and after that, building and going into the Monastery life. Anyway this felt like a solid histor An interesting insight in the period of the Second World War and the life of some of the Monarch of that period. There were a lot of new information, facts and peoples so a highly interesting book. The only complaint is that it felt a little too short and the story hasn`t any big information after the emigration of the Princess in America, where from wiki had had a tumultuous life also, with a divorce and after that, building and going into the Monastery life. Anyway this felt like a solid historical volume, but also a good memoir of the life of (most) romanians in the period of the WWII.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This is for the audiobook: As I listened to this audiobook, my mind kept returning to one thought... Princess Ileana, during the time of the war, exemplified the Proverbs 31 woman: 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she plan This is for the audiobook: As I listened to this audiobook, my mind kept returning to one thought... Princess Ileana, during the time of the war, exemplified the Proverbs 31 woman: 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.14 She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. This book is not about her monastic life or the establishment of the monastery. This book is a journal of the events of Princess Ileana's life during a very specific time period- her life during WWII and after- leading up to her family leaving Romania. How she "lives again" as she transitions from being a princess of Romania to the Archduchess of Austria to the time of WWII, and, finally, to when she is forced with her family to leave her country. Princess Ileana was not idle- her ability to learn nursing, build hospitals, give to the poor, and convince communist officials to support her endeavors were inspiring. As I finished this audiobook, I was inspired by her untiring example of giving to others and helping her fellow man. And, her adventures, which she writes about very matter of fact (almost as if she believes that anyone else would have done the same thing which shows her true humility). I am eager to learn more about how Princess Ileana became Mother Alexandra of blessed memory, how she "lives again" in monasticism. Technically, this audiobook is very well done. The quality of the recording is amazing. The narrator, Kristina Wenger, does an excellent job- I almost believed it was the voice of Princess Ileana herself! The one downside to the audiobook is that the published book does contain illustrations and photos of Princess Ileana and her family. But, that is the downside to audiobooks, especially autobiographical books, is that there is not a way to convey the photos or artwork. We happen to own a copy of the book and I was able to look through the photos/illustrations (but I waited until after I finished listening to the book in order to write a review of the audiobook). I was gifted a copy of this audiobook for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    At the very beginning I have to say that I was provided a free copy of the audio version of this book in return for posting my review in several places online. Princess Ileana was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand I of Romania and his consort, Queen Marie of Romania. She was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II and Queen Maria II of Portugal. During WWI she saw Queen Marie spend long days nursing wounded soldiers, an example of servanthood she would never forget. Late At the very beginning I have to say that I was provided a free copy of the audio version of this book in return for posting my review in several places online. Princess Ileana was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand I of Romania and his consort, Queen Marie of Romania. She was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Tsar Alexander II and Queen Maria II of Portugal. During WWI she saw Queen Marie spend long days nursing wounded soldiers, an example of servanthood she would never forget. Later she endured the events of WWI, caught between Austria and Romania as by that point she had married the Archduke of Austria. Setting her task in this book to not write about anything she did not personally experience, she provides the framework of rapidly changing global and national events as a lens to describe her changing role throughout the national and personal turmoil from both fascism and Soviet communism. She served however she could, starting as a Red Cross canteen worker, to nursing, to founding hospitals, surgical assisting, a brief mention of her underground activities and other ways before being forced to flee Romania with her 6 children to the West along with many others. Through it all she never lost sight of her faith or her love for the Romanians. Throughout her story can be seen the heartbreaking impact of the subjugation of the Romanian people as the iron curtain descended. This book was written in 1951, just several years after her exile so it does not speak of her later years where she became Mother Alexandria, founding Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Elwood City, PA. An epilogue is included to provide that context.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Audra Wooten

    I Live Again is a memoir of Ileana Habsburg, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria, better known to some as Mother Alexandra, founding Abbess of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood CIty, PA. She wrote this shortly after her exile from her beloved Romania to first Argentina and then the United States. It is her own story, but it is also the story of her beloved homeland, Romania. Throughout the book, Princess Ileana answers the question so often put to her by Americans, which I Live Again is a memoir of Ileana Habsburg, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria, better known to some as Mother Alexandra, founding Abbess of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood CIty, PA. She wrote this shortly after her exile from her beloved Romania to first Argentina and then the United States. It is her own story, but it is also the story of her beloved homeland, Romania. Throughout the book, Princess Ileana answers the question so often put to her by Americans, which was, “What is it like -- to be a princess?” The answer may surprise you. I had personally never considered how much the life of a royal person is a life of duty. The author illustrates in a series of beautiful vignettes how, although she never learned to do domestic chores like cooking or cleaning, it was not because she lived a life of leisure. From her earliest days as the 5th of 6 children, her time and education were dedicated to the service of her people. As the current Abbess of the monastery, Mother Christophora says in her introduction, “As you read the book, you will gain insight into European history, told from the inside (from the 1920s to 1948). Because of that, this is one book where it is so useful to read the Prologue to this New Edition by V. Rev. Father Remus Grama, who gives a brief history of the events affecting Romania during this time. With that as a backdrop, Princess Ileana shares with us the human side of this time of great suffering, great sacrifice, and great sorrow. She makes the enormous tragedy personal, by sharing stories of the wounded soldiers that she herself tended to, and her humility is evident throughout. For example, whereas some people might be tempted to excuse any sort of behavior under the trying circumstances of life in a war zone, the author uses the story of a bombing raid to share how she learned a personal lesson about the importance of holding one’s tongue and reserving judgment. She shares other such lessons with candor and grace. The structure of many of chapters is to introduce us to a physical object, a tiara, a cross, a photograph, and then take us back in time to tell the story of that object in poignant prose. In this way, the Princess gives us a touchpoint for these travels into the history of her country. She is a masterful writer, never forgetting how little Americans know about the events of her country and the time she lived there, and explaining everything beautifully, without condescension, but with such grace. At one point, when the story seemed to be growing so tragic I felt I must take a break, the author must have sensed that the reader would feel that way, and for a moment, she took a break, too, and related some humorous anecdotes. One of my favorite parts of the book is how Princess Ileana illustrates how, in the words of my husband’s grandmother, “to pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you.” Once, when some seemingly impossible situation arose, and God provided, she “resolved to try harder not to let doubt cripple my work. It is actually a kind of conceit to do so, a feeling that it is our own work we are doing. If we acknowledge it to be God’s work, certainly He is capable of bringing together men of good will who can be His instruments.” But it is also clear that she did not just sit around waiting for God to work. She says, “Once, someone asked me how I got ‘all that’ done. ‘With my feet!’ I replied. And this, in many ways, is true, for things do not drop into one’s lap. One has to go and find them. When I first picked up the book, it reminded me very much of the autobiography of Maria Von Trapp that I read (and also loved) around 10 years ago, both being initially set in Austria and around the same time, and the written voices of the authors had similarities. However, I Live Again has a much broader scope. Where Maria learned as a new Christian to give her life to God and then to her family, Ileana started from there and with the lifelong quest to give her life to her people. The reader cannot help but ache with her at the loss of the Romania she knew, and we know from the very beginning of the book that it is already gone. She says in the Afterword, “Human hopes and joys and sorrows have moved me deeply because I have always seen the individual as a human being rather than as an exponent of any creed or belief, and pity has been my strongest emotion toward friend and foe alike.... It has given me an understanding which separates the individual from the evil, instead of presenting the one as the personification of the other.” We need to be reminded of this noble perspective today, in a world so deeply divided. May we all read this book and learn, like Mother Alexandra, to see individuals as human beings!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Wiltz

    Ever since reading The Last Romantic by Hannah Pakula as a teenager, I’ve been interested in the Romanian royal family. This is the memoir of the famous Queen Marie’s youngest daughter, Ileana. It doesn’t cover her entire life – just from 1934 to 1948. (Note: I read an earlier edition than the one pictured in this Goodreads listing, so there might be additional content in that one.) It’s a fascinating look at Austria and then Romania during World War II and the ensuing Communist takeover. When yo Ever since reading The Last Romantic by Hannah Pakula as a teenager, I’ve been interested in the Romanian royal family. This is the memoir of the famous Queen Marie’s youngest daughter, Ileana. It doesn’t cover her entire life – just from 1934 to 1948. (Note: I read an earlier edition than the one pictured in this Goodreads listing, so there might be additional content in that one.) It’s a fascinating look at Austria and then Romania during World War II and the ensuing Communist takeover. When you read how hard Ileana worked as a nurse, you’ll be exhausted. She loved her country and its people so much – you can feel how hard it was for her to leave them when she was exiled. This book is a poignant reminder of how well off we are here, today, in America. It made me feel the same way I did after reading Missie Vassiltchikov’s Berlin Diaries – profoundly grateful that I have not lived through a war on my home turf. More about This Book The book opens in New England, where Ileana lived with her kids following her flight from Romania after the Communists took over. When she flashes back to tell you about her life, she starts by selecting an object – a sapphire and diamond kokoshnik tiara – that she inherited from her mother. She tells us about Sonnberg, the schloss she and her husband, Archduke Anton of Austria, bought in 1934. They lived there, 30 miles outside of Vienna, through the Anschluss and the first part of the war. Anton was conscripted during the Sudetenland crisis, and remained in the Luftwaffe for years. In May of 1944, Ileana and their 6 kids left Austria for Romania, and stayed there until 1948. Her decision to move was based, at least in part, on the knowledge that shit was about to get real. If the Russians were going to invade Austria and Romania, she preferred her family to be “where every man was my friend.” (107) The family stayed in Romania through the end of the war, and until the Communist regime made life untenable for her after King Michael’s abdication. All her property was seized, her castle sealed and put under guard. The book ends when she and her family are exiled and forced to leave Romania. We’re told briefly that she next went to Switzerland and then Argentina, but she doesn’t detail anything that happened there. As we learned in the first chapter, because of her bad health (arthritis and bursitis), she came to the U.S. in May of 1950 for medical treatment. She later moved there, since two of her kids had already gotten scholarships to schools in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. She fell in love with Newton, Massachusetts and settled there. That brings the book full circle with the opening chapter, where she describes learning to cook in her new American kitchen. What You’ll Find *A lot of detail about nursing and hospital work in Romania during the war. While still in Austria, she visited a hospital for Romanian soldiers in Vienna. That led to her helping them with paperwork, cheering them up, raising money for their care, and advocating for their needs in Vienna and Berlin. This led to nursing and caring for them herself, and later – in Romania – to setting up a hospital and running it with more energy than I’ve ever had in my whole life. There are plenty of anecdotes about the joy and horror of nursing, including a soldier who came to them with frostbite. When they began to peel off his trousers, frozen and caked with blood and dirt, his frostbitten flesh – as brittle as if it had been burned by fire – broke off above the knee. *What it was like in Romania when the Communists took over. In a word, terrifying. Russian patrols could shoot first and ask questions later, or commandeer your vehicle and then shoot or arrest you if you annoyed them. Education changed, becoming a narrow agenda of Party politics and altered or heavily edited history. Almost every aspect of life for normal people, from the food supply to civil rights, got worse. Ileana also mentions a touching moment with a hospital inspector who was a Party member. He was so disillusioned because the Party had done nothing to help the working class with all the money pouring in from taxes (“social insurance”). “I cannot understand it; I really cannot! And I have lived for this day!” the man told her. (279) Interesting Tidbits *Houses in Austria were taxed according to the number of rooms. Ileana’s Schloss Sonnberg had 35 rooms. *Immediately after Hitler annexed Austria, Ileana called her mom, Queen Marie of Romania, to let her know she was all right. They normally spoke English with each other, but the German phone operators now insisted they both speak German. A few weeks later, Hitler’s aide-de-camp sent Queen Marie flowers and an apology for forcing her to speak German just to have a phone conversation with her daughter. *Ileana did not join the German Red Cross because “to do so involved swearing fidelity to Hitler, and this I could not do.” (57) *During the war, the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna used Ileana’s mother’s old rooms in Schloss Sonnberg to store period furniture that had belonged to Maria Theresa – her cradle, a chair, and writing table, among other items. When the Russians later occupied the castle, she reports, they destroyed the furniture. *After caring for a couple of soldiers who had been blinded, she helped found a school for seeing eye dogs at Sibiu. What You Won’t Find *Much detail about her husband or their marriage. She keeps pretty quiet about him – we’re not even told how they met, for example. We’re also not told that the marriage was encouraged by her brother, Carol II, and he refused her husband permission to live on Romanian soil, hence their move to Austria. He’s not mentioned as being with them in America, which come to find out, he wasn’t. They divorced in 1954. *Much detail about her difficult brother, King Carol II, or her nephew, King Michael. She wasn’t in close contact with Michael, and only managed to see him a few times. Everything was perfectly friendly when they did, but at one point, Ileana’s public efforts on behalf of her hospital led to tension with the government. Should You Read It? Absolutely. If for no other reason than to understand what sacrifice means during war. ===== Review originally posted on the 2021 Royal Reading List at https://girlinthetiara.com/2021-royal...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex of Yoe

    I absolutely loved this incredible memoir of a princess who witnessed the Nazi take-over of Austria and the Soviet take-over of Romania. She powerfully depicts the sufferings of her people and her work to help and fight for them amidst overwhelming and brutal odds. Her passion for her country, her faith, and her family are inspiring even as her story is filled with heartache. She is the picture of the perfect royal whom we would all want ruling over us (though I doubt she'd ever see herself that I absolutely loved this incredible memoir of a princess who witnessed the Nazi take-over of Austria and the Soviet take-over of Romania. She powerfully depicts the sufferings of her people and her work to help and fight for them amidst overwhelming and brutal odds. Her passion for her country, her faith, and her family are inspiring even as her story is filled with heartache. She is the picture of the perfect royal whom we would all want ruling over us (though I doubt she'd ever see herself that way). Compassionate, courageous, diligent, and steadfast, she is a model of how to live and care for one another even when facing deplorable conditions and rampant evil. This memoir was written shortly after Princess Ileana (who later became Mother Alexandra) was exiled from her home country of Romania and came to live in the United States. It is the story of her country written specifically to Americans in the hope that it would raise awareness of the evils of Communism and the desperate needs of her people. It's amazing to think that English was not her first language! This book was not translated: she wrote it in perfect, beautiful English herself (and even illustrated it)! It is intelligent, thoughtful, poignant, and chock full of history all written from an intimate, insider's point of view. If you want a front row seat to what WWII and the Iron Curtain looked like as they were happening, you can't get a better perspective. She helps the reader fall in love with her homeland and feel her heartbreak as it is ravaged by the nations surrounding it. The things she witnessed are beyond imagination. The entire world has a lesson to learn from her story. Although it is a memoir, it only covers a chunk of her life shortly after her marriage to the Archduke of Austria up through her exile from Romania, so while the beginning and end of her life story are touched upon briefly, I would've loved to hear more about them. I appreciated the additions written by others who knew her later in her life as it helped give more context to what happened to her. There are a lot of names that are hard to keep track of at times, and while the book is mostly chronological, it does jump every now and then, making it a little confusing at times. There is violence and war/hospital scenes that are intense, but she's tactful enough to keep them from being too traumatizing to the reader (without underplaying the horror of it either; a very nice balance!). Some sections drag a bit, but overall it is a simple read, not overly technical, engaging and well-written. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in WWII/Soviet-era history. This is a must-read! It is also perfect for anyone looking for a real life heroine or "strong female" to emulate. In this day and age, we need more like her. Mother Alexandra, please intercede for all of us!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Geana

    I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria was a book that took me some time to get into. I typically gravitate toward more personal memoirs. I enjoy hearing the intimate details of life i.e. how it felt to mother, what relationships between husband and wife were like behind the public eye, etc… Princess Ileana’s memoir was in a decidedly different vein. Here was a figure whose public and private life seemed entirely consumed with people and country rather than I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana Princess of Romania, Archduchess of Austria was a book that took me some time to get into. I typically gravitate toward more personal memoirs. I enjoy hearing the intimate details of life i.e. how it felt to mother, what relationships between husband and wife were like behind the public eye, etc… Princess Ileana’s memoir was in a decidedly different vein. Here was a figure whose public and private life seemed entirely consumed with people and country rather than self-interest. I could not easily wrap my head around it. Hearing that she had to leave her small baby at home while she traveled on hospital business left me wondering, “but how did she feel leaving her baby behind? Wasn’t she terrified?” However, as the book progressed, I was able to value her selflessness more. Even as her life and experiences left me wanting to know more, I could let that go and appreciate that her mindset was entirely taken up with the needs of others. On a personal level, it was a shock to realize how little I knew of Romania’s experience of Russian occupation and the aftermath of World War II. Having a decidedly Western understanding of the second World War left considerable gaps in my knowledge of what the years following were like for most of Europe and perhaps especially Romania. Being in occupied territory. Being isolated, abandoned, hopeless. All these feelings and more and yet, Princess Ileana was always quick to point out the resilience and strength of her Romanian countrymen. Her pride in their ability to not have their spirits crushed was evident throughout the pages of this book. It must have felt so surreal to have lived through two World Wars and then end up in rural Pennsylvania, Abbess of a Monastery. And yet, to read her story is to understand that such miracles are possible especially when experienced by a staunchly faithful person. No where in the pages of her memoir do you hear of her faith wavering. The horrors she witnessed and experienced could have and perhaps should have left her broken and terrified and yet they didn’t. I wonder if that was because her thoughts of herself were practically nonexistent. All the work she did, all the energy she expended were for one goal, to help ease the suffering of others. Her selflessness was absolutely incredible. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more of the history behind Princess Ileana of Romania. Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Juliana

    What does New England, and more specifically, Massachusetts, have in common with Romania? They were both considered “home” to Grand Duchess Ileana, Princess of Romania. The autobiography, I Live Again, highlights that while the author had many homes, she had but one earthly homeland. I listened to this book in its entirety, marveling at the way the story flowed, much like a conversation with a beloved friend. The author was vividly descriptive, allowing visitors (readers and listeners) to visuali What does New England, and more specifically, Massachusetts, have in common with Romania? They were both considered “home” to Grand Duchess Ileana, Princess of Romania. The autobiography, I Live Again, highlights that while the author had many homes, she had but one earthly homeland. I listened to this book in its entirety, marveling at the way the story flowed, much like a conversation with a beloved friend. The author was vividly descriptive, allowing visitors (readers and listeners) to visualize exactly what was depicted, whether that was sitting in the kitchen, participating in care for the wounded at a clinic, or standing near a giant Christmas tree. The author wove her tale in a way that engaged my imagination for the past while making me forget that it *was* the past. When the book ended, I found myself shocked to realize that it was almost 70 years ago that the tale ended – though I also know the tale ended at the beginning of the next part of the author’s life. This book is an excellent one if you are looking to learn more of Romania, or to know more of the history of the wars and how it affected everyday people. The Grand Duchess, the Princess, WAS truly an “everyday” person. She did not shy away from hard work or from the horrors of wartime care for the wounded. She shared the plight of those who had no good choices and witness decisions made in hope but ending in disappointment.    I do not normally enjoy listening to books read by women, but the narrator’s voice became the voice of Ileana for me. Whether that was the power of the way that Ileana wrote, or whether it was the narrator herself, or the combination, I cannot say, but I forgot after a while that I was not listening to the author herself. I felt she became a friend, because of all she shared.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Charla Lancaster

    I don’t think it would be overly dramatic to say that this book has the potential to change lives. It’s a profound statement on what we can accomplish when we just do the next right thing; when we take our fishes and loaves to God and allow Him to feed the thousands. Although, at its core, this is a story about faith, there are a lot of geo-political undertones in this book—most of it takes place during and after World War 2, and relates very closely to the Russian occupation of Romania. I suspe I don’t think it would be overly dramatic to say that this book has the potential to change lives. It’s a profound statement on what we can accomplish when we just do the next right thing; when we take our fishes and loaves to God and allow Him to feed the thousands. Although, at its core, this is a story about faith, there are a lot of geo-political undertones in this book—most of it takes place during and after World War 2, and relates very closely to the Russian occupation of Romania. I suspect that Princess Ileana wrote it—at least in part—to defend her interactions during this time with Russian authorities, on whom she depended for help with her humanitarian efforts. In her mind, she was doing what needed to be done in the only way she knew how to do it. Her love for Romania and the Romanian people—and her desire to somehow serve them in the midst of tragedy and her own personal upheaval —is so inspiring. {As you may know, Princess Ileana eventually became Mother Alexandra, Founder and Abbess of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, the first English language Orthodox monastery in North America.} This book has it all—faith, intrigue, politics, and the power of pure love for one’s neighbor. In general, I love books that can teach me something about myself, my faith, or the world around me. This one did all three.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    I thought this to be an amazing story. It is the true life Memoir of Princess Ileana of Romania and Archduchess of Austria. Great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and cousin to Czar Nicholas II of Russia, she tells life as she remembered it through WWI and WWII until she was forced out of Romania by the Communists in the late 1940s, after confiscating all of her properties and possessions. After her 6 children were grown she became an Orthodox Nun who started a Women’s Monastery in PA. I have kno I thought this to be an amazing story. It is the true life Memoir of Princess Ileana of Romania and Archduchess of Austria. Great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and cousin to Czar Nicholas II of Russia, she tells life as she remembered it through WWI and WWII until she was forced out of Romania by the Communists in the late 1940s, after confiscating all of her properties and possessions. After her 6 children were grown she became an Orthodox Nun who started a Women’s Monastery in PA. I have known a number of people who knew her. The story is well told and I learned so much about the tragic life of the Romanian people, conquered for centuries by the Turks, Germans, Hungarians and Russians, to name a few.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is a bit of a niche memoir. I've decided not to give it a rating simply because it's a book that's not trying to "be" anything other than an extremely personal and unique account. Anyone who has a particular interest in the Iron Curtain or European royal families could stand a lot to gain from this book, and the writing itself is far from dry, but rather is quite light and appealing. Personally, I'm past the point in my life where such a topic holds any real interest for me, but it was an e This is a bit of a niche memoir. I've decided not to give it a rating simply because it's a book that's not trying to "be" anything other than an extremely personal and unique account. Anyone who has a particular interest in the Iron Curtain or European royal families could stand a lot to gain from this book, and the writing itself is far from dry, but rather is quite light and appealing. Personally, I'm past the point in my life where such a topic holds any real interest for me, but it was an enjoyable book nevertheless.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Excellent book. It gives you a glimpse of how hard life can be for the citizens of war torn countries, in this case mostly Romania but also Austria. Even though Ilene was Romanian royalty, a princess she worked hard to help her people. She used her many connections to get food and medical supplies. She worked tirelessly in the hospitals that she had started. She took in families and wounded solders that had nowhere to go. She was quite an inspiration.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    As you can see by my dates read- this was not a book to speed through. Initially I thought it was about Princess Ileana/Mother Alexandra’s journey to become an Orthodox nun, which in a way it was, but not in the way I expected. Instead she tells us of the portion of her life where she was fighting for the freedom of her dear Romania, and the many things she went through when they first came under Communist rule. It was a very interesting retelling, and what a strong and brave woman she was!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Pope

    So beautiful! I will reread this many times. Make sure the tissues are ready, her life is full of beauty and loss. As a monarch she truly loved her people, and even the communists had to be impressed by her industry. Now we can visit the monastery she founded. Thank God, America opened arms to her and her family.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Holt

    This was a fantastic look at her life! I’m only sad that it stopped the narrative before she became a monastic.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dida

    Read for a book Club at my church. Loved finding a message in each chapter of goodness and grace.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dan Profir

    A true story about faith, hope and love!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Such an inspiring story!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I enjoyed this much more than I expected I would. It is not the story of Mother Alexandra's monastic life, but the story of her life in Romania up until her forced exile in 1948. It reads as a unique view of both world wars - from the viewpoint of Romanian royalty. It's a perspective I discovered that I have never fully understood. The Audible recording was disappointing in some of its poor pronunciations, especially of the Romanian city of Iasi, but I still enjoyed diving deeply into the early I enjoyed this much more than I expected I would. It is not the story of Mother Alexandra's monastic life, but the story of her life in Romania up until her forced exile in 1948. It reads as a unique view of both world wars - from the viewpoint of Romanian royalty. It's a perspective I discovered that I have never fully understood. The Audible recording was disappointing in some of its poor pronunciations, especially of the Romanian city of Iasi, but I still enjoyed diving deeply into the early life of a dear woman from my own childhood.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    I read this in the morning - a chapter or so a day (when able.) It wasn't quick reading or particularly well written (though I admit that if I were writing in a language other than my native one, I'd also not be an elegant writer.) As it was written to finance her move to the US, it doesn't go into her later decision to become a monastic and found her monastery, which would be a fascinating tale. I read this in the morning - a chapter or so a day (when able.) It wasn't quick reading or particularly well written (though I admit that if I were writing in a language other than my native one, I'd also not be an elegant writer.) As it was written to finance her move to the US, it doesn't go into her later decision to become a monastic and found her monastery, which would be a fascinating tale.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    I am so glad I got the opportunity to read about this remarkable woman through her memoir. What an inspiration and what an engrossing story. Read my full review on my blog: https://beingincommunity.com/from-the... I am so glad I got the opportunity to read about this remarkable woman through her memoir. What an inspiration and what an engrossing story. Read my full review on my blog: https://beingincommunity.com/from-the...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Areti

  24. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Green

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Lewis

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

  27. 5 out of 5

    Franklin D Bardin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pedro

  30. 5 out of 5

    Μιχαήλ

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