William Blacker

Ballroom to Basement

Comrade Baron: A Journey through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy

By Jaap Scholten (Translated by Liz Waters)

Helena History Press 425pp £18 order from our bookshop

Reading this book reminds you of how lucky we are to live on an island and be subjects of a benign parliamentary democracy, and so not be at the mercy of marauding armies or the whims of ruthless communist dictators.

The aristocracy of Transylvania were not so lucky. Their fate, as told in this book, is a harrowing one, as well as a cautionary tale of how one can have everything one day and nothing the next. It was in 1945 that things started to go terribly wrong. Patrick Leigh Fermor, just a few years before, had drifted through their gilded lives, staying with them for months in their porticoed country houses, where he was seduced by their charmed existence in the leafy hills and misty valleys by the Mureş river. There is quite a contrast between Leigh Fermor’s lyrical descriptions of their happy prewar years as recounted in Between the Woods and the Water and what happened soon after.

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