What would have happened with Romania without the brave citizens of Timişoara? With their demonstrations in December 1989 they initiated the beginning of the Revolution and the end of the communist dictator Ceaușescu. More then 150 citizens let their lives, including children. Temeswar formed the economic and cultural centre of the region Banat, during the so called Danube Monarchy until today. In the third largest town in Romania until the end of World War II the Danube-Swabians (Donauschwaben) represent the largest population group. The social and cultural life in Timişoara always has been determined by the co-existence of people and nations, mainly Romanians, Hungarians, Germans and Serbs. To be experienced best by a visit of the national theatre and opera house: German and Hungarian state theatre under one roof with the Romanian national theatre. Other sights include the cathedral square (Domplatz) with the baroque palace and the Freiheitsplatz with the old town hall (Altes Rathaus). Like Novi Sad in Serbia Timişoara in Romania will be a European Cultural City 2021.

Population: 319.000

Famous inhabitants of Timişoara: the well-known athlete and actor Johnny Weissmüller (1904-1984), who plaid ‘Tarzan’; the writer and civil rights activist Ana Blandiana (born 1942); the author Catalin Dorian Florescu (born 1967).


Popular folk music in Banat is one of the most diverse and loved types of music in Romania. It is known that for centuries several ethnicities lived peacefully in Banat. This multiculturality of the region in the West of the country has left its mark on the music of these lands.

Mariana Drăghicescu was born on September 18th 1952 in the hamlet Prisacina belonging to the village Bogaltin in the Cornereva commune of Caras-Severin County. She would go to primary school there, then move to Baile Herculane to graduate from secondary school. Mariana
Drăghicescu‘s love for music started in her childhood, which she spent mainly with her grandparents. Grandpa played flute, and little Mariana, a 4-5-year-old child, accompanied him with her voice. In 1960, only eight years old, she took the stage for the first time at a school party
where she was highly appreciated. She played at various events at the Băile Herculane House of Culture. “I would go and I would go (To my mother, to her cross)” was her first hit, her singing debut with the folk music orchestra “Lazăr Cernescu” from Caransebeş. The song was recorded by Radio Timisoara in 1972 and was a real success, requested by dozens of listeners of the show “I love singing and dancing”. Communist authorities censored the song because of the word “cross” in the second verse.

Mariana Draghicescu played with the professional orchestra “Doina Banatului” from Caransebeş. Once she moved to Timişoara, she joined the “Banatul Orchestra” conducted by Gelu Stan. The Banat repertoire is her trademark as she collected folklore from this region and created adaptations of texts and songs. “Mariana Draghicescu remains, through her songs, one of the most popular folk musicians of the country. She was an extraordinary singer, an example for all her followers, with a special sense of choosing her repertoire”, says Gelu Stan. The popular folk musician Tiberiu Ceia would call her the “Nightingale of Banat”. In the capital of Banat, Mariana Draghicescu collaborated with the “Doina Timişului” ensemble of the Timisoara Cultural House.

Mariana Draghicescu’s success is fulminant. She participated in numerous national festivals and music competitions, winning many awards. Her songs were recorded by Radio Timişoara and Radio Bucharest. The Romanian record label Electrecord recorded some of her best songs, a total of nine LPs and two audio cassettes with 76 titles.


Sophia Imbroane dedicated her life to raising the woman’s cultural level. Gala Galaction

Sofia Imbroane (1884-1933), was born in 1884 in Cernăuţi in the family of Topor Tarnovietzki, an old family from Bucovina, with a noble title given by the Poles; the descendant of the families of the free peasants from the time of Stephen the Great.

Her father was the director of Aron Pumnul High School in Cernăuţi, a professor of mathematics and a descendant of the Bishop Isaia Balosescu.

Sofia grew up and studied in Cernăuţi where she met Avram Imbroane, a student at the Faculty of Theology in the city, later known as politician and Member of Parliament.

In March 1910 they married and had five children: Bujor, Doru, Sorin Nicolae, Dora Romaniţa and Steluţa Monica.

From her study trip to Munich and Berlin (1910 and 1911), Sofia Imbroane returned to Timisoara with the desire to start a program for woman’s social education in order to provide social assistance and housewives education similar to the ones in Germany.

In order to achieve this she thought of setting up a “School for Social Education of Women” in Banat. Thus, she puts her ideas into practice at the “Association of Housewives Circles”, at the time under the Honorary Presidency of H.M. Queen Mary of Romania.

On June 6th, 1912, in Timişoara, Sofia Imbroane is elected president by the general assembly of the newly established “Association of Housewives Circles”- Banat Region.

From the very beginning, Sofia Imbraone’s association was in pursuit of the important goal, which any social assistance and philanthropic institution must have in order to contribute to the improvement of the life of the needy. She organized in Timisoara a collection of clothing and food for the poor children of the working class. Sofia Imbroane succeeded in a short time, to fully supply the villages of Caras County as her initiative was regarded with sympathy by the city’s main textile and food companies,.

On this occasion, the people of Dognecea mining village, whose children were all provided with clothing and food by Mrs. Imbroane, honored her, naming her the “mother of Dognecea village”.

In 1921 she establishes the “Housewives’ School” in Timişoara, which aimed to focus on the girls from schools and universities into domestic education.

For twelve years, Sofia Imbroane struggled to support the school, managing to train several series of girls in an excellent manner given the circumstances. On the field of domestic industry, Sofia Imbroane worked equally well. The promotion of Banat’s fabrics and stitches in an album, weaving workshops where the Banat peasants revived the sublime tapestries and rugs from the past, as well as Banat promotion at all domestic industry exhibitions in the country or abroad such as: Vienna, Sibiu, Bucharest, Timisoara, Rome, Barcelona, Brussels are among the many proofs of Sofia Imbroane’s commitment to fulfill the duties of what she believed a good girl from Banat should have.

She organizes exhibitions in Wien, Sibiu, Bucharest, Timisoara, Rome, Barcelona, Brussels, promoting Banat traditions.

It is important to mention that all exhibitions, starting with the one from Vienna in 1911 and ending with the one in Brussels in 1931, were organized by Mrs. Sofia Imbroane, with her own objects, collected with perseverance for more than two decades and selected from her own collection of weaved fabrics and hand embroidery stiches, which presents more than 50 different techniques and which was evaluated by specialists to be worth five hundred thousand lei.

The Rome Medal of Honor, the Golden Medal in Barcelona and the decoration “Sanitary Merit Class I”, awarded by H.M. King Ferdinand are all signs of appreciation for Sophia Imbroane’s remarkable work.

She died in 1933 in Timișoara.

Article by Adrian Onica, representative of Avram Imbroane Foundation


Emilia Lungu-Puhallo, established the first girls’ school in the region
The first Romanian women teacher in Banat

Above the windows of the scuffed plastered house on Timocului Street, a white marble plaque reminds us of the name of a woman with special merits for Banat’s culture: Emilia Lungu-Puhallo. She is the one that organized the first reunion of women in Banat in 1872 opening and two years later the first girls’ school in this region. She became the first Romanian women teacher in Banat.

Emilia Lungu-Puhallo had a long but not an easy life. The daughter of professor and journalist Traian Lungu was born on October 23, 1853, in the town of Sânnicolau Mare, Timişoara County. Emilia, the only child of Euphemia Popa and Traian Lungu would love to learn and have the opportunity to from very early childhood. Her father, teacher and journalist Traian Lungu established the first Romanian school in Timisoara. Little Emilia, only five years old at the time, was fascinated by letters and was already able to write and read. She completed her elementary education in Sânnicolau Mare and moved to Timişoara where her family had settled for secondary school.

The love for language and literature came basically from the family. Inspired by her father and uncle, the lawyer and writer Iulian Grozescu, Emilia begins, from adolescence, to collaborate with the magazines “Family” and “Church and School”. A secret idea begins to take shape: to establish a school for Romanian girls and women in Banat. In 1872, when she was only 18 years old, Emilia organized a reunion of women in Banat, called the “Meeting of the Ladies”. The group organized various social events, highly appreciated by the people of Timişoara. Through a charity ball, Emilia collects funds to make her bold plan a reality.

In order to establish the school Emilia Lungu tried to get properties in Timişoara but this proved to be more difficult than it seemed initially. With the support of Dr. Pavel Vasici-Ungureanu and Bishop Meţianu from Arad she succeeds in establishing the girls’ school in 1874 in Izvin, about 20 km from Timisoara. She became the first Romanian woman teacher in Banat teaching for two years at Izvin while attending the courses of the Pedagogical Institute in Arad.

She returned to Timisoara, where she started her journalistic venture. She writes for various newspapers and magazines using pen names like “The Old Man from Banat”, “The Traveler of Banat” or” The Young Man from Banat”. Her father wrote for “Transylvanian Gazette” where he signed with the pen name “Teacher”.

In 1887 Emilia Lungu got married to Isac Puhallo, a Croatian lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian army. She followed her husband to the garrisons where he was assigned to in Sarajevo and Mostar. Eugeniu, the child of Emilia and Isac was born in Timisoara in August 1891. Ten days later, his father died in Mostar, Herzegovina. Emiliana Lungu-Puhallo’s destiny was going to be a cruel one. Only a month after birth Eugeniu died leaving behind a mother with a broken heart.

In this difficult time of her life Emilia Lungu-Puhallo found comfort in writing. She published numerous articles, short stories, such as the social book “Sunday”, the historical novel “Teacher’s Daughter”, and “Niculae Tarcovnicul, The journey through Bosnia-Herzegovina”. For her merits, Queen Elizabeth awarded her the “Star of Romania” order.

On 16th of December 1932, Emilia Lungu-Puhallo died in her home in Timisoara and was buried alongside her parents and her child in the Cemetery of Buziaş.


Iolanda Balaş Sötér, was double Olympic champion in high jump
The golden girl of Romanian athletics

The 1960 Olympic Games in Rome: The world is astonished by athlete Iolanda Balaş when she wins the gold medal at the high jump, jumping 14 cm higher than the second ranked athlete, Polish Jaroslava Jozwiakowska. Out of the 15 initial competitors, only four jump over 1.71 m, while the athlete from Romania jumps 1.73 m at her first attempt. Her victory is already sure, but the athlete does not stop and compete with herself. She jumps 1.77m, then 1.81 m and finally 1.85 m. A performance that is hard to reach and harder to overcome. It is the first gold medal for the athlete from Timisoara. Her second one will be four years later in Tokyo.

Iolanda Balaş Sőtér (in Hungarian: Jolán Balazs) is one of the golden girls of Romanian athletics. She was born on 12th of December 1936 in Timisoara, her father, Frigyes, a locksmith, and her mother, Etel Bozsó, a housewife. “I was born in December 1936 in Timişoara, a city that at the time looked very European. Parents and relatives are all Hungarian, still living in Hungary. But I did not have this chance. (…) I hope, however, that besides Romanians, the Hungarians are also proud of me, “she said in 2005, after the joint Romanian-Hungarian government meeting between Prime Ministers Tariceanu and Gyurcsány. Although she became a Hungarian citizen in 1947, the Romanian authorities refused her right to leave for Hungary.

Iolanda Balaş studied at the all girls Catholic High School in Timişoara. At this school, sports classes were very rigourous and this is how the young woman’s love for sports begun. The young Iolanda Balaş, 1.85 m tall, will become an athlete, being coached by the former jumper John (János) Sötér. She will marry him in 1967 and will have a son, Doru Sötér, an athlete himself, the national sprint junior champion. In 1951, when she was only 15 years old, Iolanda Balaş received the title of Master of Sport.

In 1953, Iolanda Balaş transferred from Timisoara club “Electrica” to the Central Army House, later the Steaua Sports Club, in Bucharest. Between 1957 and 1963, the athlete from the city of Bega river managed to dominate the high jump competions, winning 150 of them and beating her own world record 14 times, from 1.75 m to 1.91 m.

July 14, 1956: Iolanda Balaş sets his first world record in Bucharest, breaking the record of British Thelma Hopkins. This record lasted until the Melbourne Olympic final of the same year, where American athlete Mildred McDaniel sets a new record. In Melbourne, Iolanda Balaş had to leave without her coach. Ioan Sötér had a married brother in Australia, and the authorities did not allowed him to accompany his athlete there. Iolanda Balaş ranked fifth. In 1960, on the occasion of the Rome Olympic Games, coach Sötér is denied again the right to leave the country, but the athlete did not accept this situation. She went to meet the General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and managed to achieve her goal. She went to Italy with her coach and conquered the Olympic title.

June 7th, 1958: Iolanda Balaş sets a new world record with his jump of 1.78 m. In the next three years, this record improved by 13 cm. On July 16th, 1961, Iolanda Balaş jumps 1.91 m. A huge difference from other athletes, which can not exceed 1.78 m. The record set by the Romanian athlete lasted ten years. Fosbury style allowed other athletes to breake the record. On September 4th, 1971, in Vienna, Austrian Ilona Gusenbauer jumps 1.92 m.

Not only world and Olympic records, but also two gold medals at the European Athletics Championships in Stockholm (1958) and Belgrade (1962), as well as a silver medal at Berna (1954), are part of the achievements of Iolanda Balas. The athlete ended her sporting career in 1967 after 19 years of competitions. She later became the coach of the athletic departmanent and trainer of the Steaua Club’s methodical cabinet.
Between 1988 and 2005 she was the president of the Romanian Athletics Federation and contributed significantly to the development and promotion of athletics in Romania. In recognition of her special merits, she received from King Michael in 2010 the royal decoration “Nihil Sine Deo” at a ceremony at Elisabeth Palace in Bucharest. Iolanda Balaş, an honorary citizen of the cities of Timişoara (1998) and Bucharest (2001) was voted in 2000 as the best female high jumper of the 20th century. She died on March 11, 2016, at the age of 79.



Dr. Hildegardis Wulff , the good heart of Timişoara
The Benedictine Sister of St. Lioba dedicated her life to charity work in Banat

The five nuns hold in their arms one or two children wrapped in white diapers. The babies sleep quietly while the sisters sing and swing them. On the face of the five sisters one can see joy – the joy of helping in such a difficult life situation. A touching picture that raises questions at the same time. Because behind the picture there is a sad story: The little ones, only a few months old, were forcibly separated from the loving arms of their mothers which were deported to hard labor in the former Soviet Union. It is January 1945, the month of deportation of all women and men of German ethnicity aged 18 to 45 to the USSR. There are babies left behind taken from their mother’s breasts, left in the care of their grandparents or – a terrible fate – in nobody’s care.

However, Sister Hildegardis Wulff finds a solution to help these children. She establishes an orphanage as an addition to St. Anne’s Hospital in the Elisabethin neighborhood of Timisoara. 80 children from the entire Banat region are cared for here. Quite impresive is the commitment of workers of different confessions who volunteered to build the annex of the hospital.

Sister Hildegardis Wulff, the abbess of the Benedictine Sisters of Saint Lioba in Timisoara, is one of the outstanding personalities of this city. Little has been written about her, although her importance for the city and for this region is quite extraordinary. Sister Hildegardis’ diary, typed by the nun herself, can be found in the archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Timisoara.

Born in Mannheim, Germany on 8th of September 1896 as Lisicotte Wulff, sister Hildegardis studied German, medieval history and church law at Heidelberg and Bonn, earning her PhD in philosophy. Among her colleagues there were many injured soldiers returned from the battlefield. It is her first encounter with the sick, the blind, the widows and the fatherless children left behind, the homeless, the poor and the helpless. Thus, Sister Hildegardis dedicates herself, besides courses, to charity and apostolate work. In 1920 she met Sister Maria Benedicta Föhrenbach and together decided to establish a new branch of the Benedictine Order in Germany, dedicated to St. Lioba, opening the first monastery. The statute designed by them is not approved by Rome – this was to happen only in 1927.

It is also the year Sister Hildegardis arrived for the first time in Banat, following the call of Roman Catholic Bishop of Timisoara, Augustin Pacha. Here, Sister Hildegardis speaks to believers about pedagogy, adolescence, early childhood education, about the social importance of religious education, and other family-related topics. Shortly after, Bishop Pacha calls for the arrival of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Lioba to Timisoara in order to strengthen the relationship with the Catholic families, to advise them on the care and education of the children. At the same time, Bishop Pacha emphasizes the importance of setting up a women’s and girls’ organizations and their guidance towards charity work.

April 29th, 1929, a day that would change lives: Sister Hildegardis Wulff arrives in Timisoara, where she sets herself indefinitely, having in mind and heart a well-established plan. Timisoara and the Banat region are the place where she would continue her apostolic activity and stage her “life work”. Sister Hildegardis organizes lectures in Banat townships and establishes the first associations of girls and women. Between 1936 and 1938 there were not less than 138 associations of Catholic women in Banat, with more than 15 000 members. Sister Hildegardis is no longer alone, a few Benedictine sisters from Germany as well as girls from Banat joined the Benedictine Order of St. Lioba, becoming nuns.

An important achievement is the construction of the St. Anna Hospital, inaugurated in 1936 in Timisoara, renowned for its obstetrics and gynecology department as well as for its maternity ward where 500-600 babies were delivered annually. An interesting fact: The first recorded birth is of a little boy, Gottfried Dotzler, who later became a priest in Vienna.

The work of the Benedictine sisters led by sister Hildegardis continued until the start of the Second World War in the autumn of 1939 when problems begin to arise. Between 1940 and 1943, medical and charity work was growing. The deportation of ethnic Germans to the USSR causes Benedictine sisters of St. Lioba to act. The sisters take care of the children left behind, but they also deal with those who, from 1945 to 1947, return home, weakened and sick, from the USSR’s labour camps. In several settlements on the Romanian borders, sisters set up support centers to help deportees return home.

In August 1949, the Communists abolished the order and confiscated all the buildings owned by it. Most of the sisters returned to Germany, but Sister Hildegardis Wulff, once a German citizen now a naturalized Romanian, the good heart of Timisoara, remains in the city of the Bega River, where she works as an organist and cantor in the church in the Mehala neighborhood. She maintains contact with other Benedictine sisters in Romania by organizing regular meetings, most of them secret.

Sister Hildegardis is arrested in 1951 and forced to testify in the trial of Bishop Pacha, being sentenced in February 1952 to 25 years in prison. Part of the punishment is served in the prisons and dungeons of the Securitate in Timisoara, Bucharest, Jilava, Mislea (a terrible prison for women), Miercurea Ciuc, Braşov and Bucharest-Vacaresti. On May 31st, 1959 she is repatriated by the communist authorities to West Berlin. A year later she started again her activity by lecturing and training, even in Canada, for the Germans emigrated from the Serbian Banat, Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe. She finds out that she suffers from cancer and gives her last breath on October 20th, 1961, after months of suffering, in Germany – just one month after sister Maria Benedicta Föhrenbach’s death.

This article is based on the information provided by Mr. Claudiu Călin, the archivist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Timisoara.