Grigore Gafencu

Grigore Gafencu was born on January 30, 1892, in Bucharest, as son of engineer Alexandru Gafencu, descendant of an old Rutheran boyar family, named Agafencu, established in Moldova in the 17th century, under the name Gafencu. His grandmother, Ecaterina Gafencu, the daughter of
Bessarabian boyar Iordache Gafencu, married an Englishman named Saunders, the young family leaving Bessarabia and settling in the second half of the 19th century in Romania. Their son Alexandru Saunders, father of Grigore Gafencu, opted, out of respect for the ascendancy of his mother, for the name of Gafencu. Grigore Gafencu spent his youth in Switzerland, Geneva. He attended the Faculty of Law in Geneva and continued his studies in Paris where enrolled in the Sorbonne in order to obtain a doctorate. He will become a Doctor of Law in 1914 in the year when the WWI was declared. Gafencu returned to Romania and attended the courses of the Airborne Observatory School of Military Aeronautics. He became a member of the intimate circles of heir prince Carol, a would be King of Romania under the name Carol II (1930-1940). After Romania’s descent into war in August 1916, with the aim of national unification with Transylvania, Grigore Gafencu participated in the battles of 1916-1918 as a member of the observation aviation and was decorated for bravery with high Romanian and foreign military orders: the “Mihai Viteazul” Order, 3rd class, and the British “Cross of War”. When the arms were put aside, Grigore Gafencu started his career of journalist in 1918 and in parallel became a member of the Peasant Party under the chairmanship of Ion Mihalache and eventually of the heir National Peasant Party led by Iuliu Maniu.

Grigore Gafencu entered the Parliament in 1928 at the great electoral victory of his party and will be a MP for the subsequent 12 years. His brilliance as a newspaper commentator and diplomat made him the ideal choice of King Carol II for the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs on December 21st, 1938 with the tasks of upholding and strengthening the relations with the Western Power (Great Britain and France), normalizing the relations with Germany and the Soviet Union and re-enforcing the Balkan Entente, an alliance where Romania was a founding member. When the war was declared in September 1939 Romania proclaimed neutrality, which Gafencu will favor until de end of his mandate in June 1940. Romania was soon partitioned and abouyt 100,000 square kilometers were taken away by the Soviet Union. Hungary and Bulgaria. 

In August 1940 his outstanding diplomatic qualities made him an ideal choice for the position of Romanian envoy in Moscow where he tried to resettle the bonds with the USSR affected by the Soviet incorporation of Bessarabia. Yet, the Soviet Union was unwilling to go much on the line of reconciliation with Romania, which resulted in Bucharest joining armies with the Axis in order to defeat the Red Army.

In these circumstances, Grigore Gafencu started his exile in Switzerland which will last his remaning life. In exile he continously tried to defend his country, promote its interests even against the will of Communist leaders after the end of the WWII. He also more and more eagerly supported the ideal of European unity until de end of his life.

Grigore Gafencu died in Paris the day he was celebrating his 65th anniversary and left an impressive heritage of thoughs and writings.

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