The story of Măreasa (word derived from “Măria Sa” in Romanian, “Her Holiness” in English, the way the villagers used to call her), the one who owned the Poieni domain in the 19th century, is not entirely unknown by those who used to go in the old times to the camp from the Poiana Ruscă Mountains.
The questions appeared, usually, right after the crypt was spotted, being even today only a few hundred meters off the main road towards Poieni Strâmbu. There is where Bogdanovich Ferencz, the victim of a duel and son of Măreasa, lies to rest.
A short while after his death, Măreasa has disappeared off of the face of the earth, leaving all her belongings from Poieni to root. And this is the story that we have all heard. Even though we always tried to find out more information, only this year have we succeeded to complete the story and find out all that has happened, actually, with Măreasa.
Leopoldina Stojánovits, the maiden name of Măreasa
Leopoldina was a descendant of the Stojánovits de Gojzest noble family of Serbia. She married with the Serbian captain Vilibald Bogdanovich, owner of several domains, among which was also Poieni Strâmbu, and man that was also 28 years older than her. Together they had a son, Ferencz, born in 1863. After five years of marriage, she initiated a divorce, the motive being infidelity, and the judges decided to give her the Poieni domain. A few years later, Vilibald dies, Ferencz becomes heir and Leopoldina direct administrator of the entire fortune.
Leopoldina remarries the brother-in-law of Otto von Bismark, Karl von der Osten-Plathe. She moves in with her new husband and Ferencz in a palace from Nürnberg. Karl dies shortly after and Leopoldina starts to frequent the saloons of the noble palaces from Budapest, becoming a very influential woman inside the Empire, known even over the ocean.
The lost castle of Măreasa
Măreasa used to come every summer to Poieni, where she would spent 2 or 3 months a year. Here she would relax in a castle (which was actually a cottage/summer home) very isolated, located somewhere on a hilltop, surrounded by annexes in which her servants lived.
The locals talk even today about how Măreasa was carried to the hilltop: sitting on a white chair, carried by four servants. Until the autumn she wouldn’t go down into the village. Today, from the Măreasa Castle is nothing than a foundation left, covered by vegetation. Those who work in the woods say they still find pieces of the castle dishes in the tree hollows, probably hidden by people during the repeated vandalizations of the buildings on the hill.
Around the time when Ferencz turned 18, his heart was turned on by a beautiful lady from Budapest. Because that girl had another suitor, this boy decides to duel his rival. Therefore, Ferencz’s death has two possibilities. The first one says that he was shot during the duel. The second one: embarrassed for losing the duel and losing the hand of his beloved, he may have committed suicide by shooting himself. In any case, no matter which possibility you choose to believe, the 18 year old boy’s death marked for good the life of Măreasa.
Ferencz was buried inside a provisional crypt, in Budapest. A few months later, in 1881, he was brought to Poieni. For her son Ferencz’s funeral, Măreasa, helped by the Stojánovits relatives from Banat, built a majestic crypt, dug into the cliff and made out of two rooms. The crystal coffin was placed in plain sight in the first room and into the ground at the crypt entrance, Lord, Măreasa’s dog was buried. Only a year after the funeral, the coffin was robbed and the body was took out and thrown inside the Bega river. Upset, Măreasa put the boy’s body back into the coffin and moved it into the back room, built a wall and ordered a wrought iron gate, with which she closed the crypt down. After this episode, the countess never returned to Poieni.
Buried in his favorite place at Poieni
The legend says that the place where the boy spent most of its time was exactly the cliff upon which the crypt lies today. Before the duel, he may have asked his mother that, in case of his death, he should be buried in that spot. Unfortunately for Ferencz, his favorite place has proved to be a cursed one because, after his death, the crypt robbery from the 19th century was not the only one.
The crypt walls were exploded with dynamite several times, unsuccessfully until the ‘80s. Then, they took Ferencz out of the coffin and placed him on the floor, over a sheet. Those who witnessed the action remember that the boy was intact, almost as if he had died a day before, not 100 years before. Then, they put the cadaver back into the crypt and built the wall back together. That was also when they took pictures of the body but they never got to develop them because they took the film out and exposed it to direct light, destroying the shots on the spot. The repeated vandalisms targeting the crypt continued even after the ‘80s. Today, there are holes in the wall through which the remains of Ferencz can be seen and the gate was stolen and sold for scrap.
The last years of Măresa’s life
About the countess there is known that she has lived her last years in Budapest and that in 1906 she sold the Poieni properties for 4-5 million crowns to the State Mining Society. She married two times after this: the first husband died and the second one robbed her only two days after the wedding, running away with the jewelries, valuables and almost all her money. Leopoldina von der Osten-Plathe died on the 6th of November 1913, in the old Bristol Hotel of Budapest. The funeral costs were covered by the administration council of the hotel.
The mystery of the only photographs of Leopoldina
During our last documentary trip to Poieni, we spoke with locals. One of them told us that he remembers during his childhood to have seen, in the house of Măreasa’s last servant, two old photographs: in one of them there was the countess along with her dog, Lord, right in front of the Poieni lost castle and in the other one the entire group of servants were lifting Măreasa on the hill, on a white chair, remembered previously.
In the same day we started looking for those photographs and contact the niece of the Măreasa’s last servant. She didn’t have them but she told us that, in 1986, while her uncle still lived, the Romanian television had come to make a reportage of Poieni. From then, the two photographs have disappeared or have been hidden on purpose. Unexpectedly, in the evening of the same day we received a link towards the two photographs of Măreasa, found on a foreign site with antique auctions.
We send out thanks to Bogdan Bumbăcila, George Brezovan and Ionel Vasiescu for completing Măreasa from Poieni’s story.
Written by Alexandra Palconi. Translated by Doiniţa Spuză.
Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc