French Heroes' Monument

French Heroes' Monument, public art, I. Jalea, Bucharest

Public Art : French Heroes' Monument

Sculptor: © Ion Jalea  (19th May, 1887 Romania - 7th November, 1983 )

Description: The French Heroes' Monument is carved from carrara marble in honor of the French soldiers who died defending Romania during WWI.

Date Unveiled: The French monument was inaugurated on October 25, 1922 in Garden Cismigiu.

Location: The Fench Heroes Monument is located in Cismigiu Gardens near the center of Bucharest, Romania.

Background to Romania Entering World War I: Romania joined World War I in August, 1916 after signing The Treaty of Bucharest. The treaty was signed between Romania and the Entente Powers (France, Italy and Russian) in Bucharest and included a list of "secret" conditions under which Romania agreed to join the war. Part of the deal included declaring war on Austria-Hungary for which they would receive the territories of Transylvania, Crisana and Maramures (territories which were ruled by Hungary), Banat (also ruled by Hungary) and Bukovina (ruled by Austria).

On the 27th August, 1916, Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary and immediately launched attacks along the Romanian border with their army of 440,000 men. The surprise attacks caught Austria-Hungary off guard but soon the German-Bulgarian troops advanced into Drobruja (a region shared by Bulgaria and Romania, located between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea) and pushed the Romanian Army out. By the end of 1916 Bucharest had fallen along with Wallachia and Dobruja to the Central Powers (Germany, Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria).  The Romanian Government retreated while the Romanian Army regrouped. By 1917 they had succeeded in stopping Germany from breaking the front. In the end the campaign had claimed 220,000 Romanian soldiers but they had gained Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia.

A total of 433 French soldiers killed in the WWI are buried in the cemeteries of Bucharest, Alexandria, Constanta, Galati, Iasi, Slobozia and Timisoara. Some of those soldiers were part of the unit lead by chief of the French military mission in Romania (1916-1917), Henri Mathias Berthelot. His role was to supervise the reorganisation and the retraining of the Romanian Army, defeated in the previous year by the forces of the Central Powers in Wallachia and Dobruja.

On 11th November 1919, during the victory parade of the Allied forces in Paris, when General Berthelot caught sight of the Romanian detachment he told General Ferdinand Foch "Foch, saluez! C'est la famille." (Foch, salute! It's our family).

Every year, the French ambassador pays tribute to the soldiers who died in the First World War and were laid to rest in Romania.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Simon Akkerman and Doreena Nita for kindly providing the photos.

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