Elisabeth Pilkington Ratiu


During the last Romanian presidential elections, November 2014, Elisabeth Raţiu’s eyes were filled with tears at the sight of Romanians standing in line to vote in London. “How much it would have pleased Ion!” she said then to her son Nicolae, who accompanied her. Touched by the love that her husband had for Romania, Elisabeth Pilkington Raţiu always was a great supporter of the democratization processes taking place in our country.

Elisabeth Pilkington grew up in the Lancashire countryside of the UK, overlooking the industrial town of St Helens which four generations of Pilkington Brothers, the family glass­ manufacturing business, had transformed into the Mecca of UK flat-glass production. At the outbreak of WWII, Elisabeth served her country for two years as a Red Cross nurse in a Manchester army hospital followed by Social Science studies at London School of Economics. She met Ion Ratiu at Cambridge, where the the School had been evacuated for the duration of the war.

The couple was married at the Savoy Chapel in London's West End in 1945. Elisabeth immediately took out Romanian citizenship, fully expecting to accompany her husband back to post-war Romania to campaign in the 1946 general election. But Ion, who had already showed disturbing signs of tuberculosis prior to their marriage, collapsed in the autumn of 1946 and entered a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. Here they were joined by their first son, Indrei, born in 1946, and shortly afterwards, in 1948, their second son Nicolae was born.

Besides her family life, she found time to apply her social science skills working full-time as an almoner (social worker) for a leading London hospital. Elisabeth became increasingly interested in mental health conditions within her own London community of Kensington and Chelsea. She was eventually elected Chairman of Kensington & Chelsea "Mind" - a leading British mental health service provider.

When Ion, from 1974 onwards, made the worldwide rallying of free Romanians his principle priority, Elisabeth recommitted to his cause, agreeing to leave behind the interests and businesses that she had patiently built up over the course of their marriage.

In 1990 her life was to be turned upside down yet again. After the fall of Ceauşescu, Elisabeth chose without hesitation to accompany her husband back to Romania and to an uncertain future. She participated in Ion's 1990 presidential campaign and courageously experienced first- hand the brutal bullying tactics of the Romanian National Salvation Front in its efforts to quash all opposition to its neo­ communist candidate Ion Iliescu.

The daily stream of desperate health cases at Elisabeth’s Bucharest front door led to the establishment in 1993 of Fundaţia Raţiu Romania, with the initial goal of providing treatment, in Romania, for children and young people suffering from leukemia. So successful was the Foundation's leukemia program that after only seven years, by 2000, the Romanian government had installed three bone marrow transplant units and taken on full responsibility for the care of childhood leukemia cases in the country.

Since the death of her husband Ion in 2000, she has once again made London her home, where she maintained a lively interest in the activities of the Raţiu Family Foundation, the Raţiu Center for Democracy, and the World Mental Health Association in which she played an active role over so many years. In recent years Elisabeth's work has been recognized by awards from several organizations: Bucharest Business Week, the President of Romania and the US State Department, for work with the Disabled.

In accordance with her wishes Elisabeth Pilkington Ratiu will be cremated at a ceremony in the presence of her immediate family, which will be followed by a memorial service at St James's Church, Piccadilly, London on December 3rd.

Ion Ratiu Democracy award

The purpose of the Ion Ratiu Democracy Award is to bring visibility and international recognition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy.

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