Nicolae Ratiu MBE (OH 1961) - Responsibility
The Hall has welcomed pupils from all over the world throughout its history and particularly so during and after the second world war.
Nicolae Ratiu and his brother Indrei joined the school as exiles from their father's home country of Romania. They are descended from one of the oldest noble families in Transylvania and their father was the renowned democratic politician Ion Ratiu. It was through the connection with his mother’s family, the Pilkingtons, that Nicolae joined the Hall alongside his contemporary and second cousin Hugh Pilkington (OH 1955).
The memories of The Hall are happy ones: Catching the number 31 bus from Holland Park in his pink blazer; proudly wearing the black skull cap with white tassel that indicated he had gained his colours for the first Rugby team (caps not ties in those days); being awarded the Victor Ludorum for Athletics; the many friends he made and with whom he still has contact.
His career has been varied. Following Marlborough, he went to the Maritime College in New York and after several years working in Belgium and Germany he joined the family shipping business. In the 1980’s he linked up with fellow Hall pupil Simon Karmel (OH62) at the birth of oil brokers Albion Oil. But, in 1989 the Romanian Revolution changed everything.
Nicolae had grown up surrounded by the artistic and political Romanian society that had been exiled to London during the Communist dictatorship. With the collapse of communism, he became heavily involved in Romanian issues, and with the fall of Ceausescu, journeyed to Romania to help his father stand for election as President.
One of the first steps was to try and publish an independent daily newspaper. Nicolae remembers well the efforts they had to go to at the start to organise a location for the printing press they had imported from the UK. Originally it was housed in the basement of the National Theatre in Bucharest but before publishing the first issue they were instantly evicted and all power was switched off. Printing was switched to Bulgaria and the first editions had to be smuggled by truck back into Romania.
The Cotidianul newspaper a year later became the first independent newspaper of Romania and paved the way for the establishment of a free press and the birth of democracy. Nicolae remained as its publisher until 2006 and as the UK President of the World Union of Free Romanians he campaigned tirelessly to reveal the establishment's resistance to real democratic change in Romania even after the revolution.
Equally important at this time was Nicolae’s work through the charity he established - the Relief Fund for Romania - which helped to coordinate relief efforts and deliver millions in aid to Romania after the revolution.The Relief Fund continues to provide invaluable support for projects in Romania to this day but now Nicolae concentrates on running the multi-million property group he has developed over the years which funds the The Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation of which he is President. The foundation was established in London in 1979 by Ion and Elisabeth Ratiu to promote and support projects which further education and research in the culture and history of Romania and includes the Ion Ratiu Chair of Romanian Studies at Georgetown University, the annual Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington and the Ion Ratiu Award for Investigative Journalism in Romania.
Nicolae is very much an English gentleman and considers London his home. His youngest son Thomas is a current pupil at the Hall and his elder son Daniel also attended before going on to Westminster. But, asked what his greatest achievements have been, Nicolae’s answers reflect just how important his links with Romania remain:
- Creating the first Independent Newspaper and laying the foundations for a free press in Romania
- Establishing the Romanian Cultural Centre in London and continuing to host and promote Romanian musicians, artists and cultural works in the UK
- Changing the lives of more than 2,000 Romanian students who have received educational grants from the Ratiu Foundation over the last 25 years
- Fulfilling his father’s wishes by establishing the Ratiu Centre for Democracy in their former ancestral family home at Turda in Transylvania - A place for research, study and the promotion of democracy and civil society.
His advice to our current pupils reflects his passion for the last.
‘Democracy should be a way of life and intrinsic to how you live. And, of course….do something you enjoy and success will follow’.