The unknown Nobel-man

Every nation is proud of its Nobel Prize winners. Romanians too, albeit with a concern casting a shadow on this feeling: all 3 Romanian-born Nobel laureats received the prize only after they emigrated to other countries. George Emil Palade in the USA, Elie Wiesel in Sweden and Herta Müller in Germany. Very few of us had heard about a 4th Romanian Nobel-man, who lived and died in Romania.

Ioan Moraru was the head of the main medical research institute in Romania. Together with Bernhard Lown and Yewgenij Chazow he founded in 1980 the international organization called “International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War” (IPPNW). The group used research, education and advocacy to help prevent nuclear war and encourage the abolition of all nuclear weapons. By the mid-1980s IPPNW had around 145,000 members and by the early 1990s around 200,000 members from over sixty countries. (source: Wikipedia).

In 1985, IPPNW got a collective Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Moraru was supposed to attend the ceremony, yet the Communist authorities didn’t give him the visa. President Ceauşescu was dreaming to get the prize himself, for his pacifist propaganda (he was indeed talking about “world peace” in all his mumbled speeches, whether it was to the subject or not). The news that another Romanian got it, even in a collective, didn’t sit well with him – must have figured the odds of him getting it thereafter had probably decreased significantly. So authorities not only denied the visa, but there was no mention whatsoever in the press about the respective achievement.

Apparently, someone helped Dr. Moraru to get a last-minute visa and he did attend the ceremony, as per a photo in his house (source: That was all the recognition he got. He died on December 20th, 1989, two days before the Anti-Communist Revolution. Knowledgeable of the events which had started in Timişoara, he is reported to have said “I won’t live to see liberation, but I lived to see its beginning”.

Sadly, even after the Revolution, few people cared about restoring his reputation. There was one article in the press in 1990, and he was made post-mortem member of the Academy. It is only recently that this whole story has been uncovered in the press. In Romania, like in other places, it apparently takes either much more, or much less than winning a Nobel Prize to become a star.

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