Smaranda Braescu (alias Maria Popescu), ‘Queen of the Heights’, ‘Virtutea Aeronautica’, (Gold Cross)

(b. 21 May 1897 Hancesti-Buciumeni, County Galati, – d. Cluj, 2 February 1948)

Pioneer aviator , first Romanian woman parachutist (1928), 1931 European parachute champion (6,000m), 1932 World parachute champion (7,200m), WWII fighter pilot, underground anti-communist freedom fighter, buried under an assumed name

Selected Quotations:

On Winner’s Glory:
My life means nothing if I'm keeping it only for myself. I dedicate my life to my country, and I want to live it in glory. I will only come back as a winner. (Smaranda Bràescu Addressing American journalists in 1931 in New York before she beat the World record for parachute jumping at 7,000 m)

Biography (Excerpt):

Smaranda Braescu was born in a small Moldavian village, the daughter of poor peasant farmers. In spite of the family’s limited resources she was sent to school and later to college in the nearby city of Barlad. Here, in 1912, at the age of 15, Smaranda witnessed the first landing of an airplane, an event that would change her life. Six years later, at the of Tecuci, Smaranda flew for the first time. Thereafter she underwent parachute training in Bucharest, while a student at the Fine Arts School in 1928. That same year she jumped from an altitude of 600m, which made her the first Romanian female parachutist and only the fourth in the world.